Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year That Was, Pt. 1

The year's drawing to a close. What better opportunity for a retrospective! Time to review what went down on this in 2010. Cue excess linkage!

I began the year complaining about a slow delivery from the Canadian postal service. As it happens, I'm currently awaiting the arrival of a package from there. It was sent in mid-October, so I guess we've come full circle there.

I've given some decent coverage to the Twilight phenomena this year, but no post specifically on the subject drew as much attention as this. In fact, it was my 10th post popular post overall.

I began Q & A this year. My first interviewee was Niels K. Petersen. He was followed by Martin V. Riccardo and Bruce A. McClelland.

A Brian Solomon post served as a wake-up call and inspired my own rant on blogging ethics.

My third most popular post dealt with fake vampire books, namely Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Vampire or Vesalius' Five Books on the Structure of the Vampire Body. They're inventions of the FVZA. Yet, just like the Necronomicon, some people think they're real. I caught reference to one in Vlad III's Wikipedia entry, and allusions to 'em occur in a non-fictional work: Theresa Cheung's The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires (2009). Who knows where else they'll turn up.

The most popular post, however, concerned the mistaken authorship of a famous vampire story, "Wake Not the Dead". You probably thought it was written by Johann Ludwig Tieck. No surprises there, as that's who it's usually attributed to.

My coverage of the Ojai Vampire scored a few hits. I first read about that case in Rosemary Ellen Guiley's The Complete Vampire Companion (1994). I did a li'l more digging by contacting the Ventura County Parks Department. Here's what they said.

In the midst of that, I gave tips on how to be a vampirologist in my contribution to Michele Hauf's VampChix.

Justin Blair, one of the directors of Across the Forest (2009), kindly sent me a copy of his documentary for review. I was suitably impressed. It wasn't perfect, but a pretty damn good job overall.

I shined a light on a few relatively obscure vampire cases, namely the Gorbals Vampire, Sarah Ellen Roberts and the Birmingham Vampire. Incidentally, the latter post was this blog's 6th most popular.

After reading Andrew's review of Mystery and Imagination: Dracula (1968), I spotted a familiar rendering amidst the screencaps. Speaking of Dracula, I also reviewed a biography written by Stoker's great-nephew.

As the remake (oh, sorry, "reboot") train rolled on this year, I glanced through the casting choices for the upcoming reboot of one of my favourite vampire movies.

Then, after some prompting by one of Theresa Bane's posts, I imagined a world without Dracula.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog entry. In the meantime, I wish everyone a safe and happy new year! Thanks for joining me and I look forward to your company in 2011.

I'll leave you with a couple of treats. Firstly, I came across coverage of an interesting beauty pageant from 1970. Second, while it's a bit late to even think of attempting it, here's Jack Baker's "Steal the Show at the Vampire New Year Party". Just goes to show there's vampire-related everything.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Did Stoker Plan on Bringing Drac Back?

Speaking of sequels, have you heard rumours that Bram Stoker originally intended on writing a sequel to Dracula (1897)? Let's take a look.

Sure, there's been heaps of movie sequels to adaptations of his work, like Dracula's Daughter (1936) and The Brides of Dracula (1960). A few authors have even cranked out their own: Freda Warrington's Dracula, the Undead (1997), Seán Manchester's Carmel: A Vampire Tale (2000) and Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt's Stoker estate-approved sequel spring to mind.

But what about Bram, himself? Did he ever write one? Did he plan to? Elizabeth Miller has the scoop, yet fails to mention a crucial scene in the novel (at least, in the entry itself).¹ As she points out, Dracula isn't destroyed in the proscribed manner recommended by Van Helsing during the course of the novel, i.e. stake through the heart, decapitation. Instead, he is "killed" when (spoiler alert!) Jonathan Harker shears his kukri knife through the Count's throat, while mortally-wounded Quincey Morris plunges his Bowie knife into the vampire's heart. Here's what happens next, as described by Mina:
It was like a miracle, but before our very eyes, and almost in the drawing of a breath, the whole body crumbled into dust and passed from our sight.

I shall be glad as long as I live that even in that moment of final dissolution, there was in the face a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested there.

The Castle of Dracula now stood out against the red sky, and every stone of its broken battlements was articulated against the light of the setting sun.
Wait, maybe the Count tricked them! He turned to dust at just the right moment! It's one of his powers, after all. Except for one thing: up to that point, Mina's forehead had been marked by the imprint of a Eucharistic Wafer, after being bitten by the Count. Here's how it went down:
"Then it is well. Now, Madam Mina, you are in any case quite safe here until the sunset. And before then we shall return . . . if . . . We shall return! But before we go let me see you armed against personal attack.I have myself,since you came down,prepared your chamber by the placing of things of which we know, so that He may not enter. Now let me guard yourself.On your forehead I touch this piece of Sacred Wafer in the name of the Father, the Son, and . . .

There was a fearful scream which almost froze our hearts to hear. As he had placed the Wafer on Mina's forehead, it had seared it . . . had burned into the flesh as though it had been a piece of whitehot metal. My poor darling's brain had told her the significance of the fact as quickly as her nerves received the pain of it,and the two so overwhelmed her that her overwrought nature had its voice in that dreadful scream.
The mark signifies her vampiric infection and "connection" to Dracula, as it's established that the the vampires in Stoker's universe cannot tolerate holy objects. Dracula is warded off with crucifixes. His "brides" are kept at bay with a "Holy Circle" (made from crumbled Eucharistic Wafers). It also imprisons the infected Mina, or, as Van Helsing says: "For I knew that we were safe within the ring, which she could not leave no more than they could enter." Yet, here's what happens after Dracula's disintegration:
I flew to him [Morris -ed.], for the Holy circle did not now keep me back, so did the two doctors. Jonathan knelt behind him and the wounded man laid back his head on his shoulder. With a sigh he took, with a feeble effort, my hand in that of his own which was unstained.

He must have seen the anguish of my heart in my face, for he smiled at me and said, "I am only too happy to have been of service! Oh, God!" he cried suddenly, struggling to a sitting posture and pointing to me. "It was worth for this to die! Look! Look!"

The sun was now right down upon the mountain top, and the red gleams fell upon my face, so that it was bathed in rosy light. With one impulse the men sank on their knees and a deep and earnest "Amen" broke from all as their eyes followed the pointing of his finger.

The dying man spoke, "Now God be thanked that all has not been in vain! See! The snow is not more stainless than her forehead! The curse has passed away!"
If Dracula didn't "die", then how on earth did that happen? The disappearance of the mark clearly indicates she's free from the vampiric taint. Also, what many seem to forget, is that Stoker's novel concludes with an epilogue set seven years afterwards. No further signs of vampirism and Dracula's castle is nothing more than an uninhabited wreck. In other words, he's dead.

But Dracula's a vampire. Undead. Gotta be a way around that, right? Maybe bring him back to life or something. Sure, that's possible. It's fiction, after all. But where's the signs that Stoker intended on doing so? That's the whole point. He makes it pretty clear that Dracula's karked it. Holmwood and Seward are happily married (not to each other). The Harkers have a son. Van Helsing seems jovial. That doesn't scream "set up" so much as "happy ending".

If Stoker did intend on writing a sequel, we have no proof of it (textual or otherwise), apart from hearsay and speculation. A shame, really, as it would've been great to see how the story continues. I guess that's left to our own imagination.

¹ To be fair, she dealt with this scene in the comments section.

Where's the Salem's Lot Sequel?

Stephen King's Salem's Lot (1975) is one of my favourite vampire novels and one of his most successful. Many years ago, he spoke of writing a sequel, even outlining a basic plot. It's been thirty fives years, so what's the go with it?

If you haven't read the novel, then maybe you've seen its adaptations. It's been made into a miniseries, twice, in 1979 and 2004. In fact, the first miniseries even inspired a direct-to-video sequel. Of sorts. Of sorts. It's hard to accept it as "canon" when it tinkered with the continuity of King's novel and the 1979 series it alluded to. Nonetheless, it's an entertaining film in its own right.

Back to the novel. As early as 1982, King was trumpeting his desire to write a follow-up. Douglas E. Winter featured King's say on it in The Art of Darkness: The Life and Fiction of the Master of the Master of the Macabre: Stephen King (London: New English Library, 1989)¹. I've inserted spacing in the paragraphs for legibility's sake:
. . . I know what the sequel will be. It's just a question of when I find the time . . .

Should I give you a preview? Ben Mears and [Mark Petrie] are now living in England, where Ben is doing the screenplay to one of his books . . . [Mark's] in school. While Ben is in his studio, [Mark] comes home, makes dinner and begins to get calls via transatlantic cable - from his mother.

'I'm still alive . . .' she says. 'You must come back to the Lot . . . They're hurting me.' And eventually he does go back. Ben follows him.

Father Callahan will come back, too. He's working in a Detroit soup kitchen, and this dying bum comes in: 'Father, you've got to bless me.' 'I'm not a priest anymore,' he says. The bum is gugling out his last words, 'It's not over in Salem's Lot yet.' And believe me, it
isn't! (52)²
The 2004 miniseries features a soup kitchen scene with Father Callahan, but it's certainly not a sequel. The closest contemporary thing we have to an official sequel is "One for the Road", which first appeared in Maine (March/April 1977), and later included in his short story collection, Night Shift (1978). It's a sequel by virtue of the fact that part of it occurs in 'Salem's Lot after the events in the 1975 novel. Not much in the way of an actual plot, though.

However, there's certainly an arc in place. A prequel was also published in Night Shift, and the town's "subsequently mentioned in passing in The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Body, Pet Sematary, Dolores Claiborne, Dreamcatcher, and the last three books of the The Dark Tower series (Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower)."

The last grouping's the most relevant to our question: will there ever be a novel-length sequel? There's certainly still demand for it. For the answer, though, we turn to Stephen King's FAQ page:
Actually, I'm hoping to write a sequel to almost all of my novels and you will find those in Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower--really in the whole Dark Tower sequence. You'll find out a lot of what happened in 'Salem's Lot for one thing and one character in particular - I'm not going to tell you which one. This is in no way an advertisement for The Dark Tower books, but it is my way of saying that The Dark Tower books finishes up a lot of business from the other books.
Spoiler alert: "one character in particular" is Father Callahan. The Dark Tower books are far-removed from the "real world" setting of the novel, its prequel and mini-sequel, though. Still canon, sure (it's King's story, after all), but it's just not the same.

On the plus side, he's at least expressing interest in writing a sequel, even if it's the daunting task of writing one "for almost all" of his novels. He's a prolific guy. So, will a "proper" sequel ever emerge? I guess we can paraphrase the same answer quoted by Winter: when he finds the time.

¹ My paperback copy. The original was published in 1984 by New American Library.

² Winter's source: "Quoted in David McDonnell, 'The Once and Future King,' Mediascene Prevue, April/May 1982, p. 59" (269 n24).

Monday, November 29, 2010

They're Remaking Buffy

I'll start this off by saying that I'm not exactly a huge fan of the TV series or the original movie. But I am sick and tired of the glut of so-called "reboots", so this news really takes the cake.

How soon should one wait before remaking a "dead" property? Twenty years? Ten? Well, the critically-acclaimed TV series wrapped up in 2003, but if you wanna talk canon, it's still going (in comic book form).

"Oh, cool," you might've thought. "They're gonna do a movie version of the TV series!" Bzzt. Wrong. Not only won't it feature Sarah Michelle Gellar or anyone else from the Scooby Gang, but the franchise's creator, Joss Whedon, has no involvement in the project. Here's what he had to say:
I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I'm making a Batman movie. Because there's a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you.
No legal grounds indeed. You see, Whedon doesn't own the rights to his own Buffyverse. They're in the hands of Fran Rubel Kuzui (the original movie's director) and her husband, Kaz Kuzui. Which is wonderful when you learn of Whedon's plight during the first movie's creative direction: "The original script Whedon wrote was completely rewritten to make the film more 'light.' Whedon reportedly stormed off the set during production and never returned because of how what he had planned was being put together". To add insult to injury, one of Whedon's proposed Buffy spin-offs was also nixed.

Ok, so who's writing the script for this one? Heard of Whit Anderson? I IMDBed the name, to check their "credentials". What experience does she have to tackle a franchise like Buffy? Anything of note?

For starters, she hasn't written a film before. At least, one that's been released. However, she did star as Liz Meyers in Through Walls (2004), Jill in Saw Rebirth (2005), "Yes Patron" in Yes Man (2008) and...that's it. Now, contrast her résumé with Whedon's. Notice the difference?

However, it'd be remiss of me not to mention another one of her glorious contributions to cinema. Did you know the remake was her idea?
Apparently a huge Buffy fan who pitched Roven the idea, and the deal was made: Warner Bros. Pictures optioned the rights from directors Fran and Kaz Kuzui, and from Sandollar Productions (Sandy Gallin and Dolly Parton), who did the original movie version (pre-TV's Buffy).
Way to go, Whit.

The Queen Is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

I received word from Marty¹ of a terrible loss to the horror industry: Ingrid Pitt, who rose to fame through Hammer Films, has passed away.

He sent the following obituary, confirming the news. She's best-known in vampire circles for starring in The Vampire Lovers (1970), Hammer's adaptation of J. Sheridan LeFanu's "Carmilla" (1871-1872). She wrote about her experiences filming the movie here. Here's a snippet:
When it came to killing Kate O'Mara, who refused to recognise my Vampiric tendencies, I slung her on the floor, sprouted the teeth and moved in. The teeth promptly dived into Kate's cleavage.
She didn't appear in the film's sequels, but did take on other vampire (or vampire-related roles) by starring in Countess Dracula, "The Cloak" segment in The House That Dripped Blood (both 1971) and Beyond the Rave (2008). She also wrote a non-fiction work called The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion For Vampire Lovers (1998).

My condolences to her loved ones.

¹ "'Queen of horror' Ingrid Pitt dies‏", Saturday, 27 November 2010 6:06:27 PM.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bite-Size Halloween Bits

Happy Halloween, everyone! What perfect timing for a neglected round-up edition! What've I bought? What've I joined? What's coming up on the blog? Read on.

Ok, first up: a few eBay purchases came in the mail recently. Rosemary Ellen Guiley's Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena: Vampires (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2008) arrived on the 8th. I scored it for US $5.45 (not including shipping, of course).

It's tailored for a Young Adult readership, but still fairly informative. And better still, it's got sweet, sweet endnotes (115) and a bibliography (116-117). What's the big deal about that? Read this and you'll see. It's not often you see 'em in books for that audience, so bonus points for that. In my view, kids should be encouraged to develop this academic habit so they'll appreciate the importance of paper trails for themselves and for others.

Also, as you might know, I'm big into first editions. So, if you relish 'em as much as I do, avoid the the Checkmark Books 2009 copy. That is a paperback reprint. Or paperback edition, if you will. Stick with the Chelsea House Publishers version.

On the 13th, Charlotte Montague's From Dracula to Twilight: Vampires: The Complete Guide to Vampire Mythology (New York: Chartwell Books, Inc., 2010) arrived. Apart from its cumbersome title, it served as a marked contrast to Guiley's book on several counts. Firstly, it wasn't a first edition, as I found out the hard way. However, it wasn't falsely listed as a first edition, at least, so I really should have double-checked before I placed my bid. That said, I won it for the princely sum of US $1.77, so let's say my vision was somewhat obscured in this regard.

For the record, the original was published by Omnipress, a London-based publishing company. Or, so you'd think going on the book's copyright info. So, I'm wondering what's the go with this Sphere version. Might look into that.

Apart from a few rare photographs, there's nothing overly remarkable about the book. Its simplistic text and voluminous illustrations indicate it's for the young'uns, too. However, it not only lacks endnotes but has no bibliography, either. That's especially troubling when we're fed practically unverifiable info. See Andrew's review for Montague's coverage of the vampire's reaction to sunlight. I expected a lot more from an author with an MA degree in history.

The last eBay book to arrive was Timothy d'Arch Smith's Montague Summers: A Bibliography (Wellingborough: The Aquarian Press, 1983). Bought it for a fairly reasonable GBP 11.66. It's actually a 2nd rev. ed. of Smith's A Bibliography of the Works of Montague Summers (Nicholas Vane, 1964).

Incidentally, I like collecting further editions, too (as opposed to reprints), but I saw little in the way of revision from my recollections of the 1964 edition. Hell, Sewell's foreward and Smith's introduction from the first edition have been retained. Of course, at that time, Summers' autobiography, The Gallanty Show (1980), had yet to see published, so I can see why the book was revised (ever so slightly). But, come on! Give us a little more material, please. Something a bit more substantial than a coupla pages here and there.

That's not to say the book isn't handy, of course. Summers was a wildly prolific writer and Smith thoroughly and meticulously documents his writings wherever they've appeared. It must've been a nightmarish task. That said, in light of Summers contributions to modern vampire studies, it's a shame to find out that his writings on the subject were seemingly confined to two books and a letter to Time and Tide (January 18, 1929), pp. 60-61, correcting a reviewer's comments on his book, The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928). That's not Smith's fault, of course, but still...


Speaking of Guiley and further editions, The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves and Other Monsters (2004) has a second edition on the way. It's scheduled publication date is June 30, 2011.

It's title's been shortened to The Encyclopedia of Vampires & Werewolves, which is probably for the best, as the "other monsters" bit was largely drowned out by the vampire and werewolf entries in the first edition. It's also got a beaut new cover.


On Tuesday (26th), I received an important letter from Elizabeth Miller, along with the Spring and Summer issues of The Borgo Post. What was so important about this letter, praytell? It confirmed my registration with the Transylvanian Society of Dracula. Yep, I'm now a member of the TSD!

It's the first time I've ever been part of a vampire "fan club", if you will. Concurrent to signing with them, I was thinking of joining The Vampire Empire, only to find out that it "now serves as a Research facility only." D'oh!


I get a kick out of seeing what brings you guys to my blog. And what tops the list? Of all things, looks like you can't get enough of my posts on "antique" vampire killing kits (see here, here and here). They've scored mentions on the Daily Kos and The BS Historian. The latter was even inspired to continue their coverage of the kits, emphasising the silver bullet angle. Be sure to check it out.

Oh, and I can't help but be amused by those "Twilight porn" searches. Hahaha! Naughty, naughty! I'll say this, though: the infamous Rule 34 works in your favour.

Incidentally, I do see a few research ones, like "what kind of degree does a vampirologist need" from Albuquerque, New Mexico. So, if any of you have any queries, I'm happy to help. My e-mail's on my profile.


Dr. Peter Mario Kreuter's kindly agreed to participate in an instalment of the "Q & A" sessions. So, in the next few days, I've gotta drum up some q's. I've previously interviewed Niels K. Petersen, Martin V. Riccardo and Bruce A. McClelland. Check 'em out here.


It's taken a while for Halloween to catch on here in Australia, but it's getting there. Seamus O'Tooles Irish Pub in Wantirna South is even transforming into "Club Fangtastica" tonight.

It invites punters to "Take a trip into the depths of Louisiana’s historic vampire culture", which, in this case, also serves as a testament True Blood's popularity, even on this far-flung corner of the globe.
This is sure to be the hottest spot in town for both mortals and vamps this Halloween. If you’re the the baddest vamp around, come down and order an ice cold bottle of Tru Blood to quench your thirst; but watch out for werewolves or there could be trouble!

Sip on some tantalising Tru Blood cocktails served by “Fangtasia” waitresses, and dance until the sun comes up to the sounds of our DJ and band. The Tru Blood cocktail list includes such classics as the Tequila Moonrise, The Blood Maker-ita, The Fangbanger, and Death on the Beach.
Even though V.I.P tix went for $36.00 and General Admission $26.00, they're now sold out. And on that chilling note, I wish everyone of you a safe and happy Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dragon of Tamaranis

I previously mentioned that I wasn't "big" on the vampire subculture. I've come across a forum post that articulates one of my reasons for this.

Sure, some people in "The Scene" can hide behind archaic spelling variations, or even paradoxically refer to themselves as "real vampires". They can even rally against Twilight for "tarnishing" their image. But, oh, how easily the rationale behind their own "existence" crumbles when it's given the most cursory examination.

So, now we turn to the forum post in question. Tamaranis' post appeared on The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency boards discussing a certain vampire religious group. You'll see how his, let's call it, dragon logic, applies to "The Scene" on a broader scale:
Let's pretend for a moment the some of you out there are very interested in legends of dragons. Where do these stories come from, do they have an actual supernatural basis?

Now let's pretend that I've decided that a "real" dragon is actually just a person who siphons off excess psychic energy from the people around them, even though that has nothing whatsoever to do with any stories about dragons. (Kinda like it has nothing to do with vampires, werewolves, the lock ness monster, bigfoot, etc.) Let's also say I've "explained" that being a dragon has nothing to do with spewing deadly flames from my maw, flying, kidnapping damzels, or being a giant reptillian monster.

Let's further pretend I've got a few thousand like-minded dumbasses who agree with all my crazy dragon talk. There are enough of us, in fact, that we actually manage to change the definition of the word "dragon" (through our excessive new use for the word. Y'know, language changes)

...still wouldn't make me no [ahem -ed.] dragon.
And that's my beef, too. Essentially, we take a pre-conceived concept (the bloodsucking corpse of Slavic folklore), edit its unsavoury characteristics (the undead angle), mould it into something more applicable (being alive) to one's own fantasy-tinged superiority complex, then hijack the original term, revise its original use, discard its historical application, add a pinch of blood and voila! The modern vampire subculture.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rare Vampire Book Cover

I've been engaged in trying to solve "The Fischer Mystery" (to be covered in an upcoming entry). One of my discarded leads caused me to stumble upon a rare image.

That's the cover of Wilhem Fischer's Dämonische Mittelwesen, Vampir und Werwolf (Stuttgart: Strecker and Schröder, 1906).

Early 20th century non-fiction vampire books are quite sparse. Off the top of my head, I can only add Stefan Hock's Die Vampyrsagen und ihre Verwertung in der deutschen Litteratur (1900) and A. Osborne Eaves' Modern Vampirism: Its Dangers, and How to Avoid Them (1904) to the list. Dudley Wright helped get the ball rolling in 1914, and even then, it was still slim pickings till Montague Summers hit the scene.

Croglin Vampire Picture Source Revealed!

You've probably seen the following picture floating about the 'net and maybe in a few books. You might've wondered who illustrated it and why. I'm here to tell you.

I was googlin' info on the Croglin Vampire today, when I came across Darren Turpin's blog entry (click on the picture). I'd seen the image several times before, not giving much thought to its source. It actually appears on the front cover of Manuela Dunn-Mascetti's Chronicles of the Vampire (London: Bloomsbury, 1991).

Thanks to Turpin's lead, I can tell you that it was illustrated by Les Edwards in 1984. It's titled (and depicts) "The Croglin Vampire". You've probably heard of that case before, as it's a frequently-reproduced "true" vampire tale. If you're unfamiliar with it, this article gives a pretty good summation. As to the why of this superb illustration, here's the scoop from Edwards' website:
Originally commissioned by Wiedenfeld & Nicholson but not used. Later used as a bookcover for Best New Horror 1990, edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell and published by Robinson, and on Super-Monsters by Daniel Cohen, published by Archway. Also used on the CD cover Alive & Screaming by Krokus and a German Magazine.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kreuter Goss

I've been in contact with Dr. Peter Mario Kreuter of the Südost-Institut, concerning his writings on vampires. He relayed some very interesting information to me, which I'll be sharing with you, today.

He's best known for his University of Bonn dissertation, Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa. Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum (2001). If you'd like to know more about his writings, check out Niels' coverage. Suffice it to say, Kreuter's focus is on folkloric and 18th century representations of the vampire. My favourite field!

However, if you're hampered by an inability to speak or read German (like myself), then you might be wondering whether there'll be an English translation of this work. So, I e-mailed him to find out.¹ Unfortunately, I was somewhat disheartened by his reply: "No – there is no translation. And there will be none."² However, my dismay was countered by something I wasn't expecting: "I’m writing a new book about the popular vampire belief. It will be in English, and the publishing house shall be Palgrave Macmillan."³

So, you heard it first here, kids! He's got a new book on the way, and it's gonna be in English! Hell yes! But, as to its title or when it'll be ready, well, I can't say. Not because I've been "shushed", but that's all the info I could get. It's obviously too early to call if it's still in "writing" stage. Nonetheless, keep your eyes peeled for it. I'm sure it'll be great!

At some point, you also probably wondered, "Hang on...if Anthony says he can't read or write German, then how can he vouch for Kreuter's work?" That's a fair point. But, what I've neglected to mention, is that I have read a couple of his essays—both in English.

Namely, "The Name of the Vampire: Some Reflections on Current Linguistic Theories on the Etymology of the Word Vampire" in Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006), pp. 57-63 and "The Role of Women in Southeast European Vampire Belief" in Women in the Ottoman Balkans: Gender, Culture and History (London: I. B. Taurus, 2007), pp. 231-241.

Then, check out his daunting list of publications. What can I say? The guy clearly knows his stuff. His English writings provide an insight into what we're sorely deprived of in English-language books on the genre: authors consulting non-English sources. There are a few notable exceptions, of course (hats off to Barber, McClelland and Perkowski), but they're far and few between. I'm telling ya, there's a goldmine out there. I've rambled on about it before.

Hopefully, Kreuter's book isn't gonna be too overshadowed by the commercial "taint" that affect other works in the genre. You know, the same-old Vlad Dracula/Bathory/Bram Stoker blah-di-blah-blah stuff. His expertise and access to outside sources would be terribly wasted, otherwise. No pressure, Peter!

¹ "Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa", Thursday, 7 October 2010 2:47:08 AM.
² "AW: Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa", ‏Tuesday, 12 October 2010 3:36:55 AM.
³ Ibid.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vampires & Werewolves vs. The Vampire Library

Forgot to include another item in the previous post. Looks like Mason Crest's got a little competition. Another publisher has their own series of vampire books for the Young Adult (YA) market. Time for a comparison.

In my coverage of Mason Crest's (MC) "The Making of a Monster: Vampires & Werewolves" series, I raised several issues with the books featured. Again, ones I haven't read yet, so I was only going on what their website had to offer. The same applies in my "examination" of ReferencePoint Press' (RPP) "The Vampire Library".

RPP bills itself as "an independent, nonfiction series publisher committed to bringing you relevant, convenient, and accessible research and learning tools for sixth to twelfth grade students." So, we're already dealing with a similar demographic. But the differences in promoting their series are marked.

Firstly, there are five books in the series, against MC's nine. All also published this year. They are David Robson's Encounters with Vampires, Gail B. Stewart's Vampires: Do They Exist?, Stuart A. Kallen's Vampire History and Lore, Kris Hirschmann's Vampires in Literature and Vampires in the Movies. Incidentally, I was only able to find those authors' names through Amazon, as RPP's page for the series omits this info.

The relative paucity of books in the series is offset by a higher page count: RPP's books have 80 each versus MC's 64. That gives us a total of 400 pages in the series, against MC's 576. RPP's topics appear to be much more generic. But then again, MC's series focuses on vampires and werewolves, so I'll give RPP leeway for that.

Each title in RPP's series costs US $26.95, which is slightly more expensive that the US $22.95 asking price for MC's titles. Then again, MC's titles are also 16 pages shorter. You can also buy RPP's "Vampire Library" in one hit, setting you back US $134.75, which is a lot cheaper than US $206.55 for MC's "The Making of a Monster: Vampires & Werewolves".

RPP has other plus points in its favour, going by their webpage. For starters, their titles actually come with little blurbs.

There's also a series description and series specifications, both more detailed than MC's version. The sidebar also gives a general view of the series' layout. There's even a "preview" of Kris Hirschmann's Vampires in the Movies (pdf), in which I noticed that scholar's beloved staple: footnotes! Hell yes! Whether they lead to anything substantial's hard to say at this point. All I know is, they're there.

So, going by the general content of the page, the previews, descriptions and whatnot, I'd say RPP's in the lead over MC. With due consideration of its intended audience, it looks like a pretty good "starter" for the YA crowd.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Round-Up Time

Just a few items concerning vampire-related things in my life at the moment. We start off with my pursuit of Montague Summers, an eBay purchase, a rambling (brief) film review and giving props to Amazon.

I've gotten onto a bit of a Montague Summers (1880-1948) kick. A very prolific writer, best known in vampire studies for writing The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and its companion tome, The Vampire in Europe (1929). Even though he only wrote these two books in the genre, their impact was massive. Indeed, you'll still find them in print today. He's even spawned a blatant imitator.

Anyhoo, I've been looking for biographical info on the guy, so I ordered two books about him through interlibrary loan. Borrowed both of 'em, yesterday. They are Timothy D'Arch Smith's The Books of the Beast: Essays on Aleister Crowley, Montague Summers, Francis Barrett and Others (Crucible, 1987) and Frederick S. Frank's Montague Summers: A Bibliographic Portrait (Metuchen: The Scarecrow Press, 1988).

I was, quite frankly, disappointed with both. Not with their content, though. You see, I was expecting primarily original material from both, but, alas, they're essentially anthologies of previously published material. D'Arch Smith's book has two essays on Summers: "Montague Summers" (51-57) and "R. A. Caton, Montague Summers, and The Fortune Press" (58-74).

The first essay (presumably published with the second), is reproduced from his 1984 booklet, Montague Summers: A Talk (Edinburgh: Trargara Press). The preface mispells this as "Trargars".

One section of the book did startle me, though: the confirmation that Summers participated in a Black Mass on 26 December, 1918 (56-57). As to one of the other rumours swirling about Summers, the pederasty coverage is relatively hazy, but plausible enough to feel quite disconcerting.

Frank's book is indeed a "bibliographic portrait", consisting of a stack of content mainly reproduced from Summers' own works. The essays that comprise the first part of the book (3-34) have all been published elsewhere. However, the bibliographic chronology and annotated bibliography (156-246) seem to be unique to the book. So, props for that.

I know these might sound like harsh assessements, but just to clarify, these books certainly possess high value for those digging up info on Summers. The harshness is merely one of personal taste. I am keen on original material, you see. First editions. Items as close to a primary source as possible. The books are valuable in that they collate some pretty rare stuff into a solid whole. So, yes, I still recommend them. Personally, though, it means I gotta track down the original sources. At least I've got leads to work with!


Speaking of original prints, Christopher Frayling's Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula (London: Faber and Faber, 1991) arrived in the mail today. I purchased the item from eBay on the 26th of September for GBP 4.99 (after requesting a markdown from 7.99). Quite a bargain.

I already own the paperback edition, which was published the following year. But, I just had to add this '91 hardback to my collection. Incidentally, it's a revised edition of Frayling's The Vampyre: Lord Ruthven to Count Dracula (1978). That one's on my of to-gets, too.


Watched Suck (2009) on DVD today. Although the title's probably ironic, it's not far from the truth. It features a swathe of cameos, namely Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Moby, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, hell, even Alex Lifeson from Rush. As you might've gathered, it's a vampire rock 'n' roll flick. But the music was pretty average and none of those aforementioned musos actually sing in the movie.

It's a bit of an odd flick, incorporating stop motion and dramatic lighting during various scenes. And, I gotta admit, Dimitri Coats made a pretty damn effective vampire...despite his dodgy clothes. I just felt that the flick ran out of steam once the band (The Winners) hit the US border. Just kind've ambled along at that point. It certainly has some clever moments, like the flashback scenes for Malcolm McDowell's vampire hunter. Rather than make him look young or hire a younger actor to play him, the director deftly integrated footage from an actual young McDowell. Nice touch.

I'm also savvy enough to know that the director reproduced a few classic album covers in his shots, namely The Beatles' Abbey Road, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., The Who's The Kids are Alright and T. Rex's Electric Warrior. While quietly amusing at first, it got a bit repetitive, real quick. Didn't really fit the narrative, either. And speaking of "quietly amusing", I don't think I even laughed once during the film. It's a horror comedy. Seemed too limp for that. That said, it was vaguely entertaining. Probably needed a faster pace.


The problems I had with Day's book (mentioned here), were fixed up shortly after I wrote that blog entry. I requested a partial refund (half of the total price), as I was still gonna keep the book, which they granted. Kudos, Amazon, for swiftly stitching that up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Musical Interlude

Presenting the famous club scene from Fright Night (1985), in which Jerry Dandridge seduces Amy right from under Charley's nose.

Never underestimate the power of cheesy 1980s choreography! And yes, that's Marcy D'Arcy pre-Married... with Children. Still, I get a kick out of those tunes in the background. They're Ian Hunter's "Good Man in a Bad Time" and Evelyn ''Champagne'' King's "Give It Up", respectively. I wonder if they'll be incorporated into the pointless remake. Meh.

Anyway, both those songs are available on the film's soundtrack. To see which others made the cut, click here. Some pretty good tunes there.


Oh, and William Patrick Day's Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture: What Becomes a Legend Most (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2002) finally arrived on Monday. Unfortunately, many of its pages were accompanied by underlines in red pen. Grrrr. I've contacted Amazon about that. Outcome pending.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Additions and Editions

A few recent purchases arrived in the mail. I'll be giving my immediate impressions of these books and why you should double-check item descriptions before you hit "buy".

On the 9th, I ordered three books via Amazon: William Patrick Day's Vampire Legends in Contemporary American Culture: What Becomes a Legend Most (2002), J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd ed. (2010) and Margaret L. Carter's Different Blood: The Vampire As Alien (2004). Day's book hasn't arrived yet, but the other two came yesterday.

Let's start with Melton's book. Just as I anticipated, the book injects a focus on Twilight. The success of that franchise has provided the book with it's very raison d'être. Here's what Melton has to say in his "Introduction":
The last edition came out in 1998, just as we realized that Buffy was going to be a hit. Now, sitting at the close of the first decade of the new century, this new edition can explore the Buffy phenomenon and its immense fallout fully. New entries discuss the vampire on television, the Twilight saga, romance novels, and vampire-related paraphernalia (xvii).
As I said here, there's nothing wrong with coasting the wave of contemporary vampire popularity. What matters, is how you utilise it. Fortunately, Melton's work transcends these trends and is invaluable to the vampire scholar, regardless.

This particular edition has been streamlined. For instance, the appendices in the second edition have been jettisoned. Instead, we jump from the last entry to a massive index (833-909). The "Sources" attached to the entries have been cleaned up. There are no colour pics.

Oh, and for those intending on citing the book in future: it has a 2011 copyright date. Yet, it was obviously published this year. So what gives? I've covered that here. Same applies to the second edition, which has a 1999 copyright date, but was actually published the year before.

Next up, Carter's Different Blood. I've only had the briefest flick through it, but going on her previous works, I suspect it'll be a goodie. I love books that survey specific angles of the vampire mythos. In this case, Carter focuses on depictions of the vampire-as-extraterrestrial. Yep, alien vampires. Here's the scoop from her blurb:
Different Blood surveys the literary vampire as alien from the mid-1800s to the 1990s, analyzing the many uses to which science fiction and fantasy authors have put this theme. Their works explore issues of species, race, ecological responsibility, gender, eroticism, xenophobia, parasitism, symbiosis, intimacy, and the bridging of differences.
Bet you didn't think you'd get all that from a bunch of books on vampires from space! I'm also chuffed that it's such a recurring genre staple, that there was enough material to devote an entire book to it. Incredible.

Next up, a book I purchased on eBay, also on the 9th. It arrived today and serves as a classic example of impulse buying. I was cruising about, looking for cheap copies of Melton's third edition (before I purchased the Amazon one), when I stumbled upon a coupla cover variations I hadn't seen before.

The book was cheap (US $16), hardcover and in brand new condition. But, there was no publication date. I just assumed it was the new edition. So, bam! I clicked "buy". What I should have done, was check the book's ISBN (9781578593156). Sure enough, when I later checked it, I realised I'd purchased a hardcover copy of the second edition. An edition I already own, in paperback. D'oh!

I didn't want to welsh out of the purchase on account of my own oversight, so I let it proceed. If you wanna know what the first and second edition paperback covers look like, click here. The third edition paperback cover's here. So, word to the wise: if in doubt, check the ISBN!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mason Crest's Monster Mash

I've been somewhat intrigued by Mason Crest's "The Making of a Monster: Vampires & Werewolves" series. No, not from reading it, but the fact that it actually exists.

The non-fiction vampire genre is awash with books that give fairly broad coverage, often rehashing the same kinda stuff, time and time again. So, when I come across a book that's devoted to a specific aspect of vampire lore, let's say my eyes light up. In this case, we're looking at a whole series worth! Let's take a look at the titles:
Ancient Werewolves and Vampires: The Roots of the Teeth
by Adelaide Bennett

Dracula and Beyond: Famous Vampires & Werewolves in Literature and Film
by Shaina C. Indovino

Fighting the Fangs: A Guide to Vampires and Werewolves
by Nicholas Martin

Global Legends and Lore: Vampires and Werewolves Around the World
by Adelaide Bennett

Howling at the Moon: Vampires & Werewolves in the New World
by Kim Etingoff

Pop Monsters: The Modern-Day Craze for Vampires and Werewolves
by Emily Sanna

The Psychology of Our Dark Side: Humans' Love Affair with Vampires & Werewolves
by Sheila Stewart

The Science of the Beast: The Facts Behind the Fangs
by Kim Etingoff

Transylvania and Beyond: Vampires & Werewolves in Old Europe
by Shaina C. Indovino
My elation was curbed by a few prominent factors. Firstly, the price. Each one of one of those titles is $22.95 (USD) a piece and they're 64 pages long. Still, you combine 'em together, and you've got a grand total of 576 pages. Not too bad, I 'spose. At least give you the option of buying them all in one hit. But what a hit: $206.55 (USD). I'm guessing the price tag doesn't include shipping.

That might be a bit too much for the average reader, so let's you're gonna be picky about which one you choose. Maybe you might want to read a synopsis, an extract or review. Here's what you get instead:

Yep, sweet bugger-all. Unless, of course, you like large cover views (couldn't fit the whole page in the screencap, but you'll see what I mean). Not very helpful, eh?

So, ok, they're pretty specific. And 64 pages isn't too bad for decent coverage of such specific subjects. Now we come to the next stumbling block: their target audience.
As one of our highly valued customers, we want you to know how dedicated we are to providing you with the most unique upper elementary and young adult quality books available within the school and library marketplace.
If experience has taught me anything, you're not gonna find much of scholarly value in a series of books written for kids. I don't envision these things laced with footnotes and thorough bibliographies. But hey, I could be wrong.

Maybe I'm being harsh on them. Like I said, I haven't read a single volume. I'm not even in their target "range". Also, seeing as they're a speciality publisher, the price is gonna be high. They'll probably drop down in price, soon enough. And perhaps having seven different contributors might provide a fresh spin on the genre.

But $22.95 per 64 page book? My expectations would be pretty damn high for that. Don't see why they couldn't've just tacked a few of 'em together and halved the series. Probably lower the cover prices, too.

Plus, it doesn't help that I had to outsource info for a more detailed description of their contents. During those forays, I came across this by Mike, who asked a pertinent (if not slightly naive) question:
I’m not a huge reader, but I must say that the mixture of pop culture, werewolves and vampires actually has me a bit intrigued in reading this series. But the real question is, will our sparkley vampires and shape-shifting Quilieutes make the cut? Or are these books simply piggybacking off of the success of recent phenomenon’s like Twilight?
I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that they are "cashing-in" on Twilight's success. Firstly, there's their publication date (2010). There's also the fact that they deal with vampires and werewolves (although, hardly unique to Twilight, doesn't seem to coincidental in context) and there's also this, from a page that he links to in his own blog entry:
“This is an exciting project to be a part of because these books tap into a craze that has taken hold of today’s youth,” said Ellyn Sanna, author of one of the books in this series.
Hmm, I wonder which craze she could be talking about. But will Mike's beloved Twilight denizens get a look-in? Being overly presumptuous, I'd say...yes. Also, I don't think there's anything wrong with cashing-in on the vampire interest spawned by her series' success. Hell, it's nothing new. Gabriel Ronay makes the following observation on the era following the Arnold Paole case, in The Dracula Myth (London: W. H. Allen, 1972):
Indeed, the number of learned treatises published in Germany between 1728 and 1732 is staggering, and indicative of the wide European interest in the Hungarian vampire epidemic. In 1732 alone, at least six major works appeared in Leipzig, Jena and Nuremberg, minutely analysing the metaphysical and theological aspects of vampirism (19-20).
And keep in mind, this was long before radio, T.V., movies, the internet and Edward Cullen. Wanna know how significant that case was to the popular audience? It gave us the word, vampire! Shortly after, the metaphorical applications of the vampire "model" were discussed. This would be integral for developing vampire fiction.

So, yeah, it was a pretty big deal. And guess what? If it hadn't been for that explosion of vampire interest back then, with all those scholars and writers jumping on board, would Meyer's vampire series even be in existence at all? Something to think about.

So, no, there's nothing wrong with "piggybacking off of the success of recent phenomenon’s". But, like anything, it's how you use it that counts. Cash-ins are a double-edged sword. Firstly, they can invigorate a genre. Stay in the same mould, but avoid aping their inspiration too closely, for fear of plagiarism, etc. On the flip-side, they can doom it to repetition when the same constructs are repeated over and over again.

Right now, there's ample opportunity to infuse something fresh into vampire studies. Strike while the iron's still hot! But that's also the kicker: how many authors will actually take advantage of this opportunity? How many scholars will stand up with something new to say? Are we doomed to even more pop culture rehashes?

In the end, it's a numbers game, really. The more non-fiction books published in the wake of Meyer's success, the more likely that at least some of them are gonna pretty damn good. Again, I'll give Meyer (unintentional) credit for that. On the flip-side, we could have too many vampire books out there. Flooding the market. So, a balance should (ideally) be struck. Of course, that's not what's gonna happen.

If history's taught us anything, the cycle repeats over and over again with different levels of intensity. As popular as the Twilight saga is, the vampire's captured popular attention many times before. Remember Buffy (the TV series)? How about Bram Stoker's Dracula (the film)? The Lost Boys? Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles? Hammer's Dracula series? Universal's? etc., etc. Twilight's gonna evaporate like Harry Potter. Count on it. And eventually, something'll take its place. That's the way it works. Read Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995). You'll see.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

T-Shirt Curiousity

I know it's a bit of a longshot, but I'm struck by the similarity the following t-shirt design and a certain book on vampires.

The inscription reads "On the Origin of Vampires by Means of Unnatural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Species in the Struggle for Immortality" by "Vlad Ţepeş III". We've got Darwin and a certain Wallachian voivode covered. Not the first time real-life works and personages have been attached to fake books.

As to the shirt's similarity to another actual book on vampires, let's start with a close-up of the shirt's design:

Is it just me, or does it look a little like someone's been inspired by Christopher Rondina's Vampires of New England, rev. ed. (2007):

Yeah, I know. A bit of a stretch. Harder to deny the similarities between these two, though. Still, I wonder...

Marty's Vampire Lecture

If you're gonna be in Illinois during October, then make sure you check out "Vampires: The Creatures of the Night", a slideshow presentation by Martin V. Riccardo.

He's the founder of Vampire Studies and authored Lure of the Vampire, Vampires Unearthed: The Complete Multi-Media Vampire and Dracula Bibliography (both 1983) and Liquid Dreams of Vampires (1996). He spoke at Flashback Weekend's Twilight Chicago 2009 Convention and you might remember that I interviewed him for this blog (part 1, part 2).

For info on precise dates and locations, click here. It won't even cost you a cent: the program's free. But make sure you register first. If you'd like to get a taste of his work, beforehand, then here's "The Vampire as a Psychic Archetype", TAT Journal 2.3 (1979).

The Importance of Paper Trails

I've received an interesting comment from reader, Jonathan, concerning assumptions raised in my previous post. I'll address it here, and also discuss the scholarly value of citing other works.

Peter Haining's A Dictionary of Vampires (London: Robert Hale, 2000) provided a misattributed source on pre-Gerard usage of the term nosferatu. I derived three possibilities from this, namely, 1) Haining misunderstood Jones' ambiguous comment about von Wlislocki's "researches into Roumanian superstitions", 2) Haining obtained the misattributed quote from another dodgy source and 3) Haining fabricated the source. Here's what Jonathan had to say about my conclusions:
Great work. However, I don't think your three possibilities are necessary.

The 1861 date must surely come from a conflation of footnotes on p117 of Jones' 'On The Nightmare'.

There IS an 1861 dated bibliographic reference on that page, but it's to a completely different preceding point.

Have another look at Footnotes 1 (irrelevant to 'Nosferat', dated 1861) and 2 (the Stern quote, undated in Jones' text).

As the two are oddly arranged relative to one another, and Footnote 2 lacks a date, it's easy to see how someone in a rush might attribute that date to the wrong footnote.

Here's what I mean;
While he raises some intriguing points, I'm gonna stick to my guns on this one. Why? Let's take a look at the footnote in question:

The footnote appears in Ernest Jones' On the Nightmare (London: Hogarth Press, 1931), p. 117. Sure, their placement is a little odd. That's a formatting issue more than anything, but let's cast our eyes further up the same page:

I find it difficult to believe that Haining could have conflated the footnotes so easily. To verify where Wlislocki was being quoted from, all he had to do was comb through the book for other references to Stern, especially as "Quoted by" and "op. cit." were mentioned. I was able to do this easily enough. That's why I can tell you that Jones was quoting Wlislocki via Bernhard Stern's Medizin, Aberglaube und Geschlechtsleben in der Türkei. Mit Berücksichtigung der moslemischen Nachbarländer und der ehemaligen Vasallenstaaten, Vol. 1 (Berlin: H. Barsdorf, 1903).

While I do see Jonathan's point about the 1861 date, there's two other aspects of Haining's misattributed citation that aren't so easily dismissed. Firstly, Haining attributes an actual book title to Wlislocki, that is Roumanian Superstitions (1861). As I'd pointed out, no such book is quoted in the text. Instead, Jones makes reference to Wlislocki's "researches into Roumanian superstitions", which is where I suspect Haining derived the imaginary title from.

Secondly, it's clear that Haining either altered Jones' translation of the Wlislocki extract or derived it from another, faulty source. Compare the two sources. In Jones' rendering, we have "The Nosferat not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus" (117), meanwhile, Haining's "quote" says "The Nosferatu not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus" (184). There's small differences between the two, but they're significant in proving that an alteration has taken place.

So, to sum up, Haining doesn't get off the hook that easily. Using Jones' footnotes as evidence, Haining had no justification in concocting an imaginary book title (like we need more of those). In this regard, he was sloppy at best and outright deceptive at worst. If Haining's book had featured a bibliography, it would be much easier to establish which of these possibilities was most likely.

This is why paper trails are essential. Quotations, citations, footnotes, they're all-important for verifying the accuracy of information conveyed and sources consulted. It's also perfectly demonstrated in Andrew's review of Charlotte Montague's Vampires: From Dracula to Twilight: The Complete Guide to Vampire Mythology (2010), a book I'd previously regarded with a glimmer of hope, in light of its author's MA degree for History.

Yet, here's what Andrew has to say about the book's coverage of the historical origins of the vampire's destruction by sunlight:
The moniker “From Dracula to Twilight” is a misnomer as it does explore (though explore is perhaps a generous term) things that came before Dracula. When it comes to sources I would have loved to have seen one for the assertion that (having first neglected to mention Nosferatu when exploring the sunlight myth) in “later stories, vampires might collapse or explode when hit by sunlight, the ‘scientific’ explanation for this being that their neural pathways would fire randomly in their brains, causing them to experience extreme epileptic reactions, blinding them, and possibly setting them on fire”! I have seen many an explanation as to why sunlight might affect a vampire, and countless more films and books when it isn’t even explained but simply taken as read. I do not recall a theorem such as that… pray tell me your source… the book remains silent.
This is an incredibly disappoining for the scholarly reader: a dead-end. How do we verify such information? Where do we even begin to start? What are we to make of its publisher, Sphere, and their claim that they pride themselves on "publishing high-quality commercial fiction and non-fiction" and their "[p]assion, imagination and attention to detail are the cornerstones of our publishing"? It's a hell of an oversight.

Sure, footnotes and citations aren't the most aesthetically pleasing things, but they're integral for scholarly readers and further research, especially when it comes to such extravagant claims. It also applies to images, too. I've previously covered an erroneous caption and its relevance to vampire research, as well as its reproduction in another source. You see, without keeping dodgy info in "check" it tends to spread. This is detrimental to proper study of the genre and should be avoided at all cost. If in doubt, consult the primary source.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Examining Roumanian Superstitions

The origin of the word, nosferatu, has been a contentious topic with scholars. Emily Gerard (1849-1905) is generally considered to be the earliest author to use the term. However, a source pre-dating her work is dealt with in a certain vampire dictionary. Let's take a look at it.

I know Wikipedia's reliability as an information source is roundly criticised, but their nosferatu page gave me an invaluable paper trail. Take this sentence: "Peter Haining identifies an earlier source for nosferatu as 'Roumanian Superstitions (1861)' by Heinrich von Wlislocki." The source is identified as Peter Haining's A Dictionary of Vampires (London: Robert Hale, 2000). As it happens, I own a copy of this book. Here's the relevant extract:
In his book, Roumanian Superstitions (1861), the distinguished historian, Heinrich von Wlislocki has provided probably the definitive statement on its activities: 'The Nosferatu not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus. It is the stillborn, illegitimate child of two people who are similarly illegitimate. It is hardly put under the earth before it awakes to life and leaves its grave never to return. It visits people by night and when its sex is male, it visits women; when female, men.' (184-185)
I was unable to find any trace of this von Wlislocki book anywhere. At this point, serendipity stepped into the picture. You see, I was reading Margaret L. Carter's Shadow of a Shade: A Survey of Vampirism in Literature (New York: Gordon Press, 1975) on Friday. No particular reason. But boy did my eyes light up when I came across this:
Rumania is the home of the Nosferat, the name applied (not quite accurately) to Count Dracula by his creator. A Nosferat, reports Heinrich von Wlislocki (quoted in Ernest Jones' On the Nightmare) is the "stillborn, illegitimate child of two people who are similarly illegitimate." (2)
Carter gives a more complete listing of her source in her book's "Notes" section: "Ernest Jones, On the Nightmare (New York: Liveright Publishing Corp., 1951, c1931), p. 117" (148).

Was it possible that Haining quoted von Wlislocki via Jones? This assumption would be pretty hard to establish as fact, as Haining's Dictionary doesn't contain a bibliography. So, that left me with the option of consulting Jones' book, instead.

Thankfully, I have a copy of it. The original, in fact, not the reprint Carter cites. I'd downloaded it from Internet Archive on February 5, 2009. Here's what Jones' On the Nightmare (London: Hogarth Press, 1931) has to say:
Heinrich von Wlislocki, in his researches into Roumanian superstitions, tells us: 'Der Nosferat saugt nicht nur schlafender Menschen Blut, sondern stiftet auch als Inkubus-Succuba Unheil. Der Nosferat ist das totgeborene uneheliche Kind zweier Leute, die beide ebenfalls uneheliche Kinder sind. Kaum wird das von solcher Mutter und solchem Vater stammende uneheliche und totgeborene Kind in der Erde verscharrt, so erwacht es zum Leben, entsteigt seinem Grabe und kehrt nicht mehr dahin zurück. Als schwarze Katze, als schwarzer Hund, als Käfer, Schmetterling oder auch bios als Strohhalm besucht es nachts die Menschen; wenn es männlichen Geschlechts ist: die Frauen; wenn es weiblichen Geschlechts ist: die Männer (117).
If you can't read German (like me), that's ok, because Jones also supplies an English translation:
The Nosferat not only sucks the blood of sleeping people, but also does mischief as an Incubus or Succubus. The Nosferat is the still-born, illegitimate child of two people who are similarly illegitimate. It is hardly put under the earth before it awakes to life and leaves its grave never to return. It is hardly put under the earth before it awakes to life and leaves its grave never to return. It visits people by night in the form of a black cat, a black dog, a beetle, a butterfly or even a simple straw. When its sex is male, it visits women; when female, men. (117)
The similarity between Jones' translation and Haining's quote from von Wlislocki, is too obvious to dismiss. But, unlike Haining, Jones directly cites his source: "Quoted by Stern, op. cit. Bd. i. S. 357, 358" (117).

So, who was this Stern bloke? Once again, Jones told me. Firstly in his "Index of Authors" (356) and then in a previous footnote: "B. Stern, Medizin, Aberglaube und Geschlechtsleben in der Türkei, 1903, Bd. i. S. 364, 365" (102 n4).

Some light googlin' turned up a more thorough citation: Bernhard Stern's Medizin, Aberglaube und Geschlechtsleben in der Türkei. Mit Berücksichtigung der moslemischen Nachbarländer und der ehemaligen Vasallenstaaten. Band 1 (Berlin: H. Barsdorf, 1903). Incidentally, "Band" is German for "Volume".

Would Stern's book tell us the von Wlislocki source? Once again, Internet Archive came to the rescue. His bibliography has the following citation: "„Quälgeister im Volksglauben der Rumänen", von Heinrich von Wlislocki.. ,.Urquell" 1896" (24).

Thanks to the Wikipedia entry, I had already come across mentions of this article in David J. Skal's Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, rev. ed. (2004). I don't have a copy of this book. Thankfully, Google Books has "previews" of it. Which is why I can tell you that it includes "an excerpt from Wlislocki's article 'Torturing Spirits in Romanian Popular Belief' from the German periodical Am Ur-Quell ("At the Primary Source"), vol. 6, 1896, pp. 108-109" (80-81), which was translated and researched by Lokke Heiss and Andrea Kirchhartz. So, to come full circle, here's a section of their translation which ties in with the previous sources (except Haining's):
The most dangerous torturing spirit of Romanian folklore, which not only sucks sleeping people's blood but also plays a dangerous part as incubus and succubus is the Nosferat. According to popular belief, the Nosferat is the illegitimate child of two people who are illegitimate themselves. The Nosferat is born dead, but after burial awakens to life and never returns to his grave, but assumes different shapes. One moment he appears as a black dog, now as a beetle, now as a butterfly, yea, even now as a straw. In these shapes he visits people at night; if he is of the male sex, women; if female, she pays her visit to men. (80-81)
And this is where I've come up against a brick wall. As of this writing, I haven't been able to access a copy of von Wilslocki's "Quälgeister im Volksglauben der Rumänen". That's where I've hit a dead-end with the Internet Archive and Google Books. So, I can't tell you whether or not von Wlislocki's article, in turn, came from an earlier source. But, let's say I'm highly doubtful.

For starters, Heinrich von Wlislocki (1856-1907) would've been five years old when Haining clams Roumanian Superstitions (1861) was published. Thus, I'm left with three possibilities:
  1. Haining misunderstood Jones' ambiguous comment about von Wlislocki's "researches into Roumanian superstitions".
  2. Haining obtained the misattributed quote from another dodgy source.
  3. Haining fabricated the source.
I'm hesistant to accept the last option, although, it doesn't help that Haining (1940-2007) obviously transposed von Wlislocki's "Nosferat" to "Nosferatu". Nor does it help that Haining's book contains no bibliography. A mere book title (which, incidentally, I haven't even been able to trace) isn't good enough. Yet, I'm also fairly convinced that this book doesn't exist, anyway.

If I do get my hands on a copy of von Wlislocki's article, I'll let you know if it cites publication in an earlier work. However, the periodical's title ("At the Primary Source") seems more like an omen than a glimmer of hope.
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