Date(s) - Thu. Sep. 12, 2019
7:30 pm GMT - 10:00 pm GMT

Philosophical Research Society

Kier-La Janisse

$12 advance / $15 door BUY TICKETS

Like the human cadaver, every plant, tree, flower and fungus has a story to tell. But when it comes to how plants tell stories, there are essentially two schools of thought: In the 1970s it was a popular belief – aided by unorthodox experiments, the proliferation of New Age publications and the mass-marketing of Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s 1973 book The Secret Life of Plants – that, despite their lack of a nervous system, plants were sentient and emotional, and could communicate their feelings to humans with the help of electronic devices. Conversely, the scientific community found more practical ways of gleaning what plants had to tell us, through the examination of trace elements at crime scenes in the field of forensic botany.

Expanded from an article commissioned for Nicolas Winding Refn’s website, Murder Season takes a look at the ways that a disillusioned generation became obsessed with plants, not only in their homes and gardens as part of the burgeoning environmentalist and earth mysteries movements that summoned people back to their rural roots, but in laboratories and recording studios that aimed to document the ways plants experienced and witnessed the world around them and how they could communicate knowledge to us – whether imparting ancient wisdom or fingering a murderer. We’ll look at the influential studies of polygraph expert Cleve Backster and the early 20th century scientists who preceded him, the importation of Kirlian photography from behind the Iron Curtain and its subsequent championing at the UCLA Parapsychology Lab, and the more tangible ways that plants aid in solving crimes, from the trace elements found in poo-prints to the decomposing donors at The Body Farm.

We’ll also look at how vegetal anxiety manifested in horror literature and film, from the writings of Roald Dahl and Philip Jose Farmer to films like Day of the Triffids (1962), The Mutations (1974), The Gardener (1974), The Kirlian Witness (1979) and more.


This class is held in conjunction with several city-wide events celebrating Sacred Bones Records’ re-release of Mort Garson’s classic 1976 electronic concept album, Mother Earth’s Plantasia. Other events in this series include Atlas Obscura’s Plantasia listening party at the UCLA Botanical Gardens on August 10 + 11 ( and UCLA Film & Television Archive’s screening of The Kirlian Witness (1979) at the The Velaslavasay Panorama Theatre and Gardens on August 25 (