Wednesday, 31 August 2011

From Demons To Dracula

From Demons To Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth 


Matthew Beresford 

Publisher: Reaktion Books Ltd (2008)

From Demons To Dracula  is structured around a number of key periods and important events that have driven the evolution of the vampire legend throughout history. Matthew Beresford considers the importance of real-life sightings and genuine belief, historical figures, literary and cinematic portrayals, and contemporary sub-cultures, all of which have had some influence on the emergence of the instantly recognisable contemporary vampire, and the conventions we associate with it, like living in darkness, drinking blood, and aversion to religious items, particularly Christian symbols.

This exploration begins with the antiquity’s obsession with death rituals that include excarnation (the de-fleshing of the body), mummification, the building of cairns, placing coins on the eyes or in the mouth, and communal burial chambers. These practices, being closely linked with spiritual beliefs in existence after death, opened the way for the superstition that an improper or incomplete ritual may lead to a person becoming un-dead or a vampire. Beresford goes on discuss the vampire throughout the Middle Ages, focusing on the link between the vampire and the Devil since the evolution of Christianity as the dominant European religion. At this time, according to Beresford, conceptions of vampirism were closely related to issues of morality, and in repressing and undermining pagan and occult practices. Here then, the vampire becomes a symbol of evil and a heretical scapegoat of Christianity, linked to Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Christ and immoral behaviour including aberrant sexual activities. This can be seen in the common belief that living an evil life or being excommunicated by the Church could lead to an exceedingly wicke person becoming a vampire.

The chronicle goes on to explore the emergence of the vampire in literature and cinema, and accounts for the most famous and impacting works in relation to our continuing enthralment of the vampire legend. Dracula, of course, is given significant attention, as is Vlad Tepes, the historical figure on whom Bram Stoker apparently based his demonic Count. Beresford is rigorous in showing a chronology of fictional development, looking at early poetry such as Dante’s Inferno and Beowulf, the first fictional depictions such as James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire, then moving on to Stoker’s Dracula, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Cinematic portrayals are also duly considered. Beresford's emphasis that cinema has played a key, if not the key role in the development of our modern conception of vampires, is central to his approach. He explores this cinematic evolution through Murnau’s Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee’s portrayals of Dracula, through to The Lost Boys and the Blade franchise. Through these examples, Beresford illustrates how the vampire legend has been transformed over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, reflecting social and cultural conditions that allowed the vampire to evolve from a grotesque Victorian monster, as is the case in Nosferatu, to a beautiful, erotic and tragic being in Interview with a Vampire, to an action figure in Underworld.

While Beresford suggests that our modern day conception of the vampire has dissipated any real belief or fear of vampires as real threats, he goes on to explore contemporary examples of vampiristic activity such as sanguinarians who actively drink blood — though usually from a willing donor — and instances of genuine modern vampire fears as in the case of the Highgate Vampire. He asks whether it is "coincidence that both the Rev'd Montague Summers, who wrote two important works on the vampire in the 1920s, and the priest Seán Manchester, the self-proclaimed exorcist of the Highgate Vampire, the only modern case of a vampire scare in England, are or were devout believers in the vampire?" What he does not ask is why these two Catholics became "devout believers in the vampire," and whether this had anything to do with them each being personally confronted by such supernatural manifestations of demonic evil? Later he refers to Bishop Seán Manchester's and other people's assertion that "both Eastern and Western churches accepted the existence of vampires ... supported by the fifteenth century book Malleus Maleficarum" where vampirism is considered to be "one of the worst manifestations of the Devil."

An entire chapter is devoted to the bare bones of the Highgate Vampire case which is largely gleaned from Seán Manchester's bestselling account from which a quoted extract appropriately heads Beresford's offering. There is also some mention of interloping bandwagoneers, including "a gang of youths" arrested two days after "the Wessex Association for the Study of Unexplained Phenomena announced they would hold a vigil at the tomb of a suspected vampire" in September 1978 four years after the vampire had been successfully exorcised! and, unsurprisingly, David Farrant in whom Matthew Beresford constantly discovered "further contradictions in his story," that he "was arrested and jailed for five years in 1974 for tomb vandalism" and "the fact that Manchester was never in trouble with the police, even though according to his accounts it was he who performed exorcisms, gained entry to graves and tombs on several occasions and ultimately destroyed the vampire," concluding "it is therefore difficult not to take Manchester's side in the proceedings." 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Browning Version

The Vampire: His Kith & Kin | A Critical Edition 


Montague Summers John Edgar Browning 

Publisher: Apocryphile Press (2011)

In all the dark pages of the supernatural there is no more terrible tradition than that of the Vampire, a pariah even among demons. Foul are his ravages; gruesome and seemingly barbaric are the ancient and approved methods by which folk rid themselves of this hideous pest. The tradition is world-wide and of the greatest antiquity. How did it arise? How did it spread? Does it indeed contain some vestige of truth, some memory of savage practice, some trace of cannibalism or worse? These and similar problems inevitably suggested by a consideration of Vampirism in its various aspects are fully discussed in this work which may not unfairly claim to be the first serious and fully documented study of a subject that in its details is of absorbing interest, although the circumstances are of necessity macabre and ghastly in the highest degree. 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. The latest edition of Montague Summers' very first literary foray into the world of the undead (published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner in 1928)  is edited by John Edgar Browning with an Introduction from Rosemary Ellen Guiley (Vampires Among Us, 1991; The Complete Vampire Companion, 1994; The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters, 2004/2011; Vampires, 2008), and an Afterword by Carol A Senf (The Vampire in Nineteenth Century English Literature, 1988). A Foreword is offered by J Gordon Melton (The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 1994/1999/2011).

John Edgar Browning (born 14 October 1980 in Nashville, USA) is a PhD. student and Arthur A Schomburg Fellow in the American Studies Department at The State University of New York at Buffalo. He has contracted and co-written eight books, including Draculas, Vampires, and Other Undead Forms: Essays on Gender, Race, and Culture (Scarecrow, 2009); Dracula in Visual Media: Film, Television, Comic Book and Electronic Game Appearances, 1921–2010 (McFarland, 2010), The Vampire, His Kith and Kin: A Critical Edition (Apocryphile Press, 2011), and Speaking of Monsters: A Teratological Anthology (Palgrave Macmillan, contracted and forthcoming); chapters for Asian Gothic: Essays on Literature, Film, and Anime (McFarland, 2008), The Encyclopedia of the Vampire (Greenwood, 2010), Nyx in the House of Night: Mythology, Folklore and Religion in the PC and Kristin Cast Vampyre Series (SmartPop, 2011), and Schooling Ghouls: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Pedagogy of Horror (accepted and forthcoming); plus articles for various journals, including Film & History, Horror Studies, Studies in the Fantastic, and Dead Reckonings: A Review Magazine for the Horror Field. Additionally, he has spent nearly two years conducting an ethnographic study of persons living in New Orleans who self-identify as vampire, a project that has become the focal point of his doctoral dissertation.
"Although published too late to help Professor Van Helsing defeat Dracula, every modern vampire-hunter needs Summers's seminal compendium of folklore and mythology. Browning's critical edition, with commentary by leading vampirologists and rich biographical material, is a treasure-trove for students and scholars alike!"   — Leslie S Klinger, editor, The New Annotated Dracula

"Summers's extensive albeit curious research on vampires has long been a classic in the field, and it's exciting to see it being rescued from oblivion, as well as framed by such a renowned yet diverse group of scholars."    — Katherine Ramsland, The Science of Vampires

"This new edition cannot be recommended too highly to anyone with the faintest interest in Montague Summers or the origin of vampires."   — Nigel Suckling, Book of the Vampire




Peter Underwood 

Publisher: Robert Hale (1990)

Exorcism!  is an investigation of the truths and myths behind an age-old ceremony. Throughout history, the practice of exorcism has been used for the purpose of driving out evil spirits and demons thought to possess human beings and the places they inhabit. But there are more startling instances where exorcism has been used: to cure a trawler that seemed to be cursed; to expel demons from Bram Stoker's black "vampire" dog; even to rid Loch Ness and the Bermuda Trinagle of their evil ambience. Peter Underwood explores this frightening ritual in relation to witches, vampires and animals, while his far-flung researches have unearthed dramatic cases in Morocco, Egypt, South Africa and the United States, as well as the British Isles where chapter six returns to the familiar case of the Highgate Vampire. Peter Underwood explains on page 139:

"When I was researching The Vampire's Bedside Companion in 1974, Seán Manchester, president of the British Occult Society [dissolved two year's prior to the publication of Exorcism!] and something of an expert on present-day vampires was kind enough to contribute a chapter and I will paraphrase his remarkable story of the Highgate Vampire [up to and including the failed exorcism attempt in the summer of 1970]." 

The book contains a striking full-page photograph of Seán Manchester wearing a Transylvanian fur hat and accompanying Eastern European attire suitable for a cold winter's night with an array of crucifixes spread out before him.

The photograph on the dust jacket (see above) shows an exorcism in Grimsby in 1981.

Peter Underwood had been president of the Ghost Club (latterly known as the Ghost Club Society) since 1960 and has probably heard more first-hand ghost stories than any man alive. Long-standing member of the Society for Psychical Research, the British Occult Society (1860-1988) and Vampire Research Society, he had lectured, written and broadcast extensively. He took part in the first official investigation into a haunting and was present at numerous exorcisms. Peter Underwood (born 1923) sadly died in the winter of 2014.

Exorcism! offers some thought-provoking insights into a mysterious and powerful phenomenon, and the book's nine chapters covering this topic make for some fascinating reading.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Infernal World Of The Undead

 The Highgate Vampire: The Infernal World of the Undead Unearthed at London's Highgate Cemetery and Environs  


 Seán Manchester

Publisher: Gothic Press (1991)

This is the definitive account of the UK’s best documented contemporary vampire case written by the man who led the only investigation into the spectral hauntings, nightly visitations, demonic disturbances and blood-lettings at Highgate Cemetery and environs. Spectres rising from tombs, ghostly manifestations in moonlit lanes, nocturnal attacks on people and animals, corpses drained of blood — almost everyone has heard tales of the Highgate Vampire. Only this book offers the full and unexpurgated account written by the man who was at the epicentre of the official investigation into these mysterious and terrifying happenings. Illustrated with case file photographs from the author's own archive plus line drawings inspired by the recorded history, this revised and handsomely updated edition in hardback has already become a collectors' item. Copies are signed by the author. This enlarged edition stands as the last word on the case by the man who investigated it from start to finish.

“Ever since I became aware that Highgate Cemetery was the reputed haunt of a vampire, the investigations and activities of Seán Manchester commanded my attention. I became convinced that, more than anyone else, he knew the full story of the Highgate Vampire.” — Peter Underwood, ghost hunter & author, The Ghost Club Society, London, England

“I am very impressed by the body of scholarship you have created. Seán Manchester is undoubtedly the father of modern vampirological research.” — John Godl, paranormal researcher and writer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

“Seán Manchester is to be congratulated on this fine piece of research work which I confess to enjoying to the extreme.” — Professor Devendra P Varma, vampirologist & author, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

“Seán Manchester is the most celebrated vampirologist of the twentieth century.” — Shaun Marin, reviewer and sub-editor, Encounters magazine, England

“A most interesting and useful addition to the literature of the subject.” — Reverend Basil Youdell, Literary Editor of Orthodox News, Christ the Saviour, Woolwich, England

“This book will certainly be read in a hundred years time, two hundred years time, three hundred years time in short, for as long as mankind is interested in the supernatural. It has the most genuine power to grip. Once you have started to read it, it is virtually impossible to put it down.” — Lyndall Mack, Udolpho magazine, Chislehurst, England

Elizabeth and Barbara, two sixteen-year-old students of La Sainte Union Convent, were walking home late at night after visiting friends in Highgate Village in early 1967. Their journey took them down Swains Lane which intersects Highgate Cemetery, a Victorian graveyard in two halves on a steep hill. These intelligent students could not believe their eyes as they passed the cemetery's north gate at the beginning of their downward path between the two graveyards. For there before them, amongst the jutting tombstones and stone vaults, the dead seemed to be emerging from their graves. The two schoolgirls walked in eerie silence until they reached the bottom of the lane. Here they spoke for the first time, having finally found their voice, and confirmed they had both experienced the same terrifying scene. So frightening was their experience that Barbara would not talk about it again. Elizabeth, however, gave the author her account some months later. It was tape-recorded and can be heard in a television film documentary about the Highgate Vampire case. Elizabeth recounted: "We both saw this scene of graves directly in front of us. And the graves were opening up; and the people were rising. We were not conscious of walking down the lane. We were only conscious of this graveyard scene." Demonry later took hold on Elizabeth where her elocuted and very attractive feminine voice would suddenly erupt into a distorted masculine sound, deep and harsh, that issued threats. Her boyfriend, Keith, recalled this phenomenon in an interview he gave for a documentary (True Horror: Vampires distributed by Discovery Channel) which DVD also includes archive recordings of Elizabeth speaking about her vision and the punctures on her neck.

The revised and updated edition was preceded by the first edition in 1985, which was published in paperback by the British Occult Society. Rare new copies can be obtained from Amazon. Its front and rear covers appear below: