It’s Fall: A Little More Halloween Reading

Food for the Dead by Michael Bell

Scarier because it’s real……

New England folklorist Michael Bell spent some time in Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, interviewing people who still have direct connections to a little known outbreak of vampire beliefs a little more than 100 years ago. Food for the Dead, admirably researched, presents a series of case studies involving the (still-common) belief that the dead can be jealous of the living and return to spirit them away It should be noted that documentary evidence concerning digging up the dead in New England is sparse. I attended a lecture given by Michael Bell last autumn, and he certainly seems to know everything there is to know about the topic.

Bell examines many issues in his book. He presents a synopsis of the origins of vampire folklore and elucidates how the prejudice of city people towards rural people affected the reporting of this phenomenon. His explanation of the psychological connection of tuberculosis (once called consumption) and fear of vampirism is concise and historically valuable. Imagine watching the members of your family slowly dying, one by one, of a vicious, incurable disease, spitting up blood and wasting away. Bell also underlines the importance of protecting cemeteries and other “paranormal” properties from vandals and thoughtless curiosity seekers.

Although these country folk did not refer to their dead consumptive relatives as vampires, they certainly treated their corpses as such, and Bell describes the various gruesome steps that had to be taken by the living to protect themselves from their beloved but dangerous dead. This is a work of nonfiction that is stranger than fiction. Read all about it!

The Cold Calling, by Will Kingdom

The Wishing Thread, by Lisa Van Allen

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