by Karen Joslin May 22, 2019
Today's post is in honor of World Goth Day. Garb yourself in black, play "Bela Lugosi's Dead" on your sound system, and join me in an exploration of vampire killing kits.
The photo above shows a purportedly authentic vampire killing kit that I saw recently on a jaunt to the Tallahassee Automobile Museum.
(I know, it's a strange place to find such a thing. It's a strange place. At least half the museum is dedicated to collectibles that have nothing whatsoever to do with automobiles. This vampire killing kit resides next to a set of rare Steinway pianos.)
The kit contains a number of antique-looking items, including:
Here’s a close-up of the vials:
According to the labels, they are (as well as I can read the type):
Beside the kit is a placard with a photo of a different vampire killing kit and the following explanation, which contains a few errors that I've left intact.
AC 4211. Authentic Vampire Hunting Kit. The note to the adventurous users reads:
“This box contains the items necessary for the protection of persons who travel into certain little known countries of Easter Europe, where the populace are plagued with a particular manifestation of evil known as Vampires. Professor Ernst Blomberg respectfully requests that the purchaser of this kit, carefully studies his book in order should evil manifestations become apparent, he is equipped to deal with them sufficiently.
Professor Blomberg wishes to announce his grateful thanks to that well know gun maker of Leige, Nicholas Blomdeur whose help in the compiling of the special items and silver bullets, has been most efficient.”
A few things struck me as odd.
First, the kit’s placard lacks of any kind of date. It’s unusual for a museum or antique shop not to give items at least an approximate date.
Second, the language of the note along with a few errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling felt a bit off to me.
Third, silver bullets are for killing werewolves, not vampires.
And fourth, as far as I know there’s nothing in vampire lore about any concoctions being helpful in either killing a vampire or treating a victim. And none of these concoctions obviously sound like they’d contain garlic.
I decided to do a little research on vampire killing kits. And what immediately turned up was lots of evidence indicating that while vampire killing kits do contain actual antique items, they aren’t authentic.
In 2004, Winterthur’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory analyzed a vampire killing kit for the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Among their findings:
“Although the materials used to make some of the components of this Vampire Killing Kit are consistent with a 19th-century date, there are some important anomalies. Perhaps the most significant is the presence of optical brighteners in the paper labels inside the lid and on the garlic box. Optical brightening agents were introduced into paper manufacture about 1945, so these labels cannot date to the 19th century.
The presence of barium in the optical glass in the hand-held magnifier indicates a fairly recent date. The ‘silver’ bullets were found to be pewter.
A wide variety of Vampire Killing Kits have come on the market in recent years, and some people even advertise that they make them. Many have components with labels referencing a mysterious Dr. Ernst Blomberg, who despite extensive research has not been positively identified.”
Jonathan Ferguson of the Royal Armouries investigated the kits from a historical angle, comparing their contents to traditional vampire folklore and vampires in pop culture.
While it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly where and when these kits originated, Ferguson believes that the kits referencing Dr. Ernst Blomberg show influences from the Hammer films. Hammer’s first vampire film, Horror of Dracula, debuted in 1958.
If Ferguson is correct, then the Blomberg kits like the one pictured above would date from the late 20th century. As for the non-Blomberg kits, he believes they could be a bit earlier.
Ferguson likens the kits to stage or film props rather than considering them fakes because there’s no evidence that a Victorian original ever existed.
However, many of these kits have been auctioned off for large sums of money, with the auction houses claiming they’re authentic yet failing to prove provenance. So while they may not be fakes in the technical sense, they’re often sold fraudulently.
Several people claim that they were the first to create a vampire killing kit that others then began copying. However, none of these claims have been verified.
One claimant, an artist (or possibly artist collective) named Crystobal, sells handmade vampire killing kits online. Other artists also sell them on various places around the internet, including Etsy.
So if you want a vampire killing kit but don't want to spend thousands of dollars at auction for something that isn’t authentic (and why would you?), pay an artist a reasonable price instead.
Or make your own vampire killing kit. Here are a few tutorials to help you get started:
Please join the conversation, and kindly treat others as if they were a friend you intend to keep.
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