Tuesday 29 September 2009


'We are resurrected as vampires,' it is said in a Swedish documentary on blood and horror. Mostly in Swedish, but also with some interviews in English, this is mainly about fictinal vampires and the use of copious amounts of blood in Grand Guignol and movies. I mention it here, as I think some of you may find this of interest. The documentary is part of a current series on horror (episode 3 is about Frankenstein a.o.). One thing is for sure, this is not for the squeamish!

Sunday 27 September 2009

Vampires among us

With vampires being remarkably popular, new web sites like this one on vampire books, keep appearing, and a number of new books are published. Most of them are, unfortunately, probably mostly old wine in new bottles. Amazon caters for those inclined to read vampire novels with a Vampire Store, and Twilight paraphernalia is everywhere.

I still haven't watched the Twilight movie, but it seems to be one of the biggest hits on DVD this year. Another popular vampire act, the musical based on Polanski's vampire comedy, Tanz der Vampire I also have not had the chance to catch, but I have noticed that it is now (again) on in Vienna, this time at a venue called Ronacher. I am no fan of modern musicals (I got so bored with the movie version of the Phantom of the Opera musical, that I had to fast forward through most of it), but I suppose it could be worth attending a performance.

To listen to some music and see photos from a 2007 performance, click on the image here. Videos from various performances, some including English subtitles, are available on youtube.

P.S. I hope I don't frighten you by showing the two book covers at the top - they are not exactly in the best taste!

Sunday 20 September 2009

Reading for autumn evenings

A little bat has been prowling outside my window lately, perhaps trying to inspire me to put other matters aside and blog more on posthumous magic.

I should at least mention - as hinted at in my previous post - a few more papers that are available online, and I would like to write a bit more about them, but that will have to wait until some other day. The first of the two online papers that I have not mentioned before is Bernhard Unterholzner's Vampire im Habsburgerreich, Schlagzeilen in Preussen: Zum Nutzen des Vampirs für politische Schmähungen which focuses on the 1755 vampire case in Hermersdorf which led to Maria Theresa prohibiting destroying corpses suspected of Magia Posthuma, and how it was treated in contemporary media. The second is Christian Reiter's analysis of the Visum et Repertum, Der Vampyr-Aberglaube und die Militärärzte, that I wrote a bit about in my original post on the conference.

If you do read German, the papers are well worth seeking out. If you only read English, the abstracts are available in that language as well.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

A weblog approach

Further papers from the conference in Vienna this summer are now available, including my own contribution, which is actually in English. Apart from an insight into this blog, it contains some information on the contents of the enigmatic Magia posthuma by Karl Ferdinand von Schertz...

Sunday 13 September 2009

Revolution Embodied

The iconic Nightmare of Johann Fuseli has had a great impact, spawning various copies and pastiches and providing cover material for many books on vampires and related subjects as noted here. As mentioned in that post, it inspired Danish painter Nicolai Abildgaard. A current retrospective exhibion of his art in Copenhagen focuses on the recurring themes of his opus, including his depiction of 'the body in pieces', and his interest in apparitions from e.g. Shakespeare and Ossian, 'the ghost of tradition'.

His Nightmare painting, however, is exhibited under the theme 'Eroticism, Love and Relief'. Studying the painting in the context of other of his works, it looks slightly more crude, as if Abildgaard did not pay as much attention to finish and detail when painting it, and that probably explains the red outlines of the female bodies that puzzled me in my original post.

In the accompanying catalogue, an art historian theorizes that the painting itself alludes to Abildgaard himself and his two wives. According to this theory, the nightmarish troll should be the artist himself sitting on top of his second and much younger wife, with whom he spent a happy time during the last years of his life. The other woman who has turned her back on him then should be his first wife who left him for another man. Whether you find this interpretation pertinent or not, the painting is as evocative as some of the other variants of this popular motif. And once you have grown aware of it, you will notice that the motif crops up inmovies now and then.

For the exhibition a number of vides have been produced, like on this page where you will find some of the more ghostly painting accompanied by music.

The exhibition by the way includes an interesting sample from Abildgaard's own library, as well as a time line of most of the 18th century and the early 19th century, allowing one to follow Danish and international politics, art and science contemporary to the development of the vampire from the Visum et Repertum and the early vampire debate into a theme of art and literature.

The seductive powers of bloodsuckers

The current fascination with vampires has now made it to the cover of Playboy. According to Fangoria magazine the issue 'offers historical insight into the sexualization of the vampire, beginning with Bela Lugosi's compelling portrayal of Dracula, but it is the eight pages of accompanying photos that truly demonstrate the seductive powers of bloodsuckers.'

Sunday 6 September 2009

Nosferatu in Serbia

‘It was during the winter of the war year 1916, in Serbia.’

Although other business has kept me occupied most of my time lately, I do spend some time on e.g. updating my collection of material relevant to the history of posthumous magic. So I have e.g. finally gotten around to replacing my old VHS edition of Murnau’s Nosferatu with the magnificent restored edition that has been available for a couple of years now. Apart from the movie itself, this edition contains a booklet that includes a 1921 article written by Albin Grau in which he claims to have heard about vampires while serving in the German army.

’Wißt ihr, eigentlich werden wir alle mehr oder weniger von Vampiren geplagt.’: ’Do you know that we’re all more or less tormented by vampires?’ asks one of his comrades, to which an old peasant says: ‘Before this wretched war, I was over in Romania. You can laugh about this superstition, but I swear on the mother of God, that I myself knew that horrible thing of seeing an undead,’ and he goes on to explain: ’Ja, einen Untoten oder Nosferatu, wie man einen Vampir dort unten nennt.’: ‘Yes, an undead or a Nosferatu, as vampires are called over there. Only in books have you heard those strange and disturbing creatures spoken about, and you smile at these old wives’ tales; but it’s here, where we’re at in the Balkans, that one findes the cradle of those vampires. We’ve been pursued and tormented by those monsters forever.’

Albin Grau then claims to have been shown an official report from the spring of 1844 regarding ‘a blood-sucking dead man or vampiric phantom, in Progatza (Romania)’.

All this, Grau says, inspired him when he was involved in the production of Nosferatu a few years later.

Rob Brautigam presents ‘the vampire of Progatza’ as a potential vampire case, but unfortunately has not identified any place with a name similar to Progatza. He does, however, write: 'Although it could be based on facts, there is the distinct possibility that this is no more than a bit of fiction, thought up to get extra publicity for Nosferatu which had just then been released.'

In any case, Nosferatu has, of course, had an impact on the modern conception of vampires that cannot be underrated. The name of Albin Grau today is probably mostly associated with Udo Kier’s portrayal of him in Shadow of the Vampire.

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