Monday, March 15, 2010

Critiquing Cheung

My eBay-ordered copy of Theresa Cheung's The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires (London: HarperElement, 2009) arrived in the post today. I featured it on my Amazon wishlist some time ago.

From cursory glances, let's say J. Gordon Melton can rest easy.

Take her Arnold Paole entry (445-448). She claims he was stationed in Greece when he was (allegedly) attacked by a vampire (446). Bzzzt. Wrong. He was actually stationed in Ottoman-occupied ("Turkish") Serbia.

She also uses a faulty source for her Peter Plogojowitz entry (454-456), the giveaway being that she states his death as being in September 1725 (455). Which is kinda strange, considering the Plogojowitz case was dealt with in the July 21, 1725 issue of the Wienerisches Diarium. Whoops!

A source on Polish vampirism is also misspelled, that is Everio Athiesm (462, 671), which is actually Eversio Atheismi seu pro Deo contra Atheos libri duo by Georgio Gengell (who she doesn't name).

I'm also disturbed by the fact that she includes an entry on Dr. Hugh Pecos (449). She says, "Although Pecos's knowledge of vampire lore, and the science of real vampires, is extensive he remains a controversial figure, and the FVZA has frequently been dismissed by historians and researchers as a fictional organization."

Well, Theresa, that's because it is a fictional organization.

Let's keep in mind that the Federal Vampire & Zombie Agency (FVZA) claims to have been founded by Ulysses S. Grant, as a governmental department for the eradication of vampires and zombies in the US. If this wasn't enough to make one suspicious of their claims, there's always the "Disclaimer" on their homepage:
This site is is fictional and is for entertainment purposes only. We are not affiliated with the U.S. Government in any way. Under no cirumstances are you to harm anyone based on information from this site.
If that doesn't solve that little "mystery", I dunno what will.

So, to sum up, don't buy this book expecting a scholarly guide to vampires. Quite a shame, in light of its extensive list of entries, a pretty good bibliography (659-662) and a sizable index (665-685).

Let's hope Theresa Bane's Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology (2010) proves to be a lot more fruitful.

Lastly, you can read Niels' review of Cheung's book here. His criticisms are a lot more thorough.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Off topic Anthony, but I have just been left this link over at my blog: which makes for interesting reading

Anthony Hogg said...

That's funny, I was thinking about that case, just the other day. I remember coming across mentions of it somewhere in Google Books.

That's quite an interesting article, and it's got shades of the Highgate Vampire too it. Cheers for the heads-up!

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