Vampire Apotropaics Part 4: Die Vampire Die

We all want vampires dead, but what to do when it’s the middle of night and there are no stakes nearby? Why, reach for a sock, of course.

By far the most common method to off a vampire is with a stake. Van Helsing uses it, why shouldn’t you? However, you don’t always have to chop up grandma’s antique chair. A needle also works. Romanians believe (present tense, mind you) that a needle inserted into the navel will kill a vampire. Why the navel? That’s where the second heart lies. It has to have a second one, because the first one went kaput when the person died. The second heart is what keeps the vampire alive after death.

Vampire blood was so evil that any person who came in contact with it would become insane. Therefore during staking, an animal hide was placed over the body. Vampires were seen as squishy blood balloons, so this form of protection helped minimize splatter.

Click on the picture to bring up the YouTube clip.

Steven Weber (playing Jonathan Harker) could have used a bib in Mel Brooks’s “Dracula Dead and Loving It.” Click on the picture to bring up the YouTube clip.

A consecrated bullet would kill a vampire, but not in the way you think. Shoot it through the coffin. One reason for this might be that it spoiled the coffin and gave the vampire no place to rest. A version of this can be seen in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula where they ruin the vampire’s coffin but placing holy wafers in the dirt. The idea that sunlight can kill vampires is an invention of film. In Poland and Prussia, the creatures can hunt the living from noon till midnight. Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula could function in daylight.

1943 Son of Dracula played by Lon Chaney Jr. just before sunlight strikes him.

1943 Son of Dracula played by Lon Chaney Jr. just before sunlight strikes him.

The first film to have a vampire to die by sunlight is Son of Dracula with Lon Chaney Jr. as the vampire. The rays of dawn strike his body and he fades from sight. A few months later, Return of the Vampire showed Bela Lugosi (playing a vampire called Armand Tesla) succumb to sunlight. Though this isn’t really fair, as he was simultaneously being staked by his werewolf servant. The film did depict the first image of a vampire melting in the sun.

The first face melting of a vampire in sunlight (or from staking, who's to say).

The first face melting of a vampire in sunlight (or from staking, who’s to say).

If you suspected that your kin were a vampire the solution was simple. Dig up the body, dismember, burn to a crisp and drink the ashes. A pretty hefty cure if you ask me. Boiling oil was another method to destroy the undead.

Vampires were considered terribly OCD (counting knots or grains of rice). The final method of demise plays off this weakness. Steal the vampire’s left sock (I’m assuming this is the evil one with the Latin name for left being sinister). Then fill it with rocks and toss it into a river or other running water. The creature will go after it (possibly crying, “Who took my sock.”) and the moving water will be its downfall. Moving water was long believe to destroy vampires.

That’s it. Now you know all there is about how keep vampires out. If, however you’re yearning for a midnight nibbling, you know not to take the guy’s sock. He needs that.

Tim Kane

5000 Year Old Sunlight (Plus 8 Minutes)

I don’t often expound about science, but this latest bit of trivial has sent my mind in spirals. I recently bought the book Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun by Marcus Chown. I had previously read The Elements by Theodore Gray and loved the format.

Then I read about sunlight. It seems that the actual light part of the phenomenon occurs at the core, where the pressure of billions of Hydrogen atoms create immense heat. Then two Hydrogen atoms collide to create light.

We all know that light travels, well, at the speed of light. I recall the standard eight minute number as the time it takes light to reach the Earth. Not so. Apparently sunlight has to escape the sun first, and this means barreling through lots of other Hydrogen atoms surrounding it (it was formed at the core, remember).

It’s like a bizarre game of football, except the endzone  is about 600,000 kilometers away and there are about a billion defensive linemen smashing into you. With no time outs. Luckily once light is created it never fades or loses energy, so it keeps going, bouncing from atom to atom for 5000 years. Yes, you heard that right. Five thousand. (Okay another site said it was 100,000 years, but no one’s slapped a stopwatch to a photon of light.)

That means, that the sunlight you feel today was created 5000 years ago (plus the 8 minutes it took to travel from the sun through space to Earth).

Okay, if that’s not weird enough, how about taking a picture of the sun through the Earth. That’s right pilgrims, it is possible. You see light isn’t the only think our big ball of fire spews out on a daily basis. It also shoots out these tiny particles called neutrinos. These guys are so small that nothing affects them. They’re like ghosts, zooming through solid lead faster than I can consume a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

At any given second, 100 million million neutrinos are zipping through your thumb. Every once in a while these tiny atomic specks do strike an atom dead on. This can create a tiny zap of light. Don’t go looking for it. You’d need total darkness and a super fine camera to see it. Turns out the Japanese have built said neutrino camera. (What haven’t they built?)

Over a period of 503.8 days and nights, the Super-Kamiokande in Japan took this picture. This is what the sun looks like using only Neutrino particles. And, it’s shot through the Earth. Crazy.

No amount of sunblock will work against that. Just throw in the towel and admit that the universe has stranger things than we could ever imagine.

Tim Kane