An ostensible vampire hunting kit is coming up for auction. The box is lined with crimson silk and divided into eight compartments of different size. Stashed within are a Bible (New Testament only), a percussion cap pistol, conveniently pocket-sized, three crucifixes, a pocket knife with a mother-of-pear handle and hallmarked sterling silver blade, a clear glass bottle holding shark’s teeth, a cobalt blue glass bottle with metal lid, three empty glass bottles, two sets of pliers, rosary beads and an ivory figurine of a wolf in monk’s robes holding a rosary.
Inset on the interior of the lid is an oval enamel painting depicting Christ rising from his coffin on a cloud with an angel holding the lid. To its left is the box containing the ivory figurine. The Bible was published in 1842. The bottles are late Victorian or Edwardian. The oldest part of the kit is the chest itself which dates to around 1780.
This is all fine and good, but where is the wooden stake? Or even a brick? I guess an iron ploughshare wouldn’t fit in the chest. And what is with the werewolf monk? It’s incongruous, to say the least. It looks like somebody assembled a random assortment of flea market tat to me, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t sold as a vampire slaying kit in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Those were actually a thing for a while, novelties sold to European travelers when the literary version of the vampire supplanted the distinctly unsexy folkloric traditions of vampirism. The vampire kits contained items deemed to be deadly like crucifixes, garlic and holy water. They did not typically include pocketknives. Good luck decapitating an immortal bloodsucker with that.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “People are fascinated by stories of vampires, hence their continued appearance in films and on TV today. They have been part of popular culture for more than 200 years. The publication of John Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819 had a major impact and that was followed by Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula.
“However, a belief in vampires and strange superstitions goes back even further and persists to this day. The task of killing a vampire was extremely serious and historical accounts suggested the need for particular methods and tools.
Almost nothing is known about the box’s history. The seller acquired it three years ago at an antiques fair “as a conversation piece,” and whoever buys it definitely needs to adopt the same outlook because there is zero evidence that this is a historic set, never mind assembled with the serious intent of anti-vampire defense. The chest is the best part, imo, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to justify the believe-it-or-not presale estimate of £2,000-3,000 ($2,500-3,770). The online bidding is open now. The hammer falls on July 21st.
Speaking of believe it or not, here’s an episode of Ripley’s on the vampire hunting kits.