Monday, 3 October 2011

Dismantling vampire kits

Spooky land contains a series of fascinating articles on—what I regard to be—fake antique vampire killing kits. For my previous writings on vampire killing kits, see: 'The scoop on vampire killing kits', 'The Blomberg effect' and 'Vampire killing kit update!'.

There are many versions of these kits. They're generally supposed to have been made and sold in the 19th century. Some are auctioned off thousands of dollars. Two names commonly associated with them are Ernst Blomberg, a supposed vampire expert, and Nicholas Plomdeur, a Belgian gunsmith. The problem is, there's no credible evidence that kits were manufactured by these gentlemen.

Spooky land's 'Regarding Ernst Blomberg', says it is 'becoming increasingly unclear is whether these kits, often commanding tens of thousands of dollars at auction, are instances of actual antiques, or modern assemblies of old parts and fill-ins, intended to deceive the buyer.' I argue that the latter's the case. But first, let's examine the evidence of Blomberg's role in their creation.

Firstly, the article establishes the reality of a man named Ernst Blomberg. However, there's some difficulty in establishing which Ernst Blomberg he was. Three candidates are listed, Ernst Diedrich Wilhelm Blomberg, Ernst Ludwig Werner Blomberg, but the author settles on Ernst Freiherr von Blomberg, a 'Professor of Zoology'.

The author was contacted by someone named Meredith, who provided further information on Freiherr von Blomberg, telling him that in the Universität zu Lübeck's library, there 'several courses from one Professor Ernest Freiherr von Blomberg, who was a Professor of Zoology from 1856 until 1903, the year he died'.

I checked the catalogue of the University of Lübeck's library—the Zentrale Hochschulbibliothek Lübeck—and found found three records for works under an author search for 'Blomberg'1: none of them were written by an 'Ernst Blomberg'.

Meredith went on to say that 'The man seems to have had an obsession with shapeshifters and other creatures alike, for he wrote a rather unreadable book on it, "Die Verwandlung im Prinzipus: Tiere une Maenschen und Ihre Gottlose Vereinen", ed. 1869'. However, a search for the title on global library catalogue, WorldCat, yielded zero results.

Her case isn't helped by defending the authenticity of a vampire kit found in the Surnateum: 'In conclusion, and as far as this claim goes, the Vampire Killing Kit at the Surnateum is not a forgery; is not a contrefact [sic] from 1972; does not contain fake ustensils [sic]; does not contain names and personae who are not traceable.' The 1972 reference concerns Michael de Winter, a firearms collector who claimed to have manufactured vampire killing kits during that period. She alluded to him again: 'It seems that some people would like to get credit (and a lot of attention) for something they didn't achieve. And that's the truth.'

The link to the Surnateum is telling, as Meredith—a poster on SurvivalArts—is the source of this extra info on Blomberg. The author briefly covers their kit, adding, 'The Surnateum has a lovely website, but the contents should be viewed with a grain (or two) of salt.' Why's that? Let's take a quick detour to the museum.

The Surnateum, or Museum of Supernatural History, is 'the virtual front-end for one of the most astonishing collections of authentic magical artefacts and strange stories gathered from around the world by the Collectors and Curators for more than a century.' It also features a page for the kit, claiming it was 'sold by Professor Ernst Blomberg in the second half of the 19th century' and has been in their collection 'since the late 19th century'. Oh, and Blomberg was supposed to have used the kit's 'pistol in 1888 against a creature dubbed Jack the Ripper by the British press of the day.'

But the pistol has a greater claim to fame. It was apparently used against one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century: 'After looking at several options, the Collector opted for a young major, an SS Sturmbannführer in the Waffen SS by the name of Otto G., with whom a meeting was organised.' And on to say, 'The right moment presented itself during the afternoon of Monday, 30 April 1945. Shortly after marrying Eva Braun, a depressed Hitler announced that he was going to commit suicide; the excuse was perfect.' You get the drift.

The magic cafe

Clearly, we're dealing with an elaborate hoax, especially as the author showed that a scan of Blomberg's Die Verwandlung im Prinzipus: Tiere une Maenschen und Ihre Gottlose Vereinen (1869) title page, was actually derived from Rudolf Leubusher's Ueber die Wehrwolfe under Thierverwandlungen im Mittelalter: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Psychologie (1850), as well as some of its content. The Museum's 'Curator', Christian Chelman, has shown no qualms circulating the hoax elsewhere (above). Of course, that's probably not too surprising, due to his, uh, condition: 'After being possessed by a formidable voodoo entity (the Trickster Eshu/Loki) during a shamanic ritual, his personality is now forever split in two - Chelman/Youki - and is very hard to control.'

As the author notes, Leubusher is sometimes promoted as 'a colleague of Blomberg', which can be seen in his Wikipedia entry. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this 'info' is not found in the German version. It's obvious that Leubusher's connection to Blomberg is an in-joke, a way of 'referencing' the source of the manufactured Blomberg book.

The only known publication of Ernst Freiherr von Blomberg, is an article for Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie.2 Wikipedia's 'Freiherr von Blomberg' entry, which incorporates Ernst Freiherr von Blomberg's former standalone page, notes that the article has nothing to do with vampires, but is actually 'a terse, observation-driven medical account of a child (known as C.K.) with hydrocephaly, commenting on the patient's general condition and observations made during autopsy.'

Vampire dark news
Yes, 'standalone', because someone went out of their way to create a page dedicated to the man, as well as providing a picture of him (left) before the Wikipedia editors stepped in. His incorporation into 'Freiherr von Blomberg', itself, is considered 'dubious'.

Blomberg also has other dodgy titles supposedly penned by him. One of them is an 1891 paper, 'Beiträge zur Studien der Thierverwandlungen' (Contributions to the study of animal transformations), which is not only out of step with Blomberg's known research, but its existence, too, is unverified, as the author notes: 'Efforts to substantiate the existence of this paper are ongoing. Unfortunately, this title sounds suspiciously like the original title of the Leubusher book . . . borrowing several of the words from the original title (Beiträge and Thierverwandlungen - a grammar check would be helpful).'

Another title, covered in the author's same article, is a pamphlet titled 'The vampire', supposedly published by John E. Taylor, London, n.d. Unlike the other fabricated works, this title has been included in certain vampire killing kits. However, the author notes the pamphlet's 'similarity' to H. S. Olcott's 'The vampire', which was published in The Theosophist, vol. 12, 1891: 'It appears that the title page has been changed, and the rest of the content plagarized.'

It seems Blomberg's a popular name to link to vampire killing kits. A brand, if you will. You can buy a copy of Charles Blomberg's The creature vampyre (1999) on Amazon for $334.93. As ludicrous as that price is for a 47 page book, its product description at least admits its fakery: 'The Creature Vampyre should be considered fictional and is not meant to portray a friend, neighbor, or family member. Any similarity to anyone living or dead (?) is merely co-incidental.'

Regarding Nicholas Plomdeur, he, too, was a real person. A gunmaker. But that's as far as the 'evidence' goes. There is nothing to substantiate his role in providing firearms for these kits. All we know is, some kits incorporate his pistols. That's it. If one of these kits came with a pair of Peacemakers, that wouldn't automatically prove Samuel Colt was involved in the vampire killing kit trade.

The best evidence we need to determine the authenticity of these kits, is a paper trail. Contemporary references. Something that directly connects them to Blomberg or Plomdeur. Even authenticating their 'age' isn't good enough: the kits are composed of actual antiques, with some artificially aged. The kit housed by Mercer Museum, Doylestown, Pa., is one such example (see 'Vampire killing kit update!'). Considering the price these kits attract, much more effort should go into determining their authenticity.

1. Hans Blomberg and Raimo Ylinen's Algebraic theory for multivariable linear systems (1983), Astrid-Christine Blomberg's Einsatzmöglichkeiten automatisierter Screeningtechniken auf dem Gebiet der Krebsfrüherkennung bei Frauen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1979) and Axel v. Blomberg's Ergebnisse der Röntgen- und Telekobalt-Bestrahlung sowie der kombinierten chirurgisch-radiologischen Behandlung von Carcinomen des Larynx und Hypopharynx (1964).

2. F v Blomberg, 'Ein seltener fall von Hydrocephalus' (A rare case of hydrocephalus), Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, vol. 24, no. 1, 1914, pp. 200–16.

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