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on April 15, 2010
The Secret History of Vampires: Their Multiple Forms and Hidden Purposes is an insightful look into the origins of vampire folklore and mythology, examining a diversity of inspirational incidents, records, and myths that may have contributed to the modern concept of the vampire - well before Bram Stoker's classic horror novel "Dracula". Incidents recorded as fact in newspaper and judicial archives long past piece together a variety of different predecessors to the modern-day vampire: shroud eaters, appesarts, nightmares, and even the stafia, which supposedly arose from masons secretly interring the shadow of a living human being into the wall of a building under construction. Anyone curious into the origins of myths in general and the public perception of vampires in particular absolutely must read The Secret History of Vampires! Highly recommended, especially for public library folklore shelves.
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on July 20, 2012
The Undead have been among us for centuries if not millennium. Upon the death of a community member it was common practice to make sure that all the funeral rites were performed properly and that the dead were given their proper respect, or else they would come back. The Dead live even after their bodies stop functioning. A more generic term would be revenant, which was a corpse that came back from the dead.

The vampire is just another breed of revanent.Revants have been with us since prehistoric times. Now vampires are known for coming out only at night, drinking people's blood and shape shifting. but there is more to it. Who usually became a vampire upon their death. Legend and lore say that usually suicides, sinners, witches, werewolves and those born with a caul around them would become vampires when they died. Vampire are notorious for haunting their local village after they have died and usually they claim those that were closest to them. There were several ways of stopping the vampire or killing it. The most popular way was to cut off the vampire's head and place it at the feet of the corpse. Of course you would drive a wooden stake through it heart first. Some times the corpse would be burned and the ashes would be strewn into the river. Sometimes someone who had been victimized by vampire would need to drink the ashen water in order to recover.

There were several types of vampires. the summoner would call peoples name and those that were called ended up dying. The knocker did the same thing by knocking on your door and nonicide killed 9 people before stopping. The chewer ate his clothes and each time he ate his clothes someone would die. There is also the famished who was eternally hungry. Sounds a lot like zombies.

Fear of vampires was especially prevalent in the 18th century especially after the witch craze died down. The fear of vampires is alive even unto this day. People, especially in Slavic countries, will still nail coffins shut with iron nails, execute corpses and even dress themselves with garlic. One man in America even choked in his sleep on a piece of garlic. He kept garlic in his mouth to protect himself from vampires. To stop a vampire from rising from it's grave the village people employed a few strategies. One was to stuff the mouth with garlic or earth. Another such strategy was to bury the corpse face down. An old strategy was to cut off the head and leave it by the feet. When people went to destroy vampires they usually found them well fed, their blood fresh and the corpse really well preserved.

Scientists have looked for ways to explain the vampire myth. Mythologist have looked for answers in the myths. Th author makes the argument that the vampire or revanent is actually an astral double. The astral double explains the shape shifting ability and it's ability to get in through cracks and small places. It also explains why it leaves no reflecting. One way to stop a vampire was to plug up a whole in it's grave or in the house it was haunting.

This book is an excellent book for those who wish to learn about vampires. The author does a thorough investigation of legend and lore and explains it in simple terms to the reader. Very short and very thorough. I definitely want to read more of his works.
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on January 23, 2011
This review originally appeared on The Magical Buffet website on 3/24/10.

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.
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on October 31, 2015
This is about the fascinating beliefs, surprisingly common in different parts of the world throughout history (including New England in the past century!) that you sometimes have to dig up your dead relatives to end the spreading of disease or misfortune. It also uses these insights to analyze , anthropologically, what purpose these beliefs serve in our psyche and what they symbolize for us. It is what vampires really were believed to be--not what the movies tell us, but what has been historically believed which affected very common cultural burial customs, some of which are still observed today due to tradition, even if the people keeping the traditions do not understand the origin of what they are practicing or for what original reason.
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on June 20, 2016
Very thorough. Enlightening and more complete than other reference books I've read. Deserves to be read and studied more than once. Another fascinating and complementary guide to this great book is -The Vampire Slayers- by Shane MacDougall. Both very intriguing and a must have in the personal library of any vampire (enthusiast....) Would'nt you like to be a vampire?
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on June 5, 2014
Yes. I have. Under a different title, "The Return of the Dead," a book that, I believe, was published before "Vampires." Claude Lecouteux gets four stars because he is brilliant, resourceful, and provides unique scholarship to overlooked, under appreciated, and shunned topics by the neo-pagan community. The missing star had to be given, because, like I said, it's too much like "Return." Many, many accounts overlap between the two books; and "Vampires," being a rather small tome, could have just as well been another part of "Return."
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on May 6, 2014
I really enjoy reading this authors books. If you want to delve into the history of these monsters that still inspire horror and paranormal fiction writers to this day, buy this book.
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on June 14, 2010
Bella Lagosi is stil among us according to Claude Lecouteux, the author. Were they real? Items of fiction? Misunderstoond figures in literature and film?

Lecouteux is someone who believes that belief in vampires predates the Roman Empire.

And, modern science, does it explain the unexplainable? Vampires, multiple souls in one individual, blood suckers, and ghouls?

Fact, or fiction?
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