From Demons to Dracula, By Matthew Beresford

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The Independent Culture

The vampire of antiquity was a ghost, who became enfleshed as the revenant, the ghoul; then, particularly in eastern Europe, it turned into a blood-sucker. Under the ministrations of western novelists, he pupated into the seductive, cape-wearing aristocrat of modern myth. This process Matthew Beresford delineates with great clarity, but a large amount of supposition.

Then again, what do you call "evidence" in this matter? Should anecdotes told by peasants count as proof? Well, yes – in a sense. When they spoke of bloody-lipped corpses which bled when staked, they were telling no more than the truth. The author suggests that these "vampires" were simply showing symptoms of pneumonic plague.

Beresford has a go at palliating the crimes of the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, by suggesting that his status in Romania as a freedom fighter should be borne in mind. Perhaps.

This book should have been much longer – too many arguments are broken off prematurely. But they are still fascinating.