“You think I don’t watch your movies? You always come back.”

I was disappointed to see this ‘vampire killing kit’ surface again, not because it’s back on the market (previously sold by LiveAuctioneers.com on 9.6.2012), but because Christie’s Paris have either failed to do the proper research or are ignoring the work that I and others (see also Joe Nickell’s chapter in his ‘Man-Beasts’ book) have done in the last few years to expose these kits as modern novelties.

Google Translate makes this of Christie’s auction notes;

‘Witty (s), this singular set is an invitation to travel that immerses us in the Carpathians at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

It reminds us in particular to the publication in 1897 by Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. The whole of Europe is so passionate about the fantasy world of vampires. Very quickly, creating Stoker transcends and creates a real fascination. This is particularly important in the Carpathian Mountains, considered the territory of vampires.

Professor Ernst Bloomberg, with the support of Nicholas Plomdeur a gunsmith Liege, then creates a business of destroying vampires. A destination for travelers to Eastern Europe, they produce kits containing the necessary equipment to protect themselves from these evil creatures.

Examples of such boxes that have survived are rare, it is nevertheless one of Sotheby’s New York, 16 November 2011, lot 112.’

Blomberg (not Bloomberg guys) is fake, Plomdeur was nothing to do with kits, and they can’t seem to make up their minds whether the kits were produced for those genuinely afeared of vampires, or if they are ‘witty’ flights of fancy. Added to which, the kit appears in the Decorative Arts department! Which is it guys? Real? Vintage novelty? Modern art? Arguably the latter of those, but in reality there’s just no evidence for these things prior to 1986, and I generously push the possible date back to c1970 in my Fortean Times article and the above-linked blog entries.

Ah well, maybe I have more work ahead of me!

 

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A Yorkshire Vampire Killing Kit

Another vampire kit has surfaced, this time in the UK. Being a Daily Mail article, no effort has been made to research the subject, and the auction house appear not to know much about them either. To their credit though, they aren’t claiming it as definitively 19th century in date.

As ever, it’s not quite like any other before it, but to me appears to have been fashioned out of a ‘vanity box‘ or possibly a writing case, instead of the pistol case typical of the ‘Blomberg’ kits. It’s a nice one – how nice we shall soon see. On past performance the £2000 estimate in on the low side…

An honest miss-stake.

Here’s a quick follow-up to the article on Vampire Killing Kits in the current issue of Fortean Times. Thanks to Darth Saber of the Replica Prop Forum for pointing out this intriguing new kit that’s somehow (so far) survived Ebay’s anti-weapons policy.

We’ve seen kits containing real antique firearms sold on Ebay before, but only where the pistol itself is listed on a different site. So whether this one stays the distance is anyone’s guess.

It’s interesting because it’s far superior to most ostensibly antique kits that we see on the ‘bay, but falls short of the mark in a few key ways. Firstly, there’s the deviation from the original Blomberg label style, typeface, and wording. You can’t beat the classic, so why even try?

Secondly, there’s the bizarrely-named bottle labelled ‘Daffy’s Eliyir’ [sic];

An oblique ‘Count Duckula’ reference? Who knows?!

Finally, and most obviously, there are the glaring spelling/typo and grammar mistakes (see how  many you can spot):

I realise Blomberg is meant to be a non-native English speaker, but really.

At least he’s consistent! (NB this odd spelling appears elsewhere…)

Now, I should point out that in common with recent auction house trends, there’s no direct claim of antiquity here. It’s simply presented as a ‘Vampire Killing Slayer Kit’, leaving the bidder to make up his own mind about its age and authenticity. Note however that it uses mostly antique components and those that aren’t have been deliberately aged. Is there intent to deceive? I leave that to the reader to decide.

Vampire Killing Kits article in Fortean Times

I hope readers won’t mind my drawing attention to this month’s issue (288) of Fortean Times, which I’m proud to say features as its cover article a synthesis of my research – and that of others – into those vampire killing kits that I’ve posted so much about. Whilst reiterating that we have no real evidence for their existence prior to the 1970s, it does try to make room for the kits as ‘invented artefacts’ of modern pop culture. Because, quite simply, many of them are lovely! It also features a detailed sidebar by the talented Darth Saber of the Replica Prop Forum, and a couple of other interesting vampire-related articles. Well worth a look, and always a stimulating read due to its policy of including different points of view, from what we might regard as somewhat uncritical, to the outright sceptical.

A Faked Fake?

Take a look at this Ebay auction for another of those “Vampire Killing Kits” I’ve written so much about. Before I write more of the same – why does this matter? Well, like all VKKs, this one is potentially worth a lot of money. It’s currently over $1000 without the reserve having been met. Similarly presentable kits have sold for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars at auction. On the off-chance that the buyers of these things aren’t already fully aware of the spurious origin of the VKK, I offer this post.

This is quite a nice one, though bearing in mind the known facts surrounding these kits, the unequivocal date of 1835-45 seems a little over-confident. But hey, this is Ebay.

The kit is a “Blomberg”, complete with artificially aged contents-list, bottle of “serum”, and “efficient pistol” by the usual Belgian gunsmith, sold separately on Gunbroker.com due to Ebay’s fear of anything vaguely weapon-shaped.

So far, so typical. Here’s where it gets interesting. Have a look at the pistol, specifically the gunmaker’s name engraved under the barrel:

Those of you who know their VKKs ought to spot right away that the maker of this kit has managed to misspell the name “Nicolas Plomdeur” – an actual Liege pistol-maker – as “Nicolas Plomduer”. At least one other Blomberg kit has been observed with the misspelling “Plombeur”, which at least makes linguistic, if not historical, sense. But this “Plomduer” boob is a first, to my knowledge. It’s very unlikely indeed that a renowned gunsmith would allow a pistol to be sold with such a blatant error intact – reputations rely upon quality and consistency (and all this would take is a new barrel, not scrapping of the whole gun). So, perhaps a period copy aping Plomdeur’s work? Unlikely. For one thing the engraving is not very period-appropriate. It looks fresh and unworn. It is stamped rather than hand engraved – and lightly stamped at that. Examples of the real Nicholas Plomdeur’s work survive, and none of them resemble this mark. Finally, it’s marked on the underside flat of the barrel. Why? Gunmakers usually signed their work on the lock, sometimes on the top or side flat – never the underside. The point of applying the name was pride in one’s work and an early form of “brand-awareness”. It was a mark of quality – not to be hidden from view. As the barrel appears to be a “turn-off” type, it’s possible that it’s misaligned, but if so, the threads have been re-cut and the barrel shortened – suspect in itself if the case. So someone has applied this mark in the last few years (or decades at most) in a deliberate attempt to deceive.

An example of a genuine Plomdeur pistol with engraved name (surname only in this case)

For another thing, the “Blomberg” label is also misspelled in the same way. Therefore either the kit was made with the error on both items, or a subsequent owner has made a new contents list to match the pistol (the other way around being unlikely, as the case has apparently been made or re-made to fit this pistol. The current seller admits to having fabricated the powder flask, which looks no more or less aged than any other major component. It fits the case as well as any other component. In other words, the admittedly fake piece is indistinguishable from the supposedly genuine ones. This should sound a note of caution over the whole idea of these kits. Even if there are real ones out there, you’re going to need close examination and probably scientific testing to determine whether it might be “real”.

See how many other spelling and punctuation mistakes you can spot.
Prof. Blomberg may be fictional, but he’s usually more thorough than this…


As for the complimentary copy of “The Creature Vampyre”, it’s clearly modern, and not just in terms of its “binding”. It’s also entirely fictional, and doesn’t even use the same name as the guy supposedly responsible for putting these kits together (whose name is Ernst, not Charles). Whilst it doesn’t change the nature of the kit, it certainly doesn’t help its claim to authenticity any.

All of this points, in my view, to deliberate fraud. Maybe not by the current seller, but by whomever vandalised that percussion pistol and faked the contents list. As ever with these pieces – caveat emptor.

Sacred bleu!

That unusual cruciform French vampire killing kit that I blogged about a while ago sold for 6875 Euros ($9364). That’s more than three times the original estimate! Stephanie Meyer clearly has a lot to answer for. Then again we’ve seen Blomberg type kits go for even more than that, so perhaps the level of interest in these things isn’t dependent on pop-culture resurgences. I suspect that casual interest IS, but the sort of loon* that’s prepared to drop that much money on a curio is likely to do so regardless of whether vampires are ‘in’ or not at the time of purchase. It’s all speculation really.

My old link within the article should still be valid, but for the sake of convenience:

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5346074

This brief update might have to suffice for a Halloween post – but if I can find the time to finish something I’ve been working on about the mummies of St Michan’s in Dublin, I will.

Note to French-speaking readers – apologies for the deliberate misspelling of the title. I have a thing for pun titles.

*No offence meant. I would count myself amongst said loons if I had that sort of disposable income!

Un kit d’extermination de vampires

<Update> – the below kit went for 6875 Euros ($9364).

Just a quick comment on the latest Vampire Killing Kit (VKK) to appear on the market, which is being offered by Christies in Paris. It’s a very unusual piece even for a VKK, departing significantly from the Blomberg pistol-case concept and indeed the traditional ad-hoc doctor’s-bag of popular fiction. It’s more of a custom travelling case. Interestingly they’ve had their head of modern art sales comment on the piece, including this knowing caveat:

“Although it is classified as a piece of furniture, the humour of this work means one might also regard it as a piece of contemporary art.”

I’d agree entirely. Contemporary. About time someone acknowledged the elephant in the room. Yet, perhaps for fear of alienating a quarter of the customer base for this kind of thing, she goes on to date it to;

“…the late 19th century, when legends about vampires were widely believed.”

…despite even the actual lot description saying;

“early twentieth century, with later additions”.

…though they don’t specify what they believe those additions to be.

This seems contradictory, as contemporary art is usually defined as post-WW2. In any case, as this is not a ‘Blomberg’ kit, with no spurious label, no firearm, and no silver bullets, this is actually a plausible enough date on the face of it. Dating of the individual components aside, there’s nothing here that wouldn’t have been familiar in western Europe post c1730 with the original reports from the east, and particularly into the 19th century with the growing number of fictional tales about vampires. The kit itself looks just about old enough for the claimed date(s), though there’s something odd about the pattern of wear on the case, which also looks somewhat bodged together – the joints at the arms of the cross for instance appear to be simply butted together.

However, I’m not sure that vampires were ‘widely believed’ by even the late 19th century, at least not in ‘western’ world, which is where every single known example of kit has been ‘found’. The closest we’ve got to a kit being owned in earnest is the example recovered by police in Australia from a Romanian immigrant – but there’s still no evidence that the kit itself had come from there. The usual interpretations of VKKs are;

1) ‘Genuine’ i.e. mid-late C19th, actually intended for killing vampires (their actual existence notwithstanding).

2) Period novelty items.

3) Modern novelty items.

4) Out-and-out fakes of (1) and (2).

I discount 1) entirely, would love to find an example of 2), and think that most if not all actually fall into categories 3) and 4).

Now, as the lady from Christies herself says, there is ‘humour’ in this piece – it’s cross-shaped, for goodness sake. Hardly practical for carrying about, nor even for brandishing the box at a vampire if caught short. The arrangement of the contents is oddly symmetrical. The whole thing is even more obviously tongue-in-cheek and stylised than the Blomberg kits. Like those, it’s likely a play on the religious war aspect of vampire literature (typified by ‘Dracula’) – the vampire as demon to be exorcised. So which is it? Late C19th and made in earnest to kill ‘real’ vampires? Or a piece of modern art? You can’t have it both ways. Unless you’re trying to sell a badly-made pine box full of trinkets for 2000 Euros, that is. It’s whatever you want it to be. If past sales are anything to go by, and with the current vamp-craze still in full swing, this is likely to realise substantially more than that. It’s enough to give one ideas…