Saturday, 31 December 2011

See you next year!

Rather than a customary reminisce of the year gone by, I thought I'd do something different for New Years' Eve—and give you a treat, instead.

You'll recall one of my recent discoveries involved a pre-White Wolf reference to vampires descending from the Biblical Cain, the first murderer. What I didn't tell you, is that there's more to the story.

The remainder of J. Theodore Bent's article discusses the behaviours and attributes of these 'Cains' in Greek lore:
They come down the chimney at night; so a careful housewife is bound, during this time, to keep embers smouldering on the hearth. When crickets come to a house, they say that it is a sure sign that "Cains" will come and play all sorts of horrible antics with the food and household utensils. Cain was a huge man, they told me, taller than the tallest chimney, with the feet of goats, and wooden shoes; in short, the satyr of ancient days. In like manner they imagine Lazarus to have risen from the grave an abnormally tall, thin man, with a round, flat head; for this reason they call the pole with an oval board at the end of it, which they use for putting their bread into the ovens, a Lazarus.1
Bent also wrote The Cyclades: or Life among the insular Greeks (1885). That book also discusses Greek 'vampires'. Thanks to the magic of the internoodle, you can download it from here. You're welcome!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year! Oh, and don't forget to check out Niels' latest post. It's a run-through of essential vampire books published during the year. More stuff for the Amazon wishlist. Better start saving the pennies. Peace out.

1. JT Bent, ‘Personification of the mysterious amongst the modern Greeks’, The National Review, April, 1887, p. 233, 26 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Three discoveries

In the last few days, I've stumbled on a few items which challenge my views on vampire 'history'. For instance, I thought the 1991 role-playing game—Vampire: the Masquerade—was the first attempt at linking Cain with vampires.

Cain—son of Adam and Eve—murdered his brother, Abel, and was subsequently cursed by God: 'And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth' (Genesis 4: 11–12).

After Cain protests his punishment as something more than he can bare; fearing he could be killed in turn, he is 'protected' thusly: 'And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him' (v. 15).

Cain's curse and vagabond status morphed into vampirism within Vampire: the Masquerade's mythos. Indeed, according to the game's backstory, he's the world's first vampire.

As it turns out, the link between vampires and Cain was made much earlier. More than a hundred years before, J. Theodore Bent's assessment of the Greek Βρονκόλακες mentioned: 'In Karpathos they call these beings "Cains," affirming that Cain, who slaughtered Abel on his death, became the first wandering vampire.'1

Not only that, but there's also a link between them and the vampire 'species' featured in the previous post: 'They here mix them up with another species of hobgoblin, evil spirits formed like men, with asses' or goats' feet, which appear on the earth for ten days only, from Christmas to Epiphany, during which time they subsist, like the Amazons of old, on snakes and lizards.'2

Our modern conception of vampires stems largely from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). One notable aspect includes vampires turning into bats. Everyone knows that trope, but they probably don't know it originated with Stoker's novel—or did it?

Earlier this year, I found a pre-Dracula reference to vampires turning into bats in an 1892 newspaper article. That is, an article reproduced in a book by Christopher Rondina. But, I had my suspicions and double-checked the original source. It turned out to be a hoax, as its author confirmed: 'As an avid vampire fan, I was also disappointed to see the absence of bats in the original folklore, and I inserted the reference into the 1892 article as a vanity "enhancement" for my own satisfaction.'

No need for disappointment. I found a vampires-into-bats reference pre-dating his own 'enhancement'—by nearly 20 years: 'The belief that human beings were sometimes changed into the bats called vampyres is found in India, and was also Magian.'3 This isn't quite the same thing, though. The passage refers to people changing into vampire bats, not that they were vampires, per se. However, I suspect that, too, is a misnomer: vampire bats are not native to India.

The article's anonymous author may have conflated vampire bats and their supposed morphic capabilities with a popular retelling of Baital PachisiRichard F. Burton's Vikram and the Vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry (1870). The so-called 'vampire'—baital or vetala—is actually an 'evil spirit which animates dead bodies'.4 No mention of blood-drinking.

The bat connection's found in its appearance: 'Its body was thin and ribbed like a skeleton or a bamboo framework, and as it held on to a bough, like a flying fox,'5 on which Burton elaborates, 'A large kind of bat ; a popular and silly Anglo-Indian name.'6

Far from vampiric, the flying fox's diet is given away by its other name—fruit bats. 'They live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia (including the Indian subcontinent)', whereas vampire bats are notably smaller and found in 'the Americas, ranging from Mexico to Brazil, Chile, and Argentina.'

What's the connection between flying foxes and vampires? The Indian Flying-fox is a member of the Pteropus vampyrus species.

A popular theory explaining the origin of the vampire belief concerns plagues. One proponent, Olga Hoyt, wrote, 'A more cogent reason for the spread of vampirism throughout Europe, beginning in the Middle Ages, however, was the was the terrible plague [Black Death] that began in the thirteenth century and lasted until the eighteenth.'7

Vampirism acted as a sort of supernatural epidemic, spreading from village to village, as seen in the Plogojowitz and Paole cases. It's not hard to see parallels, but few have established direct connections between vampire belief and the plague.

Well, I found one. A missing link. The Daily Gazetteer (6 September 1738)8 covered the movement of Turkish troops 'posted near Inharlick' towards Raskow, to head off a Russian contingent marching towards a strategically important river. Here's what happened next:

Podolia, no longer a Polish territory, 'is an historical region in the west-central and south-west portions of present-day Ukraine, corresponding to Khmelnytskyi Oblast and Vinnytsia Oblast.'

1. JT Bent, ‘Personification of the mysterious amongst the modern Greeks’, The National Review, April, 1887, p. 233, 26 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals.

2. ibid.

3. ‘Demonology’, Fraser’s Magazine, December, 1872, p. 701, viewed 27 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals.

4. RF Burton (adapt.), Vikram and the Vampire; or, Tales of Hindu devilry, Longmans, Green, and Co., London, 1870, p. xiii, viewed 20 August 2010, retrieved from Internet Archive.

5. ibid., p. 46.

6. ibid., fn. 3.

7. O Hoyt, Lust for blood: the consuming story of vampires, Stein and Day, New York, 1984, p. 56.

8. 'Yesterday arrived mail due from Holland', The Daily Gazetteer, 6 September 1738, p. [2592], viewed 27 December 2011, retrieved from British Periodicals. The section is titled 'Warsaw, Aug. 19. O. S.'

Monday, 26 December 2011

Season's greetings

I trust everyone had a merry Christmas? Hope so. I've been digging up some vampy stuff to mark the occasion.

The connection between vampires and the season is established through Greek folklore. 'Any child who had the misfortune of being born between Christmas Day (December 25) and the Feast of the Twelfth Night (January 5),' writes Theresa Bane, 'will rise from its grave as a callicantzaro when it eventually dies.'1

What does this unfortunate creature look like? 'Half human and half animal, it has a black face, red eyes, very long ears, clawed hands, and sharp teeth.'2 What makes it vampiric? 'The first time that it returns it will seek out its surviving family members, ripping them apart, limb from limb, with its clawed hands.'3 Yikes. But what about the bloodsucking component usually associated with vampires? 'Although blood drinking is not a requirement for its survival, that is something the callicantzaro most certainly revels in.'4

From further readings—and barring regional variants—it seems the account's been filtered down to us from a much older source. 'It would seem, however, from the account of them given by Allatius,' says Thomas Wright, 'that these were but different names for the same thing, callicantzara being the more modern.'5 'Allatius' is a reference to Leo Allatius (1586–1669): 'In 1645 he included the first methodical discussion of vampires, in De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus'.6

Wright also notes that the power of these beings 'was greatest during the eight days of Christmas; and it was believed that any one who chanced to be born during that period was so affected, that "he seemed to be born only to be the plague of himself and of every one else."'7 What happened next?
As soon as the eight days came, he would rush from his own house, in a state of madness, and wander about during the night . . . He never rested, but with his hair rough and dishevelled, and his face wild, he fell on every one he met, and tore their faces with his long sharp nails; then, jumping heavily upon their shoulders, and grasping them by the throat, when he had nearly choked then, he asked, . . . "Tow or lead?" If the sufferer answered "Tow," his tormentor instantly left him, and hastened in search of somebody else whom he might torment; if the answer was "Lead," then he fell upon him with all his might, tore him miserably with his nails, and left him half dead.8
Interestingly, Wright doesn't describe the calllicantzaro as a vampire type, as many modern authors do, but links it with another folkloric being: 'These callicantzari seem to have resembled, in some respects, the changelings of our [English] popular creed; except that, while with us they generally pine away, amongst the Greeks their diabolical natures were only exhibited after they were grown up.'9

It's clear he saw a distinction between them, as he goes on to note: 'The Greek burculaca, bulcolacca, or buthrolaca, for the name is differently spelt, was the Teutonic vampyre.'10 In this case, he clearly outlines the being's undead state, but rather than suck the blood of innocent victims, it 'walked about the streets, and knocked at people's doors, and always called by name some person in the house. If the persona who was named answered, he was sure to die on the following day.'11

1. T Bane, Encyclopedia of vampire mythology, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, N.C., 2010, p. 41.

2. ibid.

3. ibid.

4. ibid., pp. 41–2.

5. T Wright, 'On the popular superstitions of modern Greece', Essays on subjects connected with the literature, popular superstitions, and history of England in the Middle Ages, vol. 1, John Russell Smith, London, 1846, p. 296.

6. I disagree with that claim. See: 'The Church vs. the undead, pt. 2'.

7. Wright, pp. 296–7.

8. ibid., pp. 297.

9. ibid., pp. 298.

10. ibid., pp. 299.

11. ibid.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

London conference

Playing god with monsters

Speaking of Bell's blogs, he mentioned his recent attendance at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London, as part of an international conference called 'Vampires: myths of the past and the future' (2–4 November 2011).

His presentation—'American vampires and the ongoing ambiguity of death'—took place on the 2nd. As is usual with English language vampire conferences, the papers primarily focus on novels and film. That said, good to see a fellow Melbournite—Ken Gelder (Reading the vampire, 1994)—among the crowd.

Here's hoping they're published, a la the 2009 Vienna conference. I've already contacted the IGRS to find out. Let's see what they say.

My reading list 3

Been a while since I updated the thing. First, some familiar 'faces'. Michele Hauf's VampChix, Elizabeth Miller's livejournal, Curt Purcell's The groovy age of horror, Brian Solomon's The vault of horror, and bshistorian's The bs historian have been reinstituted. Blog's felt naked without 'em.

Speaking of naked, I should point out that Purcell's blog occasionally contains explicit content, if you catch my drift. Not one for the kiddies or workplace.

Wesleyan University Press
Time for the newcomers; although, this one should've been on the other blog all along. Can't believe I hadn't included Michael E. Bell's online writings in my old blog's 'Reading list'. Readers may recognise him as the author of Food for the dead: on the trail of New England's vampires (2001; 2011)—a book which should be in every vampire scholar's library.

This time round, I've added not one, but—count 'em—two of his blogs here: Food for the dead and Vampires grasp. If the latter's title doesn't sound familiar, strap yourself in: it's a 'teaser' for his next book. His user profile reveals it'll 'be published in 2012 by Wesleyan University Press'. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

While it doesn't exclusively deal with vampires—indeed, they're barely mentioned—I've added Paul Bibeau's Goblinbooks to the list, as it makes entertaining reading. It does have a vampire connection, though: its author wrote Sundays with Vlad: from Pennsylvania to Transylvania, one man's quest to live in the world of the undead (2007).

Saturday, 17 December 2011



Vampire bats, that is. Still, great cover. Stories and flicks centred around mass vampire bat attacks aren't unique. There's Martin Cruz Smith's novel, Nightwing (1977), it's cinematic adaptation (1979) and, of course, Vampire bats (2005).

But their path of destruction's paled—and preceded—by the apocalyptic vampire bats in Alan Hyder's novel, Vampires overhead (1935). Oh, and they're also from outer space.

Dust settles; sequel talk

The Fright night remake's doing the rounds on DVD—already—but Dread central wanted to know whether there'd be any sequels. So, they asked director, Craig Gillespie and writer Marti Noxon

Here's what they said: "It was a great time working on Fright Night, and I know I'd love to come back for a sequel," said Noxon. "So far no one has mentioned any plans for a sequel yet- I think it's contingent on what happens with the DVD and Blu-ray sales, but I do think there's more stories to tell here and I hope I get to come back."

They better hope it scores big on DVD and Blu-ray sales, because it didn't exactly set the box office alight: it barely recouped its budget. Take that, remake!

That hasn't deterred its director, though: "In regards to a sequel, I think it's a wait and see situation for DreamWorks right now, but I know I'd be happy to direct a Fright Night sequel- there are a lot of possibilities in this world. Honestly, I'd love to do something like Charley backpacking through Europe and getting mixed up with some vampires there. That could be a lot of fun. Would the sequel be in 3D? Hard to tell, but either way I'd love to come back."

Horror movies forum
Thing is, there's already a Fright night sequel: Fright night, part 2, bitches! You can blame that flick for my interest in the undead.

I still remember watching it on Channel 9 the night before starting Grade 6. Later, I'd go on to borrow it from Majestic Video, a local video library—and was suitably impressed with its coffin-shaped VHS cover.

It'd be a while before I saw part one. Oddly enough, I even read its John Skipp/Craig Spektor novelisation before seeing it. The book was in my high school's library, of all places; it wasn't part of the curriculum. Eventually, I scored a copy of Fright night at Majestic. Unfortunately, it wasn't boxed in a coffin-shaped cover.

To this day, I still rank both flicks amongst the best vampire movies ever. Dated 80s threads to the contrary. They're clever, inventive—yet stick to the Draculean 'rules'. Pretty much. That's how I like it.

I've yet to see the remake. I deliberately avoided doing so at the cinema—as tempted as I admittedly was. But I'll catch it on DVD. Maybe it'll be awesome. Who knows. I've also avoided reading reviews cos, deep-down, I'm interested to see what they'll do with their 'source'.

That said, I hope the flick's meagre box office has helped convince producers to go easy on the remakes. It's turned into a sick joke. There's just so many of them. Seriously, stop. I can understand the whole 'safe bet' thing—what with pirating to compete with and the millions at stake—but rest assured, people are gonna get sick of it. Real soon. How long can an industry that cannibalises itself, survive?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Underneath the radar

Hemlock Books
I 'discovered' this one while on one of my semi-regular Amazon trawls. Can't believe I missed it. Presenting: Bruce G Hallenbeck's British cult cinema: the Hammer vampire (left). It was published 5 May 2010.

Hammer was an English production company, best-known for its horror output during the late 1950s–early 1970s. At one point, the company was so popular, it earned a 'Queen's Award to Industry in recognition of their contribution to the British economy.'

Many horror fans—including me—have a soft spot for their films. Cheesy by today's standards, there's still a sense of class about 'em, despite their low budgets, due to the quality of their actors and (usually) Victorian settings. Christopher 'Count Dooku' Lee got his big break through them. Also, if you're into gory stuff, they basically mainstreamed it. Quite ahead of its time.

Hammer made fifteen vampire flicks. Sixteen if you include Countess Dracula (1971). Most were encased in 'series': Dracula (1958)—its eight sequels—and the Karnstein Trilogy. The remainder were stand-alones: Kiss of the vampire (1962), Vampire circus (1972) and Captain Kronos – vampire hunter (1974).

They also wanted to adapt Richard Matheson's seminal vampire novel, I am legend (1954), but censors nixed that idea.

As you can see, there's ample ground to give Hammer's vampires a whole lotta coverage, which I'm sure will warm the hearts of many fans. It's been getting some good reviews on, too. Plus points.

Off the top of my head, there's only been two other books specifically devoted to Hammer's vampire output, namely, Robert Marrero's Vampires: Hammer style (1982) and John Jewel's Lips of blood: an illustrated guide to Hammer's Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee (2002). Going on page length, alone (I've read none of these books), looks like Hallenbeck's in the lead for most extensive coverage of the subject.

Buyers beware!

Here's Meredith Woerner, author of Vampire taxonomy: identifying and interacting with the modern-day bloodsucker (2009), examining a vampire killing kit in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square, New York:

Woerner's not an antiquarian—she's an entertainment writer, which is why her 'examination' involves naming the box's contents and mucking about with them. However, Ripley's Times Square/Ripley's London's president—Michael Hirsch—also seen in the clip, states: 'This is the real thing. This was, uh, uh, produced in the 1850s, and it was used for travellers if they were heading into Eastern Europe. Uh, a fear of vampires if they were heading there. So, this is, this is the real, actual kit.'

Does he have a professional antiquarian background? No, but he does specialise in 'P&L Analysis/Management, Staff Motivation, Customized Best Practice Sales Techniques, Accelerated Expense Reduction, Internal Labor Analysis, Brand Leveraging/Building, Traditional and Digital Marketing Practices.'

So, how have these kits been authenticated? I asked the '"main" purchaser' of Ripley's vampire killing kits, Edward Meyer, how he determined their 19th century origins. He said: 'One of the key elements in a vampire killing kit is a pistol. Pistols can easily be dated by style, and maker. Some of the guns actually have dates an initials on them..From a study of several kits it is obvious some are older than others, but the guns typically come from the 1840s-50s'.

Fair enough, except an old gun in a box doesn't necessarily confirm the reality of the kit—at least, for its alleged purpose—as The Mercer Museum, Doylestown, Pa., will attest.

How about contemporary evidence? If the kits, were, indeed, sold during the 19th century, there'd likely be some record of their sale. An advertisement, something. Indeed, a Ripley's press release states, 'Most were created in the Boston area and were available by mail order.' I asked Meyer whether or not he'd seen these mail orders. 'No'.

How about a contemporary reference to their use or sale? 'No, we have nothing any earlier than 1990 mentioning their existence.' Skipping ahead, I asked whether it was possible the kits were 'late 20th/early 21st century forgeries'. He said: 'Anything is possible. I know of no hard evidence to confirm where or when any of these items were made. As I stated before the date of the guns is the only thing you can confirm with confidence…..We have found these kits in a number of different states, and three different European countries. Modern guns certainly suggest “forgeries” (your word not mine). The kits exist, they are “real”, and for the most part they are all different, so the debate isn’t really over their existence, but simply how old are they.'

But I say the debate is over their age. After all, they do exist—in the sense that such kits incorporate 19th century parts and are alleged to offer protection against vampires—but their 'existence', as antique vampire killing kits, hinges on the claim they were manufactured and sold during the 19th century. Otherwise, they're modern forgeries; 'forgeries' which are auctioned off for several thousand dollars.

A few days after my interview with Meyers, one of Ripley's bloggers—Big Oposted an entry repeating the 19th century origin of vampire killing kits under 'Weird True Facts', adding they contained 'items considered necessary fir [sic] the protection of persons who traveled [sic] into the countries of Eastern Europe, where the populace was reportedly plagued with a peculiar manifestation of evil known as Vampires.' To that blog entry, I've added my own two cents:

I wouldn't've done it if a commenter's 'This was proven to be a hoax' statement wasn't refuted by the entry's author: 'Not at all … as a matter of fact we are still finding out more information about these kits. Next week we have a “vampire” gentleman from the UK who is a gun expert. He is gong to examine the different guns in a bunch of the kits to ascertain the date when they were made.'

Why'd they get the chop?

Nerds in Babeland
I noted several papers 'missing' from Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie (2011) and wondered what happened to 'em.

I contacted one of the book's editors, Christoph Augustynowicz, asking, 'What are the reasons their contributions weren't incorporated into the anthology'?1

He responded in a promptly: 'thank you for your interest, the paper of Berhard Unterholzner is included, the others didn’t deliver their papers – simple as that.'2

I double-checked Niels' listing for the Unterholzner contribution—he was right. It's there. Whoops! However, in the same e-mail, I also asked if he could put me in touch with Sigrid Janisch, 'as I'm very interested in reading her paper'. True story. But no reply to that query. Ah well. She's not an easy woman to find. If you're reading this, Sigrid, drop me a line!

On the plus side, I had successfully tracked down Thede Kahl, who told me, 'I have never send a paper for that conference. I presented some aspects, but did not find the time to fromulate [sic] my ideas in a written form.'3

So, no conspiracies. No under-par papers. They're 'missing' simply because they weren't submitted. Mystery solved.

A real shame, though. I've found a document presenting summaries of the papers. Karin Barton's 'Der Habsburger Floh: Zur Kultur- und Literaturgeschichte eines vampirischen Insekts' (The Habsburg flea: notes on the cultural and literary history of an insect vampire) provided 'a brief survey of flea-literature in the Holy Roman Empire, starting with the late medieval and pseudo-Ovidian Carmen de pulice which combines the motifs of sex and death with vampiric overtones, to the prominent Renaissance trope of the war between fleas and their allegedly preferred hosts, women.'

Thede Kahl's discussion, 'Bewahrung und Verdrängung von Vampirgeschichten in Nordgriechenland und Südalbanien' (Perpetuation and suppression of narratives of vampires in northern Greece and southern Albania) cited 'examples of the three regional languages (Aromunian, Albanian, Greek) for the loss of an oral tradition on different levels', promising to 'show, what the processes of forgetting have in common, as well as how the attitudes (conservation, suppression) of the narrators and the audience differ.'

Lastly, Sigrid Janisch's 'Was ist ein Vampir im Habsburger Reich des 18./19. Jahrhunderts? Ein Vergleich anhand von Enzyklopädien' (What is a vampire in the 18th and 19th Habsburg Monarchy? A comparison on the basis of encyclopedias), noted 'The contemporary vampire image considerably differs from the one of the 18th and 19th centuries. The paper focusses on the changes of some aspects of this image and its development as a whole.' I'm sure it would've provided a fascinating insight into the vampire 'evolution' in popular Western consciousness.

As an added bonus, here's the conference's programme guide, so you'll know who spoke when! If you needed to know such a thing, that is.

1. A Hogg, 'Vampirism and magia posthuma papers‏', Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:29:35 AM, <>.

2. C Augustynowicz, 'AW: Vampirism and magia posthuma papers', Thursday, 15 December 2011 10:44:43 PM, <>.

3. T Kahl, 'AW: Vampirismus und magia posthuma paper‏', Wednesday, 14 December 2011 7:50:20 PM, <>.

Minor adjustments

I've just been toying with the design on this blog. Haven't changed much. Just some font types and link colours. They're brighter now. Bigger blog title, too.

So now the main text's a 12pt Georgia, rather than Arial. Looks better in my view. Hopefully, it's just as readable. I've also pulled the random posts function, as it was screwing with the rest of the layout.

I was thinking of formatting subsequent pics with Instagram-style filters, until I read this hysterical rant decrying the habit. It made some good points. We'll see.

Speaking of adjustments, I should point out that the 'trailor' featured in the previous entry is not a trailer, misspelling to the contrary. It's actually a teaser. Some pre-production footage, giving viewers an idea of what the film'll look like when it's done. That'd explain why that swooping owl looks so poxy.

Dario Argento's Dracula

Horror maven, Dario Argento, has cast his hat into the lot of a long line of directors who've tackled Bram Stoker's Dracula. However, this is probably the first attempt rendered in 'stereoscopic 3D'.

A word of warning before viewing this 'Trailor': it's got a lotta gore, bad CGI and brief nudity at the 1:38 mark. It might also make you wonder, 'This guy directed Suspiria?'

Twilight, it ain't. As a change of pace, Rutger Hauer plays Van Helsing. His previous contributions to vampire flicks include Lothos (Buffy the vampire slayer, 1992) and Kurt Barlow (Salem's Lot, 2004). He also inspired Anne Rice, and was even considered for the role of Lestat de Lioncourt in an adaptation of Interview with the vampire. It went to Tom Cruise.

Watching the 'trailor' for this OTT adaptation reminds me of a Dracula project—by another horror auteur—unfortunately never realised.

The late Ken Russell (1927–2011), best-known in vampire circles for adapting Stoker's Lair of the white worm (1988), Russell wanted a crack at Drac, too. It 'was cancelled when it was felt that too many Dracula films were crowding the market. Among the proposed scenes was Jonathan Harker wrapping a rosary about his fist to "de-fang" a vampire bride!'

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Conference papers published

Magia posthuma
While I'm eagerly awaiting my copy of Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie to arrive, Niels received his on Monday (left).

His paper, 'Magia posthuma. a weblog approach to the history of central and Eastern European vampire cases of the 18th century', was published in the book. It mentions my previous blog. What an honour!

He's also helpfully printed the book's contents. For an idea on what the papers discuss, consult his invaluable notes on the conference.

Karin Barton's paper, 'The Habsburg flea: notes on the cultural and literary history of an insect vampire', didn't make the cut; a real shame, considering it 'presented a source from 1866 that mentions the word 'nosferatu', a term otherwise usually perceived as constructed by Emily Gerard in her Transsylvanian [sic] Superstitions from 1885!' But that's ok. I found an earlier source.

That said, if it wasn't for Niels' coverage of Barton's paper, I wouldn't've sought it out in the first place. So, kudos to 'em both.

Sigrid Janisch's paper on 'various definitions of vampires from 18th and 19th century encyclopedias' got the chop, as did Bernhard Unterholzner's discussion on 'vampire debates from 1732 and onwards.'

There's no sign of Thede Kahl's 'field work in Albania and Northern Greece, where he got about 200 tales about vampires, revenants and other entities.' However, Niels does mention his findings 'will be published later this year [2009]', so his work may simply have appeared in another source, like a journal. Might have to chase that up. 

And the others, too, for that matter.

Heart in a box

I've dealt with the duplicity of 'antique' vampire killing kits and the ridiculousness of 'Vampire Cage' and its imitators, now let's take a look at another unusual collectible.

Life is really beautiful
A box containing the suspiciously well-preserved heart of Auguste Delagrange—and the stake which impaled it—sold on eBay late last year for US $320.10 after 20 bids. Unlike many other vampire 'antiques', the seller courteously labelled the item a 'Prop/Gaff'.

I've traced the heart's origins to Propnomicon, which 'focuses on horror and fantasy props of interest to fans of H. P. Lovecraft and players of the "Call of Cthulhu" role playing game.' Its creator states, 'All this week [May 2010] I've been working on producing a realistic mummified vampire heart as part of a larger project. After a few failed attempts I finally have something I'm happy with.'

Clearly impressed with his work, he lovingly describes 'The large hole in the left auricle is where the ashen stake that de-animated this particular vampire entered the heart. Along the top you can see the stubs of the major vessels (pulmonary artery, aorta, superior and inferior vena cava) from when the heart was cut from the creature's chest.' Tasty.

The heart's saga is continued here and here.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Q & A with Peter Mario Kreuter, part 1

Ingrid Goldbach
While I was in contact with Peter Mario Kreuter, I proposed an interview for Diary of an amateur vampirologist. Unfortunately, it never transpired due to various distractions on my part, and I simply never got 'round to asking him any questions.

But it was always in the back of my mind, so I messaged him about a month and a half ago, apologising and calling myself a 'right bastard' for not getting round to them. I tried my luck and asked whether he was still willing to participate.1 Thankfully, he was! What a sport.

The following is Kreuter's first crack at answering my questions2, effectively serving as a 'teaser' to the rest of the interview, which remains incomplete as of this writing. He's a busy guy, after all. Nonetheless, it represents a fascinating insight into one of the 21st century's most respected vampire scholars.

You're best known for your thesis, Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa. Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum (2001). What inspired you to write about the specific area of vampirism?

To tell the truth... nothing inspired me. I never intended to write my doctoral thesis about popular folk beliefs or the vampire – my intention has been to take a deeper look onto the history of Danish constitutionalism. Therefore I learned Danish at the University of Bonn, and still today, Danish history fascinates me…

But first things first! I started my studies in October 1989 in Bonn, and my main interest has always been (and still is) cultural history. So I made “Medieval and Premodern History” to my main field of study. In that time, each student of humanities was obliged to choose two main or one main and two secondary fields, so I made my choice for the latter version and took “Romance Philology” and “Slavic Philology” as secondary fields. It is never bad for a historian to read the sources personally.

When starting the studies of Romance philology, I learned that I had to take two Romance languages, and my first choice has been French. But the second one? Maybe Italian, but the idea to end up with 120 other students in one room hasn’t been that intriguing for me. Spanish? Portuguese? Too far away from the countries with Slavic languages. And then I saw that Bonn was one of those few German universities, which offered the opportunity to study Romanian. And so I decided to make Romanian to my second Romance language. It was, finally, a simple choice. My music teacher at the Gymnasium was a Saxon from Transylvania, and he often told me nice stories about Romania and the Romanians and the language and how beautiful this language is and so on. Well, that was my way to Romanian. In addition to that, I had to make a choice for the Slavic languages, too. Russian was obligatory, Old Church Slavonic was obligatory, but the third one was in my own free will. Then I saw that Bonn was one of those few German universities, which offered the opportunity to study Bulgarian. And so I came into a closer contact to Southeastern Europe.

Things became since those choices a bit strange. My Bulgarian teacher told me that learning Albanian would lead me to a deeper understanding for the central area of the so-called “Balkansprachbund” (Balkan linguistic area). The Albanian teacher said that without an understanding for the Ottoman Empire, the cultural area called “Balkans” will forever be closed for me. Guess what I did? But the Turkish teacher pointed out that a lot of the Ottoman state was based on Greek traditions… At the end, Denmark was quite far away, and one nice day I had to think about my M.A. thesis. Something about the Balkans, for sure. But what exactly?

Firstly, I thought about something to combine France with Romania. The reception of French enlightenment in Transylvania – that’s it! At least I thought it. The professor of Premodern history, who already knew me and offered me to hold a presentation of my project in his Oberseminar (special course for exam projects). So I did. It was quite successful, but at the end, the professor said something disturbing to me- Interesting stuff, yes, but there was one revealing moment for him when I spoke about the struggle of the Romanian intellectuals against the popular folk beliefs. By the way, never ever a historian took a look onto the vampire belief with the methods of a historian. Try it, stout yeoman!

And I did. First for the M.A., then for my doctoral thesis. That’s the story.

1. A Hogg, 'Interview', Friday, 28 October 2011 2:22:24 PM.

2. PM Kreuter, 'The first answer', Wednesday, 2 November 2011 5:26:16 AM.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Upcoming books

It's been a while since I've taken a look at 'Upcoming books on vampires', so let's see what we're dealing with in the coming months. If you're a vampire fiction aficionado, note that my coverage of 'Upcoming books' concerns non-fiction works. Publication dates are also subject to change.

If I was to summarise the general themes of non-fiction vampire works coming in the new year, I'd say occult and film.

We start with Leo Ruickbie's A brief guide to the supernatural: ghosts, vampires and the paranormal (16 February 2012). Ruickbie 'is an historian and sociologist of magic, witchcraft and Wicca.'

Red Wheel/Weiser
For something explicitly magical, we have Father Sebastiaan's Vampire magick: the grimoire of the Living Vampire (1 March 2012), a 'companion volume' to Vampyre Sanguinomicon: the lexicon of the Living Vampire (2010).

For those not-in-the-know, a grimoire 'is a textbook of magic. Such books typically include instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms and divination and also how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels, spirits, and demons.'

The pseudo-archaic tone is enhanced with 'magick', 'an Early Modern English spelling for magic'—but was also used by infamous occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), to 'differentiate the occult from stage magic'—and vampyre, for that matter, which is (spoiler alert!) merely an archaic rendering of vampire.

As to film, Columbia University Press will be publishing Jeffrey Weinstock's The vampire film: undead cinema in April 2012; while I.B. Tauris will release Screening the undead: vampires and zombies in film and television by Leon Hunt, Sharon Lockyer and Milly Williamson on 1 December 2012.

Williamson may be familiar to some readers through her 2005 book, The lure of the vampire: gender, fiction and fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Another vampire picture mystery

Some time ago, I discussed well-known 'picture of a vampire with a stake embedded in its heart' (left), and thought I'd discovered its illustrator—William Mortensen (1897–1965). But I'm not a hundred percent sure he did it.

Mortensen 'was one of the most well known and respected photographers in America in the thirties' and his 'obscurity today is mainly due to his championing of Pictorialism, a force within photography that promoted retouching, hand-worked negatives, chemical washes, and an artistic, painterly approach that soon faded with the advance of modernism.'

The version you've seen in books, is taken from the Bettmann/CORBIS photo archives. It's called 'Engraving of the Death of a Vampire', but gives no further details than that. Not even a date. The picture hosted by them—at least, on their website—is also black and white.

However, Mortensen's vampire (left) was rendered in a sort of sepia tone. So where does this colour version come from? Was Mortensen actually its original illustrator, after all? Was it merely 'colourized' by someone else at a later time? If so, who? Why?

Was the picture an example of Pictorialist technique? If so, what was the original image? Could the colour version actually be a painting which Mortenson, uh, Pictorialised? If so, why would Bettmann/CORBIS list it as an 'engraving'. Hmm.

I'd love to get to the bottom of its origins, as it's one of my favourite vampire images. It's a graphic late-nineteenth century style engraving—I have my doubts that it was actually created during that period—and, apart from the fangs, gets close to what a staked vampire corpse of folklore would've looked like.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

Nightmare Factory
Before uncorking the cab sav, thought I'd commemorate the Spookiest Night of the Year by sharing an obscure folkoric belief mingling vampires and everyone's favourite gourd-like squash. Over to you, T. P. Vukanović:
The belief in vampires of plant origin occurs among Gs. [Gypsies] who belong to the Mosl. [Moslem] faith in KM [Kosovo-Metohija]. According to them there are only two plants which are regarded as likely to turn into vampires: pumpkins of every kind and water-melons. And the change takes place when they are 'fighting one another.' In Podrima and Prizrenski Podgor they consider this transformation occurs if these vegetables have been kept for more than ten days: then the gathered pumpkins stir all by themselves and make a sound like 'brrrl, brrrl, brrrl!' and begin to shake themselves. It is also believed that sometimes a trace of blood can be seen on the pumpkin, and the Gs. then say it has become a vampire. These pumpkins and melons go round the houses, stables, and rooms at night, all by themselves, and do harm to people. But it is thought that they cannot do great damage to folk, so people are not very afraid of this kind of vampire.1
As an added bonus, trick or treat yourself to a guest blog I wrote for Reading with bite, discussing the links between vamps and All Hallows' Eve. In the meantime, have a safe and happy Hallowe'en! Brrrl, brrrl, brrrl!

1. TP Vukanović, 'The vampire (in the belief and customs of the Gypsies in the province of Kosovo-Metohija, Stari Ras and Novopazarski Sandžak, Yugoslavia)', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 3rd ser, vol. 37, no. 1–2, 1958, p. 27.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The first true vampire: another candidate?

British Library
I'm glad I bought Fastitocalon's first and second issues. Eugenio M. Olivares Merino's two-part discussion on revenants and vampires in Medieval English literature did not disappoint.

I previously outlined the case for Peter Plogojowitz being the first true vampire on account of the necessary 'ingredients' present: undead corpse, bloodsucking, exhumation, destruction of corpse.

These traits were used in conjunction with the earliest use of the term 'vampire' in association with an undead being—rendered 'so sie Vampyri nennen' in a report on Plogojowitz's exhumation.

However, Olivares Merino makes a strong case for these traits also being present in a British case from the 12th century—best known as the Vampire of Anantis Castle:
The English translation that I have been using ("that it might be have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons") does not seem to reproduce the meaning of the Latin text, which literally means: 'so that they understood that he had been a leech of many'. For lack of a better word, William of Newburgh might have used the Latin term 'sanguisuga, ae', to convey precisely that the revenant had done exactly what leeches do: suck blood from others.1
In terms of its relevance to Medieval vampirism, he also notes, 'This is a relevant novelty that has not appeared in any of the cases referred to so far, a landmark in the genesis of the vampire myth in Europe.'2 In other words, far from proving that vampires—in the sense we've discussed so far—were common during this period, such traits are an aberration; perhaps hinting at the 'missing link' in the evolution of revenants to vampires.

After all, the vampire didn't spring just pop out of nowhere. Even the Plogojowitz case hints at prior manifestations of the phenomena. The author of the report noted: 'if I did not accord them the viewing and the legal recognition to deal with the body according to their custom, theu [the villagers] would have to leave house and home, because by the time a gracious resolution was received from Belgrade, perhaps the entire village—and this was already supposed to have happened in Turkish times [i.e. Ottoman occupation]—could be destroyed by such an evil spirit'.3 There are also clear antecedents in the Russuab stryges and Polish upior featured in late 17th century issues of the Mercure galant.

By the time the Plogojowitz and Paole cases rolled around, it was clear the vampire—by that name—was an established 'being' or tradition, its undead state and bloodsucking tendencies recurring throughout the region. The question is, what is the connection between the folklore of Northern Europe with Eastern Europe? Did they intersect at some point? If so, when? How did the vampire develop in Eastern Europe? Did it form spontaneously? Was it influenced? Who knows. That's the on-going riddle for me.

In the meantime, if you can get a handle on Olivares Merino's articles, I highly recommend you do so. His overview of the English 'vampire' cases is one of the most thorough I've had the pleasure of reading.

1. EM Olivares Merino, 'Reporting the stubborn undead: revenants and vampires in twelfth century English literature (II)', Fastitocalon, vol. 1, no. 2, 2010, p. 166.

2. ibid.

3. Cited in P Barber, Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1988, p. 6.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Für deutsche Leser

LIT Verlag
As Niels revealed, the Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie will be out soon. The book features proceedings from the 2009 Vienna conference.

For a taste of what this book'll contain, read his notes on the conference. I'm particularly interested in Christian Reiter's assertion that 'the epidemic in Medvedja in 1731-32 was caused by anthrax. Furthermore [concluding] that Flückinger and co. had falsified their report concerning the corpses not in a "vampire state" with the intent of obtaining remuneration for their examination of the corpses.' I'd love to see how he proves that.

The 'epidemic in Medvedja' refers to the Arnold Paole case. The importance of that case in vampire history can not be underestimated: it gave us the word, 'vampire'. It's because of that case that we know vampires are undead, bloodsucking corpses which you gotta stake through the heart. 

It's because of that case, that the symbolism inherent in the vampire's 'existence' found broader application, giving way to vampire literature—indeed, John Polidori's 'The vampyre; a tale' (1819) was partially inspired by the first English press coverage of the case: 'In the London Journal, of March, 1732, is a curious, and, of course credible account of a particular case of vampyrism, which is stated to have occurred at Madreyga, in Hungary.'

Therefore, imagine if the popularity of the vampire in Western culture started with a guy—who faked a report. Brilliant.

Following that line of darkness

EnCompass Editions
Yesterday, in referring to Robert A. Douglas' That line of darkness, I said 'it seems this work is only the first volume of Douglas' exploration. I couldn't find any info on the next one. I'll look into that.' And I did.

I contacted the book's publisher, EnCompass Editions, and asked: 'There are a few references to it being the 'first volume', so could you please tell me when the second will be available?'1 

EnCompass Editions' head honcho, Robert Buckland, responded, 'Thank you for your inquiry. Bob Douglas is still reviewing his manuscript for the second volume so we're not able to name a publication date.'2 He also offered to put my name on a list so I'd know when it's available. Sweet.

This has gotta be a first. A two-volume work that 'traces the intricate web of Zeitgeist that surfaced in one of the nineteenth century's strangest literary creations and flowered on the battlefields of the First World War', Dracula. That's a lotta print to cover such a niche subject. I'm impressed.

1. A Hogg, 'That line of darkness‏', Thursday, 27 October 2011 12:35:58 PM, <>.

2. R Buckland, 'Re: That line of darkness‏', Friday, 28 October 2011 12:32:28 AM, <>.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Dracula, vampires, World War 1

Encompass Editions
The Borgo Post's latest issue arrived in the mail, today. I was having a read through it and came across Elizabeth Miller's review of Robert A. Douglas' That line of darkness

Miller says the author 'takes as his starting cue Gothic novels, most notably Bram Stoker's Dracula, Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr Hyde, and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey peering through the lens of these extraordinary works to explore the class, race and gender tensions in late nineteenth-century Britain.'1 According to Amazon, the paperback edition was published 10 May 2011; the hardback a month later. News to me.

Admittedly, it doesn't cater to my preferred area of vampire interest (folklore), but I've added it to my Amazon Wishlist, anyway. The publisher's website contains more info on the book, even reprinting its bibliography. Interestingly, it seems this work is only the first volume of Douglas' exploration. I couldn't find any info on the next one. I'll look into that.

Funnily enough, it's not even the first scholarly book to put heavy emphasis on the connection between vampires and societal tensions leading to the First World War. That honour probably goes to Sara Libby Robinson's Blood will tell: vampires as political metaphors before World War 1 (2011).

Before that, Terry Phillips related 'The discourse of the vampire in First World War writing', published in 2006.2 Meanwhile, Kim Newman's 1995 novel, The bloody Red Baron—the second book in his 'Anno Dracula' series—is set during the War.

1. E Miller, review of That line of darkness: the spirit of Dracula and the Great War by Robert A. Douglas, The Borgo Post, Fall 2011, p. 3. The book's actual subtitle is The shadow of Dracula and the Great War. Perhaps a misprint on Miller's behalf.

2. T Phillips, 'The discourse of the vampire in First World War writing', in P Day (ed.), Vampires: myths and metaphors of enduring evil, At the interface/probing the boundaries 28, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 65–80.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I caved

I wrote, 'Despite the exorbitant price, I'll probably bite the bullet and buy 'em anyway.' And I did. On October 12th. Shipping cost €7,50. The issues arrived in the post, today.
I'm looking forward to reading Eugenio M. Olivares Merino's two-parter, 'The (Medi)evil dead: revenants and vampires in twelfth century English literature', in particular. 

He has a thing for this era, as he also wrote 'The Old English poem "A vampyre of the Fens": a bibliographical ghost' (pdf) for Miscelánea: A Journal of English and American Studies, vol. 32 (2005).

'A vampyre of the Fens' is a poem supposedly written 'a the beginning of the eleventh century', which not only makes it the world's oldest vampire poem, but features the first reference to 'vampyres', anywhere. However, as Olivares Merino's essay attests, someone done goofed along the way.

Olivares Merino is a Professor of English at the Universidad de Jaén.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Kiang shi mystery

I previously said, 'If there's anything that throws a spanner into my belief that vampires were not universal entities, it's those bloody stryges and kiang shi.' Let's focus on the latter.

The kiang shi are better known as Chinese vampires, on account of their supposed bloodsucking proclivities. Bloodsucking is a key trait of the folkloric vampire, as demonstrated by the Plogojowitz and Paole cases. In various vampire 'field guides', this trait is sometimes omitted, but broadened to include beings that steal 'life force' or some derivative. Even flesh eaters. The broad application of the term is a bugbear I see popping up time and time again.

But the vampire as we know it, has its origins in the Serbian cases mentioned, which give us a vampire 'paradigm': bloodsucking corpses. At the time, this wasn't a term of convenience, but the local word used to describe such beings, ergo, other 'vampires' must conform to this paradigm, from a folkloric perspective. So when you get things like the kiang shi popping up, seemingly 'developed' independently, a spanner's thrown into the works. To my knowledge, there was no real cultural interaction between the Chinese and Slavs at the time, so, how did the vampire 'get there'?

That's where we ask ourselves: was the kiang shi actually a vampire? I'm starting to have my doubts. I came across an article that gives brief coverage to the kiang shi, written by one J. L. Nevius1:

Google books

Is it possible the kiang shi has actually been 'vampirised' through Western influence? No mention of bloodsucking there, but a very interesting reference to death-by-sunlight. However, I should point out that the vampire's destruction by sunlight is not a folkloric motif, but a comparatively modern one.

I'm gonna go over the evidence for the kiang shi's 'vampire' tag at a later time, but I'll say that 'if they eat any material food' bit reminds me of a certain other folkloric creature...

1. JL Nevius, 'Religions and superstitions of China', The Missionary Magazine, August 1858, p. 304.
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