Atlas Obscura has an article up today on vintage vampire-killing kits that can be found in museums across the country. Recent analysis has found that these kits are anything but vintage, unless by “vintage” you’re talking about the 1970’s.
Around 1970, when movies and TV series starring Dracula helped revive interest in Eastern Europe’s ancient bloodthirsty undead, dealers started catering to the burgeoning market for antiques related to vampires. Worn wooden boxes full of tarnished weapons, said to kill or at least gross out vampires, surfaced widely at auctions. They were said to have been assembled centuries ago as portable equipment to protect travelers. Prices soon reached tens of thousands of dollars each for the vampire-killing kits, which are typically fitted with pistols, wooden stakes, Bibles, crucifixes and rosaries, plus bottles of garlic powder, holy water and herbal potions.
Dozens of the kits have found their way into museum collections. Visitors flock to see them. Nobody seems to mind that in the last few years, academics have pored through archives and conducted scientific tests indicating how many of the kits now floating around are late-20th-century novelties. Despite the in-depth articles and museum labels explaining the objects’ origins, “belief is stronger than objective evidence,” the British weaponry expert Jonathan Ferguson says. He is the curator of firearms at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, which owns a vampire-killing kit that he describes as “inspired by the movies, not Victorian stories and folklore.” The museum acquired it in 2012, knowing that it was probably cobbled together in the 1970s or ‘80s.
That’s one way to look at it. The other is that the undead are still out there, and vampire hunting never really went out of style. Of course a vampire hunter who got started in the 1970’s would want a new kit, and we know somebody out there was busy making them.