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Of Gods and Monsters Conference

Welcome to Of Gods and Monsters, a conference happening at Texas State University

April 4th -6th, 2019.

We’re excited to welcome you to San Marcos, Texas, and to talk about monsters!

Judith Halberstam famously claimed that monsters are “meaning machines” that can be used to represent a variety of ideas, including morality, gender, race, and nationalism (to name only a few). Monsters are always part of the project of making sense of the world and our place in it. As a tool through which human beings create worlds in which to meaningfully dwell, monsters are tightly bound with many other systems of meaning-making like religion, culture, literature, and politics. Of Gods and Monsters will provide focused space to explore the definition of “monster,” the categorization of monsters as a basis of comparison across cultures, and the relationship of monsters to various systems of meaning-making with the goal of understanding how humans have used and continued to use these “meaning machines.”

Through this conference, we hope to explore the complex intersections of monsters and meaning-making from a variety of theoretical, academic, and intellectual angles. Because “monsters” are a category that appears across time and cultural milieus, this conference will foster conversations between scholars working in very different areas and is not limited in terms of cultural region, historical time, or religious tradition. As part of fostering this dialogue, Douglas E. Cowan will serve as this event’s keynote speaker, while archival researcher and cryptid expert Lyle Blackburn will offer a second plenary address. Both talks are open to the public, and please see the schedule page for further details.

If any questions should arise, please contact conference organizers, Natasha Mikles or Joseph Laycock.

Keynote Speakers

Lyle Blackburn

Lyle Blackburn

Doug Cowan

Doug Cowan


We have secured a special Texas State University rate of $99 a night at the Marriott Courtyard in San Marcos. To secure that rate reservations must visit the Marriot Booking Page. The hotel is five miles away from the university, but we will offer a shuttle in the morning and evening to the conference events.

There are numerous other hotels around the university area and in the city of San Marcos, which participants may book if they so desire. The only hotel in walking distance of the University is the Crystal River Inn.

San Marcos Events

While our conference schedule is jam-packed, we encourage guests to take some time before or after the conference to explore San Marcos. Information on events and activities can be found by visiting Touring San Marcos. Joe and Natasha are happy to provide advice on restaurants and other activities in the area.


Preliminary schedule only—full conference schedule to be posted soon

All events are open to the public, though daily lunch and coffee breaks are limited to registered participants only.

Thursday, April 4

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM: Keynote, Doug Cowan, “America’s Dark Theologian”

5:30 – 6:30 PM: Reception

Participants are encouraged to organize dinner on their own, but Natasha and Joe will lead interested parties to local restaurants.

Friday, April 5

9:00 -10:30 AM: Panels

10:30 AM – 11:00 AM: Coffee/tea break

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Panels

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM: Lunch break (Lunch will be provided for registered conference participants and observers)

2:00 – 3:30 PM: Keynote, Lyle Blackburn, “Monsters of Texas: History, Legends, and Modern Sightings”  

3:30 – 6:30 PM: Monster Movie with Blood over Texas

Saturday, April 6

9:00 – 10:30 PM: Panels

10:30 – 11:00 AM: Coffee / tea break

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Panels

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM: Lunch break (Lunch will be provided for registered conference participants and observers)

2:00 – 3:30 PM: Panels

3:30 – 5:00 PM: Free time for participants. Optional Glass-bottom boat tour at Aquarena Springs at 4 PM.  

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM: Optional banquet at local restaurant. Banquet fee may be paid via online registration.

7:00 PM: Pub crawl to area breweries and bars.


The registration fee for participants will be $60, while student observers from Texas State University may pay a rate of $10 a day to register for lunch and a name badge. The registration portal is below.

Beyond the conference, we have organized two optional events that we hope everyone will attend!

On Saturday afternoon, we have organized a group excursion to a glass-bottom boat tour. The tour takes you to see the Aquarena Springs, once home to Ralph the Swimming Pig and the filming location for the horror movie Piranha and several movies in the Tarzan franchise. With crystal-clear, blue water that lets you see over 60 feet down, we will have the opportunity to observe the springs bubble up from the ground beneath our feet, as well as glide over innumerable flora and fauna.

Saturday evening will feature our conference banquet, where we will adjourn to local brewery and restaurant Root Cellar Café for food, companionship, and merriment. Appetizers, delicious meals, dessert, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided in the banquet fee. After our banquet ends, Joe and Natasha will lead interested parties on a small pub crawl in San Marcos.