Thursday, 27 December 2012

Vampires in Serbia: unraveling fact from myth about Sava Savanović

I've only ever published two guest blog entries. The first was by Jane, a University of Texas at Austin student studying under noted vampire scholar, Thomas J. Garza (parts one and two). This is the second.

I was recently contacted by James M. B. Lyon–a political analyst with a Ph.D. in Balkan History from UCLA–asking if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing his 2012 novel, Kiss of the butterfly.

I don't usually read vampire novels as they're generally beyond the scope of what I cover on this blog. However, I was prepared to make an exception primarily because his work was favourably reviewed by Magia Postuma's Niels K. Petersen:
The backdrop of Serbia on the brink of war, the minutiae of history, geography and customs, combined with a well-crafted mix of fact in fiction in the findings of Steven’s vampire research makes it a fascinating read as well.
Lyon's novel is deeply rooted in Balkan vampire lore, even disclosing sources in his 'historical note' (pp. 376–8) that few writers of vampire non-fiction would even be aware of. What I'm saying is, when it comes to vampires, this guy knows his stuff. 

During our correspondence, I asked Lyon if he'd be interested in submitting a guest blog entry. He happily obliged with an article concerning recent news coverage of the Sava Savanović case in Serbia.1 What makes his contribution distinct from the usual news coverage, is that he was there.

In late November 2012, a story began to spread that the legendary Serbian vampire Sava Savanović was on the loose in the small mountain village of Zarožje. According to media reports, the watermill that Sava haunted had collapsed, the local villagers were in fear that Sava would seek a new home, the municipal council had issued an official warning telling people to put garlic and hawthorn branches above their doors, and the local price of garlic had skyrocketed.

The watermill at the bottom of the ravine, taken from the road on the hillside above.

Major international media began to carry the story: first the Austrian Times, then the Daily Mail, then AP, ABC News, AFP, the Guardian, Hindustan Times, Fox News, the Sun, Straits Times, Huffington Post, Yahoo, even National Geographic wrote a piece (poorly researched and written) about Sava. Although the Sava Savanović story was trending and generating substantial interest, after several days it was pushed off the front pages by news of the Royal Pregnancy.

The legend of the vampire Sava Savanović is well-known throughout the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo), due to a cult horror film from 1973 called Leptirica (Female Butterfly), and a novel by the Serbian author Milovan Glišić -- After Ninety Years – that was published in 1880, about 17 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sava was said to haunt the local watermill, a trait common to vampires in Balkan folklore. And as is also common among many Balkan vampires, Sava not only drank blood, but also smothered/suffocated people to death.

On 8 December, I visited the Serbian village of Zarožje with a documentary camera crew and spoke with a number of villagers and visited the watermill that Sava Savanović is alleged to have haunted.

Zarožje is an isolated area located in the mountains of western Serbia between Valjevo and Bajina Bašta. It is not a typical village, but rather a series of homes spread along the mountainside. According to local residents, the first road to run through the area – connecting Bajina Bašta to Valjevo – was constructed in 1977, and electricity was strung to the village one year later, in 1978.

The watermill, taken from the stream bed, from the upstream side.

We drove to Zarožje through steady snowfall, and we were forced to leave our vehicle at a gas station on the main road, due to icy conditions on the steep, 4 kilometer side-road that led down the mountain to the watermill (doesn't that sound like the start of a good horror flick?). Along the way, we stopped most everyone we came across and asked their thoughts about the mill's collapse and the Sava Savanović legend. Some people laughed it off and said it was just an effort by Miodrag Vujetić, a local member of the Bajina Bašta Municipal Assembly (not mayor, as incorrectly reported in most media) to increase local tourism and drum up business for his gas station and restaurant on the main road (where we left our vehicle). Others mumbled uncertainly that it was nonsense. Yet others said they believed that Sava was still around. One man turned pale and ran away when we asked him about Sava. Some of the homes had garlic and hawthorn branches above the doorways to ward of vampires, and a couple of villagers actually carried garlic in their pockets. We asked everyone we met if they would spend the night in the old watermill. All said “no”. When we saw the actual physical state of the watermill, I understood that fear was not the only possible factor to motivate a negative response.

We asked about the alleged rise in garlic prices, and everyone said it was nonsense. The reason was simple: everyone grows their own garlic and has put away large quantities for the winter. When we asked about an official warning from the Bajina Bašta municipality, everyone laughed it off and said that the municipality had issued no such warning.

As we headed down the road toward the watermill, one villager ran out of his home and offered us a hawthorn wood stake for protection. When we finally got down the mountainside to the mill, we discovered that the roof had indeed collapsed inward, that one of the walls was bulging outwards, there was no longer a water wheel, and all that was left were the stone foundation, and three and a half walls. Inside, there were two sets of millstones, both exposed to the elements.

A close-up of the exterior of the watermill. The collapsed roof and bulging wall are clearly visible, and snow is inside.

We interviewed the mill's owner, Slobodan Jagodić, a very warm and open-hearted man, who invited us into his home, where he and his wife showered us with traditional Serbian hospitality, consisting of homemade šljivovica (plum brandy), bread, young cheese, and pihtija (pig-brains jello). Slobodan told us that after 1978, the watermill had fallen into disuse, as villagers purchased electric mills, and he had not maintained it. I taped over an hour of conversation with Slobodan, who told us the details of the Sava Savanović legend as told in Zarožje. I should note that their home had garlic and hawthorn above the door.

The interior of the watermill. Two sets of millstones are clearly visible, one in the foreground (bottom left) on the floor, the other in the back (center right), standing on its side.

Later on, we interviewed Municipal Assembly member Vujetić, who confirmed to us that no official warning had been issued, but that he, as a concerned local citizen, was urging people to take measures to protect themselves. He showed us some garlic he was carrying in his pocket and even obliged us by eating a clove of raw garlic. He came across as an effective chamber-of-commerce style spokesman, who is doing everything he can to boost the local tourism industry.

James Lyon standing in front of the watermill, taken from the downstream side.

Before I recount Slobodan Jagodić’s version of the Sava Savanović legend, permit me to share with you an old Serbian folk saying:

“Neither am I lying to you,
Nor am I telling you the truth.
He who lied was the one who told me.”

“Нити лажем
нити истину кажем.
Онај лаже који ми каже”

Slobodan told me that he heard the story from his grandfather, who heard it from his grandfather, who heard it from his grandfather, and that no one knows for certain when it all took place, but that is was at least three hundred years ago.

As with any good vampire tale, the story of Sava Savanović involves love. Local lore holds that Sava never married, and that in his later years when he had become rather ugly, he fell in love with a much younger girl who spurned his advances. One day while she was tending sheep, he once again proposed to her, but she again declined, and turned her back on him. Angered at this, he pulled out his pistol and shot her in the back, killing her. Unbeknown to Sava, his brother Stanko had suspected he was up to no good and had followed him. When Sava shot the girl, Stanko jumped out of the bushes and tried to apprehend him. The noise of the gunshot attracted shepherds, who saw the two men fighting and assumed it was a traveler being attacked by a bandit. When Stanko saw the shepherds, he feared trouble, so he ran off towards the forest, leaving Sava. The shepherds thought Stanko was the guilty party and shot at him with their rifles, killing him. When the local villagers realized what had actually happened, they beat Sava to death with hoes and mattocks and buried him near the scene of the murder, as they did not wish to have a murderer buried in the local cemetery. Shortly thereafter, rumors began to circulate that Sava was seen wandering about in the village in the evenings and had become a vampire.

The vampire killed people in Zarojže for years and years and no one knew who the vampire was, so they couldn’t find his grave and kill him. There was a young man from the village of Ovčinje named Strahinja, and there was a wealthy farmer in Zarojže with a very beautiful daughter named Radojka. Strahinja fell in love with Radojka, but he was very poor, and her father was strong and powerful and wouldn’t let his daughter marry Strahinja, even though Radojka loved him. So Strahinja thought about what he could do, and one day he came to Zarožje and asked the people to let him be the miller for one night in the watermill. They didn’t want to let him, because anyone who spent the night in the watermill was killed. At the urging of Radojka’s father – who thought it would be a good way to get rid of this unwanted suitor – the villagers permitted Strahinja to spend the night at the watermill.

Strahinja came to the mill before dark, took a tree stump and some bags and wrapped them in a blanket and put them next to the fire so that it would look as though he were asleep. Strahinja then hid up in the rafters of the mill and watched. The mill was grinding away, when suddenly, in the middle of the night, the door of the mill opened all by itself and a large, horrible man appeared in front of the doorway and entered the mill. As he entered, he spoke out loud to himself saying “a good dinner for me”. Watching this, Strahinja was overcome with fear. The vampire bent over to suck the blood of the sleeping man and discovered it was a tree stump, not a person. Then he exclaimed loudly “Since I became Sava Savanović, I have never gone without dinner, but tonight I’ve gone without dinner”.

From his perch in the rafterss, Strahinja shot at the vampire with his rifle, and Sava disappeared. Strahinja then came down and continued to mill grain throughout the night. In the morning, the entire village came down to the watermill, expecting to find Strahinja dead. Instead, they found Strahinja sitting on the doorstep of the mill, smiling. Radojka’s father asked him how he survived, and asked if he had learned the vampire’s name. Strahinja told him that the vampire’s name was Sava Savanović. Since Strahinja had saved the village from the vampire, Radojka’s father gave him permission to marry his daughter.

But because the vampire was so old, no one in the village knew where Sava’s grave was -- not even the very oldest people -- so they had no way of killing him. There was an old grandmother in Ovčinje named Mirjana, and the villagers went and asked her what to do. But Mirjana was hard of hearing, so the person with the loudest voice shouted at her. She told them that the vampire’s grave was in a crooked ravine, under a spreading Elm tree, but that they wouldn’t be able to find it on their own.

Mirjana told them to take a black stallion without any marks and follow it, and they would find the vampire’s grave at the spot where the stallion starts to dig with its hooves. She told them to take a sharpened hawthorn stake, lots of garlic, and a priest with holy water. They did as Mirjana instructed and followed the black stallion, until the horse started to whiny and dig with its hooves, and then they began to dig and did, until they came to a coffin.

After they had raised the vampire Sava’s coffin from the grave, the bravest man in the village wielded the sharpened hawthorn stake. The villagers pried open the coffin, while the stake-wielder and the priest stood by. As they opened the coffin, they found Sava lying there, with one eye open and the other eye closed. All the villagers shook with fear, but the brave man lunged and drove the stake through the vampire’s chest. Then the priest started forward to pour holy water on the vampire, but he slipped and spilled it onto the earth. Just then, a large butterfly flew from out of Sava’s lips and he was never seen again.

After that, Sava did not appear to bother anyone for a while, but even so, no one dared spend the night in the watermill. Some time later, a butterfly began troubling people, particularly babies and small children, and even though the villagers had women-conjurors protect the children, some of the children died. It is felt that Sava lives on in the shape of a butterfly, and that he continues to haunt the mill.

Thus ends Slobodan Jagodic’s tale.

I'd like to thank James for taking the time to write and submit his excellent contribution to this blog. Very informative; very insightful. 

Lyon's debunking of the Zarožje vampire scare is echoed by Moonlight's 'An accurate reporting on the Serbian government issuing a vampire warning'.

You can buy Lyon's novel, Kiss of the butterfly (2012), on Amazon for US$3.99–but you'll need a Kindle (or to download a free app) to read it, as it's not available in print form. Yet. It's a great read. If you're into vampire lore, you'll want to add it to your collection.

1. J Lyon, 'Re: Visiting Zarožje and Kisiljevo‏', email, Wednesday, 26 December 2012 3:55:13 AM. The photos–all under James Lyon's copyright–were sent separately.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Found in translation

Firstly I wish you either a belated Merry Christmas–or a concurrent Merry Christmas–depending on which side of the globe you're on. Hope you got lots of presents. Good ones.

I got an unexpected treat from a bloke named Okan Akkoyunlu. He added me as a friend on Facebook. I'd never heard of the guy. No mutual acquaintances, nothing. Nonetheless, I decided to take a punt and added him anyway.  He responded with this:
Thanks for the add and merry Christmas Anthony :). Here's the link to my facebook page about vampires in Turkish language, and you can see two of your articles about "being a vampirologist" translated into Turkish and placed on the page. I hope you comment on these posts and like the page too to let interested readers get in contact with you too on facebook as well.
I checked out his Facebook page. Sure enough, two blog entries I'd written had been translated into Turkish (here and here). Both were blog entries I'd written for VampChix: 'Why I'm an amateur vampirologist' (notes) and 'So you want to be a vampirologist' (notes), respectively.

To my knowledge, it's the first time any of my writings have been translated into another language. I'm hugely flattered by that–just the thought that someone went out of their way to translate something I'd written, so they share it with others. Isn't that fantastic? What a marvellous Christmas surprise!

And dear readers, I've got a very special treat coming up for you shortly. A guest blog entry! In the meantime, I wish a safe and Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. Enjoy the holiday festivities and don't be crushed in the Boxing Day rush!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The original Dracula cover

While browsing through my live feed, I noticed someone from Wiesbaden, Hessen had stumbled upon my blog by searching 'original book cover dracula'.

So, I figure, why not help them out? Here's what the original cover of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) looked like:

Fine Books & Collections

It was published by Archibald Constable and Company, though there's some dispute about the precise date of publication (day and month, not year; though 26 May is the standard)–and a Colonial edition may have preceded it. Id be surprised if that was the case, though. As it stands, this is the official one. 

On 5 April 2012, Constable released a facsimile edition of the 1897 original, amended with an introduction by Colm Tóibín. What's not so well-known, is that the company produced an abridged version of the book in 1901. However, according to, 'It is unknown whether the changes were made by Stoker or by an editor at Constable.'

Hope that helps, anonymous from Wiesbaden, Hessen!

The eBay experience

I don't use eBay much these days–why bother, when I can bulk buy on Amazon or use free shipping sites?–nonetheless, I do browse it from time to time.

Ebay's primary virtue, to me, is the rarity of the items it sometimes hosts. Case-in-point: Dracula: truth and terror (left), a 1996 CD-ROM featuring the late Raymond T. McNally. Many will recognise him as the co-author of In search of Dracula (1972; 1994). 

I first heard about the CD-ROM in Elizabeth Miller's Dracula: sense & nonsense (2000). She critiqued the accuracy of a statement made in it. So, it's not an essential work–hell, I'm wondering how I'm even going to view it on my computer–but a curio. 

According to Entertainment Weekly's review, the CD-ROM 'features an annotated, searchable version of Bram Stoker's Dracula; several ''real'' vampire biographies, like that of medieval Transylvania's Vlad the Impaler; and an interactive map of vampire myths and happenings.' 

It adds, 'But because these elements aren't interwoven, the CD-ROM remains little more than a coffee-table book, albeit a fascinating one.' Awesome.

Anyway, I purchased the item on 6 December for US $25 (AU $23.71) plus US $1.99 (AU $1.89) shipping. It arrived yesterday. The CD-ROM was safely enclosed in several layers of tight packaging. However, it didn't have a cover. I doublechecked the listing and noticed something I missed toward the end:
We strive to cut costs to be able to offer you the best deal on your discs. We found that we can offer .99 shipping if we ship the disc to you without the original packaging. So we remove the disc from the original case and put it in a protective window sleeve, we then ship it to you in a thick DVD mailer for supreme protection. This auction is for the original disc only. There will be no case included.
Always scrutinise the listing, folks! Nonetheless, I wanted to see if I could still get the cover. I contacted the item's seller–starcds_com–to see if that was possible (18-Dec-12 00:20:52 AEDST):
Good morning,

I got the disc today - and it's fine. I didn't realise till after re-reading your description that I wouldn't be getting the cover with it. But that's my oversight. All good. But can I ask - what happens to its original packaging? Do you still have it or has it been thrown away?
It's always a risk sending follow-up messages like that. You never know how they'll respond. I was ready to report them if they responded with something rude. Instead, I got this (18-Dec-12 01:08):
Hello, there is no telling what happened to the cover but we sure don't still have it. We get so many DVDs in from all places. Some come with covers, some don't, some come in as collections disc only in cases and others have damaged cases. We toss out the bad cases at the time of listing and sell the good cases in "empty DVD case" lots ass all our DVDs are "Disc Only No Case". Thank you for your understanding. I do offer full refunds if you are unhappy with your purchase, simply send it back. You are a great person :) If there is anything else I can do for you please let me know.

That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. I'm love great customer service This guy had it in spades. I was so chuffed, I wrote back with a request (18-Dec-12 04:53:44 AEDST):
That's extremely kind of you! But there'll be no need for a refund. I was just curious. Ok, to be honest - I was hoping on getting it. :P

But that's ok, I understand. You'll get top marks from me. I'm so pleased by your response, do you mind if I share it on my blog?
The response (18-Dec-12 07:43):
Hello, no I don't mind at all. I'm glad you are happy :)
So, I didn't get the cover–but I got a great eBay experience as a trade-off. I'm happy with that! Major props to Myles of for handling the situation brilliantly. Five stars!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Much ado about Yutte

If you've heard of Danish actress, Yutte Stensgaard, at all, chances are it's because of her role as Carmilla Karnstein in Lust for a vampire (1971). If that flick doesn't ring, a bell, this still–or minor variants thereof–might:

The grim gallery

In fact, that's probably one of the few reasons it's remembered at all–unless you're a fan of Tracy's pop tune, 'Strange love'.

Anyway, I was having a read of her IMDb profile yesterday. Two things surprised me. Firstly, she appears to have stopped making films in 1972. Second, the user-submitted bio by 'Dez'. Why did it surprise me? Well, the entry starts off ok:
A former au pair and model, Jytte Stensgaard emigrated to the UK in 1963, hoping to have a successful international film career. Changing her name to the slightly easier to pronounce "Yutte" Stensgaard she ironically didn't make her debut in a British film, but in the Italian movie La ragazza con la pistola (1968) (Girl with a Pistol) which did have some British backing. She then went on to appear in various British movies, mainly of the comedy or horror genre, most famously the lead role in Lust for a Vampire (1971), as well as several television guest roles.
But after mentioning she had 'a six-month stint hosting a game show with British king of comedy, Bob Monkhouse', things take a turn for the decidedly impartial:
After struggling with myopic casting directors, who could not see the beauty and budding talent before them and were happier to just keep casting more established but less beautiful women, Yutte finally gave up and emigrated to the USA in the mid-seventies and took up a job selling air time for a Christian radio station in Oregan [sic].
It then diverts lapses into overt snobbery–despite the author acknowledging her main claim to fame was playing a vampires countess. Once.
Understandably reluctant to make appearances at horror conventions when British film publicists finally started to notice her when it was too late, she did relent and start appearing at a select few in the late 1990s, giving the non-fickle amongst her fans a chance to see her unique radiance once more.
If you thought the slavish adoration of her appearance (at the expense of her acting talents) stopped there, you'd be wrong!
An inimitable beauty the likes of which has never been seen since, Yutte Stensgaard was possibly the biggest loss to movies since that of Sharon Tate.
And that how it wraps up. Going by this summation, it's hard to fathom how cinema's thrived without Yutte's glowing presence. 

The Tate comparison–perhaps inadvertently, going by the author's critical ability–provides another vampire connection. Tate starred in Roman Polanski's 1967 film, Dance of the vampires. However, 'loss' probably wasn't the greatest choice of words, given the circumstances of their departure.

After all, Stengaard merely dropped out of the film industry; Tate was brutally murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. Dez could've shown some restraint with that one.

Tweeting again

Over a year ago, I ditched my Twitter account. Well, I've finally decided to get back on it again. Tonight, in fact.

I think it'd be a great platform to share my blog entries. My new Twitter account's synced to this thing. Unfortunately, I couldn't use my name or 'vampirologist' as a handle (both taken). Couldn't use 'thevampirologist', either, as you can only have 15 characters in a username. It's only one character over. D'oh! Still, I'm happy with the handle I chose.

The Twitter account's linked to this blog. You'll get live feeds of blog entries I post on here and maybe, maybe some other non-blog stuff. I've still gotta verse myself in using the thing properly. That'll happen in time.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Deciphering sources

As someone only acquainted with the English language, one of the most frustrating things about vampire research is that a lot of the good stuff is written in other languages. 

A perfect example leapt out to me while I was reading the 'Historical note' in James M. B. Lyon's novel, Kiss of the butterfly (2011): 'The Djordjevic book Vampiri i druga bica -- Вампири и друга бића (Vampires and Other Beings) exists and constitutes a veritable treasure trove of Balkan vampire lore' (p. 377).

Djordjevic's work is also recommended by another author well-versed in Balkan vampire lore:
The best general study of vampires in what is now Yugoslavia is T. Djordjević, "Vampir i druga bića u našem narodnom verovanju i predanju," published in the Serbican Academy of Sciences series, Srpski Etnografski Zbornik, knj. LXVI, Second Series "Život i običaji narodni," knj. 30, Beograd, 1953, pp. 149-219.1
'T. Djordjević' is Tihomir Djordjevic–or Tihomir R. Đorđević–depending on which transcription you use. Wait till you get to his name's Serbian Cyrillic spelling: Тихомир Ђорђевић. Yikes.

As it happens, I've tracked down what appears to be the work in question (below)–but I'm left with several quandaries. 

 Firstly, how on earth do I even begin to cite this bastard–little alone be able to read it? 

Second, the date on the first page is given as 1952–but the citation listed (which corresponds with the copy I've found) is given as 1953. What's the deal with that? 

Thirdly, if we follow Fine's reference, we're dealing with an article. An incredibly substantial article, sure–but an article nonetheless. So why does Lyon refer to a book? Is it possible the article was a 'teaser'? Or is the article an extract from a book?

Fourth, much like the work's subject–this appears to have risen from the grave: Djordjević died in 1944. Does that mean the work appeared in an earlier source? Quite possibly. I'll look into it. And, as usual, reader feedback's welcome.

1. JVA Fine, Jr., 'In defense of vampires: Church/State efforts to stop vigilante action against vampires in Serbia during the first reign of Miloš Obrenovic', East European Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 1, 1987, p. 23, n1.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Moore trouble

Earlier this year, I reported the case of a Facebook member whose Dracula fanpage was swiped under unusual circumstances, despite Dracula (1897) being public domain.

Something similar has befallen Andrew Moore of Nosferatu TV fame:
Earlier today I have recived [sic] a cease order and had to take down all my movies, which I had searched and found to be in the public domain, the order was given to me by the StudioCanal Video distrobustion [sic] company out of the United Kingdom, though I live in the United States, untill [sic] this issue is resolved there will only be news and reviews and on the website, and possible podcasts, though untill [sic] this is all done I will keep them down.
Was StudioCanal Video right to issue a cease and desist notice against Moore? We'll wait and see...

Though it's not immediately clear which movies were supposedly in violation of the company's rights, Nosferatu (1922)–at least, the non restored version–is public domain.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Whitby Vampire

Let's nip this one in the bud. Some of you may've heard about the Whitby Vampire. Apparently, a 'story was printed in the Whitby Telegraph on Friday 23rd March 2012' which was 'withdrawn by the newspaper just before it went on sale.'

An 'unnamed worker' salvaged one copy of the paper before all other copies were destroyed. Fortuitously, the issue features images of the supposed vampire–the only ones in public existence, because the rest were seized by 'government officials the same day'.

The vampire in question was a small, shrivelled bat-thing impaled through the chest 'with an iron spike containing a rolled up parchment of the Lord's Prayer in Latin.' It has some rather obvious Dracula (1897) parallels:
In the remote North Yorkshire town of Whitby, the setting for Bram Stoker's gothic novel Dracula, a recent discovery may suggest that he took inspiration for his book from something much closer to home than the 15th century Vlad the Impaler.
The story has been shared by credulous sources like identity-theft group, The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society (not to be confused with the legit group of the same name).

The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society

Where do I begin? Firstly, the photographic 'evidence' of the 'man-bat' tells us the images are property of Aldbrough University's Anthropology Department:

The Whitby Vampire

The story is accompanied by an interview with Rabbi Shachnaey, who 'claims to have successfully slain over 15 vampires in the last 40 years.' His identity is obscured by a black bar across his eyes.

Shachnaey can't hide behind a Google Image search, though, which reveals 'Rabbi Shachnaey' is actually Roni Shachnaey, an Israeli magician. He 'has had lifetime career in magic, mentalism, readings, and the bizarre.' Not vampire hunting, I'm afraid.

Lastly, what about the paper the article appeared in? The Whitby Telegraph? Yeah, about that–there's no such paper.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Upcoming books 5

For the previous instalment, click here. This latest round-up pleases me greatly: it seems there's a shift toward academic vampire works. As there bloody well should be! If I was to pick a theme, I'd say they embody the vampire's formative process. Take a look-see.

30 November 2012

The Twilight mind: Twilight saga psychology skills / Julie-Anne Sykley

Amazon says the book was already released on 16 November, but the publisher site gives the 30 November date. Take your pick. According the publisher site, 'The Twilight Saga is not just a vampire tale. It is a powerful psychological thriller about deep desire, self-discovery defying misery and achieving happiness against all odds.' I'll bet. I do wonder how many more Twilight tomes will be released in the wake of the series' final (?) film instalment, Breaking dawn–part 2. I'm guessing they'll start drying up.

Also, good to see this one's written by a fellow Australian. There are very few in the non-fiction vampire book stakes. Only Ken Gelder and David Keyworth spring to mind.

24 December 2012

Transnational and postcolonial vampires: dark blood / Tabish Khair & Johan Höglund (eds)

To all intents and purposes, an academic vampire work with an ethnic flavour. The book's description is a bit of a mouthful, though: 'Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires is a unique and timely collection that examines the past and present vampire narrative as a postcolonial and transnational phenomenon. Through a series of important contributions by well-known scholars in the field, it illustrates how vampires have mapped and continues to map the fear of the Other, the ravenous hunger of Empires and the transcultural rifts and intercultural common grounds that make up global society today.' Sure, ok. Nonetheless, it does sound intriguing.

8 January 2013

The modern vampire and human identity / Deborah Mutch (ed.)

Going by the book's description–'The essays offer readings of the modern vampire as a complex consideration of our modern human selves. Now that we no longer see the vampire as essentially evil, what does that say about us?'–it sounds Mutch has followed in the footsteps lead by Nina Auerbach's 1995 book, Our vampires, ourselves.

1 February 2013

The rise of the vampire / Erik Butler

Though not stated in its description, I can't help wondering if this book serves as a sequel to Metamorphoses of the vampire in literature and film: cultural transformations in Europe, 1732-1933 (2010). If it's anything like that one, get it. Butler knows his stuff when it comes to the undead.

It's published by Reaktion Books, the same guys behind Matthew Beresford's popular 2008 book, From demons to Dracula: the creation of the modern vampire myth.

4 April 2013

Who was Dracula?: Bram Stoker's trail of blood / Jim Steinmeyer

This book says it will be 'Hunting through archives and letters, literary and theatrical history, and the relationships and events that gave shape to Stoker’s life, Steinmeyer reveals the people and stories behind the Transylvanian legend . . . he shows how Stoker drew on material from the careers of literary contemporaries Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde; reviled personas such as Jack the Ripper and the infamous fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes'–which, as anyone who's familiar with Elizabeth Miller's work will know, sounds a helluva lot like literary guesswork. We'll see.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The not-so-original cameo

I was having a browse through Facebook earlier today, when I noticed something shared on my friend's wall:


I immediately recognised the image–as I'm sure many of you probably will. Nonetheless, I decided to give its 'creator', Diamond*Star*Halo, the benefit of the doubt and checked out their page listing. Instead of acknowledging of the piece's source, I found this:
This piece is not for the timid. The Succubus slinks across her prey in an ornate, antique silver tone setting full of rhinestones.
This original cameo was designed by me and is not to be replicated in any manner.
It takes a lot of balls to tell other people not to replicate a piece that has been replicated from elsewhere. The image is derived–sorry, I meant ripped-off–from an 1897 painting by Philip Burne-Jones: 

Art of the beautiful-grotesque

 It wasn't called Succubus, either. It's actual name? The vampire. It's very well-known image. It's graced the covers of non-fiction works like Nicolaus Equiamicus' Vampire: Von damals bis(s) heute (2010), Joachim Nagel's Vampire: Mythische Wesen der Nacht and Wolfgang Schwerdt's Vampire, Wiedergänger und Untote. Auf der Spur der lebenden Toten (both 2011).

And Diamond*Star*Halo would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for this pesky vampirologist!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Vampiric strength

The occasional Scott Brown
'This vampire which is amongst us is of himself so strong in person as twenty men,' notes Van Helsing. The vampire's strength is one of its popular characteristics. The trope is upheld in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga.

Does this literary and cinematic device have a folkloric precedent? Actually, it does. S.G.B. St. Clair and Charles A. Brophy discussed the vampiric state of their servant's father, apparently in the early stages of vampirism:
One night he seized by the waist (for vampires are capable of exercising considerable physical force) Kodja Keraz, the Pehlivan or champion wrestler of Derekuoi, crying out, "Now then, old Cherry Tree, see if you can throw me." The village champion put forth all his strength, but the vampire was so heavy that Kodja Keraz broke his own jaw in throwing the invisible being who was crushing him to death.1
That must've looked quite a sight. Interestingly, vampire invisibility is also found in other regions. Vukanović noted 'in the villages of Upper and Lower Srbica, they think that a vampire is only visible to his son Dhampir, to a magician or sorceror, and to nobody else'.2

2. 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. 3–4, 1958, p. 114.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


A year goes by, another Hallowe'en arrives!  To commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd share a few snippets of vampirey goodness. And lots of links. Oh, so many links.

Firstly, The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society–which I co-admin–has celebrated its first anniversary. We've progressed from a 'den of vipers' with six members to 102 strong. As of this writing. Our success even inspired a clone.

If you're interested in joining, it's free. Well, our 'base' is Facebook, after all. Here's our group and our page. If you're thinking 'Highgate Cemetery Vampire Wha–?', read this article. It deals with one of the most infamous and contested cases in vampire history.

Oh, I also co-admin Vampire lore and legends and Count Dracula. The latter has personal significance. It was born from the ashes of a swiped Facebook group. Unfortunately, its original owner wasn't able to reclaim it, but the group set-up in its stead rapidly gained support and sizable membership. Both groups are great. Join us there, too.

Speaking of memberships, I've just renewed my Transylvanian Society of Dracula membership. Literally. Today. That's not free, unfortunately, but still fairly cheap–an annual fee of $30. Canadian. Here's what membership gets you (courtesy of the society's page):
  • our quarterly newsletter, The Borgo Post
  • a free copy of our annual scholarly publication, the Journal of Dracula Studies
  • access to the Membership Directory
  • occasional in-house publications
  • on request, access to various resource materials held by the TSD office
  • updated information on conferences and Dracula tours, as well as discounts on TSD-sponsored events
If that tickles your fancy, come join us. Last year, I wrote a significant article for The Borgo Post. It was 'the first vampire-related article I've submitted for a print publication. Ever.' You can read it here.

My ghoulish heart was touched by a young girl having the audacity to tell Pippa Middleton that she wasn't interested in princesses, but by certain other creatures of the night...

On 29 October, I received my copy of The undead and theology (Eugene, Or.: Pickwick Publications, 2012). That was another personal investment. A financial one, this time. I've discussed the development of that book here, here and here.

In order to ensure its publication, a Kickstarter fund was set-up. I'm proud to be one of its sponsors. One of the great hindrances of vampire scholarship–though, admittedly, this book covers other undead, too–is that it's such a niche field of interest, with niches of its own. 

It's a shame its editors, Kim Paffenroth and John W. Morehead, had to resort to donations, but it also means we could be seeing more and more DIY projects emerge. I welcome that. It'll encourage more authors to get their stuff out there, rather than be deterred by rejections from mainstream publishers. Sure, that also means that there'd also be a lot of crappy output to sort through–but that's no different to what we generally deal with now, anyway. 

This particular book doesn't fall into the crappy pile, thankfully. It's a well-produced and researched book. Kudos to Kim, John, its contributors, donors and Wipf and Stock. You can buy the book through its publisher or Amazon.

As mentioned in my previous post, 'my Amazon trawlings have upturned a cache of upcoming books I'm really enthused about.' That post is still on the way, but I'll disclose one of them–as it's no longer 'upcoming', but out. 

Tanya Erzen's Fanpire: the Twilight saga and the women who love it was released on 30 October. The timing couldn't be better, what with the last movie in the series–The twilight saga: breaking dawn – part 2–due for release on 16 November. 

I also suspect it'll represent a turning point in the Twilight craze, especially as a lot of its literary thunder's been stolen by E. L. James' 'Fifty shades trilogy'. A bit of a kick in the guts, as it spun off from Twilight fan-fic. We'll probably see one last heave of vampire books in the wake of the movie's release, before things die down again and the next boom comes along.

That said, I'd be very surprised if we ever see anything as mainstreamly successful as Twilight was. Sure, Stoker's Dracula developed into a myth, an archetype–but that took decades to cultivate. Meanwhile, Meyers' saga scored her millions in a short time frame, even threatening to topple the success of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. It blows my mind. 

Therefore, books like Erzen's will ironically outlast the saga's success and provide a snapshot of 21st century vampire fandom. What exactly was it about these books that made them so successful, especially as we're awash with–probably–thousands of other vampire novels? What's the appeal? Either way, it's on my wish list. You can buy the book from its publisher or Amazon.

Last but not least, I thought I'd share a tune to celebrate the Hallowe'en festivities. It's not vampire-related–yes, much disappointment all round–but it's a good 'un, nonetheless. Presenting, Stephen Lynch's 'Halloween'. 

This particular version features Lynch on Last call with Carson Daly (31 October 2003). It's also available on his 2005 album, The Craig machine.

And on that note, I wish all my readers a safe and Happy Hallowe'en! Enjoy your treats.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Belated anniversary musings

Time flies. I just remembered that my blog's first anniversary has come and gone. You see, I started this blog on 20 September 2011 as an offshoot to my previous effort, Diary of an amateur vampirologist. Amazing. It's been more than a year, already.

You've probably noticed I haven't been updating as much of late. Life's been getting in the way. Also, few things have been inspiring me to write here. I don't see this blog as a 'job', so much as an outlet of expression. I only write about vampy things that interest me—and not much has been piquing my interest in the vampire world, lately. At least, not enough to write about.

For instance, I did wind up watching the Dark shadows remake—on DVD. It was as shite as I expected it to be. House of dark shadows (1970) is far-superior to Burton's airbrushed comedy-horror. See that, instead.

That's not to say I've been totally dormant. I've been active in my role as co-admin of The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Appreciation Society. The group's anniversary's coming up on 27 October. Come join us!

The thing that broke the dryspell was being tipped-off about the 30 October 2012 Jonathan Ferguson lecture. I'm genuinely excited by that. If I was anywhere near Leeds, I'd be there in a heartbeat! If you're able, check it out. 

Dr Leo Ruickbie's witchcraft blog
Ferguson wrote the brilliant 'To kill a vampire' article for Fortean Times, no. 288 (2012). Grab that issue (left) if you can. It features another excellent article, by Leo Ruickbie. Readers may recognise him as the author of A brief guide to the supernatural (2012).

A brief guide serves as a classic example to why you (ok, I) shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I was expecting a threadbare pop-culture treatment, but it's incredibly well-researched. Ruickbie certainly knows his stuff. I bought it along with a stack of other books in my latest 'book spree'. Stay tuned for a write-up on that.

Speaking of things to watch out for, my Amazon trawlings have upturned a cache of upcoming books I'm really enthused about. What did I find? Stay tuned for that, too!

I mentioned that not much had been interesting me in the vampire world of late, but there is something that caught my attention. Andrew M. Boylan recently interviewed Mark Devendorf and Mauricio Chernovetzky—who're responsible for an upcoming adaptation of J. Sheridan LeFanu's 'Carmilla', Styria.

There was a particular portion of the interview I found particularly intriguing:
T_ttlg: Your research tied suicide with vampirism… more specifically mass suicides. Could you tell us more about that?

MC: Yes, what Mark and I realized was that Vampirism not only occurred in the past, but it still happening today. Sociologists and psychologists have simply given it a more scientific name: "Suicide Clusters."

MD: These cases all follow a similar pattern: In a small community or town, one person dies or commits suicide. Soon another person, usually a friend or relative is haunted by the dead person until they fall ill or kill themselves. Soon, then the "infection" spreads until dozens are dead. Barring communicable diseases, the only explanation pre-modern villagers had was the supernatural notion they called "Vampirism." 
It sounds like a compelling theory and I'd love to read more on it, but I'd give it credence if suicides were a predominant characteristic of vampire cases. They're not. 

The pattern's similar, mind you—someone in the community or family dies; those visited by their 'ghost' die soon after. Repeat. 

But the victims don't kill themselves. They die soon shortly after visitation in circumstances similar to psychosomatic disorder.

Troll meme generator
Or, in the case of New England 'vampire' attacks, waste away from something 'suspiciously' sharing symptoms with tuberculosis—as tastefully rendered by this meme I just created (above). I hearby dedicate it to Michael E. Bell, author of the brilliant Food for the dead (2001).

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the members of this blog, my readers and casual browsers, alike. You guys make it worthwhile. Cheers!

A stake in vampire killing kits

At the 7:29 mark, we see a bunch of people getting ripped-off during an auction—inadvertently, it would seem, but the auctioneers. It's taken from the season 1, episode 1 edition of Auction kings (26 October 2010).

If you can't be arsed watching the clip, a vampire killing kit winds up being sold to a telephone bidder for US$12,000—far higher than the US$7,500 asking price.

A seller named 'Edwin'—who repeatedly emphasises that he's keen to make a down payment on his house—had presented a supposedly antique vampire killing kit to Paul Brown.

Brown is clearly impressed by the kit, but drafts his father, Bob, in to take another look. Much to my amazement, Bob gives it the seal of approval—but tellingly recounts a story commonly associated with such kits (10:13). Indeed, it's even been established that he's sold 'two or three of these kits' before (2:55). 

He's also familiar with the exorbitant prices they sell for, likely on account of their pseudohistory; namely, that they were manufactured in Europe during the 19th century for use by travellers against the undead. 

Bob does little more than glance it over; a common practice when such kits are 'examined'. The stories seem proof enough, even though no auction house or museum—including Ripley's—has actually verified the associated tales.

Thankfully, not everyone falls for this routine. In the 24 October 2011 episode of Pawn stars, 'Rick or treat', a seller tries to palm one off for US$9,000. Thankfully, Rick Harrison immediately sees through it. 'There's some stuff that doesn't make sense to me . . .' (3:11); the kit utilises vampire lore associated with Stoker's novel, Dracula (1897), for instance, a mirror—that looks remarkably clean for something well-over 100 years old.

Stoker invented the vampires-don't-have-a-reflection-in-mirrors trope, which automatically pushes the kit's date further up the 19th century. Harrison also takes issue with the 'obsolete' gun included in the kit, recognising that it's something that's been retroactively added to the kit. I'm glad that some dealers don't take these things hook, line and sinker.

Unfortunately, 'antique vampire killing kits' are a thriving trade. I call it the Blomberg Effect: what likely started as a few novelty kits manufactured in the 1970s, soon turned into a 'trade' as media coverage revealed the kits selling for ludicrous prices. The rest, onward, are cash-ins—like this US$4,995 example by Tracy L. Conway.

'Antique' vampire killing kits are fake. They're generally cobbled from actual antique components—be it firearms, Bibles or prayer books, or the kit box, itself—and other items which are artificiality aged. They often come associated with a backstory—their main claim to 'authenticity' is that they were manufactured in the 19th century as a traveller's item for journeys in Europe. Occasionally the name 'Ernst Blomberg' or 'Nicolas Pomdeur' will be mentioned.

The weapons and wards in the kits, however, are often post-Stoker allusions to vampire lore. Remember, Stoker's Dracula was fiction, not a chronicle of vampire lore. He was at liberty to make stuff up. Auction houses and museums aren't.

Caveat emptor!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

How to kill a vampire

I was recently contacted by Julia Lumley, Royal Armouries' Communications Officer, who asked me if I'd be 'interested in a talk by Jonathan Ferguson, titled How to Kill a Vampire, where he will be talking about the various means of slaying vampires in both folklore and fiction, including the real story behind the mysterious vampire killing kits.'1

Readers may recall Ferguson from the previous entry—he is the Curator of the Royal Armouries in Leeds. He also wrote a brilliant article for Fortean Times (no. 288, 2012) called, 'To kill a vampire', which concerns itself with the glut of supposedly antique vampire killing kits that've been appearing in museums and auction houses within the last two decades. I think it's fair to say that Ferguson is an expert on the topic.

Lumley's email added, 'There will also be a chance to see the kit up close' and 'Is this something you would be interested in featuring on your blog as a follow up story?' Wouldn't I!

Unfortunately, I can't see the talk or the kit up close—as much as I've love to—because I'm on the other side of the world. 

However, if you're in the UK, near there or even planning a visit, Ferguson will be giving his lecture on 30 October 2012, 6.30pm at the Royal Armouries' Bury Theatre, Leeds. His talk concerns
the various means of slaying vampires in both folklore and fiction, including the real story behind the mysterious vampire killing kits.
How much will the lecture cost? A measly £5. That's it.

The lecture goes for an hour and a half and you get to see one of these fabled kits up close. Cheaper than a movie. 

Lumley's also provided me with a stack of promotional pics to share2—the ones that line this blog entry. I pass them onto you, dear reader.

So, what do you think guys? Are you up for it? If you're able, do it. It's a fantastic opportunity and Ferguson certainly knows his stuff. Don't miss out!

1. J Lumley, email, Friday, 12 October 2012 2:04:25 AM.  

2. ibid.; J Lumley, email, Monday, 15 October 2012 8:03:00 PM.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Update 2

For the previous instalment, click here. So, what's been happening lately? Firstly, I decided to do some 'chasing'.

After mentioning the upcoming Kickstarter-sponsored book, The undead and theology, I got to thinking about something else I'm incredibly keen to see published: the papers presented at 'Vampire (&) science: a trans-disciplinary conference'. Why? Here's a list (pdf) of them. What a brilliant cornucopia!

The last I heard about it, the event's organiser—Clemens Ruthner—was shopping around academic publishers. Has any progress been made? I emailed him on Tuesday and got this response: 'Yes, we are discussing a publication entitled Vampire(&)Science, same title as the conference', adding 'I should know more after the summer. You can gladly post it' (Tuesday, 3 July 2012 6:58:25 PM). Sweeet!

Speaking of the Kickstarter project, it's coming along nicely. One of its editors, John W. Morehead, sent me the typeset manuscript on 26 July. It looks great. In fact, the book's cover was publicly unveiled today (left).

On the 27th and 28th, I submitted revisions for W. Scott Poole's chapter, 'The vampire that haunts Highgate: theological evil, Hammer horror, and the Highgate vampire panic in Britain, 1963–1974'. Some readers may recognise his name from a recently-published book called Monsters in America: our historical obsession with the hideous and the haunting (2011). It's one of many on my Amazon Wishlist.

The first part of the book concerns itself with vampires, consisting four essays by Vicky Gilpin ('Vampires and female spiritual transformation'), Joseph Laycock ('Crossing the spiritual wasteland in Priest'), Jarrod Longbons ('Vampires are people, too: personalism in the Buffyverse') and, of course, Poole.

If you're a zombie or 'other undead' fan, there's goodies for you, too.

A coupla reprints got caught up in my Amazonian trawlings for upcoming books; but there was one more I missed. It turns out David McNally's Marxist study, Monsters of the market: zombies, vampires, and global capitalism—mentioned here—has actually been published before.

BRILL, an academic publisher based in Amsterdam, released it last year. In hardback. I'm guessing the paperback reprint is intended for a broader audience, because the xii, 296 pp. hardback edition goes for €99.00 ($136). Yikes!

I was saddened to find out about the passing of my favourite photographer, Simon Marsden; but surprised to find out it happened several months ago.

Palazzo Editions
Marsden's last book, Vampires: the twilight world—'Published to coincide with the film releases of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part I) and Brad Pitt's Vlad, about the life of the real Dracula' (left)—was released 6 October 2011.

 I grew up with Marsden. The first book of his I read—ok, flicked through—was Phantoms of the Isles: further tales from the haunted realm (1990). Borrowed it from my local library. At the time, I was deeply into the supernatural—particularly ghosts.

That lead to his 1994 book, The journal of a ghost hunter, which, unlike Phantom, features some vampire content. With hindsight, story-teller's a better description for Marsden than 'ghost hunter'. Nonetheless, what an incredible legacy he's left us with. He sought out supposedly haunted locations for his shots; and other settings associated with horror and the supernatural. His main influence was Poe. The pictures themselves, are wonderfully broody and atmospheric. See for yourself via his archive. Simon Marsden, R.I.P.

The Royal Armouries in Leeds recently acquired a '19th century vampire-slaying kit'. I've written about such kits before—here, here and here. I've even interviewed the man primarily responsible for obtaining the world's largest collection of these supposedly 'antique' kits.

If you're not familiar with my position on these kits, here goes: they're fake. There's no contemporary evidence for their manufacture. Their back-stories are highly dubious. They often feature 19th century artefacts—like pistols, prayer books or Bibles—but other components are artificially aged. Despite this, they often sell for thousands at auction houses.

In this case, the Royal Armouries purchase is intriguing because it was apparently 'left to a Yorkshire woman in her uncle’s will'. However, the article also notes:
“We’ve yet to establish a firm date for our kit,” added [Curator, Jonathan] Ferguson.

“It’s Victorian in the sense that it’s made of Victorian components and intended to represent something from the mid-19th century.

“It’s 20th century in terms of when it was actually put together, inspired by post-Dracula vampire fiction.

“We will be carrying out tests to confirm the facts, but we know it will attract a lot of interest from our visitors.”
It's good to see some balance in the curator's comments, but it does make me wonder why the armoury bothered acquiring the kit, without validating its date first.

Speaking of which, I picked up a copy of Fortean Times (no. 288) on 13 July. The cover story was 'To kill a vampire' by Jonathan Ferguson—the guy mentioned in the previous article. His article details the history and prevalence of vampire killing kits. Certainly worth the cover price.

Considering the quality of the article, I was honoured to see I'd been cited four times in his list of references. Cheers, Jonathan!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Upcoming books 4

Dr. Bob Curran
In the previous instalment, I mentioned a few details had to be sorted before publishing this follow-up. Essentially, there were two upcoming books I'd stumbled upon. They seemed 'familiar', so I double-checked whether or not they were reprints—by contacting their authors.

While that was going on, I also received two updates on upcoming works—one's only just been published. Therefore, this is the first edition of 'Upcoming books' to feature a 'Special mention' and 'Update'!

25 September 2012


Fangs: everything the modern vampire needs to know / Amy Gray

Readers may be familiar with Gray's previous book, How to be a vampire: a fangs-on guide for the newly undead (2009). Is this a follow-up? I had my suspicions, as the subtitle indicates a very similar theme. So I contacted Gray by e-mail, asking whether it was an original or a reprint.1 She said, 'Fangs is a reprint of the 2009 title. From what I understand, it's a rejacket so the only difference is the cover art', adding 'It's a little bit of a shame because there is so much more content I wanted to add about the history and archetype of vampires in cultures around the world.'2 A shame, indeed. Including her extra material could've at least justified the book's retitling as a new or revised edition, but there you go.

30 September 2012


Dracula / Elizabeth Miller

I didn't realise this book in Parkstone Press' 'Temporis' series might be a reprint, until I saw its inclusion on Kyle Van Helsing's blog: 'So anyways, this book is a hardcover edition of a previous release.' That info isn't mentioned in the book's Amazon description. How did he know? Trawling through the Amazons, I did find references to a similar work published on 1 February 2001 and 15 June 2001; both hardcover. Miller's publications page lists, 'Dracula. 134 illustrations. New York: Parkstone Press, 2001. Also available in French and German editions.' Might this version be an update? On June 28, I posted a message on Miller's Facebook page, asking whether the book was a reprint. She said, 'It's a reprint - so is not as up-to-date as it could have been. Published initially by Parkstone Press (2001) in coffee-table book format in English, French & German.' Mystery solved.

1 October 2012


The rise and fall of the femme fatale: from gothic novel to vampire tale / Heather L. Braun

A femme fatale is 'is a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.' The vampire connection was established by the 'vamp', a figure made popular by Philip Burne-Jones' 1897 painting, The vampire and Theda Bara's movie stardom. I'm aware of at least two other books specifically devoted to this subject: Andrea Weiss' Vampires and violets: lesbians in film (1993) and Pam Keesey's Vamps: an illustrated history of the femme fatale (1997). However, Braun's subtitle suggests an emphasis on the vampiric aspect. Will it pan out? Wait and see.

22 October 2012


American vampires: their true bloody history from New York to California / Bob Curran

Readers may be familiar with Curran's other vampire works, namely, Bloody Irish: great Irish vampire stories (2002), Vampires: a field guide to the creatures that stalk the night (2005), Encyclopedia of the undead: a field guide to creatures that cannot rest in peace (2006), Vampires (2007) and Biblio vampiro: an essential guide to vampires and, more importantly, how to avoid them (2010). The book's Amazon description suggests it'll be in the 'field guide' vein tapped into by contemporaries like Jonathan Maberry and Theresa Bane: 'The vampires that lurk in the American darkness come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can produce some surprising results.' Will it be in the same league as Michael E. Bell's Food for the dead: on the trail of New England's vampires (2001), the works of Christopher Rondina or even Thomas D'Agostino's A history of vampires in New England (2010)? I'd be surprised if it actually did anything substantially new to the genre. We'll see.

23 October 2012


Medusa's gaze and vampire's bite: the science of monsters / Matt Kaplan

Though vampires feature prominently in the title, this work will cover a variety of monstrous wonders: 'What caused ancient Minoans to create the tale of the Minotaur that was imprisoned in a subterranean maze? Did dragons really exist? What inspired the creation of vampires and werewolves, and why have they endured as figures of horror?' I'd be surprised if the coverage given to the origin of the vampire myth will be very substantial, but the author's credentials as a 'noted science journalist and enthusiast of both the hard facts of science and the fantastic fictions of myth' are certainly intriguing.

23 November 2012


New vampire cinema / Ken Gelder

Gelder's best-known in vampire circles for Reading the vampire (1994), one of the more popular academic works on the undead. At first, I thought this might be a retitled reprint, till I read its description: 'A study of around forty vampire films, from 1992 to 2010. This book looks at new vampire cinema as a genre, asking what is at stake when the cinematic vampire and the modern world encounter each other'. Should be good.

Special mention

Last year, I mentioned a book in the works by Andy M. Boylan, author of vampire movie review blog, Taliesin meets the vampires. On 29 June, he informed me of the publication of his book via Facebook: 'just to let you know the reference book is out. Only on Lulu at the mo but should be picked up through Amazon etc soon.'

He also said I'm 'referenced twice' in the book. Nice! Boylan's book was published on 28 June. It's called The media vampire: a study of vampires in fictional media. It's sure to be a worthy addition to your wish lists. In the meantime, here's some 'shameless self-promotion'.


You may also recall my involvement in a Kickstarter project to help publish a book called The undead and theology. Here's the latest status on the book by its editor, John W. Morehead:
Among other things, working on manuscript for Theology and the Undead with Kim Paffenroth. Our editor at Wipf & Stock considers this a collection of quality pieces of academic work on a very interesting subject." A few questions to answer and then we move to first proofs to check.
Good to see it's coming along nicely.

Boylan's tip-off highlights an issue I'd like to address. My primary source for upcoming non-fiction vampire books is Amazon. However, Amazon isn't the only online marketplace for books—but it is the most accessible, convenient and well-known. 

So, if you're an author whose upcoming non-fiction vampire book doesn't appear on Amazon, feel free to let me know. Reprints—retitled or otherwise—don't count, though. But revised editions do. My contact details are on my profile page.

1. A Hogg, email, Thursday, 28 June 2012 3:46:02 PM.  

2. A Gray, email, Friday, 29 June 2012 9:21:02 AM.
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