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"Real" Vampire-Killing Kits: All One Needs to Battle the Undead

Around the year 1970, movies and TV series starring Dracula -- especially the English films from Hammer starring Christopher Lee -- helped to fuel a wave of interest in vampires not seen since the decades-later launch of the Twilight books.

This kit was designed for one purpose...Or was it....

So too was another series of films about a sort of modern-day ripoff of the Count from the Transylvania wilds -- one Count Yorga (from Bulgaria).

Initially conceived as a skin flick, the producers were impressed with the box office horror films were doing and decided to change the concept. The result, quite amazingly, was the creation of two rather good, scary vampire films set in 1970s Long Angeles.

So successful was the formula, the blaxploitation genre decided to appropriate it with films like Blacula.

Despite what you may think, Blacula, if you watch it alone at 2 am one night will scare the living shit out of you.....

Blacula is a quite effective horror film with a strong, imaginative premis.

In that time period the following vampire films were released:

The Count Yorga flicks were genuinely chilling. Originally
conceived as a porn flick, the first was recut to be horror.
A prelude to a girl-girl scene remains in the final cut though.
The Count Yorga flicks are definitely worth watching today.

Quick thinking and imaginative entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on this burgeoning interest in the vampiric by creating a market for antique items seemingly designed expressly to kill the undead. Worn wooden boxes held various weapons to kill the fanged unholy ones.

Some were marketed as centuries-old portable kits presumably for traveling vampire killers.

Prices reportedly reached tens of thousands of dollars and Van Helsing wannabes (presumably having had the crap scared out of them watching all those vampire flicks on the big screen) spent untold amounts on these things. Presumably, they were purchased as conversation pieces as opposed to actual devices for murdering vampires.

Vampires are fictional inventions.... right?

The kits generally included various items such pistols and silver bullets -- or would wooden bullets work, too? The oldest standby, wooden stakes, were included, along with other mainstays: Bibles, crucifixes, rosaries, bottles of garlic powder, holy water, and herbal potions.

Dozens of the kits found their way to museum collections, allegedly, where visitors reportedly flock to eyeball them.One potentially major problem so far hasn't reportedly slowed these terror tourists down: in recent years academics have perused archives and conducted scientific tests on the items.

Turns out, many of the kits were not what they seemed.

In short, they're late-20th-century novelties versus hundred-year-old weapons to annihilate the undead.

Despite the in-depth articles and museum labels explaining the objects’ origins, “belief is stronger than objective evidence,” the British weaponry expert Jonathan Ferguson says. He is the curator of firearms at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, which owns a vampire-killing kit that he describes as“inspired by the movies, not Victorian stories, and folklore.”

The museum acquired it in 2012, knowing that it was probably cobbled together in the 1970s or ‘80s. The mahogany box, partly lined in velvet, contains a pistol, bullet mold and prayer book that date to the 1850s. 

The rest—bottles with cryptic labels, a handwritten psalm quote about slaying enemies, banged-up wooden stakes—can be considered handsome Halloween kitsch.

Keeping these invented artifacts on view nonetheless has scholarly value, Ferguson says; they represent the public’s enduring gothic fascination with “supernatural creatures and the means to defeat them.”

Winterthur Museum in Delaware has a vampire-killing kit on display in its show, Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes.

The set surfaced in the 1980s as a donation to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. On its leather case's yellowed paper label, the German manufacturer, professor Ernst Blomberg, lists its contents including “silver bullets,” a supply of his “new serum” and a gun made by the Belgian gunsmith Nicholas Plomdeur.

The label boasts that the kit will help ward off Eastern Europe’s rash of “a particular manifestation of evil known as Vampires.”

Ferguson concluded that in the 1970s, a British antiques dealer with a vivid hematological imagination invented the Blomberg-Plomdeur fable to up the value of worthless guns in his inventory.

On the Mercer kit, a Winterthur team found a variety of scientific red flags: the adhesives are modern, Plomdeur’s “silver” bullets are pewter, and Blomberg’s paper labels could only have been printed after 1945.

Still, some mysteries remain.

No one knows what lurks inside the glass vials; Linda Eaton, the museum’s director of collections, says no one wanted to damage the waxy seals to investigate the serum ingredients.

Sleuths who specialize in debunking vampire legends, including Anthony Hogg, have posted detailed denunciations of the kits.

Sometimes wooden multi-compartment cases are obvious fakes, adapted from antique desks or boxes used for tools, guns, pens, cosmetics, jewelry or musical instruments.

Sometimes the bullets would not actually fit into the barrels of the accompanying guns.

Some potions come in bottles with modern screw-top lids, and the stakes and mallets were made of wood recycled from furniture legs.

At the Winterthur show, the kit appears in a gallery section called You Be the Judge.

The curators’ label suggests that well, you never know, it’s a weird world, and maybe there were 19th-century anxious travelers girding themselves for potential danger as they headed into Eastern Europe. The museum’s text notes that the modern components in the leather box, after all, “might just represent replacements and repairs,” and Blomberg kits “have been sold through reputable auction houses.”

In 2004, Sotheby’s sold a Blomberg kit for $26,400. This despite what the catalog noted:

Neither the existence of Professor Blomberg nor that of the gunmaker Plomdeur can be confirmed. Also open to question is whether these kits were ever employed successfully in the killing of vampires.

In 2011, an unsigned vampire killing kit, with 32 components including a map of Transylvania and two crucifixes, sold for $25,000 via Sotheby’s. 

A Blomberg kit at Sotheby’s in 2012 sold for $13,750. The catalog described it as Continental, circa 1900 and later and had no comment on whether the makers were fictional.

David Walker, head of the auction house’s 19th-century furniture department in New York, says he remains skeptical of stories that travelers ever used the kits for self-protection. He describes the material as “very theatrical” as well as “rather elaborate and quite whimsical,” and he adds that they generate conversation when they’re on view and media attention whenever they come up for sale.

Mercer Museum says the kit boosted attendance for decades.

 It serves as a spooky prop during Halloween programs and has been used to explain centuries of misconceptions about the causes of wasting diseases. 

The bottom line:  
It is better to have a vampire-killing kit and not need it than not have one only to find, one dark and stormy night, that you need(ed) it.....


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