Friday, 30 September 2011

View from a classroom, part 2
Before we reach the conclusion of Jane's guest blog (see: part 1), I thought I'd share some 'bonus' material with you. While Googling about, I happened to find the course's syllabus (opens a pdf file) for this year's Fall Semester.

It's great to see exactly what's been taught in Thomas J. Garza's class, the materials needed, deadlines, the nitty gritty. It also shows vampire study's no walk in the park. Jane's smack-bang in the middle of it; the course doesn't finish til November.

It's also great to see the emphasis given to the folkloric vampire. The required and supplementary texts are a solid introduction to the genre. Anyhoo, here's the rest of Jane's wonderfully insightful guest blog...

Anyhow, after going over the different definitions in detail, Professor Garza informally quizzed us on what all the different definitions had in common, to create a new compact-all-purpose vampire definition. The class came up with three traits: vampires are undead, they attack the living, and they come out at night. The resulting definition was: "a reanimated corpse which returns at night to prey on the living." The slides go on further to specifically define a Slavic vampire as "a being, which derives sustenance from the living, who is weakened by the experience." I think that’s interesting because by that definition, the greedy 11th century priest really was a vampire – taking wealth (as sustenance) from the parishioners, who are weakened by the experience. And as Professor Garza pointed this out, once again, someone brought up Rick Perry. He's very popular with the university crowd these days, you see… I digress. At this point we ran out of time so the Professor said we would finish the lecture the next class session.

During roll for the third lecture, Professor Garza played "A Road Song" by S Brigade (again, a song in Russian).1 He mentioned that this song is one of many "folk-rock" songs that became popular in Russia…at some point (I can’t remember when he said it was). It reminds me of the band Gogol Bordello quite a bit. Even after reading the lyrics in English a few times I’m still not entirely sure what the song is about. Here's the first verse (translated by Professor Garza):

"Hey, driver, turn toward the devil,
Let's drive home by a new road.
Hey, driver, turn toward the devil,
This isn't our forest, but someone else's."

I know Prof Garza explained the song briefly, but all I recall is he saying it had something to do with a pagan forest sprite. Which makes sense, as later in the lecture we do the 'quick and dirty' lesson on Slavic paganism. I feel like the song is so close to making sense, but I'm just not getting it for some reason. I have plans to go to Prof Garza's office hours sometime soon, so perhaps I’ll have a chance to ask him about it.

Quick note: so far, the third class lecture is the one I’ve taken the most notes, twice as much as for any other lecture, so it may be a little bit long. This is partly due to having to finish up the lecture from the previous class session, covering 'Types of Vampires'. The first type is the 'folkloric vampire', which (who?) is the result of dualism of religion in central Europe. Dualism, meaning two things that co-exist yet should repel one another, is big topic for this lecture, and comes up in later lectures too.  In this case it refers to when pagans began to convert to Christianity, but carried over aspects and traditions of paganism, creating a Christianity that included aspects of paganism. The folkloric vampire is represented as 'the other' – something unlike 'us' (the storytellers). The other can be blamed for misfortunes, especially fatal and disturbing (and bloody) misfortunes such as murders, animal attacks, the black plague and tuberculosis. In fact, I get the impression that would blame vampires, or other supernatural monsters, for just about anything that went wrong.

Next came the 'psychotic vampire' type, which is probably the type I was most unclear about. As far as I can tell, vampires qualify for psychotic with one main quality, and that is it is a vampire whose power is based on the ability to control others to commit atrocities. Professor Garza's metaphorical example was Charles Manson, who committed horrible acts himself, but also committed a great deal of horrible acts by proxy – through his followers. Thus (in part) it was simply his influence that led to bloodshed, rather than his actions. The other example given was the circumstances after WWII, in which a great number of Nazi officers claimed they were "just following orders" at their trials. These claims emphasized that there were greater forces at evil in play than the officers themselves.  From the one of the readings I recall there being the belief that vampires were the dead possessed by evil spirits, and driving a stake through it's [sic] heart was actually an exorcism. I think that kind of possession-demon would constitute a psychotic vampire.

Thirdly there is the 'psychic vampire', which are those that drain life by psyche or telepathy. Professor Garza had another metaphorical example for this one – Rasputin. He inserted himself into the Russian Imperial family as fortune-teller for the tsarina, exerting his 'psychic influence', and angering a great number of people. Like a vampire, he was very difficult to kill. It was strangely entertaining to hear the variety of ways he was not killed – he survived 20 assassination attempts! Incredible.  I wrote in my notes that the psychic vampire is very popular in modern vampire stories, but now I can't think of any. I think I got confused with 'psychic ability' as in, vampires who can read minds, and control and charm people through telepathy. That's not quite the same thing as draining their life through telepathy – perhaps I should have written that down under psychotic vampire? Charming people is bit like controlling them, after all.

The fourth category is the 'literary vampire' – which are those vampires we know best, or at least I do. It's simply the vampires that are authorial creations, such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, or Anne Rice's Lestat. The other types of vampires can all funnel into this type. Professor Garza explained he considers the literary vampire's success to be partially based on the author's ability to dress up (or down) the vampire to fit a culture and a place, such as what Anne Rice did with New Orleans in Interview with a Vampire, or what Charlaine Harris did with Bon Temps for the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series. He also gave a critique on Stephanie Meyer's lack of this quality in the Twilight series, saying that the setting (Forks, Washington) doesn't build on the vampire myth.

And that was 'Types of Vampires.' After this we covered Slavic paganism and the rise of Christianity, although as we were running behind it was the 'down and dirty' version. Very (very) quickly we went over a few Slavic pagan gods – Svarog (sun god), Orel (malicious god of winter), and Perun, the god of storms and thunder. We learned some pagan spirits (not quite gods, it seems, but supernatural) such as the Domovoi – a poltergeist or house spirit, which can be good or evil (mischievous), often lived near the stove. The Kikimora was a kind of female-Domovoi. There were the Leshi, the wood sprites, who were friends with all the animals in the forest but were notorious for stealing and eating children. The Polevoi, spirits of fields and crops, could ward off evil in your field — or they could bring pestilence, drought, and crop failure. Vodianoi were the spirits of water and harbingers of ill news. A kind of Vodianoi (I think) were the Rusalka, a cross between a siren and a mermaid, who was a bad omen and a symbol of unrequited love and despair. Charms and images of the Rusalka were supposed to ward off evil (much like the Turkish evil eye), often put up in homes, doorways, and as figureheads on the prows of ships.

Next comes "Slavdom turns Christian" –we start off with a brief anecdote of how Prince Vlad of Kiev back in 988 adopted Christianity for all his the people of Rus' (which was a pretty big chunk of Central Europe), after extensive research as to which religion suited him best. Professor Garza used several non-vampire related examples of religious dualism to give us an idea of how it works. The druidic tradition of decorating a tree for the winter solstice celebration was adopted and became a Chrisitan motif for "the lights of the stars in the East and decorations as representations of the gifts of the Magi" (taken from Prof Garza's slides). The pagan springtime fertility celebration gave the Christian Easter its symbols of reproduction – bunnies and eggs. Nothing says fertility like bunnies and eggs!

Now this part is a little bit different (not as direct as the previous examples). Now we get to the "how Christ is like a vampire" segment. First you must forget all notions of a nice Jesus, because apparently from the 3-6th century, fear was completely the central aspect to worship, not love. Christian missionaries drew parallels between Christ and vampires to persuade pagans that it was not vampires who caused their misfortunes, it was God. And the cure for those misfortunes wasn't garlic, it was prayer.  "The blood is the life" it says in Deuteronomy – Christ's blood specifically. The missionaries didn't draw parallels between Christ and vampires because they are strong connections – they did it because it was a convenient way to get people to understand what Christ was (in their eyes). Some of the parallels were: nailed to a cross/impaled on a stake, buried in a tomb/rests in a coffin, resurrected from the dead/becomes the living dead, can transcend human form/takes on animal forms, and cultivated disciples/victims turned vampire. In my opinion, these parallels definitely smell of "I found them because I wanted them to be there" not because they were actually there.  Just as a disclaimer, Professor Garza was not making any claims that Chirst is a vampire -- just that some old missionaries said he was like one to scare pagans Christian. Another note is that during this time, the cross was not known as a weakness of vampires.

To end off the lecture we watched two clips, the first from The Blair Witch Project, which borrows the pagan symbol of man and mashes it with a crucifix to give a pseudo-religious creepiness to it. In the clip we watched a group of young adults lost in the woods where the little stick figures are hanging everywhere from the trees. Next we watched a clip from The Barber of Siberia, where we saw a Russian pre-lent festival that had a number of aspects that were originally pagan. Most interesting was the "forgiveness" tradition, where all the young men take off their shirts and beat each other up in a huge brawl – to forgive each other of their sins. Throughout the clip a couple other pagan-like traditions pop up, including burning an effigy of a witch and a huge fire-structure (it spelled out something in Russian, but I don’t know what) that tied in with one of our readings about pagan rituals called "need-fires." The need-fire was a ceremonial fire lit during times of need in order to drive away the evil plaguing the community. It was a great clip, to say the least, and makes me want to see the movie.

And that’s all, folks!

Thanks, Jane! It was interesting to see the influence of Jan L. Perkowski's writings on Garza's views of vampires, from the vampire types, the etymology of 'vampire' and impact of dualist religions on the Slavs.2 But it's not like he hides it: he discussed Perkowski's influence during our 'interview'. Either way, great stuff.

For those interested in taking the course, yourself, consult the syllabus for what's expected. It's a little late to enroll, but keep an eye on The University of Texas at Austin's course schedule. Or, you could ask him.

1. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip for this song, unlike the ones mentioned in part 1. Sorry.

2. See JL Perkowski, The darkling: a treatise on Slavic vampirism, Slavica, Columbus, Ohio, 1989.

Musical interlude

The songs mentioned in Jane's guest blog, reminded me it's been a while since I've shared any vampire music. A lot longer than I realised. So, here's a tune I like: Blutengel's 'Cry little sister.'

It's from their 2005 EP, The oxidising angel. The song's title—and tune—might seem familiar to some. And you'd be right: it's a cover of Gerard McMann's 'theme' for The lost boys (1987). Enjoy.

Commenting with difficulty

It's been brought to my attention that there's some issues with the commenting function on this blog. I've also noticed it, meself. When I tried writing this reply to Dave, I noticed that instead of posting, it'd just refresh. I had HTML coding in it for italics, but I don't think that's the issue, especially as such coding is enabled (albeit, in a limited capacity). However, once I replaced the italics with talking marks, it worked. Hmm...

I've been trying to Google a solution and, by consolation, it's a 'relief' to find out that this isn't a local issue as this, this, and this attest. Byway of solution, I've tried what was recommended here. Hopefully, everything's working ok now. I think you know how to determine that, but if it still doesn't work, feel free to e-mail me.

I've also noticed that a few of my recent footnotes won't all jump to where they're supposed to. Grrr. Seems to be something screwy with this template, even though it's one of Blogger's relatively new ones. Get with the program, guys! Also, add a bloody footnote function already! It's a pain in the ass adding that stuff in manually.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

View from a classroom, part 1

After writing a post about Thomas J. Garza's university reader, The vampire in Slavic culture (2010), a commentator mentioned she was actually a student of Garza's course at The University of Texas at Austin.

What a golden opportunity, I thought. Would she be willing to write a guest blog about what it's like to be a student of his class? I figured readers would be interested in finding out what it's like taking a course on the undead. Thankfully, Jane (Little Socks) was keen on the idea.1

Our discussion was more fruitful than she intended: it made me think, why don't I interview Garza, himself? And I did. I was originally going to use Jane's guest blog as a companion piece to the interview with Garza—a, 'you've heard from the teacher, now here's one of his students!' kinda deal. If I hadn't decided to stop writing that blog, she would've had the distinction of being Diary of an amateur vampirologist's first guest blogger. Instead, she's got the distinction of being the very first guest blogger for The vampirologist. Well done!

I'd like to thank Jane, in advance, for sharing the reasons she chose the course, her background interest in vamps, and providing a thorough insight into the course, itself. Much appreciated. Without further ado, heeeeere's Jane!

Well, where to start.. I suppose a quick introduction is in order. I’m a senior in biological anthropology at University of Texas in Austin. I’ve been a casual reader of vampire stories since I first came upon Anne Rice in high school, and I’ve always loved scary and bloody movies. I enrolled in Professor Thomas Garza's "Vampire in Slavic Cultures" course last minute when another class of mine was canceled, and this one both fit the time slot and seemed like it’d be enjoyable. Part of my attraction to this class was a course on Tolkien that I "took" via podcast where I learned a surprising amount about the influence of folklore and mythology in literature, and how real history impacts myth. The vampire story (as Prof Garza says) has always seemed so ancient to me (although that might just have been because vampires themselves are portrayed as ancient), and it's great to learn about just how old the story is, and where it originated and under what circumstances. I enjoy writing and rarely do it, so when Mr. Hogg asked if I would be interested in writing a guest blog on what Prof Garza's course is like, I readily agreed. As a bonus to me, I'll probably ace the midterm exams for this class with all this extra review! This first entry will probably be longer than subsequent ones, seeing as how the class has already met three times, so there's more to cover. You’ll have to forgive the more unreliable nature of my notes from the first two lectures, as this was before any 'guest blog' idea had been forwarded. It's incredible how much more thorough I am when I have a potential audience.

Now to set the scene, I suppose. The class meets twice a week and is about 150 people. We're packed as tight as sardines into a sort of theatre/lecture hall in the late afternoon – and for those of you who don’t know, Texas is in the middle of a drought and one of the hottest summers on record, so late afternoon is about 105 F– or 41 Celsius. So having the sit almost on top of each other at this time of day is a little uncomfortable. However, for the three sessions the class has met for so far, I have yet to see any drop in attendance. I think everyone is as willing as I am to withstand the discomfort of crawling over people to get to your seat (I swear I'm hardly exaggerating) and then smelling them pungently until the air conditioning cools us off. Which is surprising, because there is a large number of freshman in the course and they typically drop like flies when comfort and class collide.

Professor Garza's teaching style is both familiar and unusual. Familiar is the lecture/power point setup – I feel that his spoken lecture is much richer than his power points, which tends to be mainly photos and key points, which he later posts online for students to have for review. He plays a vampire related song, typically Russian/Slavic, before the lecture while everyone is cramming themselves into their seat. So far he's shown at least three clips from movies. A little more unorthodox is his use of Twitter throughout the class. In order to better hear from his students throughout class, he created a Twitter account for the course and encourages students to log on during class to post comments, insights, or questions while he lectures. About two to three times throughout class he opens Twitter and reads over the comments/questions and verbally responds. I actually like this, because it means more time of listening to Prof Garza teach and less time listening to students stumble over their thoughts and questions. Although I had one weird one moment where both the people sitting next to me were on their smartphones during his lecture and my first reaction was outrage at freshman negligence and disrespect (how DARE they not pay attention!) – but I felt rather sheepish when I realized they were using the course Twitter page as encouraged – it seems I’ve developed a strain of the superior senior complex.

The first day of class covered the typical overview of the syllabus, how the course is graded and so on. While his two graduate students passed out syllabi to the class, the song "Gentle Vampire" by Nautilus Pompilius played, with the lyrics in Russian and English on the overhead. It's a pretty creepy song, and you'd have to hear it yourself to know how aptly it gives off a 'vampiric' atmosphere. After the song, Professor Garza introduced himself and covered how the course would be handled. He mentioned he plays a lot of clips from movies, both good and bad, and he warned us that some of the clips are pretty violent (apparently a big jock fainted in '99, which made for a good story and warning all in one). He clarified that his course is titled "Vampire in Slavic Cultures" to avoid any confusion with Asian vampire stories. He explained that they have an even older history and are just as fascinating as the Western vampire tales, but that the stories were quite separate and the Asian vampire stories weren't his area of expertise.

He also gave a sort of mini-lecture– this part I will "translate" from my notes. Western vampire lore originated in the Balkans, "where East meets West." Tales of Kali (blood-drinking goddess of death from South East Asia) took hold in this region to explain misfortune. He talked about vampires at this point not specifically being blood-drinkers (although that was often included), but being a force that ruins things – your crops, livestock, health, marriage, etc. Whenever bad things happened without explanation, blaming a supernatural nocturnal demon was the simplest course (and perhaps most logical, for the time). The word 'vampire' first came about 1047 – or rather, the word 'upyr'. In the 15th century the Carpathians and Transylvania became a hotbed for these stories partly on account of Vlad Tepes Dracula. At this point Prof Garza showed us a clip from the exposition of the film Bram Stoker's Dracula, which he told us to specifically notice that this film is not only entertaining but also neatly summarizes the origins of the stories about Dracula, not the true history of Vlad Tepes Dracula. And that was the end of the first class.

For the second lecture, my notes are almost as brief as for the first, although this was a whole 80-minute lecture. Professor Garza played the song "Bloodletting" by Concrete Blonde (in English this time) whilst we passed around the roll sheet. This song was a bit less outright-creepy than "Gentle Vampire," but it has a great baseline that totally makes me think of heathens dancing around a fire – OK, I'm getting a little carried away but the song just has a sort of primeval touch to it. Just listen to it. I also like it because it mentions New Orleans which automatically brings back fond memories of reading Anne Rice novels, and my own trips to there - by the way, if anyone ever has a chance to visit Louisiana, I completely recommend it, they have great food and the friendliest people ever! You might be able to tell, but I'm a total sucker for anything New Orleans.

For this lecture my notes are a bit scattered, but fortunately I also have Professor Garza's power point slides to refer to.  First I reviewed that the European vampire was influenced by Kali, and then went on to say that death was (obviously) considered a bad thing, but in religious thought death is the bringer of the afterlife (i.e. Heaven) and so is potentially a thing to look forward to as well.  Next I skip to the definition of  'revenant' – one that returns from the dead. Fairly straightforward, although I added in the margins "includes both vampires and zombies." After a brief note that shape-shifting is one of the oldest vampire traits, ahead of fangs and super strength, my notes becomes a little more cohesive. The origin of the word vampire stems from the "old church Slavic" (I’m not exactly sure what that is)2 word 'upyr,' which was used to refer to nasty, foul creatures in general. In Old Russian (I think), the prefix 'u' meant 'out of, out from' and the suffix 'piti' meant 'to drink.' Thus 'upyr' initially implied a nasty creature that "drank out of…" and you can fill in the blank. Over time the word morphed – 'u' into 'vam' and 'pyr' into 'pir' and henceforth we have the modern Russian 'vampir.' If I’m recalling correctly, at this point Prof Garza told us an anecdote about the oldest surviving text with the word 'vampir.' It was in an 11th century Russian newspaper that called a local priest, known for his avarice, a "wicked old vampire." Also, around this time Professor checked the class twitter page where someone made a crack at Rick Perry for being a wicked old vampire as well – for those not informed on Texas/American politics, you’re missing out on a pretty good joke.

Next we covered the question "What is a vampire?" using our readings as references. The readings were four different sources that define the word "vampire," from the dictionary to scholarly works on folklore. After discussing each individual definition - most of which included surprisingly specific details about traits of vampires. My favorite new vampire fact (although perhaps old news to those reading) was that one of their traditional traits was an obsession with order. One of the definitions listed 'scattering seeds on the ground' as a vampire deterrent – because they will have to stop and count them all! The obsession with order may have also resulted in vampire's strict code of only entering when invited. And I wasn't the only student who noticed the tidbit about counting seeds, as when it came to "twitter time" someone asked if the team at Sesame Street had this in mind when coming up with Count von Count – apparently they did.  Sesame Street just got a little darker and a lot more awesome in my mind. Now I’m imagining the song "Gentle Vampire" playing as Count von Count arrives… to count your final heartbeats!

Stay tuned for the conclusion of 'View from a classroom'!

1. Final draft submitted via e-mail ('Re: First guest blog', Tuesday, 13 September 2011 10:48:57 AM).

2. According to Wikipedia, it 'was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek ecclesiastical texts as part of the Christianization of the Slavic peoples.'

Duc de Richelieu's investigation

Not many people take vampires seriously these days. The few who believe are far outnumbered by those who don't. But when vampires first started receiving press coverage in the early 18th century, not everyone was offhandedly dismissive of the unusual phenomena reported in Eastern Europe. Indeed, press coverage was fuelled by seemingly bewildered coroner reports detailing exhumations in Serbian villages.Vampires were the talk of the town and, sometimes, this talk went right to the top.

According to Jean Marigny, 'The Austrian Emperor Charles VI . . . is reported to have followed closely the affair of Plogojowitz' and 'French King Louis XV . . . asked his advisor and French ambassador to Austria, the Duc de Richelieu, for a detailed report on the official findings of the investigation.'1

I have seen other references to the Duc de Richelieu's investigation, elsewhere. Gianfranco Manfredi relates, 'En 1792, le Roi Louis XV . . . chargea d’une enquête le Maréchal de France Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, troisième duc de Richelieu, qui avait été ambassadeur à Vienne de 1725 à 1729,' which Google Translate renders, 'In 1792, King Louis XV . . . ordered an investigation of the [sic] Marshal of France Louis François Armand du Plessis Vignerot, third Duke of Richelieu, who was ambassador in Vienna from 1725 to 1729.'2

Unfortunately, neither Marigny or Manfredi explicitly state their sources for this information. Nor do they relate the Duke of Richelieu's findings. The date Manfredi gives is also obviously misprint, as Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696–1788) and Louis XV (1710–1774) were both dead at the time.

However, if Marigny was correct about the intent behind the investigation—an examination of the Peter Plogojowitz (alt. Plogojovitz) case—then reversing 9 and 2 gives us a much more plausible date: 1729. The Plogojowitz case took place four years beforehand and it was the final year of the Duke's role as ambassador to Vienna. The Vienna connection is significant, because Plogojovitz was a resident of Serbia—then under Austrian rule.

Even though I haven't yet been able to track  the Duke of Richelieu's report, I have stumbled across an 18th century reference to it. While seeking references to the report via Google Books, I came across an entry for 'Vampire' in The Penny cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1843). It says, 'during the five years from 1730 to 1735 that vampirism reached its height', 'Louis XV of France comissioned his ambassador at Vienna, the Duc de Richelieu, personally to ascertain, in Hungary and other Austrian dominions, the reality of vampirism.'3 His conclusions are also revealed: 'The French diplomatist denied in his report to the king the existence of the vampires' and 'informed him at the same time that the anecdotes about them were inserted in the contemporary records of the Austrian tribunals.'4

Thankfully, the Penny cyclopædia provided a source for its entry: 'Dom Calmet's Dissertation sur les Apparitions des Anges, des Demons, et des Esprits et sur les Vampires d'Hongrie, Paris 1746, 2 vols. 12mo.; translated into English and published 1759.'5 Once again, a paper trail saves the day.

Google Books has Augustin Calmet's 1746 work (the second volume dealt with vampires), but not the 1759 translation, unfortunately. The only other English edition I can think of, was published in 1850 as The phantom world: or, the philosophy of spirits, apparitions, & c. (also on Google Books). It's a translation of the 1751 edition of Calmet's work, which appears to have omitted the references to the Duke's investigation. Therefore, I need to rely on the 1746 French original. Not an easy task, considering I don't know French. Apologies if my transcriptions are incorrect.

Sure enough, references to the Duke's investigation were mentioned by Calmet.6 He was, indeed, sent by the king to suss out the vampire thing and apparently became rather knowledgeable about the subject. The rest is kinda hard to make out, as 'répondit au Roi que rien ne paroissoit plus certain que ce qu'on publioit des Revenans de Hongrie', translates 'said to the king that nothing seemed more certain than we [sic] publifhed [sic] of ghosts of Hungary.' The reference to Hungary might seem like a different region was being investigated, but as Paul Barber notes, 'Plogojowitz's village is usually identified as Hungarian . . . but this is because of the confused political situation of the time. Actually, Kisilova was in Serbia.'7

The other confusing thing about the text, is that it implies (at least, going by this translation), that the Duke actually believed in the phenomena. But then Calmet went on to say, 'Les incrédules ne se rendirent pas, & supplierent le Roy d'ordonner de nouveau à son Ambassadeur de se transporter sur les lieux, & devoir tout par lui-même', or 'Unbelievers do not surrender, and begged the King to order back to his Ambassador to visit the scene, and having all by itself.' Come again?

It appears the Duke went back there and either changed his mind (?) or reported differing conclusions about the phenomena—'Il obéit, & trouva dans rout ce qu'on difoit des Vampires & des Redivives , plus de prévention & d'imagination que de vérité'—'He obeyed, and found what is faid [sic], in rout of the Vampires & Redivives [sic], Prevention & more imagination than truth.' Apparently, these conclusions caused some division in the Courts of Vienna: 'De sorte qu'encore aujourd'hui dans la Cour de Vienne, il y a fur cela deux partis , dont les uns tiennent pour la vérité de ces apparitions, & les autres les tiennent pour chimeriques & illusoires', 'So even today in the Court of Vienna, there are two parties as this [sic], which some take for the truth of these appearances, and the others take for CHIMERIC [sic] & illusory.'

If readers can provide better translations, you're more than welcome to post 'em here. But it's clear from the content we have at hand, that Calmet is making no explicit connection to the Plogojovitz case, unless I'm missing something here, but he certainly hasn't given the year in which this investigation was supposed to have taken place. So, the question is: who/what was Calmet's source? That appears to be answered by Calmet's footnote. At the start of the section, Calmet wrote 'Aussi j'ai appris d'un homme très-éclairé & très-bon esprit', 'So I learned [from?] a very enlightened man, and very good spirit', which links to a footnote reading 'M. le Marquis de | d'Ypresen 1744', 'Beauvau mort au Siege', that is, 'The Marquis de | Ypresen to death in 1744', 'Beavau Siege'. Hmm, ok.

I might have figured it out. 'Ypresen' looks suspiciously like Ypres to me and we've got other key words to work with: 'Marquis', '1744', 'Beauvau', 'siege'. Off to Google Books again!

And there, I scored a probable hit. J. Lemprière's Universal biography (1810) features a listing for one 'Beauvau, Lewis Charles marquis de, a French general who distinguished himself at the siege of Philipsburg, 1734, at Clausen, Prague' and, most importantly, 'Flanders at the siege of Ypres'. During that battle, 'he received a mortal wound, 24th June 1744, aged 34.'8 Was he Calmet's source?

1. J Marigny, Vampires: the world of the undead, trans. L Frankel, New horizons, Thames and Hudson, London, pp. 47–8.

2. Translation via Google Translate. Subsequent translations via this website.

3. The Penny cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. 26, Charles Knight and Co., London, 1843, p. 105.

4. ibid.

5. ibid., p. 106.

6. A Calmet, Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons & des esprits et sur les revenans et vampires de Hongrie, de Boheme, de Moravie & de Silesie, vol. 2, Chez De Bure l'aîné, Paris, 1746, pp. 453–4.

7. P Barber, Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1988, p. 7.

8. J. Lemprière, Universal biography; containing a copious account, critical and historical, of the life and character, labors and actions of eminent persons, in all ages and countries, conditions and professions, vol. 1, E. Sargeant, New York, 1810, p. 153.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Vampire librarians coming to getcha!

Vampires and librarians. What's the connection? Ask Wayne and Melinda (left) who own the largest private collection of vampire books I've ever seen: their catalogue contains (wait for it) 7,254 titles. And counting.

There's the 'now defunct!' blog, The vampire librarian, which I presume morphed into The vampire librarian website.

Massimo Introvigne's Centro studi sulle nuove religioni (Center for Studies on New Religions) houses The Dracula Library, 'the largest public library in the world specialized in books on vampires.' It has its own classification scheme, distinct from the DDC/Library of Congress Subject Heading combo most of us are familiar with.

It's not even the only major vampire library. The Vampire Empire's Research Library—founded by Jeanne Keyes Youngson in 1969—'includes her personal collection of vampire, werewolf and Dracula books, and has been used by many famous authors and scholars unable to find relevant material elsewhere.'

I'm aware of at least two books which specifically concern libraries and vampire literature. Specifically, Becky Siegel Spratford's The horror readers' advisory: the librarian's guide to vampires, killer tomatoes, and haunted houses (2004) and Eric W. Steinhauer's Vampyrologie für Bibliothekare: Eine kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüre des Vampirs (2011). Niels has reviewed the latter.

The link between the two is obvious. Despite the encroachment of online resources, libraries are still invaluable storing houses for multitudes of media, which we should never take for granted. I'm partial to using 'em, meself.

It's good to see the library 'insiders' make their own contributions to the field and here's hoping they continue to do so.

Footnote follies

Until now, I was baffled by how to add footnotes to blog entries using HTML code; a major weakness when I rely on my ability to cite my sources. But I'm now getting the hang of it, thanks to this article

That said, it's still a bit of a pain. Blogger should've added a footnote function to its 'Compose' view by now.

Anyway, I've been cleaning up the entries that've used the footnote-adding method derived from here (above). My first attempt with adding footnotes didn't do trackbacks, instead linking to my sign-in for the blog. After paying closer attention to the instructions, I realised it was because I was flipping back to 'Compose' mode before posting. And you're not meant to do that. Whoops! However, even though I 'got it', the code, itself, was so daunting, it took another coupla goes to get right. And even then, I was too 'scared' to add other footnotes. The footnote numbers at the bottom of the page, would also provide links to the same page, too. For some reason. That's been fixed.

I've been meaning to add a footnote to 'Nic Cage, vampire?': a link to The Onion article taking the piss out of Birthers. As a general rule, I don't like having to revise blog entries after I post them—makes a mockery of the publication date, ya see—but I had to add that article there. It fits perfectly and I've been holding onto it, trying to figure a way to add it to my blog after forgetting to include it the first time 'round. Welp, it's there now.

Incidentally, the referencing style I'm using is the documentary-note system derived from a widely-used Australian style guide.1 For style guides more suited to your region, publication or discipline, consult Wikipedia.

Edit: I've noticed that the previous coding I was using does the same thing this version does: it only works properly if you're viewing the article on its own, rather than as part of the whole blog. Otherwise, if you click on the 'take me back' link, it'll redirect to the specific blog entry. Sigh. Can't catch a break with this bloody thing. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

1. Style guide: for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd, [Milton, Qld], 2002, pp. 190–1, 208–15

Kith, kin and dust jacket
The image on your left is a very rare one, indeed: Montague Summers' The vampire: his kith and kin (1928), dust jacket intact.

I own a first edition copy of the book, meself. Unfortunately, without its wrapping. Bought it a few years ago for about a hundred bucks. As naive as it might sound, I didn't even realise the original had a dust jacket.

To give you an idea of how rare it is to find one with dust jacket intact, the one you see on your left was sold in 2005 for US$380. I've seen another on sale for £575. Yikes.

The squatting image on the cover's 'a reproduction from the Revue d' Assyriologie, vol. VII [1909], and represents a Babylonian vampire.'1 A bit of a stretch, as Summers' 'evidence' for this claim was speculation from R. Campbell-Thompson: 'The idea is, I presume, to keep off the nocturnal visits of Lilith and her sisters' and by process of sympathetic magic, 'the man troubled by nightly emissions attributed to Lilith, depict on his amulet the terrors which are in store for these malignants.'2 

Summers' subsequent coverage did not directly ascribe vampiric qualities to Lilith (a Hebrew, not Babylonian name), but tried to weave her origins with the Greek lamia and Roman strix.

1. M Summers, The vampire: his kith and kin, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., London, 1928, p. xiii.

2. ibid., p. 226.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Savage inspiration

What was once a mystery, was finally solved, thanks to Little Socks. For years, I'd been puzzled over the source of a vampire picture I had on my hard-drive. It turned out the picture was called Penangglan and painted by Chad Savage in 1994.

I contacted Mr. Savage1 to get an insight into the creative process and the why behind his brilliant illustration. Here's what he had to say:
I was bitten by the Vampire Bug in 1987; by 1994, I had read many books about vampires, one of which was “The Book of Vampires” by Dudley Wright. After creating the painting in question, which featured a variety of historical and current interpretations of the concept of vampires (circa 1994), I was looking for a title, and Penanggalan (I may very well have started spelling it wrong over the years) jumped out at me while I was reading Mr. Wright’s book.

So there you go, mystery solved – I just thought it would make a cool title for a general image interpreting the concept of “VAMPIRE”.

I painted it for myself, and it was one of the first images I ever posted online. Bear in mind that, in 1994/95/96, the idea of image piracy didn’t exist – it never occurred to me (or many other artists at the time) that posting our work online was sending it out into the world to be endlessly ripped off. ;)2
Chad also included two links in his response. The first concerns his background with vampires and the second shows that Penangglan is far from his only illustration of the undead.
Regarding his inspiration—Dudley Wright's The book of vampires—as it happens, I own two copies: the first was published by Causeway Books, New York, in 1973 (left); the second by Dorset Press, New York, in 1987.

My copies, and Savage's, are retitled reprints: the original was published as Vampires and vampirism by William Rider and Sons, London, in 1914. A revised edition followed in 1924. The book has also been published under its original title, as the Tynron Press, Dumfriesshire, 1991 reprint attests; or embellished with a subtitle as per Lethe Press, Maple Shade, N.J.'s 2001 reprint, Vampires and vampirism: legends from around the world.

Despite Savage's hesitance on spelling, the 'Penangglan' variant is found in Wright's book, when he noted 'amongst the Malays a penangglan, or vampire, is a living witch, who can be killed if she can be caught in the act of witchery.'3 A Google Books search also turned up the same variant, even if their origin probably lies with Wright.

Spelling variants are common when it comes to transcribing vampire 'species'. Indeed, Theresa Bane notes several for the penangglan, itself: 'Pananggaln, Panangglan, Pênangal, Penanggalan, Pontianak'.4

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Chad for sharing his painting's story. Oh, and not suing me for posting his picture. Cheers.

1 A Hogg, 'Penangglan', Thursday, 22 September 2011 6:54:20 PM, <>.

2 C Savage, 'RE: Penangglan‏', Monday, 26 September 2011 6:15:34 PM, <>.

3 D Wright, The book of vampires, Causeway Books, New York, 1973, p. 4.

4 T Bane, Encyclopedia of vampire mythology, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, N.C., 2010, p. 114.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A decent proposal

Magia posthuma
I love collecting vampire resources. Books, mainly. I've developed a taste for vampire journals, the kind of thing published by vampire clubs and societies. 

As a member of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, I receive a quarterly newsletter—The Borgo Post—and an annual edition of the brilliant Journal of Dracula Studies. But that kinda material's not easy to score if you're not a member such an organisation.

In the heady days before the Internet, vampire zines and journals proliferated. Martin V. Riccardo's Vampire Studies Society had its Journal of Vampirism. Eric Held and Dorothy Nixon's Vampire Information Exchange churned out the Vampire Information Exchange Newsletter. Before creating his Shroudeater website, Rob Brautigam published International Vamp. Meanwhile, John L. Vellutini seemed to be running a one-man-show with the Journal of Vampirology. There were many more.

These journals were often short-lived due to publishing costs, dwindling memberships and the advent of the 'net. If you're lucky, you might find individual copies available online. They're nearly always laden with high prices, due to greed or scarcity. It's almost impossible to determine their contents without contacting a seller or having a bibliography at hand. Even so, bibliographic coverage would be minimal at best.

So, how do we bring these neglected resources into the light of the 21st century? Are we doomed to scour the 'net for over-priced single copies of defunct and obscure journals? Not necessarily.

My solution? Open access. That is, 'unrestricted online access to articles published in scholarly journals, and also increasingly to book chapters or monographs.' University students would be familiar with the concept through accessibility to ejournal databases like JSTOR and EBSCO. So, my proposition is this: why not make one for vampire journals? A Vampire Journal Article Database. VJAD. Or, if we include newsletters, a Vampire Article Database. VAD. Scan all the old journals into pdf format. Have a search function. Full-text. The works.

Imagine all the 'new' information we'd be able to uncover. Long-neglected stuff. Isn't an open access database better than letting the works go to rot? True, there are logistical issues involved. Upholding copyright for various, individual author contributions would be a nightmare. Therefore, I suggest the authors waive it. Yep, a totally not-for-profit enterprise. It's all about access. Unless we do an iTunes kinda thing: pay a coupla bucks to download the article, proceeds go straight to author. Something like that.

What do you think?

Is bshistorian a closet vampirologist?

Although bshistorian's blog is devoted to 'Sceptical Commentary on Pseudohistory and the Paranormal', there's many clues indicating bsh has a thang for the undead.

Elizabeth Miller's shadow looms over the exaggerated connection between Vlad Țepeș' and Count Dracula. There's also the eagerness to expose 'antique' vampire killing kits for the fakes they are. And by eagerness, I mean devoting seven posts (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven) to the subject.

An interest in vampire archaeology's also on display, as seen in coverage of the so-called Venetian vampire unearthed at Lazzaretto Nuovo. The excavation made another appearance on the blog, culminating in a review of Revealed's 'Mysteries of the vampire skeletons' episode.

Let's not forget the entry about 'myth creep': 'The more paranormal ideas are milked for their intellectual and commercial appeal, the more we see them distorted and modified to incorporate unrelated bits of history and folklore.' In this case, applying the concept to the way vampires are given a 'greater antiquity, presumably because the early 18th century isn’t far back enough for the first sightings of beings who we now think of as immortal.'
As it happens, bshistorian also has the distinction of being the first blogger to mention this blog.1 Remember, The BS historian is not supposed to be a vampire blog.

Oh, and if it wasn't for bsh, I wouldn't've written an entry about the first 'true' vampire, nor would I have gone on a search for the Cranswells. Apart from all that, bsh displays a keen insight into relatively obscure aspects of vampire study you don't normally see in 'outsider' historical discussions. A good effort for someone who'd have a passing interest in vamps, but in bshistorian's case, it's almost like they know too much...

If that's the case, I cordially welcome bsh to the fold. After all, the field needs a good kick in the pants. Or several. There's so much nonsense out there. Someone needs to clean it up. That's why I spend so much time doing it, even to the point of spotting bats where they shouldn't be. Join us, bishistorian. Join us. We have cake!

1 Second place goes to Everlost, Vampire news. Props goes to both of 'em. Thanks guys!

Impressive CV

Joseph Laycock is probably the first author to put heavy emphasis on the sociological underpinnings of the 'real vampire' subculture. At least, in full-length book form (Vampires today: the truth about modern vampirism, 2009). Such treatments 'legitimise' the lifestyle. Whether you think that's a good or a bad thing, is up to you.

In my opinion, his book is of greater value to the 'Scene' than various works by self-appointed 'spokespersons', on account of how seriously it treats the subject and lending it a scientific context absent from the occult-steeped pseudohistories of other contributors.

Other works, like Rosemary Ellen Guiley's Vampires among us, Carol Page's Blood lust: conversations with real vampires (both 1991) and Katherine Ramsland's Piercing the darkness: undercover with vampires in America today (1998), to name a few, tend to view vampiroids from a journalistic viewpoint. A story to tell. Interactions with 'characters'. Novelty.

Therefore, it's impressive to see that Laycock's contribution to the field isn't limited to his book, with articles for Arc, Nova Religio, Proteus, and others. He also taught a course—'Vampires in civilisation'—at the Tufts Experimental College, Medford, Mass. Here's an article discussing the class. The guy knows his stuff.

Andy's forthcoming book

Rebeka Harrington
I was reading a guest blog by Andrew M. Boylan, when I stumbled upon this little ditty: 'His first reference book, The Media Vampire:  A study of vampires in fictional media, is tentatively slated for a late 2011 publication.' That's the first I've heard of it!

For those who don't know, Andy writes Taliesin meets the vampires, a blog jam-packed with thorough reviews of vampire movies; novels occasionally slip past the radar, as do non-fiction books. With the amount of vampire exposure that guy's clocked up through books and film, I can hardly think of anyone more qualified to write about the undead from a media perspective.

Unfortunately, info on the upcoming book's very scare: the only references I found to it, were the guest blog and a brief mention in an interview. The first half of the book will be a literary stroll from Heinrich August Ossenfelder's 'Der Vampir' (1748) to Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), while he says the 'second half is more diffuse and looks at aspects of the genre I find interesting post-Dracula.' Awesome. Keep your eyes peeled for it; should be good.

My reading list 2

Vampire news
I've made two additions to the reading list. Both scored entries in Carrie Carolin's list of 13 great vampire blogs.

Firstly, Everlost's Vampire news. Don't recall how I first came across his blog, but his Fright night coverage certainly lured me in. Fright night (1985), you see, is one of my favourite vampire flicks. It was recently remade (groan) and, thanks to him, I got the drop on which actress was playing Amy. As it happens, his latest blog entry concerns the remake, too: DVD cover art. 

Blimey. It's only just started screening in cinemas here. It must've died in the arse up in the States. If that'll deter the spate of pointless, cash-grab remakes we've been forced to endure in the last few years (with more on the way), then I say—good!

The second addition's Patricia Altner's Patricia's vampire notes. It's effectively an extension of her 1998 book, Vampire readings: an annotated bibliography and contains her 'musings on vampires and various other fictional, paranormal critters.'

As to the reading list, itself, I'm still thinking of revising it. Not the entries, themselves, mind, but figuring out a way of incorporating other, not-necessarily-vampire blogs on the—or a—list. I'm thinking something along the lines of the various blog categories ('Comics', 'Culture', 'Horror', 'Books', 'Movies') featured in Curt Purcell's The groovy age of horror. Something like that.

Oh, and by the way, I've got a new e-mail addy: thevampirologist [at] hotmail dot com. I've added it to my profile.

Casting the Collinses

Entertainment Weekly featured an exclusive peek at the cast of the upcoming Dark shadows flick. It's based on the 1966-71 soap opera of the same name.  

Tim Burton's directing, which isn't surprising considering his admiration of the series, the Gothic themes prevalent throughout his work, and the inclusion of stand-bys, Johnny Depp and Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter, in the cast.

To be honest, I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. I haven't seen the original series—nor the 1991 remake—but I have seen the first movie the original series spawned: House of dark shadows (1970). I'm also aware that the cult series has a strong fanbase and there've been many attempts to gauge its appeal. Pop culture writer, Eric Nuzum, recorded an interesting conversation he had with an attendee of a Dark shadows convention:
"You know, for a lot of people, vampires are all about sex, but I think it's deeper than that. I think all this stuff is really about power."
"How so?" I asked.

"You notice all the sick people at the convo?" he said. "During the whole Dark Shadows series Barnabas is a vampire in search of a cure for his curse," he continued. "A cure for his curse," he added for emphasis. "It seems pretty obvious that we're talking about a bunch of people happy to fantasize about finding a cure for the curse, eh?

"These are people who don't identify with the human characters—they identify with the freaks. In Dark Shadows, the monsters are always conflicted, always looking for a way out. They struggle. These con folks, they know what it's like to live like that."1
Whether this angle will be explored in Burton's adaptation, remains to be seen. But I'll say the 'conflicted vampire' trope is nothing new. We see elements of it as far back as Varney the vampire (1847), J. Sheridan LeFanu's 'Carmilla' (1871–2), and yes, even in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), which would eventually evolve to the popular 'sympathetic vampire' of today. It must've been a theme that resonated with Dark shadows' creator, Dan Curtis, as his 1973 Dracula adaptation, played out the 'cursed' vampire angle, too.

1 E Nuzum, The dead travel fast: stalking vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2007, pp. 199–200.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Kill the dead!

Corpses for sale

Another image from my aborted website, you'll recognise one as the thumbnail next to 'Kill the Dead!'. It's a life-size 'Female vampire corpse', created by Di Stefano Productions. You can score your own for $600. The stake's removable.

The rest of their website's just as icky; although, I did get a few laughs from their hate mail.

Homepage pic


This is startling image, as seen on the homepage of my aborted website, is called Close encounter (2003). It's by Ville V. Vuorinen, who drew it with inks and coloured pencils.


Click to embiggen
The Vampirologist is a concept I've carried around for a while; but wasn't always meant to be a blog. In 2006, I laid the foundation for a personal website—designed with Microsoft Publisher 2003, no less (left).

It was composed of four major sections: 'Writings', 'News', 'Images' and 'Mail'.

'Writings' would've been 'dedicated to my writings on the topic of vampirism', with 'a section on essays and such which are linked to via the web.' It would've included reviews, essays and short stories.

'News' was intended to relate 'any mention of updates here or items of interest relating to the site or to vampire research.' I would've also used the page to 'announce any news of my Secret Projects©', which, I guess, are still under wraps.

News articles relating to vampires would've featured, too.

'Images' is fairly self-explanatory, as is 'Mail'. The latter would've been like a letters to the editor column featured in magazines and journals.

I never got around to completing the design, nor composing the required content. It 'gathered dust' on my hard-drive, as I pursued other interests. Incidentally, the black strip under the text of 'Welcome to my homepage' does not feature in the original design: it's masking personal info. 

The homepage design featured mock articles to give a 'feel' for how the site was gonna look, with accompanying thumbnails. It's interesting to look back and see the pic I amended to 'Talking with the Experts' five years ago. That's Thomas J. Garza, who, as it happens, I interviewed for real, recently.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Can't keep a good vamp down

 The Nicolas Cage vampire madness continues, as the pic—which was removed from eBay for undisclosed reasons—is back, but still sporting a US$1,000,000 price tag. Thankfully, the seller's willing to waive the US$3.95 shipping fee.

I wonder if the seller removed the item due to the lack of credit he was given for his 'work': the photo on the eBay listing is now embossed with 'Jack Mord /' (right). As Jack Mord—aka diabolusmentioned on his forum, 'A lot of people aren't crediting me though, I've noticed. It was on PerezHilton and he cropped out my watermark and put his on the image.'

It's good to see news sources are starting to chase the source (like The Stir and AllMediaNY), although, one may have jumped the gun in identifying him: 'Lieutenant G.B. Smith, a Confederate prisoner that was taken in 1864 at Johnson's Island prison camp in Ohio.'

I'm not sure where the author derived that information from, as the man's identity is not revealed in the eBay listing. After all, the seller claims (with tongue firmly in cheek) that it's Nicolas Cage. 

He appears to be confusing the a name which appears, upside down, on the back of the photo: Prof. G.B. Smith, Gallery of Fine Arts, Bristol, Tenn. (below), who the seller cites as the photographer, not the man in the portrait. The confusion's not helped by the dates in Mord's listing. Despite saying it's an 'Original c.1870 carte de visite', he also says 'It's an original photo taken in Bristol, TN sometime around the Civil War.' The American Civil War ended in 1865.

The question is, where's the evidence that Cage is a vampire? Why's that the first conclusion derived from the photograph? It's not mentioned in conjunction with him drinking blood. Where's the fangs? The widow's peak? What if he's another kind of revenant? Did anyone think of that?

Maybe he's not undead, at all: he could simply be Immortal. But there might be a simpler explanation for why an 1870s photograph kinda looks like him: time travel

Mord believes Cage 'reinvents himself once every 75 years or so.  150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a  talk show host.' You know what other being's capable of regeneration, 'immortality' and time travel? These guys

All you'd need to determine is whether Cage has two hearts and an internal temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. An x-ray and thermometer should do the trick.

However, if that's not feasible, there's always considering the possibility that it's a photograph of a guy—long dead—who bears passing resemblance to a famous American actor. Such phenomenon is not unheard of.

In all seriousness, it's clear Mord's having a laugh with the thing, though I doubt 'some rich asshole' will actually buy Mord's refuge in audacity. But wouldn't it be awesome if Cage, himself, bought it? Unlikely, as he's kinda broke at the moment.
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