Vampires. They’re everywhere you look these days. Not to sound all old grandma on you, but back in the day all a girl had to get her vampire fix with was a beat up VHS of “The Lost Boys”, a pirated copy of “Near Dark” (which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who just won the Oscar for “The Hurt Locker”, thank you very much), and some new type of game called “Vampire: The Masquerade”. It’s true young female readers, there was a time when rarely was a vampire pined for by adoring masses. They were bloody, they were cruel, and they never shined like Robert Pattinson covered in diamond dust. And no, I won’t be slamming on “Twilight” here. I get it. If I was 13 years-old again I could easily imagine me replacing my dreams of marrying Wil Wheaton or Jonathon Knight of New Kids on the Block with spending eternity with Edward. That is his name, right? Lord I am old.
However, for as jarring as it may be for 13 year-old girls to come to terms with Kiefer Sutherland biting into a guy’s skull like it’s an overly ripe cantaloupe, yes, Jack Bauer was once an evil vampire, it may be even harder for the collective consciousness of our society to get a handle on what vampires were like really way back in the day. There is a secret history of vampires, and there is only one man, in my opinion, who is qualified to educate us.
You may have guessed. Yes, Claude Lecouteux is back with “The Secret History of Vampires: Their Multiple Forms and Hidden Purposes”. Who is Claude Lecouteux? He’s the man who wrote “The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind”. Now do you remember? The guy who brought back revenants via his specialty of medieval literature and civilization. Yes, him.
And Lecouteux does it again. Using ample literary and sources of record he traces the evolution of the Western culture’s vampire. Would you think it morbid of me if I said I took great delight in reading about the precursors of the vampire? Well, I did. Fascinating folklore and testimony bring to light the unlife and times of The Summoner, The Knocker, The Visitor, The Famished, The Nonicide, The Appesart, The Nightmare, The Strangler, and the always creepy, The Chewer. Seriously, you’ll never think of chewing the same way after this. The same holds true for examining the many names that are related to vampires, of course ending with vampir.
Lecouteux leaves no stone unturned, and no perspective at the side lines, in his examination of the vampire. Whether discussing where vampires come from, the opinions of theologians and medical professionals, or examining the methods to destroy them, Lecouteux covers all the bases in a surprisingly concise manner. This makes “The Secret History of Vampires” an informative and engaging read.
My personal recommendation? If you don’t already own it, buy yourself a copy of “The Return of the Dead” and follow it up with getting “The Secret History of Vampires”. This pair of books are a must for anyone interested in things that go bump in the night.