Last week, we looked at a book entitled Strange Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Alex Hamer. I expressed my love for that book because it did a lot to steer me in the direction of short-form storytelling (which I love).
Today, I would like to discuss another book that had a profound impact on my youthful brains: Vampire Almanac.
Summary: The first part of the book
Vampire Almanac by R. C. Welch and illustrated by Steve Feldman was a Kidbacks novel published in 1995 from Random House New York.
It came with the subtitle:
“Everything you’ve been dying to know about vampire legends, vampire bats, Bram Stoker, vampire films, books, magazines, and television—plus an interview with a real vampirologist!”
In just a scant 63 pages, this book delivers on its title by offering a variety of stories, anecdotes, and lessons about vampires, vampire hunters, and strange creatures who are adjacent to the immortal bloodsuckers that we know and fear.
The book begins by defining a vampire, which according to the author is difficult to define, and I couldn’t agree more. Vampires are either sensuous lovemaking monsters, or chocolate-loving creatures on cereal boxes, or “sicko criminals,” or an animated corpse—possessed by the spirit of a “criminal, heretic, or person who committed suicide.”
The book then really gets going with defining vampires through history and anecdotes, from ancient history to the middle ages (500-1500) and beyond. In addition, the book uses historical case studies from history, featuring the likes of Vlad Tepes and the Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
Summary: The second part of the book
The almanac continues with an examination of vampire hunters (this is my favorite part of the book) and offers up a really cool section on what vampire hunters should carry with them to defeat evil creatures of the night.
Here’s the list:
- Wooden stakes, approximately two feet long, with a sharp point and flat head for pounding.
- A hammer or mallet, used to drive stakes into vampires’ chests
- Cross and/or crucifix
- Garlic (fresh and whole is preferable to minced or powdered)
- Holy water
- Knife or saw, blessed by a priest if possible.
- Rope and crowbar (for climbing into graves and opening tightly sealed coffins)
- Flashlight or candles (to help you see in those dark places where vampires sleep).
The book finishes by discussing the proliferation of vampiric myths and interests in recent years (in the year 1995), and even features an interview with Dr. Jeanne Keyes Youngson, the founder of the Count Dracula Fan Club. All of this is a bit dated, but there is definitely some charm in it now in hindsight because you see the types of horror media that people were consuming, such as Interview with a Vampire (1994) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
I love this book, and I will always keep it on my shelf with the best of them. I don’t think I love it as much as I love other books from my youth, but I really do love it for what it’s trying to do and what it does well, which is take a light-hearted look at a horrific creature that haunts the shadows of our thoughts whenever we hear a wolf howl in the night or see a bat on a moonlit evening.
One day, I will probably write a book just like it, because the format is so playful, joyous, and engaging (at least in my opinion). So, if you can get your hands on a copy of the Vampire Almanac, it’s certainly worth it! Even if it’s a little outdated (so many 90s references).
Welch, R. C. Vampire Almanac. Random House, 1995.