Vampires, Burial, and Death

Folklore and Reality

Paul Barber

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"[A] meticulously researched book. . . . Offers expert description of pathological realities of decay during the post-mortem transformation of dead bodies. . . . The book takes a welcome departure from the sensation-mongering, Dracula-oriented popular literature on the shelves of occult bookstores. . . . Paul Barber’s approach to vampirism is unique and readable, and his treatment of the data is scholarly and analytical."—Linda Degh, American Historical Review

"An excellent study of the way that the folklore about vampires may have developed in Europe through the oral tradition. . . . This study of the ways in which observations of actual physiological processes can become worked into legends and folktales by the forces of oral tradition and belief is fascinating."—Kliatt

"Barber is a delightful teacher. He interweaves folklore, philosophy, and modern medical practice. . . . In his search for a scientific explanation of the origin of vampire legends. Paul Barber surprises us, and will fascinate anyone who has given even a moment’s thought to the question of what Count Dracula and his blood-sucking brothers and sisters were really like."—David George, Jerusalem Post

"In this comprehensive volume on vampirism, Barber provides a wealth of support for his thesis that the vampire lore of preliterate peoples developed largely to account for unexplainable events related to death and decomposition of the body."—Choice

"Barber’s subjects are the revenants, vrykolakes, and other Undead of European folklore, and he writes about them with a combination of scholarly deftness, wit, and clinical relish which defies criticism. His book is dazzling: it creates and satisfies a market all at once. . . . Barber’s cool commentary and immaculate use of primary sources distance the gore, leaving the fascination. He pulls back the veil on a curious corner of the European psyche in the Middle Agges, and for those even remotely interested in folklore or medieval history, this book is a guaranteed delight."—Kenneth McLeish, Country Life

"This book is fascinating reading for physicians and anthropologists as well as anyone interested in folklore."—R. Ted Steinbock, MD, Journal of the American Medical Association

"Barber’s inquiry into vampires, fact and fiction, is a gem in the literature of debunking. . . . Barber’s book is a convincing exercise in mental archaeology. . . . We should not be complacent today about our own enlightenment in these matters, as public panic over the disposal of the bodies of AIDS victims amply shows."—Roy Porter, Nature

"Combining scholarly precision and readable prose, Barber examines legends of vampires and other revenants. . . . Readers will enjoy Barber’s insights into subjects usually ’shrouded’ in myth."—Gerry Melnick, Yale Herald

"A fascinating and pain-staking (sorry!) thesis, which welds together folklore, epidemic panic, communal stupidity and forensic and funereal science. Though leaving Boris Karloff and Peter Cushing firmly in the realm of fiction, it throws much light on a macabre tradition which arose from an elaborate folk attempt to explain the phenomena associated with death and decay."—Huw Knight, New Scientist

"A stimulating, authoritative discourse on the relationship between the historical concepts of vampires in folklore and fiction across the ages and throughout the world."—Library Journal

"Learned, energetic, creepily absorbing study—definitely not for children."—Kirkus Reviews

"A well-researched, fascinating discussion of revenants, elucidating the many distinctions twixt folklore and fiction by examining preliterate cultures’ attempts at explaining the phenomenon of death. . . . The study’s comprehensiveness and the author’s bone-dry wit make this compelling reading, not just for folklorists, but for anyone interested in a time when the dead wouldn’t stay dead."—Booklist

"A pioneering work on the role of medicine in unraveling the mysteries of the supernatural. Breaking new ground, it belongs among the significant studies of folklore."—Felix J. Oinas, Indiana University
ISBN: 9780300041262
Publication Date: September 10, 1988
244 pages, x