Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amazonian spending spree 2, pt. 2

As mentioned, I went on an Amazonian book-buying spree recently. Time for a look at the next batch that arrived.

On July 22nd, I received five books in the mail, which were ordered at different times through Amazon or Not all were explicitly about vampires, though, but have some bearing on the topic.
Title: The uninvited, True tales of the unknown vol. 2 (New York: Bantam Books, 1989)
Author: Sharon Jarvis (ed.)
Date ordered: 14 July 2011
Price: AUD 0.73
Why'd I buy it? I was recently scrolling through Google News Archives for vampirologist articles. Found some stuff on vampirologist, Stephen Kaplan (1940-1995), which mentioned his contribution to this volume. For the record, his contribution - written by the editor (as all the other accounts were) concerned his attendance at a Dark shadows convention (pp. 20-36) at which a 'real' vampire was supposed to be present. I was nonplussed to read that Kaplan had also contributed to the previous volume (p. xii), so I'll have to seek that one out, too. Yeah, I'm a completist. Other than that, there's little scholarly value to be had by books like this.

Title: Chupacabras and other mysteries (Murfreesboro, Tenn. : Greenleaf Publications, 1997)
Author: Scott Corrales
Date ordered: 14 July 2011
Price: AUD 9.02
Why'd I buy it? The chupacabra (goat sucker) was big in the mid-90s. It was said to drain animals of their blood - hence its name - and is essentially a modern-day incarnation of the vampire myth. I also liked the the book's publication date was contemporary with reports and that its author examined both English and Spanish language sources. Also, it's not often you come across a book primarily devoted to the legendary beast.

Title: Vampireology: the true history of the Fallen Ones (Dorking, U.K.: The Templar Company, 2010)
Author: Archibald Brooks (Nicky Raven)
Date ordered: 8 July 2011
Price: £9.38
Why'd I buy it? Honestly? It's one of the few books out there with 'vampirology' in the title. More of a novelty than anything, because you won't find much of use in the book useful for serious research. It's practically a work of fiction, as its narrative recounts the studies and adventures of a vampire hunter and the mythology ('Fallen Ones') behind the vampires he encounters. Such 'handbooks' are almost a subgenre in themselves, even to the point of being 'written' by a fictional character - often a descendant or relative of Abraham Van Helsing, e.g. Vampyre: the terrifying lost journal of Dr. Cornelius Van Helsing (2007) and Raphael Van Helsing's The vampire hunter's handbook (2007). Or, in at least one case, Abraham Van Helsing, himself (Traité de vampirologie, 2009).

Title: A brief history of vampires (London: Robinson & Philadelphia: Running Press, 2010)
Author: M.J. Trow
Date ordered: 8 July 2011
Price: £8.09
Why'd I buy it? Had my eye on this one for a while. The title says it all, really. That said, an inordinate amount of the book's content (pp. 109-330) is devoted to (sigh) Vlad the Impaler. Authors! He was not a friggin' vampire. As Elizabeth Miller has exposed time and time again, his contribution to vampire literature is minimal, at best, namely, his name and a brief biographical sketch. That's it. Enough with the Vlad, already!

Title: From demons to Dracula: the creation of the modern vampire myth (London: Reaktion Books, 2009)
Author: Matthew Beresford
Date ordered: 8 July 2011
Price: £9.72
Why'd I buy it? I've borrowed a copy of this book before and I like the idea of tracing the vampire's evolution. However, this particular copy was a reprint, which I wasn't pleased about. The original was published in 2008. I wrote back to about it and...I'll write about that experience in a future blog entry (don't worry, it was a good one).
There's two more entries in the 'Amazonian spending spree 2' series to go. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tracking the first 'true' vampire

I recently received an interesting comment from bshistorian, which gave me some food for thought: who was the first 'true' vampire?

As I've mentioned many times in this blog, I'm a proponent of the 'modern' vampire theory, that is, vampires aren't as ancient or universal as many writers claim them to be. For starters, the word, 'vampire', is a relatively recent addition to our vocabulary. Superficial on the surface, sure, but I'll elaborate on its significance later. First, here's the relevant portions from bshistorian's comment:
More directly on topic for your latest post, I've been reading Masters' 'A Natural History of the Vampire', which suffers badly from the 'lumping in' syndrome you describe. Taking his lead from Summers, *everything* becomes somehow evidence of vampire belief - revenants, ghosts, cannibals, serial killers, you name it. But this is an 'old' book - it's when we see this still going on today that I really despair.

Though I said 'early 18th century), would I in fact be right in saying that the 'Jure Grando' incident of 1672 (reported by Valvasor in 1689) is the earliest instance of a 'true' (i.e. bloodsucking) vampire?
In case you're unfamiliar with our friend Jure, bshistorian is referring to a 'vampire' better known as Giure Grando. As bs alludes, [Johann Weichard von] Valvasor is believed to be the earliest source of this case, which he recorded in his 1689 book, Die Ehre deß Hertzogthums Crain (The glory of the Duchy of Carniola).

Rob Brautigam reproduced the relevant portions on the case from Valvasor's book (untranslated), while Niels has noted that the town in which it originally took place, has recently begun capitalising Grando's vampire reputation. The question is, does Grando deserve his 'vampire tag? Was he truly - as his Wikipedia entry says - 'the first classical vampire to be mentioned in documented records'?

Let's boil down the core elements featured in Brautigam's extracts. He has an overview of the case (in English), so I'll be relying on that in tandem with Google Translate for the extracts.*

Firstly, Grando is supposed to have returned from death to torment the living. He visited their homes and members of the household would die shortly after. There is no mention of direct attacks, which draws parallels with the Greek vrykolakas, which, in some cases, was said to knock on a resident's door, and, if answered, would ensure death to the householder. I might examine that aspect at a later time.

Brautigam repeats Dudley Wright's version of events, in that Grando was said to throw his widow 'into a deep sleep with the object of sucking her blood', however this attribute is not found in the Valvasor extracts, suggesting a latter-day embellishment.

In terms of the extracts, it's clear Grando wasn't called a 'vampire', either. At least, not locally or contemporary with the time the incident was recorded. Instead, supernatural beings of his type were called 'Strigon', as the Valvasor mentions. While this term - on the surface - bears a marked resemblance to the Romanian strigoi, which, itself, is often described as Romania's version of the vampire, that does not necessarily mean the word is a synonym. For instance, 'vampire' is rendered as vampir in Romanian and is of comparatively modern use, indicating the word had to be introduced to the language, otherwise an extant Romanian word would have sufficed. Same principle at work, in this case.

There are, however, other recognisable vampire tropes in the Grando case, so it's obvious to see why the vampire tag's been applied. There is an attempt to drive a stake through his body - as well as mention of the practice being used against others of his type. However, the use of a hawthorn stake (as per Wright's rendering) is not explicit, so I can't help wondering if Wright was trying to draw upon its use in Serbian vampire tradition, even if it wasn't explicitly listed by Valvasor. Apart from the stake, a crucifix is wielded at the 'vampire' while in its grave, however, this does not seem to have been used as a ward, per se, but as part of an exorcism or absolution rite.

The key ingredient missing from the Grando case is the vampire's tendency to suck the blood of its victims. This is a vital component to the vampire tag and this gets us back to my point about the significance behind the word's introduction to our language.

When the Arnold Paole case broke press, journalists and other writers used the local term for revenants of his 'type': 'vampyre' [vampire] and minor variants thereof. And by 'local', I mean the term used in Serbia, where Paole lived. These renderings can be traced to recounts of Flückinger's exhumation report, 'Visum et Repertum' (26 January 1732). In describing beings of Paole's type, Flückinger, himself, wrote 'die sogenannte Vampyrs'.

At the time, this area was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian empire, which is why Paole and/or the region he lived was occasionally - but mistakenly - referred to as Hungarian. Paole, himself, was said to have been attacked by a vampire while stationed in 'Turkish Serbia', i.e. the region of Serbia under Ottoman rule. Therefore, it can be surmised that Serbia is the 'source' of this term. That, in turn, means that components discussed in the Paole case should match up with other local applications of the term. Paole was explicitly said to have sucked his victim's blood after returning from the dead.

However, did Paole have an antecedent? Was there another Serbian revenant, also referred to as a vampire? Was it also described as sucking its victim's blood? Yep.

Enter Peter Plogojovitz. Another Serbian vampire. Another blood-drinker. Also referred to, locally, by the vampire tag ('so nennen Vampyri'). While not as well-known as Paole, his case also garnered press coverage, primarily from the Wienerisches Diarium (25 July 1725). However, despite what we're trying to establish with bshistorian's query about who the 'first' vampire was, Plogojovitz clearly wasn't. The report the Wienerisches Diarium reproduced, mentioned that other villages had been decimated by other such beings, which is why the villagers of Kisolova were so keen to 'dispose' of Plogojovitz in the 'traditional and approved manner': by staking him and cremating his remains. Such events were also said to occur during 'Turkish times', i.e. the period in which that region was under Ottoman rule.

So, is there an earlier version of a being - or person - explicitly referred to as a vampire along with these traits? To my knowledge, no. And Niels seems to agree. Neither us, however, are saying that Plogojovitz was the first vampire, per se, but that he is probably the first named vampire. The first case in which the terms and traits are explicitly fused. At least, that's my interpretation. Therefore, Serbia's vampire 'contribution', essentially, to the world, can not be underestimated. Romania usually takes the credit - thanks to Dracula - but it certainly wasn't the bedrock of the legend.

However, this is where things get murky.

In my original reply to bshistorian, I did allude to sources covering vampires elsewhere. Namely, Poland. When Calmet said, 'In this age, a new scene presents itself to our eyes, and has done for about sixty years in Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, and Poland', he was incorporating references to the 'oupire'.
The public memorials of the years 1693 and 1694 speak of oupires, vampires or ghosts, which are seen in Poland, and above all in Russia. They make their appearance from noon to midnight, and come and suck the blood of living men or animals in such abundance that sometimes it flows from them at the nose, and principally at the ears, and sometimes the corpse swims in its own blood oozed out in its coffin. It is said that the vampire has a sort of hunger, which makes him eat the linen which envelops him. This reviving being, or oupire, comes out of his grave, or a demon in his likeness, goes by night to embrace and hug violently his near relations or his friends, and sucks their blood so much as to weaken and attenuate them, and at least cause their death (p. 52).
The main traits - as well as a marked similarity in name - are present. Plogovitz and Paole were both supposed to strangle their victims ('hug violently'?). However, the method of the 'oupire''s destruction (decapitation and/or 'opening the heart') vary slightly. The term, 'oupire', is clearly derived from the Slavic upir and it's interesting to see that term is occasionally used in lieu of 'vampire' or an obvious derivative.

Naturally, this open the door to a version of the 'universal' vampire theory: if oupire or upir was an antecedent/variant of 'vampire', what other cultural variants are there of the Slavic type? Were they considered to synonymous? To justify that, I would suggest that a direct correlation needs to be established. But I think it's reasonable to conclude that the direct origins of vampire we today can be traced to the localised Serbian variant at least by its name and basic characteristics.

To employ the term, 'vampire' in a broad, generic sense, at least, without showing due respect - and citation of original, localised terms and characteristics - is to obscure and/or obliterate the cultural and local 'variants' (for want of a better description). If a case is to be made that the variants in question were 'the same thing', then a linguistic and cultural genealogy to the Serbian vampire should be established. After all, without the Serbian vampire precedent, there are no other 'vampires', either.**

* I know this isn't the best scholarly aid, but those able to read German are free to correct me if I've made any errors by consulting Brautigam's extract. I will happily cite corrections on this blog.

** This isn't to say that, generally speaking, the vampire label should only be used if it caters to this specific paradigm. After all, that'd make the vampire film and literary genres obsolete. What I'm saying is, yes, I know that the term can be used in a generic sense, especially in respect to its evolution even in our own language, but where folklore studies are concerned, a vampire 'family tree' should be taken into consideration before using the term in a 'universal' context.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trailer trash talk

I've been so apathetic about the Fright night 'reboot' (groooannn) that I hadn't noticed its trailer's been out for a while. Anyway, here it is:

Conspicuously absent from the trailer? Peter Vincent. Considering what they've done with the character, that's probably a good thing.

Now kids, I love the original. My interest in vampires was kicked off by its sequel, so, naturally, the originals hold a special place in my heart. I can buy that many of you younguns haven't seen either of 'em, or know they exist. YouTube comments like one from matthewsaidso, attest to that: 'This is like a vampire version of Disturbia. Thumbs up if you agree.'

Really? That's your point of comparison? I guess he didn't realise Disturbia (2007) is an obvious 'riff' (or rip, if you prefer) on Alfred Hitchcock's Rear window (1954) or the short story it's based on. Sure, a copyright claim was thrown out of court, but seriously, watch 'em back-to-back. You'll see.

But I digress. The original Fright night (1985), i.e. the proper one, was also obviously based on the same 'formula'. It was set in some sleepy Idaho town. This one's set in Vegas. Yes, that Vegas. Sigh. So much for subtlety. Goodbye small town terror.

Did I mention that 'Evil Ed' is played this-time-'round by Christopher Mintz-Plasse? You, know, McLovin from Superbad? Red Mist from Kick-ass? That guy? Yes. Yes I did. Oh man. Did you know it's also gonna be released in 3D? Why? Oh, right: inflated ticket prices. Ca-ching!

Anyway, another 'disturbing' thing I've noticed about the flick is this still:

Yep, that's Colin Farrell (Jerry Dandridge) ripping away Charley's cross, with it bursting into flame in his hand. I have a bias with this kinda stuff. I like my vampire lore and I like it when vampires fear the cross. If this is supposed to be an edgy rejection of the 'rules', well, it's a cliche in itself.

The original featured a neat twist on the idea: 'You have to have faith for that to work on me, Mr. Vincent.' I'm not sure if they're gonna use the same rule in this one. If not, deliberately inverting that 'rule' is nothing new. Anne Rice's Interview with the vampire (1976) popularised the modern vampire's disdain for religious items. Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot (1975) had already established the requirement of the cross-bearer's 'faith', ten years before Fright night was released.

It seems that most vamps these days have no problem with crosses, as mentioned in Bunson (1993) and Melton's (1994) respective vampire encyclopedias. Sometimes, filmmakers have resorted to monologues or dialogue that subvert most of the rules altogether. Here's a classic exchange between Jack Crow and Father Adam Guiteau in John Carpenter's Vampires (1998). A word of warning, though: some of this dialogue ain't PC or kid-friendly:
Jack Crow: You ever seen a vampire?
Father Adam Guiteau: No I haven't.
Jack Crow: No... Well first of all, they're not romatic. Its not like they're a bunch of fuckin' fags hoppin' around in rented formal wear and seducing everybody in sight with cheesy Euro-trash accents, all right? Forget whatever you've seen in the movies: they don't turn into bats, crosses don't work. Garlic? You wanna try garlic? You could stand there with garlic around your neck and one of these buggers will bend you fucking over and take a walk up your strada-chocolata WHILE he's suckin' the blood outta your neck, all right? And they don't sleep in coffins lined in taffata. You wanna kill one, you drive a wooden stake right through his fuckin' heart. Sunlight turns 'em into crispy critters.
Funny thing is, the novel the film was based on (John Steakley's Vampire$, 1990) isn't this extreme in removing the classic elements. The crosses do work, to an extent. Nor does its plot feature the vampires' pursuit of a cross (the Cross of Berseires), as it does in the flick.

Point is, the trope is nothing new. Neither is inverting it. It seems crosses are introduced into plots specifically so they can then be demonstrated as ineffectual by the vamps wearing, laughing at or crushing the things. Hell, even John Badham's Dracula (1979) features the Count yanking the cross out of someone's hand and setting it alight in his, so even that's a cliche. Therefore, the 'edginess' has been sucked right out of it.

Enough rambling for now. If you still wanna catch the flick, it'll be released on - hey, whaddya know. It's premiering here, in Oz, August 18. Also, Hungary.

It'll be released in the US, Canda and Poland the following day. For release dates in other countries, follow the link.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Amazonian spending spree 2, pt. 1

I think it's pretty obvious that I love collecting non-fiction vampire books for my library. If I go without for a while, impulse kicks in and I go on a spree.

This time 'round, I beat my previous record and hit Amazon and Hard. Time for a peek at what I've been ordering and why. For this entry, I'll only be covering the ones that've arrived in the post. There's more on the way. I'm leaving out the shipping costs involved, as even a pedantic like me has limits.
Title: Reproductions of reproduction: imaging symbolic change (Routledge, 1996)
Author: Judith Roof
Date ordered: 11 July 2011
Date arrived: 19 July 2011
Price: GBP 8.94
Why'd I buy it? Superficial reasons, really. I read through a few interesting extracts on Google Books a while ago, and seeing as it was fairly cheap, I snapped up a copy. As it turns out, it has a whole chapter on vampires called, 'Unauthorized reproduction: vampires' uncanny metonymy', pp. 139-69. Sweet.

Title: Dracula (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
Author: Bram Stoker; edited with an introduction and notes by Roger Luckhurst
Date ordered: 8 July 2011
Date arrived: 20 July 2011
Price: £3.13
Why'd I buy it? Bought it for the introduction, baby. It was featured in an article Niels linked to on his blog, which instilled the temptation to buy the thing, wholesale. The discussion of the vampire's modernity got me hooked, because, as mentioned, I'm a big fan of that theory. Unfortunately, this niche interest is only given minor coverage (p. xv). D'oh! Still, at three quid: bargain. The rest of the intro looks pretty spiffy, too.

Title: The real Twilight: true stories of modern day vampires (London: John Blake, 2010)
Author: Arlene Russo
Date ordered: 8 July 2011
Date arrived: 20 July 2011
Price: £5.99
Why'd I buy it? Russo's previous book, Vampire nation (2005) was a breezy read, so I figured this would be more of the same. Little did I realise how much 'same' that would be. I turned the book's title page over, and what did I see in the publication info? 'First published in hardback as Vampire Nation in 2005'. Noooooooo! Redeeming virtue? 'This updated paperback edition published 2010'. Ooh... But then: 'Text copyright Arlene Russo 2005'. Noooooooo! It looks like the book was republished solely to cash in on the 'Twilight' name, especially as Vampire nation was already reprinted (under its original title) in 2008. It's got an awesome cover, at least.

Title: They bite: endless cravings of supernatural predators (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Citadel Press, 2009)
Author: Jonathan Maberry & David F. Kramer
Date ordered: 14 July 2011
Date arrived: 20 July 2011
Price: AUD 2.19
Why'd I buy it? Pretty sure I've glanced through this thing in Borders (R.I.P.) or Reader's Feast (soon to be R.I.P.). Wasn't expecting anything spectacular, but I did like the sidebars. I might've been a bit naive though, because the cover and title lead me to think the whole thing dealt with vampires. It doesn't (pp. 1-126) and a sizeable portion of that is made up of a 'species' dictionary of sorts (pp. 49-126). The rest of the book's concerned with 'hell hounds and monster dogs', 'werewolves and wolf-men', 'cryptids and the science of cryptozoology', 'the unquiet dead', 'hellfire and demons', 'tricksters and seducers' and 'a miscellany of monsters'.

Title: Vampire: Von damals bis(s) heute (Diedorf, Germany: Ubooks-Verlag, 2010)
Author: Nicolaus Equiamicus
Date ordered: 11 July 2011
Date arrived: 20 July 2011
Price: GBP 10.13
Why'd I buy it? This is a bit of a 'blame' Niels one. In a good way. I trust his judgement when it comes to vampire books and he's said some pretty good things about its author. It's in German (which I, of course, already knew), so I can't read the bloody thing, but presume it's instilled with its own inherent value. Who knows. Maybe someday I'll unlock its 'secrets'.
Stay tuned for the next thrilling instalment of 'Amazonian spending spree 2'! In the meantime, I'll keep an eye on the mailbox.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bugbears and Others

I added The BS historian to the 'Reading list' a coupla days ago, as the blog touches on a few issues pertinent to the field. Which ones? These...

If there's anything I've learned from years of vampire research, it's that writings on the subject are rife with embellishment, misrepresentation, misinterpretation and flat-out lies. Now, you might be asking (depending on your poll choice), 'Hang on, vampires don't exist. It's not like it matters. They're imaginary.' To which I say, 'Maybe so. But you didn't make them up.'

When Rousseau wrote, 'There is not an historical fact in the world more fully attested, than that of the Vampires' (1763, p. 56), he wasn't kidding. Just to be clear, he wasn't upholding their reality, he was commenting on their status as a well-documented species. Regardless of one's personal beliefs on their 'existence', the vampire is as much a historical being - as portrayed by exhumation reports, folk beliefs and oral tales, etc. - as an 'imaginary' one. Proper respect needs to be given to their historical and cultural origins, ensuring they're represented accurately, without recourse to, well, making stuff up.

That's why I appreciate - and practice - the sceptical approach to texts in this field. It's a purgative (the reason why I called one of Elizabeth Miller's books an 'enema') approach in a field waist-deep in mud and dirt. Now, that doesn't mean I go around pooh-poohing the very idea of vampires themselves. That'd be almost redundant. No, I'm more interested in seeing whether what has been said about them is accurately relayed. You'd be surprised at how much speculation is presented as fact.

For instance, do you recall the Venetian 'vampire' unearthed in 2006? One major problem with that name: Venice has no extant vampire tradition. The whole case pretty much hinged on the skeleton of a woman in a plague pit found with a hunk o' brick in her mouth. This lead many to conclude that the item had originally been placed there as a method to prevent her feeding on the living. However, other explanations were possible, as the bshistorian recounts:
Yet another possibility, very relevant in this case, is some sort of prophylactic against the disease itself – sure, this woman was the only one in her mass plague pit grave to be so dealt with – yet lots of individuals in this Anglo-Saxon cemetery had stones in their mouths. A whole pit of vampires? Unlikely. Disease victims? More plausible. Or once again, were they punished criminals, or morally deficient in some way? We can’t really know. Nor can we with this Venice “Vampire”.
And that's the point. No need to automatically jump to that conclusion. I would also add that closer scrutiny should be given to the extant traditions in these locals. While debate continues over 'vampire's' etymology (see Kreuter 2006), we can at least agree that the tradition was centred in Slavic territories, as attested by its very name. However, it's generally accepted that the vampire is a universal tradition. To do so, however, a lotta wrangling's gotta be done over the definition of 'vampire'. The term, itself, however, applied to a specific type of revenant. This is also acknowledged by bshistorian:
One of the vampirologist’s (and indeed BS Historian’s) bugbears is the phenomenon of myth-creep. The more paranormal ideas are milked for their intellectual and commercial appeal, the more we see them distorted and modified to incorporate unrelated bits of history and folklore. In the case of the vampire it’s often an attempt to give it greater antiquity, presumably because the early 18th century isn’t far back enough for the first sightings of beings who we now think of as immortal. In fact that idea is itself a retrofit of a fictional, rather than folkloric attribute of the vampire.
LinkA word on 'the early 18th century' mention. Clearly, the era in which the vampire entered popular consciousness, is being alluded to here. However, there's precious little evidence that the tradition stretched much further back than that. Augustin Calmet, famous for his dissertations on vampires, made reference to the vampire's historicity:
In this age, a new scene presents itself to our eyes, and has done for about sixty years in Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, and Poland; men, it is said, who have been dead for several months, come back to earth, talk, walk, infest villages, ill use both men and beasts, suck the blood of their near relations, destroy their health, and finally cause their death; so that people can only save themselves from their dangerous visits and their hauntings, by exhuming them, impaling them, cutting off their heads, tearing out their hearts, or burning them. These are called by the name of oupires or vampires, that is to say, leeches; and such particulars are related of them, so singular, so detailed, and attended by such probable circumstances, and such judicial information, that one can hardly refuse to credit the belief which is held in those countries, that they come out of their tombs, and produce those effects which are proclaimed of them.
Antiquity certainly neither saw nor knew anything like it. Let us read through the histories of the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Latins; nothing approaching to it will be met with (1850 [1751], p. 2).
In this century, G. David Keyworth (2006) upheld Calmet's comments in his examination of vampire traits, by comparing them with other folkloric and legendary beings. He'd later expand his findings into a book (2007).

The attempts to give vampires a 'greater antiquity' for 'intellectual and commercial appeal' has been exploited in a variety of different ways. One of the obvious ones concern the popularity of vampire killing kits (VKK). That is, high-priced antiques sold off as genuine 19th century novelties. There are three things majorly wrong with this practice. Firstly, they're fake. Second, auctioneers present them as legit (which, in turn, can only cast a dim light on the profession, itself). Third, actual historical items are misrepresented - some, defaced - in the process of creating these kits.

The bshistorian has given brilliant coverage to the VKK 'industry' here, here, here, here, here and here. We need more blogs like that, not just in paranormal research, but in vampirology, too. It's one thing to enjoy vampires as entertainment, it's another to purposefully misrepresent their history and deceive others, to score a quick buck. So, my hat's off to BS!


Calmet, A, 1850 (1751), The phantom world: or, the philosophy of spirits, apparitions, & c., vol. 2, trans. H Christmas, Richard Bentley, London.

Keyworth, GD, 2006, ‘Was the vampire of the eighteenth century a unique type of undead-corpse?’, Folklore, vol. 117, no. 3, pp. 241–60.

Keyworth, [G]D, 2007, Troublesome corpses: vampires & revenants from antiquity to the present, Desert Island Books, Southend-on-Sea.

Kreuter, PM 2006, 'The name of the vampire: some reflections on current linguistic theories on the etymology of the word vampire', in P Day (ed.), Vampires: myths and metaphors of enduring evil, At the interface/probing the boundaries 28, Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 57–63.

Rousseau, JJ, 1763 (1762), An expostulatory letter from J.J. Rousseau, citizen of Geneva, to Christopher de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, London.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's Been Going On and Upcoming Books on Vampire 3

Haven't been writing here much, as I've been busy with other things, namely research and going on a book-buying bender. Time for a catch-up and a peek at some forthcoming books I've stumbled across.

Firstly, it's great to hear that the guys behind the 2009 Vienna conference, 'Vampirismus und magia posthuma im Diskurs der Habsburgermonarchie im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert' are finally publishing their book. Got the scoop from Niels. It's currently available on pre-order. I've placed mine.


Speaking of Niels, his blog continues to blow my mind. Seriously, the guy just reels off his findings on obscure areas of vampiriana like they're nothing. If he's happy sharing that stuff publicly, I can't help wondering what secrets he isn't sharing. Sometimes, it makes me wanna throw in the towel. Some recent stand-outs include an overview of Zopf's famous vampire dissertation; uncovering sources for an obscure 'vampire' case; a source discussing magia posthuma in Poland, Hungary and Moravia; and debunking Stephen Hubner's 'vampire' status. Get your asses over there.


I rarely read vampire novles - or novels in general - but I have been reading Don Ecker's Past sins (Dark Realm Press, 2004). Let's say it ain't Twilight. If you're into your monstrous vamp (as I am), check it out. If you're one of them Kindle folk, click on the cover to buy a copy.


Speaking of buying things, I've found a few more books to add to the 'Upcoming books on vampires' collection. Stumbled across 'em while on the aforementioned book-buying bender.
Title: The theology of Dracula: reading the book of Stoker as sacred text
Author: Noël Montague-Étienne Rarignac
Release date: 19 July 2011 (Amazon); Spring/Summer 2011 (McFarland)
Worth the wait? Firstly, how fuckin' awesome is that cover? Seriously, look at it. Beautiful. As to the book itself, it's clearly one for the Dracula scholars. Another work focusing on literary interpretation, in this case, it 'represents a rereading of the horror classic as a Christian text, one that alchemizes Platonism, Gnosticism, Mariology and Christian resurrection in a tale that explores the grotesque' (McFarland's spiel). If that tickles your fancy, then it'll be the book for you. That said, I am interested in the religious overtones behind vampire texts, so it's definitely on my to-get list.

Title: Theorizing Twilight: essays on what’s at stake in a post-vampire world
Author: Maggie Parke & Natalie Wilson (eds)
Release date: 14 August 2011 (Amazon); Fall/Winter 2011 (McFarland)
Worth the wait? While I can barely repress a groan at another release dedicated to Twilight (I still have to give props to the saga for kickstarting the vampire boom, though), its publisher is a good indicator of quality. McFarland have an impressive track record when it comes to vampire stuff. Check out their vampire and Dracula titles.

Title: Vampires through the ages: lore & legends of the world's most notorious blood drinkers
Author: Brian Righi
Release date: 8 Janaury 2012
Worth the wait? While its title hits the mark in my preferred vampire niche ('lore & legends'), the 'notorious blood drinkers' angle makes me think the book's gonna give the same-old, same-old coverage to Elizabeth Bathory, John Haigh, Fritz Haarmann, et. al. Or, worse: Vlad Țepeș. Its comic book style cover doesn't exactly inspire me with confidence, either. I had a brief peek through Righi's Amazon oeuvre. Looks like he's into ghosts. Perhaps he'll view the subject through a paranormalist lens, which might be interesting. We'll see.

So, what have I been researching? Noneother than the Highgate vampire case. One element I've been pursuing is Highgate Cemetery's pre-1970 reputation for hauntings - vampiric or otherwise. There are certain texts which allude to to it, but don't seem to have been published before 1970 or the 1960s, which, of course, is highly suspicious. One stand-out's David Farrant's 'Invoking the vampire', New Witchcraft, vol. 1, no. 4, 1975, pp. 32–8:
Some interesting facts came to light. Firstly, it became apparent that stories of an apparition in Highgate cemetery had by no means begun with the then current sightings. Indeed, similar tales dated from the Victorian Era and interestingly enough more of them had "vampiristic" connections. One of the common tales of that time told of a "tall man dressed in black" who used to disappear mysteriously through the cemetery wall (p. 34).
In the same article, he also concluded, 'That Bram Stoker was influenced by the Highgate Vampire when he wrote "Dracula" . . . is almost certain' (ibid.). I've been asking Farrant how he obtained this information, i.e. 'oral tales, books, articles, whatever', over at The supernatural world forum. So far, I've been met with sidetracking, personal attacks, obscure allusions and the possibility that he might discuss them, if I explain my spiritual beliefs first - which I'd already done. Several times. Let's say I find it to be a highly unusual way to react to a simple request. Could we be dealing with a manufactured 'legend'? Quite possibly.


On a lighter note, I've been thinking of creating a new segment for this blog concerning beaut non-fiction vampire book covers. I occasionally express awe for them, so why not share a few which I think are particularly great? It's not set in stone, though. Just something I've been thinking of doing. See how it goes.


Last, but not least, don't forget to vote on the poll. There's only 10 days left, folks. Do you believe in vampires? Have your say today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Getting Glut's book

I've finally got a first edition copy of Donald F. Glut's True vampires of history (1971), thanks to the magic of eBay.

I'd previously bought reprints of it by Castle Books (Secaucus, N.J.). However, I'm a stickler for first editions, so I had to find a copy of the HC Publishers, Inc. (New York) original.

How far did I go in my quest? I resorted to contacting its author. It was never that easy growing up, I'll tell ya. I sent him a cheque last year (Don doesn't 'do' PayPal), but it never arrived.

I got the urge to go trawling through eBay recently and lo, I serendipitously found a copy for US$9. This time, I doublechecked its publication info with the seller. After confirming a positive ident, I made an offer of five bucks. Not for the hell of it, mind you, but based on the book's condition:
Up for auction is a 1971 True Vampires of History Donald Glut Book. The paperback book is complete and nicely held together. The book has been in storage and it has rolling and warping from age. The pages and cover are yellowing. There is creasing at the corners of the cover and along the bottom of the back. The pages have rounded corners and a few have creases at the corners. The book also has creasing along the spine, and light wear and peeling around the edges. The book has 191 pages.
The seller accepted my offer. I purchased it on 16 June; it arrived on the 27th. Not bad. Incidentally, if you're interested in buying a copy of the book, feel free to contact Don. He'll probably even sign it for you, if you ask nicely. I would've gotten my copy from him, if there wasn't that hassle with the cheque. However, if you're a US resident, you probably won't encounter the same problem I did.
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