Wednesday, September 21, 2011

End of an era

After more than three years and 276 posts (including this one), I've decided to call it a day. This is the last entry for Diary of an amateur vampirologist.

Sudden, I know, but it's been on my mind for a while. It's been a good run, but I feel it's time to move on. I'm proud of what I've achieved with it. I'm proud of the readership and followers I've accrued since kicking it off. You guys honour me with your presence.

I've had the privledge of contributing guest blogs, elsewhere. One for Reading with bite; two for VampChix (this one and this one). Niels mentioned my blog in a paper he presented to the 2009 Vienna vampire conference. Considering the influence he's had on my online writings, not to mention the respect I hold his work, that was incredibly flattering.

Another incredible honour, was the blog's inclusion on Carrie Carolin's 'Best of the Dark Side: 13 great vampire blogs'. Even more so, as we had never been acquainted before!

While writing thing thing, I also joined a vampire 'club' for the first time: the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (I'm still a member). The first article I've ever had published (in print form), was for their newsletter, The Borgo Post.

How about a round for my 'Q & A' participants? Niels K. Petersen, Martin V. Riccardo, Bruce A. McClelland and Thomas J. Garza. They were all great. I didn't know what to expect from their answers, but each and everyone was insightful, open and interesting. Great work, guys!

I've also enjoyed the interaction with my commentators. Our 'discussions' often prompted elaboration and exploration via blog entries. Erwin tipped me off on the source of a so-called 'vampire' picture; I consoled Angela Cameron, after she felt the vampire thing was 'overdone'; I vindicated Elizabeth Miller; and Jonathan forced me to re-examine my conclusions on Peter Haining's source for the nosferatu.

Meanwhile, bshistorian triggered a search for the 'first' vampire and another one for the vampire of Croglin Grange. In doing so, I discovered a coupla pre-Hare sources. I also dealt with a commentator who was kinda pissed off in the way I 'dismissed' Theresa Bane's Actual factual, Dracula: a compendium of vampires (2007). Bane, herself, wasn't too pleased, either. Understandable, but I had my reasons. That said, I certainly respect her work. On a lighter note, Fra Moretta directed my attention to a modern manifestation of the vampire belief.

It's also been interesting seeing what draws readers to this blog. I had no idea my discussion on so-called antique vampire killing kits would be so popular. Honestly. I'd also like to think those who've found my writings on the FVZA, specifically their fake books, have now 'seen the light'. Rest assured, it's not a factual resource, guys.

A lot of others have been lured to the revelation that Johann Ludwig Tieck wasn't the author of 'Wake not the dead', despite popular attribution. I was surprised to find that out, too. Oh, and I'm still amused that others are drawn here by, well, searches for explicit entertainment relating to a certain, popular saga. You know the one.

Well, all good things, as they say, must come to an end. Here's the final stop. Once again, I'd like to thank everyone for reading, for commenting and participating on this blog. I've learned that having your own blog's a great networker, scores you free merch (thanks again, Justin!)—and a lotta spam and requests to review things—as well as great interaction via comments. Ok, not all comments (I'm looking at you, Melody!), but most.

For those worried about all this stuff 'disappearing': don't. I'm not shutting this blog down, but I am closing off comments. You can still wend your way through the goodies inside, but there'll be no more entries here.

I hope you've been enlightened, entertained and, most importantly, inspired in your quest to 'get' vampires. I've pointed you in some pretty good directions, and they've been pointed right back at me! I also hope you'll see that studying the undead doesn't need to be a stuffy pursuit. It can be fun! This is Anthony Hogg, amateur vampirologist, signing off.


But not for good...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Q & A with Thomas J. Garza

After a discussion with one of Thomas J. Garza's students (he teaches 'The vampire in Slavic cultures' at the University of Texas at Astin), I decided to contact the man, himself, for an interview.

I've briefly covered some of his writings found on the 'net and one of them, in particular (see the question on xenophobia), stood out to me. I've also been impressed by his devotion to the Slavic vampire, following in the footsteps of Jan L. Perkowski and Bruce A. McClelland.

Thomas J. Garza in 'an appropriately bizarre photo from a newspaper article a couple of years ago'*

I sent a request for an interview† and after he agreed‡, sent a long a bunch of questions.§ To his credit, he didn't shy away from the hard stuff, as his responses reveal.‖ Without further ado, heeeeeeeere's Garza!
Anthony Hogg: You have an impressive proficiency with Slavic languages, so how'd you go from that to teaching a course on vampires? Is your vampire course 'bait' for students to delve deeper into Slavic language and culture?

Thomas J. Garza: My interest in vampires certainly goes back to watching -- and loving -- the old Tod Browning's "Dracula" back in the '60s. But it was my work in Slavic languages that took me to the Foreign Service Institute in the late '80s after finishing my doctorate at Harvard. While working with the FSI, I was working in Hungary in the summer of 1988, retraining Hungarian teachers of Russian to teach English (anticipating the political changes there). As my birthday fell on a national holiday, St. Stephen's Day, some colleagues suggested that we drive up to the Romanian border and into Dracula country. Back then, the roads in Sighisoara were terrible, and the final leg of the trip -- up the ravine to the castle remains -- had to be be donkey. But the trip was worth it, and the affect of standing in the ruins was incredible, a kind of transformative experience of being in such a place, as with Stonehenge or Machu Pichu. I distinctly remember thinking then that when I returned to teaching, I would use this "hook" of the vampire story to get students interested in this part of the world. So, in 1997, a year after getting tenured at the university of Texas, I offered the vampire course for the first time. I certainly use the the theme of the vampire as "bait," as you say, to get them into the course that covers the history, geography, religion, literature, and film of the Slavic world, but significantly, it is that same hook that keeps them interested, I think, throughout the semester! I always have a sizable quotient of students who go on to take a Slavic language or culture course after the vampire class, and that's very rewarding.

AH: Speaking of Slavic roots - from a mythic/folkloric perspective - what's your take on the 'universal' vampire? Do you believe vampires are found across the globe, or are they a local, Slavic revenant with unique attributes?

TJG: Vampires, in my experience, are absolutely a global phenomenon, from Asia to Europe, across Africa, and throughout the Americas. The story may vary in details, modes, and/or substance, but there is a "universal" core of the story -- at least in the West: the vampire is creature that has returned from the dead (a revenant), and who takes sustenance from a host, who in the process is weakened or killed by it. Slavic vampires have their own characteristics, which vary from Slavic region to another. In the Balkans, for example, vampires and werewolves began in the lore as rather similar entities, and evolved historically into enemies. In Russian, the werewolf stories were very rare, and the vampire has always taken center stage. S/He is characterized not only as a blood drinker, but also since the nineteenth century as a "contagion," capable of spreading the vampire "disease" to an entire village or community.

AH: You've said, 'As long as we can tap into our xenophobia, then we get into the kind of vampires that make us squeal and jump.' Why is xenophobia essential for this process? Does this process still have a 'place' in our postmodern age?

TJG: It may not be essential, but xenophobia certainly insures that human beings are predisposed to being afraid of anything that's different from us: The Other. In spite of globalization and a seemingly ever-shrinking world, we are nonetheless terribly complacent in our own lives and tend to be very suspicious of non-conforminty -- especially when it's in the form of another culture. Postmodernism has actually given use a better and more effective lexicon to talk about Othering, especially in the context of the post-colonial breakup of empires. So, while a blood drinking creature will, indeed, always be inherently frightening, s/he takes on a special horror when we think don't understand it. That's why the vampires in, say, 30 Days of Night are particularly horrific; they are tribal, pack creatures, who speak a very different language, whereas some the new "integrated" vampires in Twilight, for example, might make some of squeal for very different reasons. I find the vampires and story in "True Blood" particularly interesting in this regard because, although they are also "modern" vampires in a "modern" setting, they have a "back story" -- a history -- that places them in the larger vampire mythos; and in a place like Bon Temps, which is inherently "créolité," difference is more likely to be accepted, and "coming out of the coffin" is possible.

AH: What other elements make vampires scary? Why should we revert to the 'scary' type at all?

TJG: Besides being creature that we don't understand, I think the best vampires in literature and film fall squarely into the age old "thing-that-go-bump-in-the-night" category. Here I mean the element of the unexpected or the uncanny that makes our blood run cold and the hair on the back of our necks stand up. In the original Murnau Nosferatu, it's the anticipation of the arrival of the monster, epitomized by mere shadow of his hand creeping along wall and the accompaniment of live music intensifying our horror; or in Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, it might be the entrance of Dracula into Mina's room as mist, and then moving under her bedclothes while she sleeps, and waiting for her to notice that she is no longer alone; or the vampire Armand in Interview with the Vampire simply running his finger through the flame of a candle -- unaffected. Scary doesn't always (often?) involve blood and guts. I think the vampire in lit and film has historically presented us with a much more complex creature of horror than, say, Freddy, Pinhead, or Chucky, and thus can be much more subtle and effective in the delivery of horror.

AH: I've got your 2010 book, The vampire in Slavic culture on my to-get list, but could you tell us...why is it so expensive? Its publisher, Cognella, is selling it for $129.95 and Amazon, $169.95.

TJG: Aurgh! Yes, I would also like the book more accessible and I know the price is high. It is, though, a compilation and as such requires that the publishers acquire the rights and clearances to use all of the texts, the prints, and the lyrics that are included in the book. I had hoped that the price could be kept under $100, but after I added the Russian songs to the volume, it went over. I'm hoping that as more of the texts that I've included in the book become readily available digitally, the price will go down accordingly. Sorry.

AH: A student of yours and I have been discussion on The vampire in Slavic culture's edition statements and we're coming up with some contradictory results. There seems to be more than one. Are there other editions of the book?

TJG: There have been two: the original is through University Readers in 2009, and an updated, slightly expanded version by Cognella (a subsidiary of University) came out in 2010.

AH: Which works/authors have influenced your writings on the undead. Which would you recommend as essential reading?

TJG: Certainly my Slavic-centric focus on the vampire story has been greatly influenced by the works of Prof. Jan Perkowski, who teaches a vampire course at the University of Virginia, and originally taught that course here at the University of Texas back in the 1970s. From the nineteeth century, I'm particularly fond of the works of AK Tolstoy (a relative of Leo Tolstoy), including the stories "The Family of the Wurdalaks," and "The Vampire." Especially the latter embraces the specifics of the Slavic vampire wonderfully, and was made into a very slick, dark film in Russia in 1991 called Blood Drinkers. But my take on the contemporary vampire is very strongly influenced by the Russian/Ukrainian writer Sergei Lukyanenko, who authored the Watch series (Night Watch, Day Watch, Evening Watch, and Last Watch) in the late 1990s and 2000s. All of these are now available in English translations. I think this series is very good, indeed, in not only bringing vampires into the new millennium, but in giving them a role in the greater historical saga of the battle of Good and Evil on Earth.

AH: The vampire in Slavic cultures is, essentially, a university reader. Considering what I've read from you so far, you clearly have some interesting things to say on the subject, yourself. Do you plan on writing your own work on the subject?

TJG: If only there were more hours in the day! I have done a couple of articles that talk about the contemporary Russian vampire in terms of Othering of the Chechens, Caucasians (people of the Caucasus), and Central Asians in Russia, but I would love to do something longer and more substantial in the area of mapping the vampire in Russia. Stay tuned; I promise that there's more to come!
I'd like to thank Prof. Garza for his participation, and forthright, insightful responses. His book, The vampire in Slavic cultures (2010), is available through Cognella and Amazon.

* Garza's caption ('Re: A brief interview?‏', Thursday, 15 September 2011 11:51:44 PM).

† 'A brief interview?', Thursday, 1 September 2011 7:53:15 AM.

‡ 'Re: A brief interview?‏', Thursday, 1 September 2011 8:46:50 AM.

§ 'Re: A brief interview?‏', Wednesday, 7 September 2011 5:07:58 AM.

‖'Re: A brief interview?‏', Wednesday, 14 September 2011 8:34:59 AM.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Croglin vampire gets around

In the previous entry, I said, 'As it stands, Hare's recount of Fisher's tale is the original version' of the Croglin vampire tale. That's a reference to the version printed in the fourth volume of Augustus Hare's autobiography, The story of my life (1900). But, as it turns out, the story was doing the rounds before then...

As mentioned, Hare's biography is composed of material taken from his journals, letters, et. al. The Croglin vampire story, as told to him by Edward Fisher-Rowe, features in a journal entry dated 24 June 1874. If we take Hare on his word (his autobiography isn't composed of facsimiles), then the earliest-known version of the story still stands at 1874.

However, thanks to Google Books, I can tell you that the story was doing the rounds before Hare included it in The story of my life. So who was spreading it? None-other than Hare, himself. And I'll tell ya, he loved creeping people out with it. Here's how Clifford Harrison described Hare, his penchant for ghost stories, and the vampire tale:
Everybody who knows Augustus Hare–and everybody does know Augustus Hare!–knows how wonderfully he tells a ghost-story. He has a fine collection of ghosts. They are all labelled and certified with names, dates and references–the most authenticated and documented ghosts I know. A ghost-story gains greatly by dramatic telling. Written down, it loses some of its 'creepiness.' Augusutus Hare tells a story of a vampire which, in his hands, owes a good deal to the 'points of circumstance' with which he tells it. I have heard the tale also from a descendent of the possessors of Crogley [sic] Grange, in which house the grisly incident occurred, and the tale is undoubtedly full of curious and somewhat unanswerable questions (1892, p. 190–1).
A very frustrating reference, as it doesn't relate the particulars of the story, nor does it say who the 'descendant of the possessors of Crogley Grange [Croglin Grange]' was. But it does show that Hare wasn't the only one who knew about it. Nonetheless, it's great seeing a reference to the story published before 1900.

But the fun doesn't stop there. I've actually turned up an earlier reference to the story. Here's Andrew Lang, discussing contemporary vampire literature:
That work [J. Sheridan LeFanu's 'Carmilla'] will give you the peculiar sentiment of vampirism, will produce a gelid perspiration, and reduce the patient to a condition in which he will be afraid to look round the room. If, while in this mood, some one tells him Mr. Augustus Hare’s story of Crooglin [sic] Grange, his education in the practice and theory of vampires will be complete, and he will be a very proper and well qualified inmate of Earlswood Asylum (1885, p. 20).
The article was probably written in 1884, as the volume I consulted (Nov 1884-Oct 1885), doesn't do the best job indicating which articles are from which issues. It's also unfortunate that Lang's reference to the story is vaguer than Harrison's. He doesn't even say how he heard it. But it's possible another reference might be found somewhere amidst his prolific output.

It's pretty obvious Hare was a popular bloke and keen on the story, as I've found another reference to him telling it. While this reference was published in 1957, the author recalls it from his childhood: he was born in 1881. The author in question? E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax:
And I remember, but I think he usually came in either summer or autumn, Augustus Hare making all our flesh creep with his story of the vampire at Croglin Grange, which he could only tell when he wore a very much ribbed shirt, so that picking his shirt with his nail, he could represent the vampire picking the mortar from the window pane to get in (The Earl of Halifax 1957, p. 34).
Hare certainly got around, didn't he? Incidentally, E.F.L. Wood's father was Charles Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, of Lord Halifax's ghost book (1936) fame. Unfortunately, that book doesn't feature the Croglin vampire.

In the meantime, I've been delving into the Fishers. The only clue we have to when the story took place, is when the Fisher family moved to 'the south, to reside at Thorncombe near Guildford'. It was then leased to an unnamed family of two brothers and a sister, who Valentine Dyall named Michael, Edward and Amelia Cranswell. Edward Fisher (1832-1909) was born at Thorncombe, as was his father, Thomas Fisher (1790-1870). For now, that's where the trail ends.

However, F. Clive-Ross' local consultant, a Mrs. Parkin, told him that the story 'dates definitely from between 1680 and 1690', and also noted 'that in the deeds of Croglin Low Hall the name Croglin Grange was used until about 1720' (1963 p. 108). People familiar with Croglin Low Hall–a Grade II heritage listed building–and its layout will note it's a two storey house, while the house of Fisher's tale is a one storey. Clive-Ross has an answer for that: 'the house was raised by one storey, circa 1720' (p. 109), around the same time the window the vampire was supposed to have crept through, was blocked. Hmm...

In the meantime, here's an article on Edward. Specifically, his death. Quite a tragic figure.


Clive-Ross, F 1963, 'The Croglin vampire', Tomorrow, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 103–9.

The Earl of Halifax (EFL Wood) 1957, Fulness of days, Collins, London.

Harrison, C 1892, Stray records; or, personal and professional notes, vol. 1, Richard Bentley and Son, London.

Lang, A 1885, 'Some Japanese bogies', The Magazine of Art, vol. 8, pp. 15–20.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Heeding Summers

I've been discussing the strong possibility that Valentine Dyall 'invented' the Cranswells of Croglin Vampire fame. Seems he did a little pinching from one of his sources, too.

As previously noted, there's no indication Dyall did any field work for 'Vampire of Croglin Hall' (1954). He said, 'The strange tale must be pieced together from the works of independent writers–notably Augustus Hare, in "Story of My Life"; Charles G. Harper in "Haunted Houses," and the Rev. Montague Summers in "The Vampire in Europe." (p. 99). These are the only sources he listed and none of them as as rife with 'detail' as he provided.

Hare's The story of my life, vol. 4 (1900) is the earliest known source of the tale, as told to him by Edward Fisher (1832-1909). Dyall doesn't cite a specific edition of Harper's book, but the first edition, Haunted houses: tales of the supernatural, with some account of hereditary curses and family legends (1907) starts off with a reproduction of Fisher's account from Hare (pp. 67–73) before concluding with Harper's observations:
It is to be added, from personal observation, that there is no place styled Croglin Grange. There are Croglin High Hall and Low Hall. Both are farm-houses, very like one another, and not in any particulars resembling the description given. Croglin Law Hall is probably the house indicated, but it is at least a mile distant from the church, which has been rebuilt. The churchyard contains no tomb which by any stretch of the imagination could be identified with that described by Mr. Hare (pp. 73–4).
Harper's sketch of Croglin Low Hall is sandwiched between pp. 72–3. Summers reproduced the sketch in his 1929 book, The vampire in Europe, which also serves as Dyall's final source. Once again, Fisher's account via Hare is reproduced (pp. 111–15). No Cranswells there. Of the case itself, Summers had this to say:
That a large number of cases of vampirism must be accounted certain only the most prejudiced will deny.

Even in many other relations which cannot be pressed in detail it seems beyond a doubt that the main facts are true whilst the accessories have been embellished for the sake of the narrative. Such a history is that of the vampire of Croglin Grange. Mr Charles G. Harper, who investigated the exact locality, assures me that Mr Augustus Hare was undoubtedly lavish in his colouring. Actually there is no place styled Croglin Grange. There are Croglin High Hall and Low Hall, the latter of which is probably the house indicated. Mr Harper adds: "But it is at least a mile distant from the church, which has been rebuilt. The churchyard contains no tomb which by any stretch of the imagination could be identified with that described by Mr. Hare." (p. xviii)
Despite these reservations, Summers believed the events described by Fisher actually took place: 'These discrepancies do not, of course, militate against the essential truth of the tale' (ibid). Interestingly, Dyall implies his own belief in the tale, but did so by ripping off Summers' comments: 'There are discrepancies in these three versions, but they do not necessarily militate against the essential truth' (my emphasis, 1954, p. 99). Aping Summers' comments about 'discrepancies' in the story took Summers' mention out of context: the discrepancies he was referring to, were the name and location of the house.

Dyall further injured his case by adding 'dates and names are uncertain, and beyond doubt details have been embellished for the sake of shudder and thrill, but to the fair-minded researcher the main facts are clear' (ibid). Not only did Dyall provide dates, anyway (which are inaccurate*), of the four sources–Hare, Harper, Summers and himself–he was the only one to name the tenants.** One must ask exactly which 'main facts' are left after such 'embellishments'!

But who was responsible for them? Which ones was Dyall alluding to? Harper and Summers followed Fisher-via-Hare's account quite closely. Their versions contain no embellishments. If their source, Hare, was indeed, 'lavish in his colouring', we have no earlier source to defer to. At least, none that Harper, Summers or Dyall mentioned. As it stands, Hare's recount of Fisher's tale is the original version. Meanwhile, Dyall's account opens with this:
March winds were howling dismally through the Cumberland hills and the dawn light was a feeble glow behind heavy cloud as Edward Cranswell, master of Croglin Hall***, and his younger brother Michael led their small party of farmers and landworkers into the cemetery.

Silently, that morning in 1876, they filed past the rows of tombstones–vague, shadowy figures in the eerie greyness, muffled in heavy topcoats, carrying flickering lanterns (p. 96).
Compare that with Hare, Harper and Summers' versions. In stealing Summers' 'militate against the essential truth of the tale' bit, Dyall should've paid closer attention to what Summers followed it up with:
but it should be borne in mind that a narrator who thus mingles imagination for effect's sake with fact incurs a serious responsibility. He gives a fine opening to the sceptic and of this every advantage fair and unfair will be taken (p. xviii).
Damn straight. It also turns out that Dyall's 'shudder and thrill' line was also taken from Summers, who continued: 'If a yarn is to be told for the shudder and thrill, well and good; let the ruddle be thick and slab. But write the rubric without ambiguity that this is a high romance to follow' (ibid). Loosely translated: if you're gonna make shit up, say so. But save it for a novel: don't mix it in with details of an existing case, otherwise, how are readers supposed to know which details are right and which ones are wrong? It leaves the door wide open for sceptics (like me) to wade in and slash away at the case's credibility.

Dyall really should've taken Summers' advice. In the meantime, it's possible that after all this, Dyall's 'Cranswells' could be vindicated, thanks to F. Clive-Ross' discussions with locals (*shakes fist at him!*). It's just that Dyall didn't bother mentioning where he got the name from, nor explicitly saying 'Hey guiz! I made it up! Lol!'

I'm lookin' into it.

As a side note, it's interesting that Summers didn't draw obvious parallels between the attack on 'Amelia Cranswell' (as Dyall dubbed her) and Flora Bannerworth in the 1847 penny dreadful, Varney the vampire. After all, both narratives feature an attack on a young lady in a bedroom; the vampire creeping in by picking away at the mortar in a window pane; the vampire entwining its victim's hair in its gnarled hand to expose the victim's neck for a bite...a victim who is also saved by her screams rousing the gentlemen of the house...

Summers was certainly familiar with Varney: he quoted the bloody scene (pp. 105–11) right before launching into the Croglin account. Oh, Monty!

* Dyall said the vampire was hunted down in 1876 (p. 96), adding 'the Cumberland phenomenon can be definitely placed in the years 1875-76' (p. 99), even though Hare's recount of Fisher's tale was included in a journal entry dated 24 June 1874.

** In fairness to Dyall, F. Clive-Ross' investigation, which was detailed in 'The Croglin vampire', Tomorrow, vol. 11, no. 2, 1963 (pp. 103–9) found that the tenants' surname, Cranswell, was known locally (p. 108). However, there's the distinct possibility that the name was known due to Dyall's version of events. See: 'Good timing!'

*** What happened to 'Croglin Grange'?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On criticism

I'm still waiting for my copy of the critical edition to Montague Summers' The vampire: his kith and kin to arrive. In the meantime, I noticed Niels has already had a chance to review it.

He's been waiting for critical overviews of Summers' work for some time, so I can only imagine his heart skipped a beat when I forwarded him a link to the book, which was published in May this year with little-to-no fanfare. Hell, not even I knew about it: I stumbled across it on Amazon.

Long-time readers of Niels' blog, Magia Posthuma, will know he's a man with (deservedly) high expectations. If those aren't met, he's not afraid to say it. Therefore, my heart started sinking when I began reading the opening paragraph of his review:
’A Critical Edition’ to me is an edition of a book that sets the work into its context, enabling the reader to better understand the work's genesis and sources, to get a grasp of how the book was received, and to assess its influence and importance then as well as now. At the same time, the word ‘critical’ in my opinion implies a re-evaluation of the work in terms of contemporary knowledge and understanding. In the case of a work of non-fiction this would include correcting errors.
The rest of the review is, well, brutal. But in light of Niels' expectations, and the examples he gives, this approach is understandable. Personally-speaking, I'm happy with the fact that the book's a facsimile and its supplementary material, alone, makes it a bargain at $22.95.

That said, I shouldn't downplay the critical element of the book's title. By emphasising that aspect, it's automatically endowed itself with certain 'responsibilities' and its value as a critical work, hinges on its ability to uphold them. Until my copy arrives, I can only defer to Niels' commentary...which has not gone 'unseen'.

The book's editor, John Edgar Browning, has read Niels' book review. His response is a testament to his professionalism and integrity:
Thank you, Mr. Petersen, for your very thorough elucidation of the contents of this edition. Of course, the "argument" here--that is, the matter at hand--has less to do with the particular contents chosen for inclusion and more to do with how one arrives at the definition of a "critical edition," a subject which continues to spawn fairly lengthy debates among textual criticism scholars. The description you gave, while good, is but one of several approaches to producing a "critical edition," another being concerned primarily with cross-examining and cross-referencing all the major editions of a particular text (though this is generally typical of hand-written texts). The third and most prominent approach is the one we have chosen, similar in design to the quite popular "Norton Critical Editions" series--the major difference here being that we chose contextual documents which provided insight not only into the work itself but the author as well, since in this case the work in question, its writing, and the author himself are so closely intertwined, in our opinion.

The contributors and I made every attempt to give no false impression of what was contained in this critical edition, particularly since the contents were clearly stated on the back cover and in the description given for the book at various websites; if you didn’t have access to this information, then I am very sorry. I, for one, am reluctant to purchase any book whose front and back cover I have not studied thoroughly. In short, we did not promise anything which we did not deliver--nothing more, nothing less.

I appreciate your review. And, what is more, I encourage you to edit such an edition as the one you describe here.
Niels thanked him for his response, and said he intended to write more on the book. Now these are the kinds of 'reactions', I love: intelligence discourse born from criticism. Intellectual bickering, if you will. Heh heh. But, more importantly, it provides an insight into the respective writers' intent.

Criticism–good criticism, that is–is not purely born of malice, but genuine desire for quality in the respective field. If this is not met, then it's 'called out' to keep an author on their toes and to make clear that no substitutions for quality will be accepted. A good writer–aware of their flaws–will take it on the chin and 'fix it', next time 'round. Naturally, every writer and critic has an inherent criteria and intent for their respective writings, so it's important, for the sake of context, to make that clear in the subject they're dealing with or the work they're criticising.

The fact remains that as influential as Summers' works have been, they're not gospel. They're not the Unerring Final Say on Vampires. They deserve criticism. He made mistakes. He was a product of his beliefs and times; or, at least, a deliberate throwback to an earlier time. Summers certainly wasn't above having a go at his contemporaries, either. Here's what he had to say in The vampire: his kith and kin, about Dudley Wright's writings on the subject:
In English there is a little book entitled Vampires and Vampirism by Mr. Dudley Wright, which was first published in 1914; second edition (with additional matter), 1924. It may, of course, be said that this is not intended to be more than a popular and trifling collection and that one must not look for accuracy and research from the author of Roman Catholicism and Freemasonry. However that may be, it were not an easy task to find a more insipid olio than Vampires and Vampirism, of which the ingredients, so far as I am able to judge, are most palpably derived at second, and even at third hand.
But in deeming his own work 'the first serious study in English of the Vampire, and kindred traditions from a general, as well as from a theological and philosophical point of view', he set himself up with certain expectations, too. And by those, he should be held accountable.

Hugo Pecos, revealed!

I stumbled across an interview in one of my recent purchases, which was conducted with the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency Director, Hugo Pecos.

Bertena Varney's Lure of the vampire: a pop culture reference book of lists, websites, and "very telling" personal essays (2011) is very telling indeed, as it contains an 'Interview with Hugo Pecos creator of The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency' (pp. 116–18).

Varney provides an intro to the interview, stating, 'The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency is an alternative history site founded by Richard Dargon.' His connection to Pecos is made clear: 'Richard created the role of Hugo Pecos as a creative outlet for all the questions that he had in regards to what if vampires and zombies were real' (p. 116).

Varney describes his (actual) occupation as 'a paid writer with interests in dramatic writing, screenplays and, stage plays. He also has a background in biochemistry hence the love for science fiction' (p. 116). Which also perfectly explains his pseudo-scientific explanations for the undead, and why so many are duped by their 'plausibility'.

That's all from Varney's intro, but here's a word from the man himself: 'The best part of having an 85-year-old alter ego is that I don't have to make apologies for my poor web design skills!' (p. 117). I can't be mad at Dargon for the ruse. After all, he's ensured the FVZA site has enough 'tells' (including disclaimers) that the material featured there, is fictional.

What disappoints me, however, is the way his material is seeping into non-fictional narratives through writers who've made little-to-no-attempt to look beyond the site's warped version of history, fictional personages and books, and been dazzled by its 'scientific' explanations for vampirism. And most disturbingly, it's starting to appear in non-fiction vampire books by authors like Theresa Cheung and Charlotte Montague. And it's all so obviously fake. That's what I find most infuriating. Pecos/Dargon, somewhat diplomatically, says:
There has been an interesting set of reactions to the site. I've heard from would-be vampires and would-be hunters. I've heard some crackpot theories. One person even complained about his tax dollars going to waste funding such an agency (p. 117).
If you want to read more about the machinations behind the creation of Dr. Hugo Pecos and the FVZA, grab a copy of Varney's book.

In search of the Cranswells

Despite Clive-Ross' vindication of the Cranswell family's existence, as covered in the previous entry, I'm still leaning towards the idea that they were 'created' by Valentine Dyall (1908-1985).

Clive-Ross cited Dyall's Unsolved mysteries (1954) as a source, conceding it 'offers much additional information [on the case], mostly without any stated authority, and unfortunately of such an unreliable nature as to be almost worthless.'

As of this writing, I don't have that book, but I do have the next best thing: Dyall's article, 'Vampire of Croglin Hall' for Fate (April 1954), pp. 96–104.*

So what makes me think Dyall conjured the Cranswells? For starters, he repeatedly gets the dates wrong. The earliest known source of the Croglin Vampire story is Augustus J.C. Hare's The story of my life, vol. 4 (London: George Allen, 1900). Hare recounted the story, as told by one Captain Fisher** in a journal entry for 24 June 1874. Yet in Dyall's version, the vampire is found one morning in March 1876 (pp. 96, 102). Impossible.

And this is no mere misprint. Dyall said that the 'Cumberland phenomenon can be definitely placed in the years 1875-76', noting that the attack occurred in 'the summer of 1875' (p. 99). In terms of leasing the house to the unfortunate Cranswells, Dyall claimed this occurred in 1873 (ibid). Yet, Fisher's version, as recounted by Hare, makes no such allusion.

Indeed, Dyall's version is rife with nuggets not found in any previous version of the story. For example, the names of the victims, i.e. the Cranswells, composed of brothers Michael and Edward, and their sister (the victim of the vampire's onslaughts) Amelia. But not only them, as we're also introduced to Jem Croswell, 'a young gamekeeper' (p. 97), one of the seekers of the vampire's tomb, who 'had fled' the scene 'half out of his mind!' (p. 98). Again, Fisher makes no mention of this. Neither does Dyall's sources.

And what of Dyall's sources? Thankfully he listed them: 'The strange tale must be pieced together from the works of independent writers–notably Augustus Hare, in "Story of My Life"; Charles G. Harper in "Haunted Houses," and the Rev. Montague Summers in "The Vampire in Europe." (p. 99). Unlike Clive-Ross, at no point did Dyall indicate he'd done any field research. This makes Clive-Ross' 'vindication', in that their names were 'known locally' as the Cranswells, all the more suspicious.

It gets better as Dyall slowly unravels the jumping point from his sources: 'There are discrepancies in these three versions, but they do not not necessarily militate against the essential truth: dates and names are uncertain, and beyond doubt details have been embellished for the sake of shudder and thrill, but to the fair-minded researcher the main facts are clear (my emphasis, p. 99).

It's hard to say–with absolute certainty–whether Dyall was being naive or taking the piss, especially as he was obviously one of the perpetrators of the embellishments. After all, if, indeed, 'names and dates' are uncertain, why did Dyall go out of his way to provide specific (incorrect) dates and where on earth did he gets those names from?

Without an honest-to-goodness lease document confirming that the family were the Cranswells (and, if you read Clive-Ross' article, you'll find that certain details in the story push the events back to the 17th century***), I think it's highly plausible that locals were relying on Dyall's version of the story (or recounts of it), and synthesised it with local legend. And, to me, that's how the Cranswells were 'known locally': names for the unnamed.

It seems few were familiar with Hare's version via Fisher. Even Dyall, who cites it, went completely off track with the dates–and the method of the vampire's demise. According to Fisher, the vampire was simply 'burnt' after its discovery. But in Dyall's version, the villagers 'drove a stake through its heart', too (p. 98). But not before a bullet is pried out from the vampire's leg, which Edward Cranswell recognises as 'one he had bought in Switzerland' (p. 104). Meanwhile, in the Fisher version, the participants of the hunt simply see 'the marks of a recent pistol-shot in the leg'. No one tries to pry it out.

* The article, in turn, was 'Reprinted from Everybody's Magazine' (p. 96). Unfortunately, the reprint provides no further publication details (issue, year).

** Captain Fisher can be positively identified as Edward Rowe Fisher-Rowe (1832–1909). Hare mentions that Fisher was 'engaged to be married to Victoria Liddell' (p. 201) in the 24 June 1874 entry and later mentions, 'Lady Victoria Liddell married Captain Edward Fisher, now Rowe' (p. 232). According to 'Final act of devotion', The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld), 30 December 1909, p. 4, Fisher-Rowe met his death through poison.

*** However, as noted by Scott Rogo in 'Second thoughts on the vampire of Croglin Grange', Fate (June 1968), pp. 46–7, the vampire's attack on the sister bears an uncanny resemblance to the opening scene of Varney the vampyre (1847).

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