Vampire Roundup

My first published book concerned vampires through the visual medium (film and television), so I’ve got a natural bent toward vampires. Here is a round up of the various vampire related posts to make it easier for readers or researchers to find information.

Vampire 101

Steven Weber (playing Jonathan Harker) could have used a bib in Mel Brooks’s “Dracula Dead and Loving It.”

Steven Weber (playing Jonathan Harker) could have used a bib in Mel Brooks’s “Dracula Dead and Loving It.”

Most people think of vampires as suave fellows draped in a cloak with a widow’s peak. Or maybe now, a young romantic figure  to sweep you off your feet, with fangs. There are plenty of misconceptions about the vampire.

Need to bone up on the vampire basics? You’ve come to the right spot. Let’s start with how to Become a Vampire (beware, these are stranger than you think).

Next learn how knots, dead dogs, and excrement can keep a vampire at bay. Then there’s the folklore behind lemons, clocks, and tar that cause the vampire to back off. If you need to capture a vampire, don’t just use rope. Go with carpets, oil or a bowl of cold water to keep a vampire in his place.

Finally, if you need to dispose of a vampire, forget the stake. Use a sock. Yes, that’s right, a sock.

Unusual Vampires

The Chonchon.

The Chonchon.

Imagine a vampire as a head with gigantic ears that soars toward victims to devour blood and inflict curses. This is the chonchon, the Ear Flapping Vampire.

In Albania and Romania, they have a legend of a vampire that eats the moon, creating eclipses.

Madam Bathory is one of the classics of vampire history. She was real, but what if you could restore you youth through blood?

Vampire Lifestyle

The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys

Think you’re a vampire (or at least want to act like one), then you need to learn the ropes. Which kind of vampire are you? Yes, there are various types. Check out What Kind of Vampire Are You or Vampires Revisited.

Vampire in Film

Nosferatu

Nosferatu

There are more vampire films than any other genre type. The whole shebang started with one movie: Nosferatu. Discover how Florence Stoker had all the prints destroyed. Then see how the film rose from the ashes to emerge as a classic 40 years later.

Tim Kane

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Creepy Critters and Insect Transformations

My life seems to be dominated by bugs. (Thankfully with no current infestations, though I could be jinxing myself.) It all started with a book: Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart. I was pulled to it like flies to dung. I’d already read her previous book, Wicked Plants, and it was astounding.

Wicked-Bugs

I’m only halfway through, but the descriptions of bed bugs kept me up at night (glancing around the room for possibly critters). One of the most intriguing insects so far is the Asian Giant Hornet. Not only is this creature gigantic (50 mm), it raids bee hives the way Vikings pillaged English towns.

viking wasp

One wasp will reconnoiter the hive, tearing off the heads of bees and bringing them back to its young. Then it smears pheromones and attracts a massive wasp raid. All the bees are destroyed, the larva and honey stolen away.

What really takes this to the next level is the defense that the bees mount. Too small to fight the wasp directly, they team up. The bees know that if they can dispose of the first wasp, the others won’t come. They lure the scout wasp inside the hive. The bees then proceed to flap their wings furiously, raising the temperature to a blistering 116 degrees. This cooks the wasp. The danger is that if the temperature kicks up a few more notches, it kills the bees.

Vampires-in-Lemon-Grove

This isn’t the only literary insect encounter. I’m also currently reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. The second story, Reeling for the Empire, is both repulsive and alluring at the same time. It centers around Japanese women stuck in a modernizing nation (mid-nineteenth century). To compete with Western silk spinning machines, the Japanese alter their women to transform them into silk worm. They grow fuzzy body hair and rip off their fingernails to pull out the silk that builds in their bellies.

This is an illustration created by moonasi for the New York Times. Click to see the original.

This is an illustration created by moonasi for the New York Times. Click to see the original.

Cap all this off with the fact that my local museum, The San Diego Natural History Museum, has a bug exhibit  (Dr. Entomo’s Palace of Exotic Wonders) featuring glowing scorpions, millipedes, bird eating tarantulas, and vinegaroons.

tarantula_poster_03_t600

It’s enough to make you twitch and glance over your shoulder for bugs. At least I’m not degrading to the status of Upston Pratt from Creep Show. Not familiar? In the story, titled “They’re Creeping You Out”, a cranky tycoon has “bug-proofed” his penthouse (Howard Hughes has nothing on this guy). Suffice it to say, roaches find their way in, both to the apartment and his body.

Creepshow – They’re Creeping Up on You! from Veetrix on Vimeo.

Gross.

Enjoy the insect world. They outnumber us 200 million to 1.

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 2: Back Off Foul Beast

We all want vampires to stay away. Who knew that lemons, clocks, and tar would do the trick.

There are many ways to counter a vampire using natural substances. Most repel the undead, keeping the creature at bay. The most common is garlic, but what fun is that. I dare say any vampire worth his fangs knows to keep away from that stuff. Let’s delve.

Lemons placed in the mouth of the corpse would dispose of Saxon vampires. The acidic properties (just like the strong smell of garlic) may be the reason for using this fruit. Likewise, the strong odor of tar would repel the undead. People would apply it to doors in the shape of a cross. Another item stuffed in the deceased mouth was wool. My guess is the prickly quality of the sheep’s hair would discourage the vampire.

Various types of wood had repellant qualities. In addition to carving stakes, juniper was kept in the house to keep the undead out. Like wool, this plant has sharp, needle-like leaves. Holly also keeps the vampires away with it’s pointy leaves. Millet, in addition to catering to the obsessive counting tendencies of vampires, could also repel them. It was rubbed on the face of the corpse.

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Blood bread was another tradition that provided protection in Poland. The blood of the corpse was mixed with dough and made into a bread. Partaking of the bread kept the vampire away. In Pomerania the blood was mixed with brandy and drunk.

I found this recipe for blood bread.

I found this recipe for blood bread. This uses cow’s blood. Click on the picture to check it out.

According to folklore in Europe, stopping the clock at the time of a person’s death will protect you from that person rising as a vampire. It puts the vampire in a sort of suspended animation. Also, placing a candle, a coin, and a towel in the corpse’s hand will keep it from rising as a vampire.

Iron is a common repellant for many magical creatures. However, you can protect against a vampire by simply keeping iron implements in by your bed. Scissors were common, but anything iron would do. Placing iron objects in the coffin kept the vampire from leaving the coffin.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

Need fires were used all over Europe in plague times. All other fires in the town needed to be snuffed out. Then huge bonfires were lighted. Typically livestock were marched between the fires to imbue protection. Similarly this could provide protection against disease and vampirism.

Salt was another another excellent deterrent as it had the ability to preserve meats. People carried salt at night to ward off evil creatures or throw it over their left shoulder to blind whatever might be sneaking up behind (goes with the spilled salt superstition). Salt sprinkled around a cradle would protect the infant. In Romania, a woman who ate no salt in pregnancy would curse her child with vampirism.

In the next segment, we’ll look into ways to tying down your vampire, including, but not limited to: carpets, needles, and ignoring the undead.

Tim Kane