Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The Warlock's Library #2
Published in July 1979 by Usbourne Pocketbooks, this little guide by Lynn Myring was the first book I ever read on the subject of vampires. I believe I was twelve at the time, and I read it down the Gold Coast down south while attending a party at someone's mansion for a 40th.
The family had one daughter who was a year or so older than me, and when the strip-o-gram arrived and the children had to vacate the room the girl whose name I cannot recall took me to her parent's opulent library, placed this book in my hands and asked me if I believed in vampires.
This innocent act was the beginning of a lifelong obsession with vampires and the occult, and although I saw the original Salem's Lot on TV four years previously the obsession never stuck, or did it? I am certain the image of the vampire boy floating out of the mists, scratching on his friend's window begging for entry was stuck in my mind ever since, and would be to this day.
This book explains the myths behind Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, and provides a pop-cultureless explanation of these groups. Sure Hammer Horror, Franco and Rollin had been making vampire films for years by then, but this was before vampires were cool ala The Lost Boys, and decades before they become a pop-culture phenomenon.
What was explained in this book stuck in my mind what vampires and their hellish ilk should be like in stories, albiet of the classical/traditional kind: No reflections, shunned by garlic and crosses, refused entry unless invited and could take the form of bats, wolves and mist. The vampires either lived in eerie castles or returned to their graves early in the morning after their blood feasts before the sun's rays destroyed them utterly.
Like most books on vampire lore this book explained the origins of vampires around the world, but what made is special was the comic-like art of the interior that resembles the cover art you see above. My favourite pages are the vampire rising from beyond the grave in a swirl of supernatural mist (page 6)*, and the page of a pious man watching over a coffin, with a legend pointing to the different ways of preventing the birth of a vampire such as:
1. Illuminating the room with candles and a fireplace, because as creatures of the night, vampires feared the light.
2. Placing garlic cloves over door frames. In medieval times anyone who didn't like garlic was viewed with suspicion.
3. Sun and Moonlight were once seen as strong sources of life-giving energy, which might reactivate a corpse. Therefore curtains and windows must remain shut till the body is buried.
4. Animals were a great danger to an unburied corpse, and if one such as a cat jumped over the coffin, the body inside was sure to become one of the blood-sucking undead!
5. Lastly mirrors were thought to reflect the soul and were taken down or turned to face the wall near the corpse. This was to prevent the soul becoming trapped in the mirror and returning later to animate the body! (Page 11)*.
The book explains how vampires were buried and destroyed, such as nailed down in their coffins through the joints so it couldn't rise at night, to stuffing its mouth with garlic and staking it upside down. The book explains the vampire myth in correlation to the Black Death, and also relates medieval vampires stories such as Arnold Paole, with some pages on Eastern and Jungle vampires.
The Werewolf section goes into the myth originating from Norse Berserkers to its further growth in Germany and France. Pacts with Satan and night-time rituals with bonfires and magic salves are presented as a means to become a werewolf. Jean Grenier, the Wolf Boy who claims the Lord of the Forest gave him a magic wolf skin and ointment so he could eat men, was dismissed by a judge at the time as ludicrous and sentenced the boy to spend the rest of his life in a monastery.
The Demon section is short and sweet, detailing medieval demons and their correlation to vampires and werewolves, and how Demons were blamed for the misfortune of man for some time in the Middle Ages.
The guide ends with a summary of real monsters such as Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory, and the short history (back then) of Supernatural Cinema such as Bela Legosi and Christopher Lee's Dracula and the original Nosferatu.
At only 64 pages, this little treasure is better than most vampire/monster guides released today, and compared to the state of the Vampire genre to back then, with this book we can clearly view what is sorely lacking into this wonderful genre today.
I got my copy off eBay years ago, but you can also find it on Amazon for an average price of US$60. As a memento this book is worth far more than that to me, but at 64 pages I suggest you do a good search to compare prices.
* Alas the scanner on my printer is not operating for some reason, so I cannot show you the pages in this wonderful little book.