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.

La guzla

Internet archive
Prosper Mérimée was the author of La Guzla, ou Choix de poesies illyriques, recueillies dans la Dalmatie, la Bosnie, La Croatie et l'Hertzegowine (1827), which sometimes pops up in relation to vampire literature.

According to Wikipedia, 'It was presented as a collection of translations of folk ballads narrated by a guzlar (gusle player) Hyacinthe Maglanović'. Or, so it seemed.

The ballads were actually made up—by Mérimée, himself. Dragutin Subotić noted, 'A detailed account of Prosper Mèrimèe's literary fraud is to be found in the excellent work of V. M. Jovanović'1, namely, Voyslav M. Yovanovitch's « La guzla » de Prosper Mérimée, étude d'histoire romantique (1911). Thanks to the wondrous Internet archive, you can read it, yourself. If you read French, of course.

Oh, and you can get Mérimée's 1827 work through the Internet archive, too, via Google books. Gotta love the 'net!

1. D Subotić, 'Serbian popular poetry in English literature', The Slavonic Review, vol. 6, no. 16, 1927, p. 153.

Random post

On your right, you'll see the new 'Random posts' widget. I'm sure you can guess what it does. I got it from here. My old blog, Diary of an amateur vampirologist, used a random posts function called LinkWithin, which shared 'related posts'. 


I would've used it here, too, but as my posts are generally shorter, they'd be a bit of an eyesore on the page. However, if they had a 'list' function rather than 'thumbnail' display, I woulda used that instead.

The parasite

Not content with ripping off my old blog's name, the blogger behind Diary of a vampirologist aka Journal of a vampirologist—variously calling himself Vampirologist, Demonologist, Gothic, The Overseer and Dennis Crawford—has renamed his blog to something very, very familiar: 

The vampirologist

As you can see, he's even copied the font I use in my blog title—UnifrakturMagunita. Sigh. I'm not the only one who's had the misfortune of dealing with this fella, either. Niels exposed him as a plagiarist back in 2009; as did I (here and here). He's still at it, too: his latest post is regurgitated from elsewhere, sans attribution.1

This guy's been on my back like a leech for years. Not only did he copy my design, and ape the title of Diary of an amateur vampirologist, but he's also ripped off my other blog's title, too. You see, I write a blog (two, actually) on the Highgate vampire case. They're called Did a wampyr walk in Highgate? Guess what his is called? You got it. Both rip-off jobs are clearly intended to leech hits off my blogs. Or something more sinister—

'What's the big deal?' some of you might be asking. 'So he copies a few of your blog titles? So what?' The problem is, this character hasn't just stopped at hijacking my blog titles, but my online identity, too. Y'know, like stealing my user name and claiming they'd started their blogs or forums before I did. Trying to 'erase' me, as it were and paint me as a liar, etc.

Did I also mention that the organisation he's affiliated with the Vampire Research Society—who publicly revealed my real name because I'm critical of their 'cause'? A similar organisation—who he's also affiliated with—posted 'my' home address online. There's a lotta fruitcakes out there, people. That's why I wrote this PSA. Be careful with your personal details and keep an eye out for these hacks.

1. Should these pages mysterious 'disappear' or be 'revised', etc., I've saved the originals as proof.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Man, I love the Internet archive. Yesterday, I found The Nineteenth Century's 18th volume, which contains the July 1885 issue. What's the big deal about that? It features Emily de Laszowska Gerard's  'Transylvanian superstitions' (pp. 130–50); a known source for Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897).1

Internet archive

'More decidedly evil, however, is the vampire, or nosferatu, in whom every Roumenian [Romanian] peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell.'2 Until recently, it was generally assumed Gerard 'invented' nosferatu, as attempts to antedate the word went nowhere. However, I uncovered a source preceding her usage—by twenty years. Thanks to Google books.

Gerard's nosferatu appears several times in Stoker's novel. 'Friend Arthur,' says Van Helsing, 'if you had met that kiss which you know of before poor Lucy die, or again, last night when you open your arms to her, you would in time, when you had died, have become nosferatu, as they call it in Eastern europe, and would for all time make more of those Un-Deads that so have filled us with horror.'

His blunt comments on what he intends to do once the vampirised Lucy Westenra is located—"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body"—clearly echo Gerard's prescription for 'very obstinate cases' of nosferatu visitations.

John Seward and Van Helsing even follow through with the gruesome deed: 'The Professor and I sawed the top off the stake, leaving the point of it in the body. Then we cut off the head and filled the mouth with garlic. We soldered up the leaden coffin, screwed on the coffin lid, and gathering up our belongings, came away.'

Later, he speaks of the vampire's pestilential nature—as does Gerard—and the great fight ahead: 'The nosferatu do not die like the bee when he sting once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil.'

The word has resonated with us ever since. It is commonly recognised as a synonym for vampire. When F. W. Murnau wanted to distance his 1922 film from its obvious source—futilely, as it turned out—he used the word as its title.

1. B Stoker, Bram Stoker's notes for Dracula: a facsimile edition, annotated & transcribed by R Eighteen-Bisang & E Miller, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jeffereson, N.C., 2008, p. 304. Appendix IV. The article's pagination is listed as '128–144'. A different edition of the magazine may've been used, or a standalone issue. Internet archive hosts a bound volume.

2. E de Laszowska Gerard,  'Transylvanian superstitions', The Nineteenth Century, July 1885, p. 142.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Brother, can you spare a mint?

Night of the running dead

After you've dined on garlic infused spag, how about a mint? An anti-vampire garlic mint. The site warns that 'consistent use . . . may have a negative impact on your social life.'  Still, at $1.99 for a tin of 'about one hundred', that's a helluva bargain.

Wine and spookghetti

Vampire Vineyards recommends serving my wine with 'rich red pasta dishes'. So, keeping with the wine's vampire theme, I thought I'd find a recipe for an appropriate pasta dish to go with it.

The 'net being—well, the 'net—I found one. It's called 'Anti-vampire spaghetti.' Why 'anti-vampire'? You're supposed to add a staggering '10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped'.

I was once asked why vampires fear garlic. According to Paul Barber, 'strong-smelling substances are typical apotropaics in the lore of the vampire: garlic, incense, perfume, green nutshells, cow dung, human feces, and juniper. The idea here seems to be to "fight fire with fire"'1, i.e. to counteract the vampire's stench with another one. But he also notes 'Garlic . . . is often stuffed into the mouth of the putative vampire at burials, and it is difficult to see how this can be anything but a charm intended to thwart his evil purpose.'2

He also suggests it might be put in a vampire's mouth 'to give the revenant something to chew on or to prevent chewing or blood-sucking entirely.'3 I'd say it's little from column A and a little from column B.

Anyway, the recipe says 'There will be no fear of vampires bothering you after this dinner!' I doubt anyone else will, either.

1. P Barber, Vampires, burial, and death: folklore and reality, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1988, p. 131.

2. ibid., p. 132.

3. ibid., p. 157.

Critiquing the critical

I thought Niels' review of Montague Summers' The vampire: his kith and kin—a critical edition (2011) was 'brutal'. It prompted me to share my thoughts on criticism, which, in its own way, was probably to dull the impact of his blunt—and clearly frustrated—approach. But, at the time, I hadn't read the book.

Perhaps I was grateful to see an edition of Summers' work accompanied by 'rare contextual and source materials, correspondence, illustrations, as well as Greek and Latin translations.'

I was also 'starstruck' by its contributors, John Edgar Browning (editor), J. Gordon Melton (foreword), Rosemary Ellen Guiley (introduction) and Carol A. Senf (afterword). All are prominent authors of—and contributors to—vampire studies. But I confess I wasn't familiar with Gerard P. O'Sullivan (prologue) or Grace de Majewski (translations). Nonetheless, all that extra material and at a bargain price, too. My copy arrived on September 14th.

When I finally got round to reading through the book's additional material, I realised—Niels was right. After all, what is criticism but 'the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another'. Now, you would think that 'a critical edition' of a book would examine its text in-depth. This book doesn't. What we have instead, is a book amended with largely supplementary material about Summers, contributors' exposure to his work, biographical material and a few extracts from his sources.

Case-in-point. Browning, noted Summers' 'occasional documentation errors and omissions'1 and Guiley said 'This work is not perfect, to be certain, and scholars have pointed out its flaws and errors of commission and omission'.2 That may be, but where are the corrections? Which scholars noted them? A 'critical edition' is the perfect chance to amend these errors—but neither of them did.

Two notable examples have been discussed by Niels. W. S. G. E.'s Curieuse und sehr wunderbare Relation, von denen sich neuer Dingen in Servien erzeigenden Blut-Saugern oder Vampyrs (1732) is featured in Summers' bibliography, despite there being no proof 'that he actually read it.' It also cited Johann Heinrich Zopf's Dissertatio de Vampyris Serviensibus (1733), even though the passage Summers quoted is taken from a later work.

Material relating to the book's publication and contemporary coverage is comparatively thin. For example, only two reviews of the book were reproduced3 and one of them 'primarily' concerns Summers' companion tome, The vampire in Europe (1929). Two tiny ads for the book are also featured.4 Surely there's more than that out there. In fact, I know there is: Timothy d'Arch Smith cited a letter Summers wrote to Time and Tide's 18 January 1929 issue, 'Correcting the reviewer of his book.'5 That correspondence would've been much more relevant than correspondences and criticisms reproduced in the critical edition's appendix.6

At this point, I may well be guilty of being too 'brutal' on the book, myself. It might seem that readers have been 'ripped off', but that's far from the case. This book—without question—is an invaluable companion to Summers' work. While it doesn't delve too deeply into Kith, it certainly provides fascinating insights into Summers, himself. O'Sullivan's prologue7 is a brilliant overview of the darker aspects of Summers' shadowy life—molestation allegations, black mass participation, homosexual leanings, acquaintances, questionable ordination—leading to the recovery of various manuscripts that went missing after death. However, I am wary of Guiley's assertion that Summers would 'most likely be a secret player in the underground of the living vampire subculture' if he was still around8 due to his traditionalist Catholicism.

What we have here, is the bare bones of a Summers biography; an update on previous attempts like Joseph Jerome's (Brocard Sewell) Montague Summers: a memoir (1965), Frederick S. Frank's anthology, Montague Summers: a bibliographical portrait (1988) or even Summers' posthumously-published autobiography, The Galanty show (1980). Indeed, O'Sullivan mentioned that 'The full text of Redwood-Anderson's memoir [Recollections of Montage Summers: the early years] will be reproduced as part of prefatory materials to be included with a forthcoming edition of Summers's uncompleted novel, The Brides of Christ.'9

To that extent, the book could've been more vampire-centric. I would've loved to have known more about Summers' holograph manuscript, 'The vampires of the Carpathians'10 and surely they could've mentioned Peter Underwood's account of the anti-vampire medallion Summers (allegedly) gave him.11 It would've also been pertinent to focus on the major sources of inspiration for Summers' book: John Cuthbert Lawson's Modern Greek folklore and ancient Greek religion: a study in survivals (1910)12 and Bernhard Schmidt's Das Volksleben der Neugriechen und das hellenische Alterthum (1871).13

For all the book's flaws, it's definitely a worthy addition to your collection—and I can't get over how cheap it is. Forget the other reprints; this is the one you want. In the meantime, it'll be very interesting to see what Browning does with the forthcoming critical edition of Summers' The vampire in Europe (1929). If I was him, I'd recruit Niels to provide something. As far as I'm concerned, his brilliant blog entry, 'A delayed demonologist', is a taste of what could be.

1. M Summers, The vampire: his kith and kin—a critical edition, ed. JE Browning, The Apocryphile Press, Berkeley, Calif., 2011, p. xiv. Preface by John Edgar Browning.

2. ibid., p. xxv. Introduction by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

3. ibid., pp. 373–7. Appendix B.

4. ibid., pp. 379–80. Appendix C.

5. T d'Arch Smith, Montague Summers: a bibliography, 2nd rev. edn, The Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, U.K., 1983, p. 113.

6. Summers, pp. 382–94, 397–8. Appendix C.

7. ibid., pp. xxviii–lxxii. Prologue by Gerard P. O'Sullivan.

8. ibid., p. xix. Introduction by Rosemary Ellen Guiley.

9. ibid., p. lxvii, n. 9. Prologue by Gerard P. O'Sullivan.

10. ibid., pp. 406, 425.

11. P Underwood (ed.), The vampire's bedside companion: the amazing world of vampires in fact and fiction, Leslie Frewin, London, 1975, pp. 69–74.

12. A few pages from the book were reproduced in the appendix. Summers, ibid., pp. 412–15. Appendix E.

13. Strangely, Summers did not cite the book in his bibliography, instead citing Schmidt's Griechische Märchen, Sagen und Volkslieder (1877).

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

More Groot

UMass Amherst
I briefly mentioned J. J. M. de Groot's The religious system of China (1892–1910) in a previous post, as a 'useful' source on Chinese vampirism. What I didn't mention, is that the several volumes of the book are available on the Internet Archive.

Vampires (kiang shi) are dealt with in volume one (1892, pp. 44, 106–7) and volume five (1907, pp. 744–61). Interestingly, the latter notes: 'Tales about blood-sucking kiang shi have not been found by us in Chinese literature anterior to the eighteenth century, the Tszĕ puh yü being for the present the only work we know that has them'.1

Usually, I'm very adverse to referring to folkloric beings outside of Slavic culture as vampires, but a 'material' corpse that sucked blood? That's hard to overlook. Even de Groot noted, 'Is this coincident with the vampire-panic (the first known in Europe?) which infested Poland and Polish Russia in the last years of the seventeenth century, spreading rapidly over Bulgaria and Servia, and occupying the minds of scholars and theologians of Europe in the first quarter of the next?'2

His 'Poland and Polish Russia in the last years of the seventeenth century' reference concerns the stryges of Mercure Galant fame. Those, too, were bloodsucking corpses. 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.

1. JJM de Groot 1907, The religious system of China: its ancient forms, evolution, history and present aspect, manners, customs and social institutions connected therewith, vol. 5, On the soul and ancestral worship, E. J. Brill, Leide [Leiden], 1907, p. 745.

2. ibid., fn. 2.

I sometimes

On Saturday, my mate Paul popped over with surprise souvenir from his recent California–Las Vegas sojourn: a bottle of Vampire North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (left).

I recognised the logo straight away: I thought it was only available from their website, which is why I was surprised he told me he'd scored it for 'about 10 bucks' at Cost Plus World Market, California Plaza, Los Angeles. I guess that shows my naivety on vampire-themed wine distribution. has their own own wine line—Vampire Vineyards. This particular brew 'is sourced from several small-berry clones of this traditional Bordeaux varietal, grown in the North Coast.' Apparently, it also goes well with 'grilled steaks and chops, or with rich red pasta dishes'. Nice.

I think I'll save it for Halloween.

Edit 21/10/11: It was from Cost Plus World Market, Santa Ana, not L.A.Whoops! Cheers, Paul.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Chinese vampires

While trawling through Amazon today, I came across Leon Wieger and Derek Bryce's Chinese tales of vampires, beasts, genies and men, which was published earlier this year. 

You wouldn't know it from the Amazon listing, but the book's publisher—Llanerch—gives the game away: 'These tales were collected in China in the late nineteenth century by Leon Wieger, who translated a large number of them, published as Folklore Chinois Moderne (Modern Chinese Folklore).'

With some light googling, I found some brief biographical info on Léon Wieger (1856–1933) and the original book—Folk-lore chinois moderne (1909)—on the Internet Archive. It appears to be unviewable on Google Books and the 'Read online' function doesn't yield any pages. At least, on my computer. So your best bet for leafing through it's using the (greatly flawed) 'Full text' function.

Unlike certain catchpenny titles, vampire references are sprinkled liberally through the text, so it might be added to the ranks of J. J. M. de Groot's The religious system of China (1892–1910) and G. Willoughby-Meade's Chinese ghouls and goblins (1926) as useful sources on Chinese vampirism.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011



I've uncovered an intriguing publication called Fastitocalon, which 'aims at promoting a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of fantasticism across the ages.' Its first volume—divided into issues 1 and 2—'is dedicated to the exploration of the literary, poetical, cultural and historical aspects of the immortals and the undead.'

Of particular note, for vampiric content, is Dirk Vanderbeke's 'The vampire strikes back: on the history of a nightwalker' and Eugenio Olivares Merino's two-parter, 'The (Medi)evil dead: revenants and vampires in twelfth century English literature.' The site feature's Mythlore's review of the volume (pdf).1

Whether you think these articles justify the €15,00 price tag per volume (I don't), is up to you. Nonetheless, you can buy issues one and two through the journal's publisher, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. Despite the exorbitant price, I'll probably bite the bullet and buy 'em anyway.

1. JB Croft, review of Fastitocalon: studies in fantasticism ancient to modern: immortals and the undead (eds.) Thomas Honneger & Fanfan Chen, Mytholore, vol. 29, no. 12, 2010, pp. 188–92.

What the f—?


At first, I thought it was a misprint, but no, Amazon is actually selling a reprint of Bram Stoker's Dracula—with a bad case of Tourette's: 'The publishers, with the help of self styled authors have added the "F" word throughout the text, for a more enjoyable and modern read. Although altered, this book is suitable for book reports and other research.'

Something tells me that Stoker, who also wrote in favour of 'The censorship of fiction' (1908), wouldn't be too pleased with Matt R. Allen's revision of his work.

Nonetheless, the book's reviewers feel the repeated F-bombs help make the novel less 'dense',  with one noting, 'I had to read this for my lit class. I didn't want to, but it was for school, and I needed to. When I found this, it gave me a chuckle, but actually really helped me get through this book.'

Monday, 10 October 2011

Evidence for antique vampire killing kits

Recently, I've been examining the evidence for the authenticity of 19th century vampire killing kits. These were apparently manufactured for and sold to Western travellers to Eastern Europe. One of the prominent names attached to these kits, is Professor Ernst Blomberg. Spooky land's excellent article, 'Regarding Ernst Blomberg', attempted to unearth proof for the man's existence.

One of the article's attempts to validate the claims made about the kits is their presence in certain museums: 'Certainly, old vampire killing kits were reportedly produced in the 19th century - examples exist at numerous Ripley museums (Wisconsin Dells, etc.) and other public collections of oddities.' It says. 'Institutions like these have either held these kits for some time, or are willing to attest to their rough age through their documented provenance (although the Mercer Museum has recently declared their kit to be a modern assembly of mostly vintage parts).' The latter claim is something I personally verified.

But, as we've seen, their presence in such museums isn't—bizarre as it might sound—proof of antiquity. The Mercer Museum, Doylsetown, Pa., informed me that their kit 'is believed to be one of the compilations of both historical items and "made up" artifacts that found its way into the antiques market sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.' They also 'had some portions of it analyzed in the labs of the Winterthur Museum and learned that the "silver" bullets are actually pewter (not a surprise given their lack of tarnish) and that the paper is of 20th century vintage that has been artificially "aged."'

If that's the case, why display the kit at all? The Museum told me they 'use it currently to contrast traditional and contemporary vampire "lore," help interpret the origins of some vampire beliefs, and to demonstrate the use of scientific methodologies in authenticating artifacts.' To that extent, the kit is also accompanied by the following placard:

Diggers realm

So what are we to make of the kits' appearance in Ripley's museums? The Spooky land article notes, 'In a press release dated December 4, 2008 [2009], Ripleys maintains that their collection of kits now numbers 30 (26 on display). Most of the kits were acquired by Edward Meyer, their Vice President of Exhibits and Archives.' I contacted Edward Meyer, who agreed to an interview.

In light of the Mercer Museum's revelations, I asked him whether it was possible the kits he'd collected were hoaxes, too. 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…..'

The press release said 'Most were created in the Boston area and were available by mail order.The kits were acquired by people in preparation of possibly meeting a vampire during their international travels to Eastern Europe and their usage dates back to the mid-1800s. Most were created in the Boston area and were available by mail order.' 

I asked Meyer whether he'd seen any of these mail orders. 'No,' he said. Had he verified their connection to Blomberg? 'Personally? I haven't.' Then how did authenticate the kits? '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'. In other words, the best evidence that the kits were produced in the 19th century for travellers to Eastern Europe? They come with old guns and unverified back-stories. 

No museum—or—sellers have examined or provided contemporary 19th century references to their manufacture and sale. If they were, indeed, being made during the 19th century, then a record would've turned up. Somewhere. Something to link the kits with their alleged manufacturing date. Even the 'mail orders' cited in Ripley's press release. Regarding the kits Meyer's collected, he said 'we have nothing any earlier than 1990 mentioning their existence.' 

However, the Spooky land article pushed the Ripley's link back further than Meyer's role in their collection: 'The Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum chain claims to have the world's largest collection of vintage vampire hunting kits, some reportedly collected by Robert Ripley prior to World War II.' Robert Ripley (1890–1949) originated the Ripley's franchise, which spun off from his Ripley's believe it or not! newspaper panel. If he did collect such kits, we'd have a pre-'1970s or 1980s' source. That would push the existence of 19th century vampire killing kits into the realm of plausibility, given the timeframe.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide a source for the claim. So, I asked Meyer, 'did Ripley's have any vampire killing kits before you started collecting them for the company? For instance, did Robert Ripley collect any?'1 He wrote back, 'No pre-edward vampire kits—I have been involved in the purchase of everyone we have…'2 The press release confirms 'Each kit in the Ripley's collection was acquired by Edward Meyer, VP of Exhibits and Archives for the company.'

1. 'RE: vampire killing kits', Saturday, 8 October 2011 1:10:11 AM.‏

2. 'RE: vampire killing kits', Saturday, 8 October 2011 2:42:50 AM.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Vampire Cage creator on imitators

Looks like I'm not the only one who's noticed attempts to cash-in on the Nicholas Cage vampire picture business. The guy who started it all, Jack Mord aka diabolus, has seem 'em too, adding 'Ha, that's funny. Most of those dudes don't even look like their celeb counterparts!'

The superficial
To him, the original's still the best ('But my Vampire Cage kicks butt!'). One of the better-known examples following in the footsteps of Mord's 'Vampire Cage', is another eBay seller's attempt to palm off a 19th century photograph for an exorbitant price, citing it as evidence of a famous American actor's supposed supernatural origins. In this case, John Travolta (left).

But it turns out that seller of that pic, might not be so random. According to Mord, 'I know the person who owns the Travolta one, they've been an online friend of mine for a few years.'

The 'success' of the Vampire Cage picture has greatly amused Jack: 'The amount of publicity it's gotten is hilarious. My photo was on several TV shows here - Good Morning America, The View, The Today Show, CNN (though I was unable to confirm that one personally), and a lot of celeb magazines.' And it's true. The amount of available news coverage on Vampire Cage is astounding. But without anything new to add, interest's starting to die off.

With all the publicity it's attracted, one wonders if Mord managed to sell Vampire Cage at his million dollar asking price. The attended news coverage should've landed him something, surely. Forum member, blythe, asked him: 'So are you making any money off of this?' Mord replied, 'Some, from the magazines and TV shows, but eBay went out of their way to make sure I couldn't make a penny from it on their site!'

That wasn't eBay's official reason for removing it, and it's not the reason Mord's given to news media: 'Mord says eBay initially asked him to take it down because he was "using a brand name" by mentioning Nicholas Cage.' Initially, because he reposted it 'without featuring the star's name, but eBay removed the photo again saying there were "reports" that the photo was not authentic.' Go figure.

A major British newspaper's gotten in on the act, and begun 'spotting' undead/time-travelling-reincarnated celebrities from the past. Must've been another slow news day.

Vampire journal purchases

While researching my my post on vampire journals, I sought out pricing for some available on the 'net. I found a couple of 'em on eBay and snapped 'em both up for US$9 each on September 28, after getting the seller to knock 'em down from 12 bucks a pop. They arrived in the post, yesterday.

They were both issues of Vampire Information Exchange's Vampire Information Exchange Newsletter; issues 75 (July 1996) and 77 (February 1997), respectively. I'm not sure if the newsletter's still published, but I do know it started in 1979.

That duration's an impressive feat, in itself, for a vampire periodical. In contrast, Martin V. Riccardo's Journal of Vampirism—official publication of his Vampire Studies Society—folded after two years (1977–79).

The issue numbers, however, are pretty daunting from a collecting perspective. Not only is the newsletter comparatively rare, but I only have a few others. The idea of collecting all of them, is a bit of a nightmare. 

Issue 75 (above) focuses on 'Female vampires in literature'. The primary articles in this category are Louise Ann Stephens' 'Madeline Montalia matures' (pp. 16–17), Karen Porter's 'Ancient sources for the literary female vampire' (pp. 17–18) and Feleccia Rea's 'The nature of the beast: the female vampire' (pp. 18–24).

Issue 77 (left) tackled psychic vampirism, and to that extent, there was a brief 'Glossary of terms' (p. 13), a discussion of 'The Old Hag theory' (pp. 14–15), presumably by Eric Held,  and two familiar 'faces' returned. Karen S. Porter wrote about 'Psychic aspects in traditional vampirism' (pp. 16–17), while Louise Ann Stephens took 'A not-so-brief look at psychic vampirism' (pp. 17–22). 

I'm not aware of any vampire books written by Porter and Stephens, so I hopped on Google to track 'em down. I couldn't find anything solid on Stephens, but I did find out that Porter's a poet. At the time (1997), she was 'engaged in the unromantic job of helping to run her family's liquor store.'

Friday, 7 October 2011

Q & A with Edward Meyer

My previous entry on allegedly antique vampire killing kits mentions, 'The best evidence we need to determine the authenticity of these kits, is a paper trail. Contemporary references.' Fortunately, Spooky land's 'Regarding Ernst Blomberg' gives us a few leads: 'Certainly, old vampire killing kits were reportedly produced in the 19th century - examples exist at numerous Ripley museums (Wisconsin Dells, etc.) and other public collections of oddities.'

The author of the article seems convinced of the authenticity of the kits, partially based on their appearance in Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums. 'In a press release dated December 4, 2008, Ripleys maintains that their collection of kits now numbers 30 (26 on display). Most of the kits were acquired by Edward Meyer, their Vice President of Exhibits and Archives.' The author quotes from the press release, which contains several 'leads' like the kits' original availablity through mail order, and that they were apparently manufactured in the Boston area. Unfortunately, the author doesn't provide a link to the press release.

Smashing Interviews Magazine
But with some light googling, I found it. It actually dates 4 December 2009.

I read through the rest of the press release and knew I had to contact Edward Meyer, Ripley's Vice President of Exhibits and Archives (left) and primary collector of Ripley's kits. How did he authenticate the kits? Could he provide the 'missing' contemporary evidence? What did he think about the hoax claims? 

After some brief correspondence, he agreed to an interview for this blog. I e-mailed him a bunch of questions1, to which he swiftly responded.2 Believe it—or not—what transpires is the very first instalment of 'Q & A' for this blog.

How did you become an antiques collector?

I am not an “antique collector”. I am a purchaser of museums artifacts, both old and new, everything from dinosaur bones to art made from toothpicks, to two-headed cows.

What lead you to becoming the VP of Ripley's Exhibits and Archives?

I went to school to become a librarian. I was first hired by Ripley’s to catalogue the famous Believe It or Not! newspaper cartoon feature—the cornerstone of our company.

You are the sole purchaser of Ripley's vampire killing kits.

Not really true. I am the only person who does it full time, but anyone in the company can acquire new exhibits under the right circumstances. Better to say, I am the “main” purchaser…. 3

What interests you about these kits and why do you believe they're important to Ripley's collections?

I think they are fantastic, a real Believe It or Not! I am amazed that some people really believe in vampires and I am amazed that other people have created an elaborate artifact to combat them. In addition they are very rare, so they are a perfect museum artifact for Ripley’s. In fact they are amongst my favorite objects…

According to a press release for the kits, they were 'were acquired by people in preparation of possibly meeting a vampire during their international travels to Eastern Europe and their usage dates back to the mid-1800s'. By what means have you authenticated their age?

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

The press release also states, 'Most were created in the Boston area and were available by mail order.' Have you viewed any of these mail orders?


Do you have—or are you aware—of any 19th century documentation mentioning their use or sale?

No, we have nothing any earlier than 1990 mentioning their existence.

The 'kits were purchased by wealthy Americans headed to Eastern Europe – Transylvania then, Romania now. Travelers brought back terrifying tales of vampires with them from the region'. Could you tell us who these wealthy Americans were?

No one specifically—people doing “the Grand Tour”

Can you relate any of their tales?

I personally have not done any deep research on this subject; my information is based on popular internet articles, news stories and verbal communication with people who were writing MA thesis on vampires.

A 'Professor Blomberg' is commonly associated with the kits. Indeed, several kits in Ripley's collection bear his name; but no one seems to know much about him. What do you know about Professor Blomberg?

Only what I have read in popular reports..there is a fair bit of info available by googling his name…

How have you verified his connection to the kits?

Personally? I haven’t.

The antiquity of the kits has attracted some criticism. The Mercer Museum, Doylsetown, Pa., for instance, believes their kit to be one of the 'compilations of both historical items and "made up" artifacts that found its way into the antiques market sometime in the 1970s or 1980s' and the labelling associated with the kit 'is of 20th century vintage that has been artificially "aged."' Is it possible that the kits in Ripley's collection are also late 20th/early 21st century forgeries?

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.

Do you still seek out kits for Ripley's collection, or have you focused your attention on other items?

I have never sought out vampire kits, they tend to find me. I have recently bought one found in Atlanta. Our patrons are fascinated by them, and by vampires in general, so I will continue to buy certain ones as they are offered to me. In perspective, I buy about 1,000 artifacts a year. I have never seen more than three vampire kits in any one year.

Speaking of which, what other items do you purchase for the collections?

Have a look at our new book, Strikingly True, it contains photos of several key pieces we purchased last year and page 9 actually has two lists of objects: my favorites for the year, and the strangest things we bought at public auctions. The book can be found at , or wherever fine books are sold 

What is your proudest find?

Probably our 16  ten-foot sections of the Berlin Wall. My favorites are usually pieces from history: Lee Harvey Oswald’s car, John Wilkes Booth’s derringer, a Lincoln hair lock, the gallows from Cook’s County Prison in Chicago…..I have acquired more than 20,000 pieces in my name it I have seen it—and probably bought it—assuming it was “unbelievable”.

Strikingly true (2011) is available through Amazon US, Canada and UK. I'd like to thank Meyer for his participation, co-operation and insightful answers to my questions. Thank you.

For previous 'Q & A' instalments, see my interviews with Niels K. Peterson (part 1; part 2), Martin V. Riccardo (part 1; part 2), Bruce A. McClelland (part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4) and Thomas J. Garza.

1. 'RE: vampire killing kits‏', Thursday, 6 October 2011 12:39:49 AM. They were originally numbered 1 through 8, with multiple questions embedded in each.

2. 'RE: vampire killing kits', Friday, 7 October 2011 1:01:11 AM. As Meyer deigned to answer the questions within the questions, I have broken up his responses—and my questions—accordingly.

3. In my defence, the 2009 press release did say, 'Each kit in the Ripley’s collection was acquired by Edward Meyer, VP of Exhibits and Archives for the company.'
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