Conjure Wife: The Suburban Witch



As we have seen, in I Am Legend Richard Matheson updated one of the most powerful horror icons of all, the vampire, and in doing so also effectively dramatised many of the most pervasive fears and anxieties of the post-war era — in particular those of the insecure suburban male. In this chapter, I concentrate upon the horror genre’s most infamous female icon — the witch — and discuss the ways in which this underused symbol of female power similarly resurfaced within a decidedly modern, suburban setting. As Sharon Russell has noted, ‘The witch as a figure holds an interesting position relative to other monster figures in popular culture. Although there are many novels and films that deal with female monster figures, there are few serious treatments of witches as figures of terror and power’.1 Furthermore, ‘most monster figures emerged from the Gothic tradition in which women were most often victims or — what is a tamer version of the witch — the femme fatale or the belle dame sans merci’. According to Russell, ‘those female monsters which become, in the twentieth century, the subject of film are mainly extensions of the vampire myth, a myth which posed a popular rather than official fear and had male as well as female manifestations ’.2


Married Woman Television Show Magical Power Suburban Setting American Television 
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  1. 23.
    Reprinted in The First Mayflower Book of Black Magic Stories, (ed.) Michael Parry (Frogmore: Mayflower, 1974).Google Scholar

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© Bernice M. Murphy 2009

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