THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE VAMPIRE by Anthony Masters. Published by Rupert Hart Davis, £2.95
Count Dracula and vampirism seem to be attracting more attention these days. The continued success of Hammer’s Dracula series of films, starring the ‘Prince of Darkness’ Christopher Lee, still fill cinemas which are usually only half full is proof of this. The Count Yorga vampire films have also attracted a considerable following amongst the general public.
So it was inevitable that some new books would appear on the subject before very long to cater for this renewed interest in vampires, both legendary and ‘real’. Two have been published in the last month, the first is The Natural History of the Vampire. The other is The Dracula Myth by Gabriel Ronay (W. H. Allen, £2.75), which I shall review in GN12.
Anthony Master’s Natural History etc. is invaluable to those fascinated and intrigued by the blood-sucking myths and legends. Vampirism has been with us from earliest history and apparently few countries have escaped from having dread superstitions and evil deeds concerning those condemned to be known as vampires.
Masters explains why, in his opinion, this type of ‘undead’ tormentor is so deeply rooted in the dark unconscious corners of our minds. Also he comprehensively describes their activities around the world and the legends that accompany them. Included too are details of what Masters calls ‘real’ vampires. These include the infamous Gilles de Rais, the French mass murderer who was executed for killing hundreds of young boys and girls. The emphasis was on boys, for in the words of the author, ‘Gilles was a rampant homosexual’. The children after being kidnapped were not only sexually abused and tortured, but were used for orgies involving massive blood-letting.
Another ‘real’ vampire was Fritz Haarman, who was executed in Germany in 1923 for the murder of twenty-seven young boys between 12 and 18. Haarman was nicknamed the Hanover Vampire and was doubtless responsible for many other killings, for six hundred people disappeared in Hanover during his reign of bloody terror. Of these many were boys between 14 and 18, and a good proportion of these have been attributed to Haarman and his accomplice Hans Grans. Haarmann was a homosexual and after picking up his intended victim, he would take him back to his cook-shop. He killed these unfortunate boys by fatally biting them on the neck. The horror of his deeds were magnified when it was alleged that the flesh of his victims not eaten by himself, was served up for consumption at his cook-shop.
The book is full of amazing facts and information about these blood demons, and it ends with accounts of the most recent outbreaks of vampirism. Apart from historical accounts there are also chapters on the vampire in literature and the cinema. No area of the vampire phenomenon has been missed and the amount of research undertaken must have been considerable. Masters is also not without a sense of humour and irony, a perfect example being the title of the book. The Epilogue at the end reveals some of the author’s personal thoughts on the vampire.
In conclusion, a well documented book, unveiling a serious study of one of man’s oldest superstitions. I expect the sale of garlic flowers, wooden stakes, crucifixes and holy water to increase considerably if this book is bought by many people, especially if it is read in the dead of night.