The real vampires were not suave, polished, cultivated or rich. They looked like ordinary dead peasants – usually shabby, and often fat. Some of them never drank blood. Others ate apples, nuts, grapes, or green beans. Yet for those who believed in them, vampires were terrifying. So terrifying that they prompted live burials, nervous breakdown, hysterical paralysis and speechlessness. During a real vampire panic, an overworked, underfed community was so terrified that it found the energy to dig up eleven graves, and the wood to burn eleven corpses. Real vampires were so terrifying that the energy of fear they produced actually caused poltergeist attacks. In several cases, they were so terrifying that they quite literally scared people to death. Joining me today to discuss his book, ' The Real Vampires: Death, Terror and the Supernatural' is Richard Sugg as we explore how vampires looked and felt to those in their midst, in worlds where the soul lingered in the house of death for three days, and the dead watched their own funerals from open coffins.
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Richard Sugg is the author of thirteen books, including John Donne (Palgrave, 2007); Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires (Turkish trans 2018; 3rd edn 2020); A Century of Supernatural Stories (2015); Fairies: A Dangerous History (Reaktion, 2018; Japanese trans 2022); The Real Vampires (Amberley, 2019); and Bloodlust (2020). He lectured in English and History at the universities of Cardiff and Durham (2001-2017), and his work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sun, the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, BBC History, the New Yorker, and Der Spiegel, as well as on international television. Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires is one of the topics handled in Greg Jenner's new book, Ask a Historian; and is currently being pitched as a TV documentary series by Barry Krost Media in LA.