Vampire-Killing Kits

vampire_killing_kitAtlas 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.

Jewish Vampires Are Now a Thing

Crosses are a staple element of vampire lore. Over the years, some comedic films have played with the idea of non-Christian vampires, like Jewish vampires who are repelled by the Star of David and other such gimmicks. But a new Israeli television series about a Jewish vampire, Juda, has created a whole new mythology around the concept.

Juda, after winning an impressive amount of money from a Lebanese man (whom he told he was from Italy), is visited by the vampire. She sinks her fangs into him and takes off with the cash, but is horrified by the taste of his Jewish blood. Romanian vampires, it turns out, are not allowed to bite Jews, and she has brought shame and misfortune to her family (plus, she was apparently supposed to be able to smell his Jewish blood before biting).

Juda, meanwhile, is on his way back to Israel, without the money and with a developing desire to consume blood. Jewish vampires, it seems, take eight days to reach their full potential (there’s plenty more heavy-handed symbolism where that came from). And those eight days will not pass by quietly, as he is pursued by criminals, the police, the Romanian vampire family and, of course, rabbis.

I’m not sure how to go about watching Israeli television here in the states, but it sounds like this could be a fun series. According to reviews, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and incorporates both horror and comedy elements. Juda premiered last week on the Israeli HOT3 television network.

Top Ten Vampire Books

As part of our celebration of World Book Week, this article from The Guardian lists ten top vampire books of all time. Eight of the ten are from the original heyday of vampire fiction, the nineteenth century. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, probably the most famous, was written in 1897 and appears to have been the culmination of a literary tradition that began in 1816 with John Polidori’s The Vampyre.

An interesting aside – Polidori was Lord Byron’s physician, and Byron was also involved with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. It’s interesting to see the influence his associates had on horror fiction – as in, they created two of the most famous monsters of all time. As far as I know there’s no connection to werewolves, though, which have a more cinematic origin.

So if you’re a vampire fan, enjoy! See if you can match some of the personality types found in The Vampires’ Guide to Dining to these historical fiends.

Vampire News

News show about the Vampire Rights Amendment
News show about the Vampire Rights Amendment
Fans of The Vampires’ Guide to Dining will likely enjoy Vampire News, which pulls together vampire-related news items from television, film, comics, and video games. Granted, these vampires are of the fictional variety, but they can still be vampspiring to those seeking out the real undead.