It was a few minutes past the hour, and the UVU students sat impatiently. Their professor was late, and he was never late. Finally, the humanities professor burst through the door and slammed his books on the table.
“And he says, ‘You guys need to listen, and you guys need to listen now.'” said Tabatha Santiago, a UVU student in the classroom.
The professor then told the class about the zombie apocalypse happening outside and how the students needed to follow him to safety. But before he could finish, he fell to the ground.
“He slowly goes through the act of becoming a zombie and stumbles towards us. Then we all laugh,” Santiago said. “Then he says, ‘Today we are going to talk about horror movies and their origins.'”
Such a scene is common for former UVU professor, and performance artist, researcher and “anomalogist” Danny Stewart. Anomalogist is a term Stewart coined himself.
He describes an anomalogist as someone who, with a critical mind, investigates folklore and then presents stories from his research in an entertaining and informative way.
These anomalist aspects can be ghosts, religion, strange creatures or fairies. But Stewart doesn’t care so much about whether these creatures are real or not, but that the stories they live in are real and have the ability to affect people. One of Stewart’s goals is to find and share these stories with the community.
“Folklore is about community,” Stewart said. “There’s stories that people are ignoring because people don’t know about them.”
One way Stewart is sharing the stories of Provo are through his ghost tours, which begin at the Provo Smith’s parking lot at 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, 22 and 28.
Stewart began doing ghost tours a few years ago when he was a professor at UVU. Santiago said there were about 150 to 200 people who would attend.
“It’s not some cheap, annoying scare thrill,” Santiago said.
Stewart’s girlfriend, Tara Taylor, suggested Stewart revive his Provo ghost tour this year. Taylor said she likes the variety of the tours. She has been to several and said the open participation and questions people ask make every tour different as Stewart responds specifically to the audience and people’s interests.
“It’s an open conversation,” Taylor said. “Yeah, Danny’s a performer and is telling stories, but he’s also a professor. He has so much knowledge and research about Provo.”
Along with the ghost tour, Stewart also performs at coffee shops and other locations, teaching about folklore in unique, artistic ways. He plans on giving — or rather, performing — a lecture on the Boogieman on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m. at 426 W. 1230 North in Provo.
Stewart said folklore is more than just ghost stories or monsters.
“Folklore is what it means to collect our history, our story and our culture,” Stewart said. “Folklore is what it means to be human. It’s the art of being a human being.”
He said folklore is “building a fire, tying your shoes, your grandmother’s pie recipe.”
When asked why he works so hard to preserve the stories of community and share them, Stewart said it’s just what he’s meant to do as a “creative.”
“We do what we do because we have to,” Stewart said about creatives. “The true artist creates because they instinctively have to.”
Stewart is now self-employed, spending his days gathering stories from people, researching and working on a book and his performances. To learn more about his work, visit anomalogist.com.