Friday, March 26, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Have a read of Michael Bell's interview in The Believer's current issue.

Bell's best known for his 2001 work, Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires. It's one I highly recommend, by the way.

Anyhoo, here's a snippet from the link:

THE BELIEVER: How do you know when you’ve found a real vampire?

MICHAEL BELL: Well, when you get familiar enough with the vampire tradition, there are certain cues and motifs—little narrative elements that stand out—and make you realize “OK, this is probably something I’m interested in because it’s similar to the vampire tradition,” and then there are other elements that seem to be directly from popular culture that don’t fit, and you can tell pretty quickly one from the other. Basically I look for cases where the people involved were dying from a specific condition—where they exhumed the bodies, what they did to the bodies—cutting out the heart, et cetera. Those are the things I’m looking for.

Sarah Ellen Roberts and the Birmingham Vampire

Speaking of mass hysteria, I thought it'd be fitting to share another, little-known episode in vampire history. This time, we go to Peru.

Here's a snippet from Stephen Smith's "Sarah Ellen Robers: The Blackburn Vampire":
The story starts at the beginning of June 1913, when 41 year Sarah Ellen Roberts, the wife of John Pryce Roberts, of 25 Isherwood-street was accused of murder and the practising of witchcraft. At her trial held at Blackburn she was found guilty and sentenced to death . . . Her punishment was that she should be chained and sealed alive in a lead lined coffin. The sentence was carried out on the 9th of June 1913. Just as the coffin lid was being put on she cursed and swore that she would return to avenge her self in 80 years time. When John tried to inter his wife’s body he found the church authorities had little sympathy for him and refused him permission to bury his wife in consecrated ground. John travelled the length and breadth of the country trying to find a resting place for his late wife but could find no one willing to accept the body. In desperation he set sail with the coffin in the hope of finding some country that would allow him to bury his late wife.
If you can read Portuguese (yeah, I know that's a longshot), then I'd also advise you check out Shirlei Massapust's "A Maldição de Sarah Ellen". At the very least, it's got a few pictures for your enjoyment.

A more recent example is the Case of the Birmingham Vampire, which is covered by Sam Jones' "Vampire Takes a Bite Out of Brum" and Stuart Jeffries' "Reality Bites".

Encyclopaedia Scoop!

I've heard rumblings about this one for a while now, so it gives me great pleasure to confirm that there's gonna be a third edition of J. Gordon Melton's The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead.

According to its Amazon listing, it's due for release on September 1, and it'll set you back a mere US $29.95 (not including postage).

The first edition was released in 1994, and even though its was preceded by Matthew Bunson's The Vampire Encyclopedia (1993), it's set the benchmark for subsequent vampire encyclopaedias.

Its popularity also saw several other similar works enter the market, and Melton, himself, followed it up with a second edition in 1999.

It capitalised on contemporary interest in Buffy and Blade and also greatly expanded entries on White Wolf's role-playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade. It even incorporated a listing of websites (811-813), probably one of the first vampire books to do so.

No doubt the third edition will cover the Twilight craze and shine a light on the vampire's integration into mainstream pop culture in the 11 years since the previous work was published.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Purchase Round-Up

Yesterday, two Amazon purchases arrived. Namely, Mark Collins Jenkins' Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2010) and Claude Lecouteux's The Secret History of Vampires: Their Multiple Forms and Hidden Purposes (Rochester, Vermont/Toronto, Canada: Inner Traditions, 2010).

I've had 'em both on my Wish List for a while. Michele's review of Jenkins' book partly spurred me into finally buying it, and when I saw Lecouteux's book as its Amazonian "Frequently Bought Together" item, I thought "Oh, hell yeah!" and went ahead with the purchase.

Now, I wasn't expecting too much out of Jenkins' book, after all, it looks a little too glossy, for something of a scholarly nature. Well, at least, its cover does.

I thought it was gonna be a shiny, glossy thing, filled with lots of disturbing pics of dessicated corpses and whatnot, in light of its National Geographic pedigree. What it lacked in content, it'd make up for in visual "appeal".

Well, dear reader, I can tell you that it has bugger all pictures and I'm not overly thrilled about the content thus far, either. As of this writing, I'm up to page 76 and I haven't encountered much that I wouldn't find in other mainstream, run-of-the-mill works on the subject. It's the usual stroll through the same old, same old vampire stuff you've encountered a million times before (Vlad Ţepeş, Count Dracula, Arnold Paole, Polidori's "The Vampyre"), told in a narrative style.

At most, I'd say this book would be a passable, cursory introduction into the genre. It's also a pretty breezy read, so you'll work your way through it, quickly enough. But, from my reading thus far, there are waaay better books out there. Unless it turns a sharp corner into some meaty, scholarly stuff, can't say I'd really recommend this one.

I haven't started on Lecouteux's book, yet, but Niels' post on the possible inaccuracies of its translation, has given me cause for concern. I did point out, however, that he was working off a German translation of the original French book. As I mentioned, I actually own a copy of the original French version, but since I can't speak the language, I can hardly make comparisons of my own, heh heh.


Today, I received Hagen Schaub's Blutspuren: Die Geschichte der Vampire (Graz: Leykam, 2008) in the post. I bought it from eBay after re-reading Niels' appraisal of it.

Again, I can't comment too much on its content, as I don't know the language, but it's surprising to see that a book covering the "magia posthuma" era, would only have fleeting mentions of Peter Plogojowitz (90) and Arnold Paole (91).


Last Tuesday, I received another eBay purchase, that is, Tim Kane's The Changing Vampire of Film and Television: A Critical Study of the Growth of a Genre (Jefferson, North Carolina/London: McFarland & Comany, Inc., Publishers, 2006).

This one turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Its scope is admittedly narrow, as it focuses on the supernatural vampire variant in movies and only covers about 19 of 'em in total, but its application of genre "semantics" and "syntax" in correspondence with the evolution of the vampire's appearance, attributes and wards, in these mediums, is quite a fascinating concept.

Kane divides these films into eras: the Malignant Cycle (1931-1948), the Erotic Cycle (1957-1985) and the Sympathetic Cycle (1987- ). He even includes a Semantic-Syntactic Timeline (192-218), which is to die for.

Sure, a lot of what Kane covers has been said before, but never has it been boiled down, taken apart and articulated so well. Definitely recommended.

The Gorbals Vampire

Andrew gave me a heads-up on a largely neglected episode in vampire history.

It shows what happens when vampire rumours (much like the Highgate Case) spin out of control and take on a life of their own.

Stuart Nicolson's "Child Vampire Hunters Sparked Comic Crackdown" chronicles the events that lead to graveyard desecration in Glasgow, 1954, and a comic book witch hunt.

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.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sorting Out Buffy Bugs

As mentioned, I had a word to greener_books_london about the unholy price they were asking for that Buffy book.

Here's what they wrote back (Tuesday, 9 March 2010 8:20:22 PM):
Dear Hogg,

Thank you for your email; this is a software error and we are working to get
it fixed

Kind regards,
The Greener Books team
As of this writing, they still seem to be working on it:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Finally! A Publication Date!

Thanks to my Amazonian scrolling, I've now come across the publication date for the S. T. Joshi-edited, Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend, and Popular Culture.

I previously covered the upcoming work here.

So, mark November 1, 2010 in your calendars, people!

Its current asking price is $85 (preorder), but who knows, that might drop as the year goes on. Either way, I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

No, This Isn't a Joke

I've covered some pretty damn expensive vampire books on here. But nothing, nothing dear reader, could prepare me for this one.

I was doing one of my periodic searches for vampire books on Amazon, when I accidentally shuffled the list from high to low in price (I usually go for "Publication date", so I can what new stuff's out).

But before I reveal what the item is, let's take a few guesses at what it might be, eh? A first edition Calmet? Davanzati? Summers?

Nope. It's this:

That's right: US $44,294.46 (plus $3.99 p+h) for a used copy of Keith Topping's Tueuse de vampires : Le guide non officiel de Buffy (Hors Collection, 2000).

There are several things that make this asking price both abominable, and ludicrous.

Firstly, did I mention that it's used?

Second, the book is a French translation (thanks Wikipedia) of Topping's Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to Buffy (Virgin Books, 2000).

You can actually buy a copy of the English-language original, in mass market paperback form for the princely sum of...US $2.23 (some copies are actually going for $0.01).

Lastly, when the book was published, the series hadn't even finished yet (it wrapped up in 2003). So, even as a guide to the series, it's not even complete.

This is an almost incomprehensible mystery I have to delve into further, so, I've e-mailed the book's seller, greener_books_london. Here's what I wrote:

I am interested to know what criteria you used for pricing Keith Toppings' "Tueuse de vampires : Le guide non officiel de Buffy" (2000).

Your listing says you are selling it for $44,294.46. Is this accurate? If so, how did it warrant this asking price?
On the off chance that they actually bother to respond, I'm hoping they come up with a damn good explanation!

That said, if anyone actually ends up buying the damn thing, then I they can rest assured that their stature as Buffy's No. 1 Fan will be cemented for all eternity.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Phun with Physics

The vampire's contagious nature raises two major qualms concerning the possibility of its existence: 1) if vampires need to feed regularly, why aren't we overrun with them? 2) if they did exist, wouldn't their parasitic nature lead to the destruction of the human race and themselves?

These questions are explored in Jennifer Ouellette's "A Vexation of Zombies" and Mark Strauss' "Physicists Prove That Vampires Could Not Exist".

Incidentally, you can access the article by Dino Sejdinovic mentioned in Ouellette's blog entry, by scrolling through the "Miscellanea" on Dino's publications page.
It appeared in Math Horizons (November 2008).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rare Dracula-Related Items on eBay

Came across a coupla interesting Dracula items on eBay while doing one of my sporadic searches.

The first depicts an unusually "decorated" edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

It seems pretty cheap for an asking price of US $18, until you properly read the seller's description:
One 8 x 10 color photo of Forry Ackerman's signed first edition of DRACULA. Clear and sharp. You can read all the signatures including Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Vampira.
The next item's one for the Vlad fans. Personally, I can't stand him, but even I can recognise the value in a genealogical study of the Transylvanian Terror. Even more so that it's actually George Florescu's Divanele domnesti din Tara Romanesca (1943).

George also lead an investigation into Vlad's alleged burial site in Snagov monastery, in 1931. This was the same year the first authorised cinematic adaptation of Dracula was released. It was also the year Raymond T. McNally was born.

McNally would later go on to author the book that put Dracula studies on the map: In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1972).

Its co-author was Radu Florescu: George's nephew.

Here's a transcript from "Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree", which shows other links in the Florescu-Dracula chain.

Random Updates

Last Wednesday, I received a signed copy of one of the best books you could ever get on vampire folklore. That's right, I'm talkin' 'bout Jan L. Perkowski's anthology, Vampire Lore: From the Writings of Jan Louis Perkowski (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2006).

The first half reprints his monographs, 1972-1989 and the second half features his articles right up to 2006 (see: "Props for Perky"). Absolutely brilliant. Can't recommend it highly enough.


I know I've delayed mentioning it, but I actually made another blog entry contribution to VampChix. It was called "So You Want to Be a Vampirologist", in which I give some handy tips on which sources to peruse, etc.

I e-mailed it to her ("RE: Vampire Blog Entry‏", Saturday, 13 February 2010 2:48:07 PM) and made a minor revision ("Blog Entry Revision", Saturday, 13 February 2010 2:58:36 PM).

As with my previous contribution there, some minor edits and mistakes have crept into the transmission.

I'm gonna get pretty pedantic now, so bare with me!
  • The "believe" in "how many folklorists actually believe in pixies, unicorns and ogres" wasn't italicised like it should've been. Same goes for the "be" in "Nor do you actually have to be a vampire". Ditto for the "fifty" in "managed to isolate fifty. . ." and the title of my blog after "...if I hadn't started..."
  • The hyperlink in "blog entries" was meant to apply to "one of my blog entries". Slightly cut down.
  • The link I gave in the title for Jay Stevenson's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vampires (2002), was instead changed to an Amazon sidebar ad within in the post. Same goes for Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (1988).
  • Michele adds an Amazon link to John Cuthbert Lawson's Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion: A Study in Survivals (1910). Ditto for Summers' The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929).
  • The original link for David Keyworth's Troublesome Corpses (2007) is changed to the American version. Same goes for Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995).
  • The link to my "Public Service Announcement" was edited out. But, to be fair, I was given a warning about that in advance.
  • "That's better!", which concludes the contribution was actually a note I added to the revision I handed into Michele, and not meant to be part of the blog entry itself.

I've decided to add a new gadget to my blog, so I can keep all my contributions elsewhere in one place. A bit of a blog roll anthology, if you will. Got the idea from Andrew Dumas' "Reviews" list.

The gadget's ingeniously titled "Contributions Elsewhere". You can find it sandwiched between "Labels" and "Blogs I Read".


Settled in to watch
Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest (2008) yesterday.

Hoo boy, what a terrible film.

The blurb promotes sword fights (not that I think these have a real place in vampire flicks) and we're treated to about two short scenes where this occurs.

Kelsey McCann (Elizabeth), Amy Lyndon (Mrs. Witham) and Dan Speaker (Admiral Murray) were particularly awful in their roles. Andrew Bryniarski (Dracula) was quite imposing, but was obviously riffing on Gary Oldman's portrayal in certain scenes and was probably a bit too "husky" for the role. Kept getting distracted by his squat fingers.

Even though the flick's rated M here, there's bugger-all violence (or much other stuff, for that matter). All the deaths (except Dracula's) take place off-screen. No close-up bites, nothing.

The plot bares little-to-no resemblance to the actual Bram Stoker's "Dracula's Guest", which was promoted as an excised chapter from Dracula (1897), when it was first published in a posthumous short story collection, Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Tales (1914).

If you wanna read a way more thorough review of the flick, check out Andrew's.


Borrowed Peter Day's (ed.) Vampires: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006) and Harry A. Senn's Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 1982) on interlibrary loan today.

Never read Senn's book before. But what I've been flicking through so far, has been quite interesting, even if he does seem to be pretty flexible in his use of the term "vampire".

I'd love to get a copy of this book meself, but the asking price for this book can be quite steep. So, kids, if you wanna avoid forking out that kinda dough, consult your local library about interlibrary loans!

Peace out.
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