Vampire Killer Kits: Antique, Collectible and Modern
Vampire killer kits are the current rage among collectors and novelty buffs. Some may be the genuine article while others have more modern origins.
Vampire killer kit image courtesy Stevens Auction Company
The vampire culture has never been hotter, with Stephenie Meyer’s mega-selling Twilight series fueling much of the current rage. Along with vampires come vampire killer kits, with some antique models possibly dating back to the late 18th century.
Vampire Killer Kits History
Although Irish writer Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, vampire mythology actually dates back several thousand years. Stoker’s Count Dracula is of a more recent vintage in the vampire historical saga, the nocturnal, blood-sucking Eastern European variety who owes its origins to the Far East.
Although no one is quite sure, some experts believe that vampire killer kits were available as early as the late 1700s. Other scholars, however, question that time line, arguing that such kits did not come into existence until after the publication of Stoker’s seminal 1897 novel. They were sold in Eastern European hotels, the theory goes, as souvenirs for tourists and other interested parties.
The American Deep South, a region prone to its own peculiar mythology, reportedly produced a small number of vampire hunter kits in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anne Rice’s 1976 best-selling novel Interview with the Vampire, after all, does feature one undead creature, Louis, who hails from Dixie – New Orleans, Louisiana, to be exact.
The Big Hoax: Professor Ernst Blomberg Vampire Hunter Kits
The biggest hoax in the field comes from the vivid imagination and forgery talents of Michael de Winter. In 1970, de Winter, who worked in the printing business and dealt in antique firearms on the side, issued his own homemade vampire hunter kit. He gathered the necessary ingredients – an old pistol, ivory crucifix, garlic powder, a wooden stake, special serum, etc. – and then packed them into a high quality Victorian walnut box, complete with his own Professor Blomberg antique label.
De Winter priced his ”Professor Blomberg Vampire Killing Kit” at 1,000 British pounds, where it eventually found a buyer. In time, other sellers copied de Winter’s design and label, leading to a small cottage industry in the vampire hunter kit field. Many also duplicated de Winter’s original error, mistakenly including silver bullets in the kit which, according to legend, are ineffective against vampires but deadly to werewolves and other hairy, Lon Chaney Jr. types.
Vampire Killer Kits at Auction
In recent years, vampire killer kits at auction have made headlines, stirring the imagination of Dracula and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans everywhere.
- In 2003, Sotheby’s, the famed New York City auction house, sold a vampire killer kit for $12,000. Several days later, another kit brought a staggering $20,300.
- In 2008, Stevens Auction Company of Aberdeen, Mississippi, offered a vampire killer kit from the Jimmy Pippen estate. The winning bid was $14,850.
- Just recently, a vampire killer kit was offered for sale on eBay with an asking price of $35,000. The auction site pulled the listing, perhaps due to authenticity concerns.
- On Halloween, October 31, 2009, Stevens Auction Company offered yet another vampire killer kit, this one from the Port Gibson, Mississippi, estate of the late Miss Isabel Person. Housed in a rosewood case with mother-of-pearl inlay and containing such items as a prayer book, silver occult dagger, pistol, cleaver, wooden stake, crucifix, holy water vials and those pesky silver bullets in a coffin-style box, this kit fetched $8,800.
“For one who has not lived even a single lifetime, you’re a wise man, Van Helsing,” Bela Lugosi tells Edward Van Sloan in Dracula (1931).
That’s because the good professor never left home without his trusty vampire killer kit. You know, the genuine article without the silver bullets?