Saturday 31 October 2009


Apropos of horror fiction, some may have noticed that some time ago I added a banner concerning the Boris Karloff Blogathon, a collective effort to commemorate the 122th birthday of the well-known actor.

I have previously written about Karloff's contributions to vampire cinema, but I intend to return to this subject as part of the 'blogathon' that involves more than 50 blogs. If you have a weakness for this actor and his roles in horror cinema, do have a look at the other blogs participating. The 'blogathon' will haunt the blogosphere in late November.

No pumpkin head

No pumpkin head this year apart from plastic ones and a few candle lights. Still, Halloween is a good occasion to indulge in vampire or horror fiction, so I would like to mention that I was tempted by the relation to Bram Stoker and consequently am reading 'the official sequel' to Dracula: Dracula the Un-dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. It is quite an entertaining romp, bringing back the characters from Stoker's original and some from his notes to once again fight vampires, this time in 1912. At one point, Bram Stoker himself and Hamilton Deane turn up at the Lyceum where they meet the son of Jonathan and Mina Harker, Quincey Harker! You can imagine that Stoker is surprised to meet a character from his novel, and that Quincey is equally surprised to find a novel about his parents opposing a vampire! It reminds me a bit of Kim Newman's entertaining Dracula novel Anno Dracula and its sequels - these are highly entertaining and riveting page-turners, I particularly enjoyed The Blood Red Baron when I read them some ten years ago.

Monday 26 October 2009

La fascination des vampires

Jean Marigny, probably best known for the excellent little book known in English as Vampires: The World of the Undead (Thames and Hudson, 1994), has recently published a new book on vampires titled La fascination des vampires (Klincksieck, € 16.00).

It apparently is fashioned on answering 50 elementary - or perhaps not so elementary? - questions about vampires:

1. Pourquoi les vampires sont-ils omniprésents dans la littérature et le cinéma contemporains ?

Les vampires dans la tradition légendaire
2. Qu'est-ce qu'un vampire ?
3. Y a-t-il un terme unique pour désigner les vampires ?
4. Quels sont les différents sens donnés au mot vampire ?
5. À quelle époque les vampires ont-ils fait leur apparition ?
6. A-t-on cru à des êtres suceurs de sang avant le XVIIe siècle ?
7. Existe-t-il un rapport quelconque entre les légendes concernant les vampires et l’Histoire ?
8. Pourquoi les pays d’Europe centrale et orientale ont-ils été plus affectés par le vampirisme que les pays d’Europe occidentale ?
9. Comment reconnaît-on un vampire ?
10. Comment devient-on vampire dans la tradition légendaire européenne ?
11. Quels sont les moyens de lutter contre les vampires ?
12. La croyance aux vampires se limite-t-elle à l’Europe ?
13. Croit-on encore aux vampires aujourd’hui ?
14. Pourquoi le vampire fascine-t-il toujours dans un monde devenu rationaliste ?
15. Existe-t-il aujourd’hui un ésotérisme lié au vampirisme ?

Les vampires dans la littérature
16. Quand les vampires ont-ils fait leur apparition dans la littérature narrative ?
17. Comment le vampire est-il représenté dans la littérature ?
18. Le personnage du vampire a-t-il inspiré les poètes ?
19. Y a-t-il eu un théâtre des vampires ?
20. Pourquoi la publication de Dracula a-t-elle marqué un tournant dans l’histoire du vampire en littérature ?
21. Quels sont les rapports possibles entre la littérature vampirique et l’Histoire ?
22. Dans quels pays d’Europe le vampire littéraire a-t-il eu le plus de succès ?
23. Pourquoi les vampires ont-ils un tel succès aux États-Unis ?
24. Y a-t-il des vampires dans la science-fiction et la fantasy ?
25. Dans quels autres genres littéraires rencontre-t-on des vampires ?
26. Le vampire est-il toujours pris au sérieux dans la littérature ?
27. Comment raconte-t-on les histoires de vampires ?
28. Pourquoi le vampire fascine-t-il aujourd’hui de très jeunes lecteurs ?
29. Peut-on établir un palmarès des histoires de vampires ?
30. Le thème du vampire est-il destiné à perdurer en littérature ?

Les vampires au cinéma et dans les arts
31. Quand et comment le vampire a-t-il fait son apparition au cinéma ?
32. Quels sont les différents visages de Dracula au cinéma ?
33. Quels sont les rapports entre la littérature vampiresque et le cinéma ?
34. La télévision a-t-elle une spécificité par rapport aux films de vampires ?
35. Les films de vampires sont-ils fidèles aux romans et nouvelles dont ils sont adaptés ?
36. Quels sont les films de vampires les plus réussis ?
37. Comment le cinéma utilise-t-il le personnage du vampire ?
38. Le vampire a-t-il eu toujours le même impact au cinéma ?
39. En dehors du cinéma, quels arts le vampire a-t-il inspirés ?
40. Y a-t-il des vampires dans la bande dessinée ?

Le mythe moderne du vampire
41. Le vampire peut-il avoir une signification sociopolitique ?
42. Le vampire a-t-il une dimension religieuse ?
43. Le vampire est-il nécessairement l’incarnation du mal ?
44. L’attrait qu'exercent les vampires peut-il avoir une influence quelconque sur le comportement de certaines personnes ?
45. Le vampire représente-t-il nécessairement l’altérité absolue ?
46. En quoi le thème du vampirisme est-il érotique ?
47. Comment la mort est-elle perçue dans les histoires de vampires ?
48. Comment la psychanalyse voit-elle les vampires ?
49. Quel a été l’apport des jeux de rôle dans le mythe moderne du vampire ?

50. Comment peut-on en finir avec les vampires ?

Bibliographie critique
Filmographie sélective

A review in French is available here.

Sunday 25 October 2009

In search of Rohr

I have been asked for the whereabouts of a copy of Philipp Rohr's famous Dissertatio historico-philosophica de Masticatione Mortuorum from 1679. I actually do not have the original text, but I do know that a copy of the original book exists at the University Library in Leipzig. However, someone out there may know of a digital edition available online? If so, do send me a link to it and I will post it here.

Day of the Dead

The British Museum celebrates the Mexican Day of the Dead on November 1st this year in conjunction with its current exhibition on the Aztec culture. So if you happen to be in that city on that day, you can explore Mexican culture and the day of the dead, including a Danza Antigua: a romantic danse macabre from the underworld.

Afterwards you might stroll by Jarndyce in Great Russell Street. When I was there a couple of weeks ago they had a number of Penny Dreadfuls on display, including a reprint of Varney the Vampyre, and they are selling a catalogue of books in that genre.

The Atlantis Bookshop in Museum Street probably has a couple of books on vampires, but mostly deals with various 'occult' subjects, so I find it hard to find much more than a handful of interesting books there. That is actually where I bought Lecouteux' book mentioned in my previous post.

The Return of the Dead

In London I found an English translation of Claude Lecouteux' Fantômes et revenans au Moyen Age titled: The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind. It is published by Inner Traditions which should make one a bit cautious, as this publisher tends to publish books on the secrets of the Masons, secret societies, yoga, UFOs, 'forbidden history' and that kind of thing. Still, it is the first translation into English of the book, and the publisher is following it up next year with a translation of Lecouteux' book on vampires: The Secret History of Vampires: Their Multiple Forms and Hidden Purposes (apparently, books about the 'secret' or 'forbidden' history of something sells).

An initial look at the book and a comparison with the German translation (I, unfortunately, do not own the original French edition) indicates that the English translation is slightly abbreviated and less academical. It does contain the notes, but the quotes in original languages (including my native language, Danish) are omitted. Chapter three in the German edition, Totenbräuche, appears to be missing from the English edition, whereas the afterword by Régis Boyer from the original French edition is retained in the English translation.

All in all, these differences make me a bit cautious in approaching the English translations of Lecouteux' work presented by Inner Traditions. Hopefully, a closer examination will prove my worries unwarranted.

'How the ghost stories of pagan times reveal the seamless union existing between the world of the living and the afterlife. The impermeable border the modern world sees existing between the world of the living and the afterlife was not visible to our ancestors. The dead could - and did - cross back and forth at will. The pagan mind had no fear of death, but some of the dead were definitely to be dreaded: those who failed to go peacefully into the afterlife but remained on this side in order to right a wrong that had befallen them personally or to ensure that the law promoted by the ancestors was being respected. But these dead individuals were a far cry from the amorphous ectoplasm that is featured in modern ghost stories. These earlier visitors from beyond the grave - known as revenants - slept, ate and fought like men, even when, like Klaufi of the Svarfdaela Saga, they carried their heads in their arms. Revenants were part of the ancestor worship prevalent in the pagan world and still practiced in indigenous cultures such as the Fang and Kota of equatorial Africa, among others. The Church, eager to supplant this familial faith with its own, engineered the transformation of the corporeal revenant into the disembodied ghost of modern times, which could then be easily discounted as a figment of the imagination or the work of the devil. The sanctified grounds of the church cemetery replaced the burial mounds on the family farm, where the ancestors remained as an integral part of the living community. This exile to the formal graveyard, ironically enough, has contributed to the great loss of the sacred that characterizes the modern world.'

Sunday 18 October 2009

The Belgrade Vampire

I bought a couple of books while in London. One of them being Theresa Cheung's volumionus The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires: An A-Z of the Undead (Harper Element, 2009) 'dedicated to the memory of Montague Summers'.

Curiously it refers to a number of books in German, including those by Peter Mario Kreuter and Peter Kremer, but I doubt that Cheung has actually read them, as she, unfortunately, makes a number of errors in writing the history of vampires. She e.g. refers to 'The Belgrade Vampire', 'a vampire case that took place in Belgrade, Serbia in 1732,' that 'was recorded by Dr. Herbert Mayo in his esteemed 1821 work: On the Truths Contained in Popular Superstition.' A comparison with Mayo's book shows that this 'Belgrade vampire' is in fact the Medvedja vampire case recounted in the Visum et Repertum, that Cheung writes about in an entry on 'Arnold Paole'.

She also claims that Augustin Calmet triggered 'an outbreak of panic in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This infuriated the Empress Maria Theresa, who sent her personal physician to investigate.'. We learn that 'In 1755 the town of Olmutz in Austria was also the scene of several vampire reports, and in the region of Styria there were also two cases of reported vampire killings,' of which the last one was mentioned 'in a 1909 edition of the Occult Review.'

Obviously, the book is an inaccurate mix of information taken from various sources, blending fact and fiction and presenting the most fantastic subjects like 'Ethics, among Vampires':

'By any system of law every single vampire is a multiple-murderer without ethics. But if there is such a thing as a real vampire it is for all intents and purposes a different species to humans; a species that requires fresh blood, preferably human, in order to survive, and as such, a species that should perhaps be judged by its own standards. The ethics for real vampires are therefore a matter for them. However, when it comes to sanguinarians, people who have a need to drink blood, psychic vampires, people who feed on the energy or life force of others, and modern vampires, people who simply like to model their lives on the vampire lifestyle, there is without doubt a place for a code of vampire ethics.'

The book also includes a list of 'Vampire Organizations, Societies, Fan Clubs, and Websites'. This blog is not included.

Theresa Cheung apparently 'has been involved in the serious study of the psychic arts for over twenty-five years. She writes full time and is the author of a variety of books, including The Element Encyclopedia of 20,000 Dreams.' I hope that her other books are more consistent in dealing with their topics than the mix of fact and fiction that is The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

No pint

I have just returned from a trip to London. Staying in South Kensington, I went looking for the Bram Stoker Tavern on Old Brompton Road, but found that it no longer existed. So no pint in Stoker's 'own' public house...

But then I went to see 18 St. Leonard's Terrace in Chelsea where Stoker lived. A plaque commemorating Stoker and Dracula was placed there in 1977. It overlooks a members only park and the Royal Hospital in a very nice and quiet area. If anyone should want to move to London, a few houses around the corner (on Royal Avenue just off Kings Road) are for sale or to let, but I suppose the price is a bit steep.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

31 Days of Halloween

If you check out this blog, Reading with a Bite, you will find that I am today's guest blogger, contributing to 31 Days of Halloween. As many web sites and blogs are counting down to Halloween, you will probably find a lot of writings related to fictional vampires this October. If you are male and going to a Halloween party, you can even get some tips on how to dress the part :-)

If you happen to be someone visiting this blog for the first time in search of information on Magia Posthuma, I recommend that you read my paper on the subject of this blog and von Schertz's book! Otherwise, do look at some of the selected posts that I link to on the right hand side.
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