Monday, August 29, 2011

Discussion of dates and an interesting find

Props to funkyjane, for tipping me off on lower prices for Thomas J. Garza's The vampire in Slavic cultures. After discussing her comment, I'll also reveal an interesting find I unearthed on Amazon.

Ms. Jane informed me of a 2010 edition of his book, which is for sale via the publisher's website. At the moment, the going rate for this book, on Amazon, is $162.95, which means it's actually increased in price since it was published in 2009. As it that wasn't exorbitant enough, check out the book's used prices.

The book available from the publisher's webiste, however, is not a new edition, but I can see why Ms. Jane thought it was.

As noted, the book was published on 20 July 2009, going by Amazon's 'Publisher' info. However, the book's copyright date, is 2010 (that is viewable in the pdf free preview I downloaded in 2009, as well as the [same] version available now). If you didn't know the book was published in 2009, you'd take the copyright date as the date of publication.

And here's where it gets murky.

The copyright date that appears in books is not necessarily the year the book was published. For example, the third edition of J. Gordon Melton's The vampire book: the encyclopedia of the undead is listed as being published on 1 September 2010 and it was certainly available for purchase last year. However, if you check its copyright date, it'll say '2011'.

Same principle applies to Brad Steiger's Real vampires, night stalkers, and other creatures from the darkside. Its publication date is listed as 1 September 2009, yet it features a 2010 copyright date. I wound up contacting the book's publisher about this 'discrepancy' and was told 'in publishing, the copyright year generally starts in September, which is when Real Vampire [sic] was published'. Note 'generally'. That also probably variates from country to country.

That, of course, leaves us with a frustrating riddle: which year is the 'right' one? The copyright year of the year of publication? That depends on the style guide you consult.

In terms of citation, this research guide, which breaks down the Modern Language Association style, mentions 'For a book, use the copyright year as the date of publication, e.g.: 2005, not ©2005 or Copyright 2005, i.e. do not draw the symbol © for copyright, or add the word Copyright in front of the year.' Other style guides may have a different take, or none at all. Always make sure you use the most current version.

It also depends on the context you're using the year. For example, a book could (I would think) have its publication date mentioned in-text, while a citation for it using the copyright date, would (hypothetically) be ok.

What matters is consistency, which, unfortunately, I haven't totally engaged in on here, as I occasionally alternate between a book's copyright date and publication date, when discussing it. Plus, the matter is further hindered by how much insight the researcher has into the book's publication date.

After all, if we're relying on the book, itself, how do we know what its exact publication date was, if the only info we have on hand is the copyright date? Should we start checking the publication dates of all the books we consult? Tricky stuff. I might delve into this issue at a later time.


In other news, how the hell did I miss this? While trawling through Amazon to write this entry, I stumbled across a critical edition of Montague Summers' The vampire: his kith and kin. 'Included in this critical edition are the authoritative text, rare contextual and source materials, correspondence, illustrations, as well as Greek and Latin translations. A biographical note and chronology are also included.'

Oh, hell yes! Into my shopping cart you go!

Check out the list of people involved in its creation: edited by John Edgar Browning (Draculas, vampires, and other undead forms: essays on gender, race, and culture, 2009), an introduction by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (Vampires among us, 1991; The complete vampire companion, 1994; The encyclopedia of vampires, werewolves, and other monsters, 2004/2011; Vampires, 2008), an afterword by Carol A. Senf (The vampire in nineteenth century English literature, 1988) and a foreword by J. Gordon Melton (The vampire book: the encyclopedia of the undead, 1994/1999/2011). What a line-up!

Fingers crossed they take on Summers' companion tome, The vampire in Europe (1929) next.

Also, I hope they haven't relied on the online version of The vampire: his kith and kin. There have been many reprints of that book, which stem from Bruno J. Hare's Internet Sacred Text Archive (ISTA) version.

The problem is, some of the text has been deliberately altered. You can tell which publishers have copy-n-pasted their reprints from ISTA (or other sites, which, in turn, have relied on the ISTA version), by seeing if they've included the following entry in Summers' bibliography: 'ERAH, J. Onurb. Key to Vampyrology, Witchcrafte & Dæmonologie for Guidance of ye Slayers. The Watchers' Society, Cambridge, 1751.'

The entry is not featured in the original Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd. edition (1928), because Key to vampyrology doesn't exist. The entry was fabricated by transcriber, Bruno J. Hare (Erah, J. Onurb), to undermine copyists.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Slobbo cops a staking

Props to Fra Moretta for sending along a news item concerning a modern-day manifestation of the vampire belief.

Many might of you might recall Serbia and Yugoslavia's former president, Slobodan Milošević (1941-2006) and his, uh, let's say, unsavory reputation. He died of a heart attack while on trial for war crimes. But in 2007, he received a heart attack of a different kind:
Serbian vampire hunters have acted to prevent the very remote possibility that former dictator Slobodan Milosevic might stage a come-back - by driving a three-foot stake through his heart.
A few interesting items of note. Firstly, the hunters used the same length of stake that Arthur Holmwood does on Lucy Westenra in Dracula (1897). Yeah, that was a three footer, too. Second, as I've pointed out before, Serbia is the vampire's heartland. Third, they tried to drive a stake through his heart. In 2007. Yikes.

Technically speaking, Miroslav Milosevic (no relation) drove the stake through Slobodan's grave. Not sure whether it 'hit the spot'. I'm sure he had good intentions. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the gesture was a bizarre political protest - by a member of the Resistance from Pozarevac, no less - or whether he genuinely believed in the stake's purpose in accordance with vampire tradition. But interestingly enough, impaling the a vampire's grave to prevent it rising is founded in tradition, as is the choice of hawthorn for the stake...

Update: ok, so I was right about the 'political protest' angle. Tanja, a contributor on a JREFF thread dedicated to the news story, exposed it with her translation of a Bosnian news source. Miroslav was indeed making a (ahem) point. I love the local constabulary's reaction to Miroslav's intent to stake the Slobmeister. It's a pisser.

A brush with FATE

Yesterday, I received photocopies of a bunch of articles I'd ordered from popular paranormal mag, Fate. Let's take a look at my swag.

That didn't quite sound right. Anyway, I'm interested in various perspectives on vampirism. But one that particularly fascinates me (apart from folklore), is the paranormalist viewpoint.

I was able to track down several of the articles thanks to citations in Martin V. Riccardo's Vampires unearthed: the complete multi-media vampire and Dracula bibliography (1983). I can't emphasise the importance of such bibliographies to research. Without further ado, here's what I scored:
Shay, VB 1949, 'James Brown, vampire', November, p. 59.

Berger, S 1951, 'Do vampires exist?', November–December, pp. 79–82.

Dyall, V 1954, 'Vampire of Croglin Hall', April, pp. 96–104.

Hoeller, SA 1963, 'The lady was a vampire', June, pp. 57–63.

Heiman, L 1968, 'Meet the real Count Dracula', March, pp. 53–60.

Rogo, S 1968, 'Second thoughts on the vampire of Croglin Grange', June, pp. 44–8.

Rogo, S 1968, 'In-depth analysis of the vampire legend', September, pp. 70–77.

Santore, V 1977, 'The vengeful succubus', September, pp. 43–6.

Riccardo, MV 1978, 'The persistent vampire', July, pp. 74–81.

Thompson, PB 1985, 'The Highgate vampire', May, pp. 74–80.*

'Scientist says no to vampire theory' 1986, January, p. 73.

Guiley, RE 1993, 'Real vampires', February, pp. 48–60.

Riccardo, MV 1993, 'Vampires–an unearthly reality', February, pp. 61–70.

Bjorling, J, 1996, 'A walk on the dark side', February, pp. 44–7.

Karagiannis, K 1996, 'Psychic vampires', May, pp. 40–3.

Miller, C 1997, 'The vampire prioress at Robin Hood’s grave', July, pp. 42–5.

D’Agostino, T 2001, 'Rhode Island: the vampire capital of America', October, pp. 19–21.

Guiley, RE 2004, 'Vampires sorcerers and witches', November, pp. 40–7.

Belanger, M 2005, 'The lord of vampires', January, pp. 24–30.

Redfern, N 2005, 'In search of the chupacabras', January, pp. 31–7.

Wood, DJ 2007, 'Vampires and disease: the bloodsucking corpse of English tradition', December, pp. 28–34.

Wood, DJ 2008, 'The White Death of New England', January, pp. 27–33.
There's a couple which eluded me, namely, Ivor J. Brown's 'The unquiet grave of the vampire' (January 1967) and Guiley, Rosemary Ellen Guiley's 'Vampires from outer space' (2005 FATE UFO Special). The customer service rep suggested I might've cited them incorrectly**, so I'll be on the watch for those. Also, if any readers think I've missed any of Fate's vampire articles, drop me a line.

If you're interested in any of the articles, yourself, I'll warn you that they're US$5 a pop (plus postage). They gave me an exception on postage, though, on account of how many of the buggers I ordered. Very nice of 'em. Speaking of nice, their customer service was exemplary. Props goes to Christine for responding promptly and always in a cheerful and helpful manner. Brilliant. So, if you're interested in ordering any, pop over to their online store. You can buy entire issues. I was just after specific articles.

Now, some brief notes on the articles. I'm wondering if V.B. Shay's 'James Brown, vampire' (November 1949) was an inspiration for Robert Damon Schneck's The president's vampire: strange-but-true tales of the United States of America (2005). Can any readers confirm that? Haven't yet obtained a copy of the book, meself. Just curious. If I'm not mistaken, that book primarily deals with the James Brown case (no, not that one).

I've got a feeling that Valentine Dyall's 'Vampire of Croglin Hall' (April 1954) was the originator of the names of the family (Michael, Edward and Amelia Cranswell) afflicted by the Croglin vampire. After all, the family is unnamed in Augustus Hare's original recount (Story of my life, vol. 4, 1900), nor are their names mentioned in Dyall's other sources, Charles G. Harper (Haunted houses***) and Montague Summers (The vampire in Europe). The rest of Dyall's rendering seems kinda embellished, too.

The 'Scientist says no to vampire theory' (January 1986) news snippet is the earliest rebuttal I've seen of the deeply-flawed, yet popular porphyria theory. It quotes Dr. Karl Alexander, certainly a reliable source considering he served (and still serves) on the scientific advisory board of the American Porphyria Foundation.

'Psychic vampires' (May 1996) was written by the author of a popular little tome called Vampires: the occult truth (1996). It's good to see his his full name - Konstantinos Karagiannis - attached to the article, as his usual pen-name (Konstantinos) makes me think of him as the vampire world's answer to Cher.

Thomas D'Agostino's 'Rhode Island: the vampire capital of America' (October 2001) looks like it might've been a precursor to his 2010 book, A history of vampires in New England. I've got a copy, but haven't read it yet. Will it be as good as Michael E. Bell's Food for the dead: on the trail of New England's vampires (2001)? Let's say it's a mighty high benchmark.

Lastly, the two articles by (disclosure: a mate of mine) Daniel J. Wood - 'Vampires and disease: the bloodsucking corpse of English tradition' (December 2007) and 'The White Death of New England' (January 2008) - might be teasers for his book, Realm of the vampire: history and the undead (2011). It's great to see his book score wider distribution, as it was previously only available through Fate's online store. Make sure you score yourself a copy.

* Originally published in Pursuit, vol. 16, no. 3. This was the journal of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU).

** 'Re: Enquiry from The Online Store', Thursday, 4 August 2011 4:37:25 AM.

*** At least, not in the first edition (1907).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vampires: a paranormal perspective

The idea that the vampire is a product of myth and superstition is something we take for granted. However, the vampire wasn't just conjured up as a campfire tale, but something people genuinely believed in...because they 'experienced' it.

In my review Across the forest (2009), I noted the sincerity of belief which the documentary's subjects held for supernatural beings like the strigoi. Some even claimed they were 'haunted' by them.

We often forget that, while largely debunked, the vampire 'experience' is something attested throughout history. Like ghosts. Famed French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, would even remark 'There is not an historical fact in the world more fully attested, than that of the Vampires. It is confirmed by regular information, certificates of Notaries, Surgeons, Vicars, and Magistrates.'*

Rousseau was not simply referring to folktales, but various reports filtering out through Eastern Europe, in which suspected vampires were exhumed from their graves in the presence of local figures of authority. Witnesses. The most famous example was the Visum et repertum (a coroner's report) written by an Austrian army surgeon. What's particularly interesting about these cases, is that they occurred during the Age of Enlightenment, so subsequent writings made 'fast work' of these reports, conjuring various theories from premature burial to psychosomatics. More than just debunking 'peasant superstition', they were debunking paranormal phenomena.

And what is paranormal phenomena? According to Wikipedia, it 'designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation"' and describes 'phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure'. I would suggest that one of the reasons vampires gained currency in the media - and provoked an explosion of writings on the subject** - was the implicit bewilderment expressed in the exhumation reports. In other words, if the attendant coroners couldn't actively dismiss what they were seeing (corpses in the 'vampire state'), then maybe something supernatural was take place.

Belief - and experience - with vampires hasn't completely disappeared, either. In 2004, Petre Toma was exhumed from his grave, on the pretext that he was feeding off his relatives. London, 1973, a Polish immigrant named Demetrious Myicura, choked to death on a bulb of garlic he rested on his mouth while sleeping, to keep vampires away. The 18th century cases, themselves, were characterised by the desecration of corpses through impalement, mutilations, beheadings and cremation - an indicator of how strongly the belief was (and sometimes, still is) held by the local populace. If that seems 'too distant' to our modern age, keep in mind a mass vampire hunt was held at Highgate Cemetery in 1970. Even today, some people still believe in the undead.

In our tendency to offhandedly dismiss this belief, we forget the human element. Not only did/do people believe in these things, but some claim to have personally experienced it. Alleged visitations from the dead still occur today, as attested by various ghost sightings and a 'science' dedicated to investigating them.

One could argue that viewing vampirism as a paranormal phenomena, first, allows us to have greater clarity on the subject - whether you believe it or not. After all, it makes us more receptive to 'eyewitness' accounts, more versed in the tropes, and allows us to treat them as we would any paranormal phenomena. If we are willing to 'accept' the 'reality' of vampirism - at least, one described as such - then we can investigate it from the bottom up, starting with the original 'claim'. Break it down, isolate its core components and seek explanations for the phenomena, consistent with what's being reported. That is, rule out all possible natural explanations before confirming a paranormal conclusion. You can apply these principles just as easily to cases of yore to the cases of today.

While it doesn't deal with vampires, I highly recommend Benjamin Radford's Scientific paranormal investigation: how to solve unexplained mysteries (2010). More about it on his website.


Incidentally, this blog underwent its third year of existence recently (July 30). Thanks again to all my followers, casual readers and commentators. Oh, and the folk who stumble across my blog searching for something else *cough* Twilight porn * cough*. Props to all of you.

* This isn't to say that Rousseau was a believer. Far from it. His comments have often been taken out of context by those who haven't read the passages following it: 'And yet, with all this, who believes in the Vampires? And shall we be all damned for not believing? However well attested, even in the opinion of the incredulous Cicero, are many of the prodigies related by Livy, I cannot help regard them as so many fables, and certainly am not the only person who doth so.' JJ Rousseau, An expostulatory letter from J. J. Rousseau, citizen of Geneva, to Christopher de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, London, 1763, p. 56.

** See entry 54 onwards.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Following the tracts

Stumbled across an interesting essay covering an aspect of vampire research you rarely see in English language works on the subject.

That is, eighteenth century dissertations on the undead. Before Summers, those guys kicked off vampire research as a serious field of study. Their contributions to the genre can not be underestimated.

Koen Vermeir's essay (opens as a pdf), 'Vampires as creatures of the imagination: theories of body, soul and imagination in early modern vampire tracts (1659-1755)' is essential reading. It also touches on the whole 'who was the first true vampire' thing I've been discussing here. I e-mailed him*, asking if it would appear in print form.

Vermeir let me know** that his final version of the paper will feature in Diseases of the imagination and imaginary disease in the early modern period (Brepols Publishers, forthcoming), edited by Y. Haskell.

* 'Vampires as Creatures of the Imagination', Thursday, 4 August 2011 4:53:39 AM.

** 'Re: Vampires as Creatures of the Imagination', Sunday, 7 August 2011 3:59:43 AM.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bigfoot and the undead

I've noticed some interesting parallels between Bigfoot research and vampire categorisation (a subject I've been discussing here and here). Time to wade back into that semantic quagmire.

It began with reading bshistorian's coverage on the way Bigfoot is represented, who, in turn reproduces a post by a JREF forum member, noting, 'It’s an interesting reminder of how history can be more easily co-opted to suit certain agendas by taking advantage of ignorance – ignorance of the past and of cultures and traditions alien to our own.'

I believe this principle applies to vampire categorisation, too. The 'vampire' is used as a term of convenience when discussing various mythical, legendary and folkloric beings. To get to the 'source', we have to revert back to the vampire's 'origin' point, that is, the earliest uses of the term in conjunction with the classic bloodsucking corpse type. After all, the word entered our language to refer to this specific being.

In terms of the Bigfoot issue, JREF forum member - kitakaze - is much more blunt: 'It is my assertion that Native American traditions do not support the existence of bigfoot and that what is put forth by bigfoot enthusiasts as evidence for the existence of bigfoot has been cherry-picked and misrepresented.'

I acknowledge the evolution of the word's usage since it was first published in the Western European press. It has lead to apt variations like 'vampirism' and makes sense when we apply it in an occultic context to refer to 'psychic vampires'. Sometimes, people use the word to describe themselves.

The word's metaphoric context was first mined in Caleb D'Anvers' journal, The Craftsman, which featured an article discussing 'Political Vampyres' (20 May 1732, pp. 120-9), which explicitly drew parallels with the Arnod Paole case and its associated characteristics.* However, the word's original usage has not been phased out.

And that's the inherent 'problem' I see with the broad application of the word. In terms of vampire categorisation, its usage is so expansive, you really have to start asking where to draw the line. Here is a definition for vampires in Jonathan Maberry's Vampire universe: the dark world of supernatural beings that haunt us, hunt us, and hunger for us (New York: Citadel Press, 2006):
Quite simply, vampires are supernatural beings that take what is not theirs to takes [sic]—blood, life, breath, or some other vital part of their human victims; and they take it by force. It is the taking without permission that characterizes the vampire. Even in cases of vampire seduction, the vampire is using supernatural powers to seduce its victim, which is no more a consensual act than spiking a woman's cocktail with a "date rape" drug (p. x).
Apart from raising questions on the nature of 'consent', many beings in myth, folklore and legend embody these characteristics from ghosts to witches to demons. However, even Maberry admits that his use of the term is 'for convenience' (ibid.).

Compare this with what Joe Nickell says about Bigfoot research in Tracking the man-beats: sasquatch, vampires, zombies, and more (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2011): 'There seems now to be a trend towards standardization, as the creature evolves into a mythical being—central to a belief shaped by planetary concerns' (p. 75). That was after noting 'What becomes apparent from all this data [of various 'Bigfoot' sightings] is the incredible variety of creatures reported (including many that are white, gray-blue, yellow, brown, reddish, black, etc.; that are horned and fanged, or not; that walk on all fours or upright; that have two to six toes and the like)' (ibid.).

How can such supernatural diversity be reconciled under a single heading? In the quest for convenience, doesn't the cultural emphasis of such beings, their local names, become lost in the process, in order to synthesise these beings under a single 'type'? In terms of 'reconciling' various traits, isn't a 'new' being created?

Occasionally, such 'reconciliation' is employed by paranormalists shoehorning various data to suit their own theories and 'experiences', not limited to presenting an 'alternate' history to 'validate' comparatively modern 'phenomena'. Montague Summers did it. So does the Vampire Research Society.**

To come full circle, 'Bigfoot' scores a mention in Shane MacDougall's (Jonathan Maberry) The vampire slayers' field guide to the undead (Doylestown, Pa.: Strider Nolan Publishing), p. 142, while Janet and Colin Bord, in discussing the hysteria and subsequent cash-ins on sightings near Sister Lakes, Michigan, mention a monster hunting kit for sale: 'For $7.95 the keen hunter could buy a light, a net, a baseball bat and, to clinch matters, a mallet and a stake' (my emphasis, cited in Nickel 2011, p. 73).

* The Arnod Paole case was so significant to vampire research, it introduced 'Vampyre' (vampire) into our language via the coverage given in The London J0urnal (13 March 1732) which The Craftsman article quotes from.

** see my dissection of their so-called 'Vampirological testimony' parts one, two, three, four.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Did you believe in vampires?

Last year, I set up a poll asking readers whether or not they believed in vampires. Let's take a look at the results.

I adjusted the poll to reflect differing interpretations of vampires, which is a source of contention in itself. The informal tone I used for the various 'types' (and reader belief) can be boiled down to the following options:
  1. Traditional, yes ('Bloodsucking corpses? Sure!')
  2. No ('No such thing. At all')
  3. Undecided ('Mmm maybe...')
  4. Themselves, yes ('Believe in them? I am one!')
  5. Traditional, yes; psychic vampires, yes ('Yes, there are undead ones and psychic energy drainers')
  6. Psychic vampires, yes; traditional, no ('Not in the bloodsucking kind, but the ones that drain psychic energy, sure')
  7. Living vampires, yes ('Yes, they're living people who need to drink blood')
Voters were allowed to select multiple answers, but I don't know who voted for what or how many options they chose. The poll received 99 votes before closing on 21 July 2011, 11.59pm.

With hindsight, I probably should have split the polls into two, namely, whether or not a reader believed in vampires (a) and, if so, in what type (b). Nonetheless, the results were interesting in itself.

I'll work in descending order here, so I can tell you that the majority of voters - twenty four (24%) - don't believe in vampires, at all, but 21 voters (21%) believe they're living people who 'need to drink blood'. Meanwhile, 18 of you (18%) were undecided, tying with another 18 (18%) who don't believe in the traditional variety, but do believe in psychic vampires. However, 16 (16%) believed in both types and another fourteen (14%) believe in the traditional type. Lastly, thirteen (13%) believed that they, themselves, were vampires. Let's make those figures more palatable:
  1. Traditional, yes (14%)
  2. No (24%)
  3. Undecided (18%)
  4. Themselves, yes (13%)
  5. Traditional, yes; psychic vampires, yes (16%)
  6. Psychic vampires, yes; traditional, no (18%)
  7. Living vampires, yes (21%)
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all who voted in the poll. Greatly appreciated. It's interesting to see how neck-a-neck the results were, not to mention the credence given to the living vampire type - and the bloodsucking corpse variety too, for that matter.
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