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Vampires, Burial and Death: Folklore and Reality [Paperback]

P Barber
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Aug 1990
In this engrossing book, Paul Barber surveys centuries of folklore about vampires and offers the first scientific explanation for the origins of the vampire legends. From the tale of a sixteenth-century shoemaker from Breslau whose ghost terrorized everyone in the city, to the testimony of a doctor who presided over the exhumation and dissection of a graveyard full of Serbian vampires, his book is fascinating reading.

Product details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (15 Aug 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300048599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300048599
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 15.3 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 748,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Europeans of the early 1700s showed a great deal of interest in the subject of the vampire. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful for my Social Anthropology paper! 15 Feb 2002
By A Customer
I used this book as one of the main sources for my module on 'explaining' vampires in Social Anthropology for my Dual Honours Degree. I found it fascinating to read and much lighter reading than the academic texts which were commonplace in the other modules. It made writing an essay almost fun! Apart from that, it covers the subject in depth without making it dry and unpalatable for the lay reader. I would recommend it heartily.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book 25 Feb 2011
By Wynter
I loved this book it's a keeper for me, well written, well researched and easy to read, it is very interesting historically from stories all over the world and from different eras in history. well worth buying. happy.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit heavy going 21 July 2000
I started to read this book as I was intrigued by the title. It was interesting, but it was a bit too heavy going for me, I couldn't seem to keep track of what the author was saying. There are many accounts of 'real' vampires and theories and distinctions between 'real' and fictional vampires. The author has done huge amounts of research and done a very good job of detailing documented events of vampirism. Very useful if you are writing a paper on folklore or enjoy something that is more like a detailed essay. I'm afraid I enjoy the more romantic fictional view of vampires. Sorry!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life after death 12 Jan 2002
By "badric" - Published on
Forget everything you ever heard about Count Dracula and Lestat, we are dealing with the real thing here. You won't find any pale and sophisticated lounge lizards in this book, just foul smelling revenants lumbering about in uninhabited forests - and they are much more interesting than the Hollywood vampires we know so well.
This book deals with the origins of the vampire myth and is full of information on the scientific facts and superstitions that lead people to believe that the dead weren't really dead. Paul Barber quotes many contemporary sources and first hand experiences, including a fascinating report from a doctor who supervised the exhumation of about 20 suspected vampires in Serbia. Several scientific aspects of decomposition are described in painstaking detail and the author convincingly explains why peasants, who had no knowledge of forensic medicine, believed that these corpses weren't completely dead - and it makes perfect sense. Small wonder people thought that the dead were no really dead considering the astonishing changes they sometimes go through.
This is a very interesting book, well organised and easy to read, and not as gruesome as it could have been considering the subject matter. If you're interested in knowing how the vampire myth originated this is a great place to start.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A VERY funny, exhaustively informative, and scholarly work 10 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on
I stumbled over this book in our public library. What a find!
Mr. Barber has written what looks on the surface like a doctoral dissertation. The chapters are arranged as though to present and defend a thesis. But the content is so engagingly written (to the point of laugh-out-loud funny), it's difficult to put the book down, even when it exhaustively explains the details of bodily putrefaction. This is a must-have for anyone interested in REAL vampire folklore and superstition roots!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The odd behavior of the dead 14 Jun 2001
By Eric Turowski - Published on
A lot of information in this book I'd heard from different sources over the years, but this one puts it all together. In one short volume, the entire vampire superstition is quickly and succinctly explained away. Evidently, the vampire myth is worldwide because of the way all human bodies behave after death. Simple as that. Details are given on a case-by-case basis as well as a plethora of rather gristly facts on decomposition, the problem of disposing of dead bodies, and the scientific (as well as superstitious) beliefs of cultures through time. There is nothing romanticized here, no black capes, no hypnotism, no pale aristocrats, no immortality. The imagination is nonetheless stimulated. One can only imagine the terror of a pre-scientific community suffering from a plague, digging up grandpa and discovering that he looks a lot more fat and healthy since he died last month. Something is horribly wrong... This is a great book, really well thought out and well presented. But if you're looking for "real" vampires, try the fiction section.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought it by mistake 29 Aug 2004
By Colonel Jenna - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I actually thought I was ordering another book, but I'm quite glad that I got this one! The author is working from the naturalistic, forensic side of vampires and other revenants, something that at best gets only one chapter in other books. He clarifies the common misconceptions about 'vampires', and while using the term for simplicity's sake discusses all the sorts of European walking dead.

The forensic details are quite scientific and factual (read: graphic), and although I have a strong stomach there was one fleeting moment where I went, "yuck". The book is not written to shock, however. The author even occasionally throws in a bit of dry humour, my favorite being his discussion of his dog's "spirit of scientific inquiry" in digging up dead things in the back yard.

I have loaned my copy to a friend who is an amateur criminalist and forensic-freak, and hope that the information in it will help us in our discussions on a certain murder investigation. As it is several years old I would suggest someone who wants cutting-edge this-year forensic science to go elsewhere. But for the vampirologist, anthropologist, or the curious, this is a great read. My friend had better give my copy back!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sparkling, scholarly investigation of folkloric vampires. 23 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Anyone who has read Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves needs to investigate this marvellous book by Paul Barber, a rare scholarly study that is written with verve, wit, and charm. Barber reminds us that the undead of folklore have precious little in common with Bram Stoker's Dracula or Anne Rice's Lestat -- those are completely modern concoctions. The traditional vampire is, in fact, a corpse. And not a corpse in any too good shape, either! Barber includes more information about the body after death than you could ever have imagined, and yet somehow manages to maintain a jolly tone while he discusses the details of decomposition and other potentially gut-churning subjects. I laughed out loud at lines like these: "However tragic your death may be, it would be far more tragic if you were to take me with you." This is a great book!
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