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Spooky Research: Faculty Experts Explore Halloween Topics

View a collection of ‘spooky’ scholarly work by UT Austin faculty experts who study ghostly folklore, the science of superstition, making sense of the unknown and other eerie topics. 

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Even when it’s not Halloween, scholars from the College of Liberal Arts are studying ghostly folklore, the science of superstition and making sense of the unknown. Their expertise comes in handy as the spooky holiday brings up questions about the unexplained and eerie. 

Journalists can contact the researchers directly for insight around Halloween.

The Vampire in Slavic Cultures

Thomas Garza, University Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Slavic & Eurasian Studies

tjgarza@austin.utexas.edu, 512-232-9126


Tom Garza researches vampire lore in Slavic culture, the Russian fairytale and the popularity of the vampire in modern America. To him, the vampire’s story is an enduring and endearing text that draws students in to studying Slavic histories, religions, geographies and traditions, while also focusing on the essence of what human beings are truly interested in: What happens after death?

Life and Death in Stone

Kathleen Higgins, Professor of Philosophy

kmhiggins@austin.utexas.edu, 512-471-5564


Whether it’s tombstones, monuments or statues, stone is used to memorialize the dead around the world. Kathleen Higgins’ research on aesthetics lead her to study how different cultures choose stone to preserve, physically replace, commemorate and communicate with lost loved ones.

Superstitious Thinking and the Candy Witch

Jacqueline Woolley, Chair of the Department of Psychology

woolley@austin.utexas.edu, 512-471-5196


Jacqueline Woolley studies children’s understanding of reality and their ability to distinguish fantasy from truth. In one study, Woolley tested children’s gullibility by introducing a group of preschoolers to a fantastical being called the Candy Witch, who visits children after they trick-or-treat and exchanges some of their candy for a small toy.

Latino Folklore’s La Llorna

Domino Perez, Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies and Associate Professor of English

Drperez@austin.utexas.edu, 512-232-7853 or 512-471-8358

Domino Perez studies Chicano literature, popular culture and film. Her book, “There was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture,” examines cultural representations of the weeping ghost and how it has shaped Mexican cultural identity.

For more videos, view this story from the College of Liberal Arts.