Headpress Books Established 1991

Ghost of an Idea

Hauntology, Folk Horror, and the Spectre of Nostalgia

A critical analysis of the 21st-century fascination with the past, from horror films to haunted music. By William Burns


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The future ain’t what it used to be.

Is nostalgia revitalizing or killing 21st-century culture? The concept of nostalgia has seeped into almost all aspects of modern-day media, none more so than horror culture and its borderlands of Hauntology, Folk Horror, and found footage film.

Ghost of an Idea: Hauntology, Folk Horror, and the Spectre of Nostalgia examines the use and effect of nostalgia in the Horror and Hauntological realms. It asks why these genres hold such a fascination in popular culture, often inspiring devoted fanbases. From Candyman to The Blair Witch Project, and Dark Shadows to American Horror Story, are the folk horror and found footage phenomena significant artistic responses to political, social, and economic conditions, or simply an aesthetic rebranding of what has come before? How has nostalgia become linked to other concepts (psychogeography, residual haunting) to influence Hauntological music such as Boards of Canada or The Caretaker? What can the ‘urban wyrd’ or faux horror footage tell us about our idealized past? And how will these cultures of nostalgia shape the future?

Combining the author’s analysis with first-hand accounts of fans and creators, Ghost of an Idea offers a critical analysis of our cultural quest to recognize, resurrect, and lay to rest the ghosts of past and present, also summoning up those spectres that may haunt the future.

Ghost of an Idea …

Street date is early 2025 but copies available exclusive to this website in Winter 2024

THIS BOOK ISN’T an encyclopaedia of contentious films or an attempt to discuss every video that has had a run-in with the law or the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Cannibal Error is primarily a chronicle of video culture in Britain, and of political anti-film propaganda from the late seventies through to the end of the millennium. A substantial part deals with the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the so-called ‘video nasties’. It was during this turbulent era — to paraphrase the little boy in one ‘banned’ film, Shogun Assassin — that everything changed forever.

The original edition was published as See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy (Headpress, 2000). It concluded with the retirement of BBFC director James Ferman, a figure unpopular with filmmakers (he kept cutting their films) and later out of sorts with members of the British government and arguably the Board itself. In revising the book, the authors have stuck with the original framework and not diffused what, in hindsight, is a solid time-capsule of a key period of film and socio-political culture in Britain. Without Ferman the narrative changes and the ‘video nasties’ become another story. However, the inclusion of new material, notably the appendix, offers an insight into the Board today and a timely reflection on attitudes towards this volatile era. […]

A Note on Film Titles | Acknowledgements | Why ‘Cannibal Error’?









A miscellany of rejected video works, 1990–Present
Two interviews with independent video distributors
Two interviews with the B B F C
Anatomy of a raid
The ‘video nasties’ — Where are they now?
“You can’t run all these machines off the standard mains”
Black market mailing list

Sources: Bibliography | Periodicals | Websites

  • The original, critically acclaimed edition has long been out of print;
  • Draws on the authors’ first-hand experience during the ‘video nasties’ panic;
  • Thorough examination of video controversy in Great Britain, from 1980s to the present;
  • Analysis of titles on the notorious ‘video nasties’ list, providing cast and credit details;
  • Chronicle of media reaction and press hypocrisy with regard to feature films on video;
  • Investigates supposed links between film and true crime;
  • Outrageous instances of video piracy and bootlegging;
  • Exclusive interviews, including new conversations with the BBFC for this edition; 
  • Profusely illustrated.

Subtitle: Anti-Film Propaganda and the ‘Video Nasties’ Panic of the 1980s
Author: David Kerekes & David Slater
ISBN: 978-1-909394-95-7
Street Date: March 7, 2024
Category: Film / Popular Culture / Social Studies
Retail Price: UK £25.99 / US $32.95
Binding: Paperback
Size: 240mm x 171mm
Pages: 596
Illos: 450+ B&W stills and ads

As the trade paperback, except this special NO-ISBN hardback is exclusive to this website. Because it carries No ISBN number, this edition of the book is off the grid in as much as it doesn’t appear on any database, in any library, cannot be ordered through mainstream bookshops or online retailers. 


Roger Batty
Musique Machine
Cannibal Error is the truly definitive and wholly fascinating chronicling of the Video Nasty phenomena/era. […] See No Evil has been a book that I’ve come back to again and again over the years. So, it truly is wonderful to have this new improved version of that book. Simply put if you have any interest the video nasties, press manipulation, government control, and censorship in general, Cannibal Error is a completely must-buy item. ”
Adrian SmithCinema Retro
“Covering European horror, pornography, film collecting, censorship, moral panics and the intersection between cinema and politics, Cannibal Error is an important contribution to our understanding of the ‘video nasty’ debacle.”
Matthew HuntDateline Bangkok
“There have been other books on the subject but See No Evil told the full story for the first time. The second edition, Cannibal Error, is just as exhaustive, and is almost 200 pages longer. It features new interviews with senior BBFC staff, an updated catalogue of banned videos, and a more detailed guide to the current availability of the original ‘video nasty’ films.”
Adam GrovesThe Bedlam Files
“One of the key textual resources on the “video nasties” scare that swept England in the 1980s […] The go-the-extra-mile spirit of the early pages is continued in the later ones. Included are downright jaw-dropping quotes and personal recollections by various individuals caught up in the nasties panic.”
Mike SegrettoPsychobabble
“This mammoth book must be the definitive word on the history of Video Nasties [and] might be one of the most relevant books for 2024.”
Keith StuartAuthor and Video Games Correspondant, The Guardian
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“Just received my copy of this book and it is immense! An in-depth study of early video culture and 80s horror, superbly updating one of my favourite ever books on film, See No Evil. A masterwork of video/horror history.”
Film Review
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“Brilliant overview… A superbly argued book which presents all the facts… will intrigue fans of horror movies as well as social historians.”
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“Exhaustive and very, very cool”
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“Comprehensive and informed… the authors deserve high praise.”
Fortean Times
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“Particularly interesting and relevant!”
Video Watchdog
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“Impressively researched and highly readable... a compelling piece of social history.”
The Dark Side
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“Absorbing, excellently written and researched… definitive.”
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“A disturbing and fascinating look at the peculiarity of Little England and the knee-jerk idiocy of our moral guardians.”
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“Several books have been devoted to this phenomenon, but this is the most intelligent, thoroughly researched and longest.”
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“Intelligently and clearly written… likely to stand as the last word on the nasties brouhaha” [Empire pick of the books of the last three months]
BBC Radio
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“A ‘turn the page fast’ slice of history that must nestle on any film watchers shelf.”
Dutch Courier
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“A fascinating read… Excellent.”
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William Burns

On the day William Burns was born, crucial scenes for both The Exorcist and The Wicker Man were being filmed, forever marking him as a member of the Haunted Generation. The strange, the eerie, the unsettling, and the obscure have bedevilled him ever since. In search of lost futures, he has stumbled upon many forgotten ghosts and shadowy remembrances. Ghost of an Idea: Hauntology, Folk Horror, and the Spectre of Nostalgia is the culmination of a journey that began in Burns’ 2016 book, The Thrill of Repulsion: Excursions into Horror Culture. “I have always been interested in the strange, the unusual, and the aberrant so the horror genre was a natural fit for my young imagination. As I got older, I came to the realization that horror was not just a genre but also a perspective: a way to see the world that had aesthetic, social, philosophical, and cultural aspects to it. I was born in 1972 and so I am a firm member of what Bob Fisher calls ‘the Haunted Generation,’ a post-baby boomer cohort born between 1965–1980 whose childhood was marked by the joy and terror of growing up in a strange time that melded the paranormal and the scientific, the cutting edge and the nondescript, all broadcast through grainy waves, picked up by shaky antennas, displayed on staticky televisions, and remembered hazily through nostalgia darkly.”


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