11 May 2011

The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead

The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead is a 919 pages thick brick of a book. As the title suggests it is indeed an encyclopedia - about Vampires and everything connected to the subject. To this day I still laugh a little at the memory of my high school paper which was about Vampires, presenting it in class and describing gruesome history and disgusting details about decomposing bodies, vampire hysteria and the fear of being buried alive in the "olden days" - I would have paid for a photo of the other students faces. Truly spiced things up after hearing about dreary subjects such as horse breeding, sport cars and Italian football teams.

This thick book contains everything a fan of vampires would like and need to know. For me the most interesting parts are the vampire mythos from around the world. The stories, describing the blood sucking monsters, while being told in different ways and always with awesome imagination by the locals are so similar that it can be compared to the belief of a "God" in all cultures. From obscure monsters, to living dead rising up again to feed on blood, to demons feasting on your flesh. The book also contains a lot of historical personalities that have been connected with vampirism, the popular Elizabeth Bathory supposedly a crazy old lady queen bathing in the blood of younger women to keep her young - but also of more unknown "real" cases that caused vampire hysteria in the 16-18th century.

Much of the vampire lore is explained, the thing about coffins, the obsessive compulsive desire to count small pebbles, fear of running water, garlic, wooden stakes - everything is described from a historical point of view and you learn the source of origin to these crazy superstitions.

You also learn about the effects of decomposition on a dead body and how unearthed corpses - during various stages of decomposition - fueled the belief that the corpse in the coffin had been up about during the small hours feeding on livestock and drunkards. There are also a couple of real diseases described in the book, explaining such things as hypersensitivity to light and how the vampire lore expanded in the "sunlight burns vampire" direction.

If you are a fan of popular culture, both literature, cheesy monster movies and recent adaptations of books such as "Interview with the Vampire" or "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (or the fantastic "Nosferatu") you will find lots of information on books, tv shows, comics and movies based on  vampire as well.

Personally I bought it for the vampire lore bits, and if you are a Gothic Horror fan, you could spice up your games using various monsters and beasts described in this book for your games. Or base scenarios around information found in this tome. The entire book is as the title suggests an encyclopedia so it goes from A to Z describing a wide variety of subjects starting with each letter in the alphabet.

The craziest thing is how relatively cheap this book is. It is paperback, true enough. But the amount of pages and the weight of it - the contents, it felt like a bargain when I bought it. Something I would recommend to any person interested in vampires.

Interestingly enough it has a companion book, which I also happen to own called "The Werewolf book: The encyclopedia of Shape-shifting beings". More about that one next week.

3 comments:

  1. Looks very interesting. I not long ago finished Barber's 'Vampires, Burial and Death' which presents a very scholarly approach to the European Vampire phenomenon and is likewise recommended.

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  2. Thanks for the tip, will look it up! :-)

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  3. So scary presentation. I love to read horror books, yeah that is different thing that I feel scared with reading that kind of.
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