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Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality; With a New Preface Paperback – April 20, 2010
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The average corpse does certain things: the face turns pale and waxy, the limbs become rigid, the blood coagulates, and it lays silent and unmoving. But not all corpses follow those rules; depending on how the person died, they may have a red face. After a certain point, rigor leaves and the body becomes limp again. The blood does not always coagulate. A corpse filled with gasses from decay may make sounds when moved or prodded. These things are explainable through science today, but weren't 500 or more years ago.
The book reads like a master's or doctoral thesis: Barber makes his points clearly and presents well researched proof to back them. While much of his research was in folklore, he has also gone to the experts in dead bodies: coroners and medical examiners. He's got the facts down cold: the physical signs of bodies that were declared vampires or revenants could all be explained by science. The stories that grew around them, of course, were all human imagination. If a body could groan and move and bleed, why couldn't it be what was making trouble at night in the village?
I'm not going to say that lovers of vampire novels will like this book (I'm not saying they won't, either). Lovers of folklore and human nature will. A warning: the descriptions of dead bodies are very graphic, although certainly not sensational. It's all presented in a dry, just the facts manner, but very interesting.
His explanation of what happens to a body as it decomposes, (supplied by the Medical Examiners of both NYC and LA) without the intervention of a modern mortician, are both accurate and gruesome. It also reminds us that the sole purpose of a casket/coffin is to provide the body protection from animals. In the past wolves, dogs, bears, would smell the poorly buried bodies and attempt to dig them up. The hole in the grave was of course proof to the village that a vampire had escaped; and if animal tracks were found, that the vampire could transform into a familiar.
The author can be tendentious and repetitive. I often felt the author was a student trying to fill a 'word count thesis', for a degree.
But overall, informative.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Required reading for my Anthropology class but its very interesting and I would recommend it for any vampire lore followerPublished 17 months ago by Doll Seller in FL
Got this as a gift for my grandson. He is very meticulous when it comes to picking out books. He reads a lot and was more than happy with this book.Published on March 11, 2014 by Deb Garrant
If you're looking for pop entertainment, this won't do; it's a legitimate, academic, treatise on the reality, formation, continuation and intrigue of cultural vampire legend. Read morePublished on September 30, 2013 by Mike Harmon