Monday, July 26, 2010

The Revelancy of Blog Comments

After covering yet another of Dave's wonky replies, I'm going to address want some statements he made about my blog's readership. We'll get the answer to a pertinent question: how important are comments to the "relevancy" of a blog?

It's clear Dave has a very dismissive attitude towards my blog - especially when I criticise his claims. But why? Seems that my readership plays a big part.

In a reply to his associate, Barbara Green, he notes that "[h]ardly anyone" reads my blog. In regards to my commenting on his blog, apparently I realise "that little game is a waste of time here. So all he’s got is a one-man platform for his own opinions. For example, how many people have you seen posting there? None!"

He even sees fit to draw a parallel between myself and his feud piggybank, Sean Manchester: "Rather like the tea pot-clad one in that respect – only difference is little Anthony doesn’t employ the use of aliases to hide behind." The "tea pot-clad" reference is an allusion to Manchester's biretta. It's a recurring theme in David's online writings.

Anyway, back to the topic. I accept that my readership isn't exactly setting the world alight. I'm cool with that. As I've said before, this blog's a bit of a "sideline hobby" of mine. I don't need to validate its existence with a swathe of commentators. Hell, until recently, I didn't think many people were reading it at all. So, naturally, the comment ratio was gonna be low. Really low. I've even cautioned people about reading it, in the first place. My writings are free; I'm not selling anything. So, what's the significance of infrequent comments on my blog?

Let's contrast, shall we? Since Dave made such a big deal about it, we'll take a look at the comment activity on his blog. I can only focus on the ones that were published, though. You won't be able to see my unmoderated comments, without reading my blog. The key here is accessibility. Now, because July's still under way, I wanted an established timeframe. A season'll do it, for broad representation. I chose the autumnal (or Spring for readers in the northern hemisphere) months of March, April and May. I'll link to the posts in question, tell you how many comments they got (as of this writing) and the names of their posters. Let's begin.

  1. "Ram Inn 2nd Vigil – Pt 2", 1 comment: Barbara Green.
  2. "Blog Time Again", 0 comments.
  3. ". . . ‘Us Witches’ Are Lazy!", 4 comments: Craig (1), Barbara Green (1), David Farrant (2).
  4. "Release", 2 comments: Lady K. (1), David Farrant (1).
  5. "2 Bottles of Wine", 4 comments: Lady K. (1), David Farrant (1), Barbara Green (2).
  6. "Far Too Long", 0 comments.
  7. "So Here It Is!", 0 comments.

Total comments: 11

  1. "Don’t Want to Look!", 0 comments.
  2. "Thanks Sam", 0 comments.
  3. "Easter Again!", 0 comments.
  4. "Ley Lines and Highgate Cemetery?", 0 comments.
  5. "Highgate Cemetery and Ley Lines?", 1 comment: Matt.
  6. "Barbara, Laura, Jade and Gareth", 14 comments: rob (7), David Farrant (6), Barbara Green (1).
  7. "Better Get Writing!", 4 comments: Barbara Green (2), David Farrant (2).

Total comments: 19

  1. "This or That", 4 comments: Barbara Green (2), David Farrant (2).
  2. "Unlikely to Forget", 4 comments: Barbara Green (1), David Farrant (2), Clarmonde (1).
  3. "Here’s a Pic!", 0 comments.
  4. "Choosing Dinner", 3 comments: Clarmonde (2), David Farrant (1).
  5. "A Bit of News", 0 comments.
  6. "Dorm ‘Fight’!", 21 comments: John Baldry's Cat (2), David Farrant (9), Speenqueen (1), Roger (1), Clarmonde (6), Barbara Green (2).
  7. "Those Were the Days!", 0 comments.
  8. "The Ghost of Blackbird Cottage", 6 comments: David Farrant (4), Barbara Green (1), Clarmonde (1).
  9. "Not Far to Go Now . . .", 2 comments: Clarmonde (1), David Farrant (1).
  10. "It Had to Happen!", 9 comments: Marcos Drake (1), David Farrant (3), Clarmonde (3), Barbara Green (2).

Total comments: 49

We have a grand total of 79 comments for that three month duration. Pretty impressive, eh? That is, until we start breaking down the amount of "responses" per commenter:
  • Craig: 1
  • Matt: 1
  • Speedqueen: 1
  • Roger: 1
  • Marcos Drake: 1
  • Lady K.: 2
  • John Baldry's Cat: 2
  • Rob: 7
  • Clarmonde: 14
  • Barbara Green: 15
And the most frequent commenter on David's blog is (drumrolls)...
  • David Farrant: 34
During that three month period, there were a whopping eleven commentators on his blog (including Dave). Out of that eleven (including Dave), five of them posted more than once. What a massive groundswell of support after more than 40 years in the biz!

But, it gets better. You see, Dave's already been in contact with the remaining 10 outside of his blog. Clarmonde, for example, is someone he "met" on the Arcadia forum. He's also the patron of Barbara's Yorkshire Robin Hood Society. John Baldry's Cat assisted Cecil Lamont-Dwiggins in profiteering off the feud between Farrant and Manchester through his blog, The Cat's Miaow. "Cecil", incidentally, is responsible for a satirical comic published through, yep, you guessed it: David's British Psychic and Occult Society. Guess who its main target is?

You get the drift. So, what does Dave's snide remarks about my blog's readership and the lack of frequent comments, amount to? Bugger-all, obviously. As this survey attested, his verified readership (by virtue of their comments) is restricted to a fairly small group of people. Sympathisers, no less. No real objectivity or criticism on display. Meanwhile, my blog gets readership from both sides of the fence.

Oh, Dave's grossly mistaken in about no one posting on my blog. Check out the comments here, for instance. The difference is, the comments I get are generally of a less savoury nature. But, at least I don't selectively restrict views to associates and "fans". In that regard, I ironically uphold the ethos of his Highgate Vampire Society better than he does:
After all, the case of the so-called Highgate phenomenon is not really a private issue or one that can be affected by personal views or interpretations. It is a matter of public record and should thus be open to continued input and debate, and not one that should not be allowed to become clouded or influenced by any who have no knowledge of events (which they certainly do not ‘own’) as these actually occurred or happened. There are many such persons around (including sensationalistic authors and members of the Press) but their stories should really be shared in total, and not be allowed to become ‘dictorial’ in the sense that these necessarily represent the public view of things.

Awaiting Moderation and Other Escapades

Captain Free Speech is at it again. Two of my comments are "awaiting moderation", yet, they've still managed to elicit one-sided replies.

I responded to Barbara's claims that I'd been "trashing" her and invited her to cite examples. I also extended an offer to her: would she be up for an interview for this blog? Y'know, so she could have her say on the Highgate hijinks and such. My comment is still pending publication, but here's her inadvertent (?) reply:

Firstly, it's nice to know she reads my blog (hi Barbara!). Second, the "reply" she's referring to is probably my "Tunnel Vision" post, in which I questioned her selective reading of my blog's content. That is, focusing on my criticisms of Manchester, while neglecting what I've uncovered about David's dodgy output. As you can see, she's gone and done it again ("manchestermalarky"). Nonetheless, my offer of an interview (if Barbara really feels like she's being misrepresented) still stands.

After Barbara's "social list" rant, Dave offers her comfort to her; suggesting that I should be ignored. It's not the first time he's tried to "silence" his associates.

To be honest, I used to think "[h]ardly anybody" read my blog, too. The lack of feedback made me think I was just pissing in the wind. That is, until I installed Feedjit. Now, it's become very apparent that I do have readers and funnily enough, most of 'em come from the UK. Just like Dave. Sure, they don't post on here. But they don't need to, either. Point is, they're reading the thing and that's what counts.

But wait, how does David know that people rarely comment on here? Why, that could only mean he reads my blog! Hi Dave! Who needs tonnes of readers when I have an "esteemed" (ahem) psychic investigator reading my blog?

And what's this about doing myself "far more harm with [my] false assumptions and conclusions, than [he and Barb] do by not answering"? Surely, making generic, unsubstantiated claims about me without directly addressing what I say, only makes them look dodgy? As Dave points out, I put my name to my blog. That's my accountability. I frequently cite their writings. I link to 'em. If I say so-and-so is up to no good, then I'll give my reasons why. I'll show you. I trust the readers to make up their own minds from the conclusions they draw. Unfortunately, Dave doesn't share this ethic, as we'll see from his response to my other "awaiting moderation" comment.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Not only did Dave quote from an unmoderated comment, but he even deleted the link I posted. In case you're wondering, it was this one.

It's pretty odd that Dave claims I'm introducing my "personal views and arguements [sic]", when I was directly addressing one of his claims. Basically, he told me (via his blog) that the person who sent him "my" home address, was an Arcadia forum member named "George". I asked him for proof. It's true that he never said he received the info by e-mail. But, as Dave and himself were/are both members of the same forum, it's a logical conclusion. I mean, what's the alternative route? They met up in a pub? George sent him a letter? How else would he have passed along the info to him? Dave's noticeably hesitant in revealing just how the stalker acquired "my" info. And why? Simply because I asked him for proof of his claim.

If Dave's that concerned about the stalker's privacy, why would Dave publicly reveal that he had my home address in the first place? Why would he subsequently reveal this mystery chap, to be a member of the Arcadia forum? What's to lose in sending me the e-mail (or other means) by which he received info about myself?

Let's find out, shall we? Here's my follow-up reply. It's presently "awaiting moderation":

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Reconciliatory Efforts

Despite Barbara's claim that I'm a "rabble rowser" [sic], even she's probably aware of my efforts in trying to get Manchester and Farrant to resolve their differences.

Even though David likes to pretend that the feud between his "side" and Manchester's is a one-sided affair, it's clear that it helps keep their respective careers afloat. At the very least, by "dismantling" their competition. During my usual coverage of the shenanigans these two sides engage in, a shining light emerged during "discussions" on John Baldry Cat's blog, The Cat's Miaow.

It was clear that after forty years, all the claims and counter-claims by both parties were getting pretty circular and not really going anywhere, so why not try another approach: reconciliation. The following is a chronicle of my attempts to get the two to meet up.

  1. Laying Down the Gauntlet
  2. One Step Closer
  3. Stumbling Block?
  4. Flies at the Picnic
  5. I'm Not Liking This
  6. Ok, Now We're Getting Somewhere
  7. Postscript to the Previous Post
  8. More Pussyfooting Around
  9. Glimmer of Hope Still Remains
  10. Trying to Restore Some Balance
  11. Popping in to Check-Up on Things
  12. I'm Checking In
  13. They Can't Bloody Help Themselves

So, if I'm a mere "rabble rowser", then I've at least had a crack at building a bridge between the two sides. Can Barbara claim the same thing?

Stalker Source

Just to show that "The Great Reveal" post was no mere hit-and-run affair, I've also posted it on David's blog. I've also followed it up with a query regarding the source of his stalker info.

It would've taken up too much space to reply to David's comment on his blog, so I took a shortcut approach. Here's what I wrote back:

Hi David,

Here’s my response to your dodgy reply.

By the way, could you forward the e-mail in which George revealed “my” address to you? Just want to establish the truth of your allegation.

Is it enough to just accept David's word on the matter? After all, the claim's on his head. Still, it'd be nice to get actual proof of his claim. The ball's in David's court, now. Let's see if he can back up what he said.

Tunnel Vision

Even though I've been referred to as an "obsessed scandal-seeker" by David, it's clear that he harbours such activities on his own blog. The latest example concerns Barbara Green.

It began with a simple request: "I tried the e-mail addy on your Robin Hood site a while ago, but it appears to be defunct. Do you have something more current?" She didn't respond, instead, posting a diatribe about a "mancurian biog–what was it called–oh I remember, Stray Wits."

Barbara often talks in riddles, but it's easy to decipher was this allusion meant. According to the Urban Dictionary, "mancurian" is defined as "someone from Manchester, or something related to Manchester." This is not a geographic reference, in context. It's a cryptic reference to the man she had a falling out with, some time ago: Sean Manchester.

And the "Stray Wits" reference? An obvious dig at Stray Ghosts, Manchester's unpublished memoir. Though, as you can see, it's not a blog as Green infers.

Thus, when David said "Nobody I know seems the least bit interested in yourself but just view you as an ‘obsessed scandal-seeker’: one you seeks to invent ‘scandal’ when in fact none really exists", we really have to wonder about the activities taking place on his blog. In fact, shortly after I pointed out the following - "As to seeking scandal, you should see what happened when I tried to ask Barbara Green, one of his associates, for her e-mail addy. Basic query, right? Well, it's not how she responded" - Barbara "coincidentally" posted a follow-up to her diatribe-response!

The "searching questions" I ask of "his holiness" is yet another reference to Manchester, as attested by the "esteemed bishop" reference. She's right in saying that I don't have a "side". I've made this clear, previously:
In fact, at various intervals, I've been accused of being on either side of the party. Neutrality is not something generally appreciated in this Case. It seems you gotta bat for one team or the other.

I think that's a preposterous expectation.
The main parties presenting their claims are clearly as dodgy as the other. My advice to people who express doubt for both sides, but still find themselves siding with one over the other, is that's it's like picking the lesser of two snakeoil salesmen: why would you choose either one?
But if Barbara admires my "searching questions" of Manchester, why does she completely ignore the "searching questions" I've asked of David? Could it have anything to do with him being the Patron of her Yorkshire Robin Hood Society, a post formerly held by Manchester? Is it because he's assisted her with advertorial practices?

Barbara's incorrect in saying that I won't listen to any of her "rational and accurate explanations". Hell, one of the reasons I wanted to contact her, was to request an interview for this blog. Y'know, to give her side of the story. It's an offer that still stands.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Great Reveal

David's finally come clean about the identity of person who forwarded my home address to him. Unfortunately, he also resorts to his usual rhetoric and deceptive tactics.

His response to my previous query evinces more of the same-old, same-old nonsense. Once again, issues I didn't raise are hoisted up from the depths of his own imagination. I'll be dissecting his comment with interspersions of my own:
Anthony, give it a rest.

If I don’t choose to discuss the contents of the book here, that remains my privilege – not yours.
I have already told you, this Blog serves as a diary of events, and I do not use it to advertise my books.
That might be believable, if five of his comments on the thread didn't incorporate subtle, ahem, suggestions ("So I suggest you first order that from Amazon or Nielsens (or any good bookshop)", "you’ll just have to order it from Amazon", "go out and order the 'Pact' one" and "you’ll just have to go out and order the book", "let him go out and order one") to buy the book.
But as I am well known for my books (mostly on the paranormal) and writing books forms a large part of my life, I am quite entitled to mention titles here as or when I may be working on them. But I do not advertise them here (although I would be quite entitled to do that as well if chose to).
Which he obviously has been. On several occasions.
I have already invited you to go right back 3 years ago (this month) and show us where I have given any price details, and any address for any payments to be sent. You would have been unable to do so – simply because there are none. So you really destroy your own argument.
David's obviously unfamiliar with the concept of advertising (or is he?). It's not always as obvious as telling price details. Wikipedia defines advertising as "a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to purchase or take some action upon products, ideals, or services." Thus, telling someone to repeatedly buy a book would kinda fit that mould, don't you think.
I have made it quite clear, that, as an on-going Diary of current events, I do not wish to discuss 40 year-old feuds or arguments here. You are the one who seems obsessed with doing this.
A pretty odd claim, considering that I wasn't raising "40 year-old feuds" on his thread. Keep in mind that I was asking him for info on his latest publication. Even odder, when he alludes to the book's contents: "Enough nonsense has already been spread around about the whole subject of ‘vampires’, witchcraft and the occult, and my only intention (in writing the book) was to enable people to judge the facts for themselves."
I have already had to remove you from my two Facebook groups, Friends of David Farrant and The Highgate Vampire Society for doing exactly the same sort of thing. I also removed you as a Friend on Facebook for trying to introduce the ‘feud issue’ there – and this was not without ample requests and warnings.
The "same sort of thing", of course, being "40 year-old feuds". As I've established, that's a load of baloney. What I was actually raising on his Facebook groups, were glaring contradictions in his contemporary accounts, compared to the revised versions he presents to do. Oh, and noting that for a guy who doesn't like public discussions on the Highgate Vampire, he sure can't stop talking about it to the media. You can read about my Facebook contributions here, here and here.
I am also telling you for the last time here . . . now. I will not allow any further of your personal posts which are attempting to introduce the ‘feud’ issue or people who were – or still are – involved in that. So don’t waste your time writing them, as they simply will not be published.
Yes, as we can see, Captain Free Speech is waving around the banhammer again. Funny thing is, he probably would have been better off not publishing my comments at all. I mean, telling people that my comments will be refused for such reasons, even though they can read the bloody thread themselves is either a massive oversight or shows how little respect he actually has for his readers' basic level of comprehension.
As to this:

“And don’t forget that you threw that stalker curveball into the mix, too. As if publicly mentioning that you had my home address (yet refusing to divulge who gave it to you) was somehow relevant to asking what your book’s about. As usual, you’re the pot calling the kettle black”.

I am not calling you anything; I have only been trying to answer spurious allegations being ‘thrown in’ by yourself.
I told you, that just because I have your address, does not mean I have been ‘stalking you’.
Let me give you this scenario, dear readers: you're commenting away on a blog, just trying to ask about its author's new book. He dodges basic questions about its content and all of a sudden, he throws a curveball at you. Like this: "And ‘no’, you are not getting a free copy even though I have your address now!" Apart from "WTF?!", what'd be your first reaction? Yeah, I thought so.
Nobody I know seems the least bit interested in yourself but just view you as an ‘obsessed scandal-seeker’: one you seeks to invent ‘scandal’ when in fact none really exists.
Nobody's interested? Funny, that's not what my Feedjit says. Also, I haven't noticed his readers (at least, on his blog), say anything of the sort. As to seeking scandal, you should see what happened when I tried to ask Barbara Green, one of his associates, for her e-mail addy. Basic query, right? Well, it's not how she responded.
It was yourself you brought the ‘stalking element’ into all this when you publicly admitted on Arcadia that somebody calling themselves “George” had sent your private details together with a photograph of yourself in PM’s there.
Now we're warming up to the big reveal. Just to keep you up to scratch, I was being stalked on Arcadia by a member known simply as..."George". He sent a personal address and photo to me in my inbox there. I duly reported him to the mods, who took swift action against him. However, you'll soon see the lighter side of this episode.

But what disturbs me most about Dave's reply is the you-brought-this-on-yourself mentality. No condemnation of the actual stalker, himself. No, it's all my fault. Thus, Dave once again condones Internet stalking by this principle. I deserved it, apparently. Yeah, what does that sound like?
YOU were the person who chose to make this public.
But I would agree, that really does constitute stalking.
Yet it was not myself who did this, and I believe I told you whom I was sure that this was. That is really your problem, but please stop trying to confuse this issue with your references to myself and ‘stalking’ here.
If he's referring to him telling me who stalked me on Arcadia, sure, maybe he dropped a few allusions. But we need names people! Not innuendo! And besides, what does that have to do with Dave having my address and then publicly announcing that he had it? The onus shifts a lil there, methinks.
This same person also gave you my address Anthony, so it doesn’t take too much intelligence to work out who it was.
Now, for the last time . . . BEHAVE YOURSELF!

David Farranr
And there's the great reveal: George. That prick. There's two funny things here, which I should mention. Firstly, it's blatantly obvious that George was a VRS lackey. It just shows how desperate they've gotten to discredit me, and intimidate me away me from my writings, that they've now resorted to sharing my personal info with their archnemesis. How pathetic.

Or is it my info? That personal address and photo I mentioned George sending me? Yeah, I feel sorry for whoever the actual guy is. Cos, guess what? It's not me. They obviously thought it was, though. That means the VRS has been distributing the details of some random dude to, well, who knows who else. Anyone who'll listen to their crap, I guess. Worst. Stalkers. Ever.

It was good to get 'em suspended off Arcadia. There's no excuse for that kind of behaviour. I mean, honestly. Tracking down randoms? They're that insecure with what I write that they gotta try and hunt me down? Maybe if they were a little less dodgy, I'd have a whole lot less material for my blog. How's that for a new strategy?

The Church vs. the Undead, Pt. 4

We've had a peek at the views of Montague Summers and his "link" to Seán Manchester and the Vampire Research Society. Now we'll see what Augustin Calmet, and other notables within the Church, had to say about vampires.

Few authors, apart from Summers himself, are so closely associated with vampire studies than French Benedictine monk, Augustin Calmet (1672-1757). Renown for his Biblical exegesis, highly regarded as a scholar, yet he came under heavy fire from Voltaire and other eighteenth century philosophers for giving serious coverage to vampiristic phenomena.

His work on the subject was a best-seller. It went through three editions: Dissertations sur les apparitions des anges, des démons & des esprits, et sur les revenans et vampires de Hongrie, de Boheme, de Moravie, & de Silesie (1746), Dissertations sur les apparitions des esprits, et sur les vampires ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, & c. (1749) and Traité sur les apparitions des esprits et sur les vampires, ou les revenans de Hongrie, de Moravie, & c. (1751). What isn't often noted about these updates, is that they were marked by an increasing skepticism towards vampire belief.

Massimo Introvigne (b. 1955), the Italian director of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and staunch Catholic, is assured that despite the cautious approach Calmet used in his books, he was far from a believer:
Personally, I would argue that Calmet did not really believe in the existence of vampires even in 1746, even if he was still undecided, and his writing style might have easily misled his readers. Many of his chapters include length quotations from other authors, manuscripts, anonymous works, newspapers and journals, without any comment. The work was, more than anything else, an anthology of contradictory statements, which should by no means be regarded as representing Calmet's own opinions ("Father" 606).
Selectively (and deceptively) representing one's source is a tactic the VRS uses in its "Vampirological Testimony", as we saw in Part 2 of this series. They even manage confuse the title of Calmet's first edition with its last (Fig. 1):

Fig. 1 The VRS incorrectly cites Calmet's 1746 book.

So what did Calmet actually have to say on the matter? Fortunately, for those of us who can't read French, Calmet's work has been published in English. The third edition, Traité, was translated by Rev. Henry Christmas and re-titled The Phantom World: or, The Philosophy of Spirits, Apparitions, & c. (London: Richard Bentley, 1850) in two volumes. Thanks to Google Books, you can read and download both of 'em online (See: Vol. I; Vol. II). The second volume's the one concerned with vampires. Calmet's views on the matter don't get any more clearer than this:
That the oupires, or vampires, or revenans of Moravia, Hungary, Poland, &c., of which such extraordinary things are related, so detailed, so circumstantial, invested with all the necessary formalities to make them believed, and to prove them even judicially before judges, and at the most exact and severe tribunals; that all which is said of their return to life; of their apparition, and the confusion which they cause in the towns and country places; of their killing people by sucking their blood, or in making a sign to them to follow them; that all those things are mere illusions, and the consequence of a heated and prejudiced imagination. They cannot cite any witness who is sensible, grave and unprejudiced, who can testify that he has seen, touched, interrogated these ghosts, who can affirm the reality of their return, and of the effects which are attributed to them.
I shall not deny that some persons may have died of fright, imagining that their near relatives called them to the tomb; that others have thought they heard some one rap at their doors, worry them, disturb them, in a word, occasion them mortal maladies; and that these persons judicially interrogated, have replied that they had seen and heard what their panic-struck imagination had represented to them. But I require unprejudiced witnesses, free from terror and disinterested, quite calm, who can affirm upon serious reflection, that they have seen, heard, and interrogated these vampires, and who have been the witnesses of their operations ; and I am persuaded that no such witness will be found (II: 240-1).
Testimony indeed. So how about other Church authorities not listed on the VRS page? Did any uphold belief in vampires? Let's go with Giuseppe Davanzati, another popularly cited eighteenth century Catholic authority. He's best-known for Dissertazione sopra i vampiri (1774; 1789). Here's what Introvigne has to say about his work:
Discussions between Cardinal Schrattembach, Bishop of Olmutz (a believer), and Monsignor Giuseppe Davanzati (1665-1755), Archbishop of Trani and later Cardinal (a skeptic), also led the latter to prepare between 1738-43 a report that, as we shall see, went on to play a crucial role in persuading the Vatican to condemn any, and all, belief in vampires as superstition ("Father" 600).
Yeah, that's right. The Vatican. Just in case it's not clear how significant this condemnation is, let me remind you of the authorial role it has in the Catholic Church:
The Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes) is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole Catholic Church. It is also recognized by other subjects of international law as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained.
And speaking of Popes:
By 1749, Rome had also spoken. In 1740, Prospero Lambertini became Pope and took the namre of Benedict XIV; he was regarded as a specialist of apparitions and other supernatural occurences without parallel in the history of the church. His book on the subject is still quoted and used by the Catholic Church in the 20th century when allegedly supernatural events occur. In the first edition of his book, published in 1734, Lambertini did not deal with vampires. In the second edition, however, published in 1749 in Rome after he had become Pope Benedict XIV, he added two pages on vampires, pronouncing them to be "fallacious fictions of human fantasy". He followed this with an apostolic letter to the Archbishop of Leopolis urging him to vigorously "suppress this superstition [of vampires]". "Tracing the source of it you may easily discover that there are priests promoting these stories in order to persuade the gullible populace to pay good money for exorcisms and Masses" ("Father" 608).
So, despite Manchester's insistence that the "Catholic Church has always accepted the existence of such things and the need to deal with them by way of exorcism", I'm yet to see any convincing proof to back this claim. The VRS's "Vampirological Testimony" is useless in this regard.

As you've seen, major Catholic authorities, even a Pope, have condemned belief in vampires as "superstition". The small circle of believers that Manchester does cite are partial to the VRS, or, in Summers' case, of dubious connection to the Church itself.

What are we to make of Manchester's claim? Without further proof, without further citations indicating the widespread belief he alleges, I think we can borrow Benedict XIV's words and mark Manchester's statement as the "fallacious fictions of human fantasy".

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Church vs. the Undead, Pt. 3

I've whittled down the VRS's so-called "vampirological testimony" to two people: Augustin Calmet and Montague Summers. They also bring our initial peek into Catholic views on vampires, full circle.

Let's get Summers out of the way, first. He was an English Catholic clergyman, although some doubt the validity of his orders. He wrote two companion tomes on the undead: The Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929).

Unlike most of the non-VRS-affiliated sources incorporated into the Society's "Vampirological Testimony" page, Summers actually did believe in the existence of vampires. In his second book, he even hints at a conspiracy of sorts:
Of recent years the histories of Vampirism in England are perhaps few, but this not so much because they do not occur as rather that they are carefully hushed up and stifled (115).
By whom, he doesn't elaborate. Nor does he give further proof for his allegation. Nonetheless, he was a highly significant influence on Seán Manchester, who establishes an affinity with the late cleric:
I, like wise, began in the Church of England and converted to Roman Catholicism before entering holy orders in an autocephalous Catholic Church ~ as, of course, did Summers. We were both ordained within the context of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and, as Catholic Bishops, led self-governing and independent jurisdictions which held authority in Great Britain.
As I mentioned, the validity of Summers' orders have been questioned. So have Manchester's. But the Bishop also admits that his primary knowledge on Summers is derived from Summers, himself:
My appreciation of Summers’ work is a matter of public record. Yet I have no knowledge of his private life, or his degree of involvement in esotericism about which rumours abound. I do not question his ordinations, as have some commentators, but I am not qualified to access him beyond his published works.
Little is known about Summers' private life, because he gave away so little of it, himself. His posthumously published autobiography, The Galanty Show (1980), left out a lotta detail. This void has left open rumours (?) about his supposed involvement in the occult and possible membership in the Order of Chaeronea, "a secret society for the cultivation of a homosexual moral, ethical, cultural and spiritual ethos." David Hilliard's essay explores this angle a little further:
A fellow member of the Order of Chaeronea and a writer of Uranian verse was Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers. As an Anglo- Catholic he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England before being received into the Roman Catholic church in 1909. Rejected from training for the Catholic priesthood (though it is probable that he subsequently received priest’s orders through a schismatical source), he became a school teacher and antiquarian scholar, an author of voluminous works on Restoration drama, the Gothic novel, witchcraft, and demonology, and an active member of the British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology (16).
One of the sources for these charges is Brocard Sewell (1912-2000), one of Summers' biographers. It'd be surprising if Manchester wasn't aware of this stuff. Especially considering that he and Sewell, at one point, shared correspondence:
It has been assumed that Father Brocard Sewell and I were well acquainted. This is not the case, however; though a robust correspondence between us was occasionally entered upon; one might even say erupted. The topic of Montague Summers and, indeed, vampires was never too distant.
Of course, Sewell's coverage of this hidden angle of Summers' life is omitted from VRS coverage of the late biographer. All the same, the Bishop self-appointedly anoints himself as the heir of Summers' legacy: "Bishop Montague Summers died of a heart attack in 1948 and his mantle awaited the arrival of another." And just in case it's not clear who "another" is, the VRS elaborates:
Montague Summers died of a heart attack in 1948 and his mantle awaited the arrival in London of Seán Manchester who would there establish himself as the other celebrated vampirologist of the twentieth century.
The VRS's page on Devendra P. Varma (1923-1994) claims that Manchester had to assumed this "mantle" after the death of their Honorary Vice-President: "His text The Gothic Flame was his way of picking up the torch from Montague Summers, before the flame passed to Seán Manchester in October 1994."

We're presented with yet another spiritual lineage, bordering on reincarnation, at this point, when the VRS's Montague Summers page even claims that Manchester holds a Church position previously occupied by Summers:
Summers entered the Old Catholic priesthood in 1913 and, towards the end of his life, was elevated to the episcopate by Hugh George de Willmott Newman, Archbishop of Glastonbury ~ an office and See currently held by Seán Manchester.
A strange assertion, indeed, in light of Manchester not questioning Summers' "ordinations" and not knowing him "beyond his published works". The Database of Autocephalous Bishops also notes that Summers' ordination has "been disputed". More on autocephaly here.

Lastly, a brief word on Summers' connection to another VRS affiliate. Peter Underwood, (b. 1923) their Life-Member and Associate, recounts an interesting tale in The Vampire’s Bedside Companion: The Amazing World of Vampires in Fact and Fiction (London: Leslie Frewin, 1975), pp. 69-74. He claims that Summers bestowed him with an anti-vampire talisman. One Summers used against an actual vampire in Southern Transylvania, 1909. Yet, strangely, there's no mention of this incident in Summers' own vampire books.

Despite Summers' ecclesiastical credentials being up in the air, did his viewpoints reflect widespread Catholic attitudes to vampires? We'll take a look in the final installment when we examine what Calmet, and other prominent Catholic writers on the subject, had to say.

The Church vs. the Undead, Pt. 2

I looked into the impartiality of so-called "vampirological testimony" courted by Seán Manchester and the Vampire Research Society (VRS). Now we further examine the "testimony" of non-affiliated sources.

The remaining eight of the thirteen sources used within the VRS's "Vampirological Testimony" page are thankfully devoid of association to the organisation. In fact, they're commonly cited in works concerning vampires. Let's begin with the "testimony" of Leo Allaci aka Leo Allatius (c. 1586-1669).

A noted Catholic scholar, he's best known in vampire circles for his 1645 work, De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus, which discussed Greek belief in a type of revenant called the bulcolaca. You might know it better as the vrykolakas. However, I should also point out that this subject only takes up a certain section of the book, namely, chapters 12-17.

Funny thing is, Allatius wasn't actually writing about vampires. At least, not the concept of them propagated by the VRS. After all, the vampire of folklore was a Slavic revenant-type unknown to Greeks of the time. This is notable by the fact that Allatius' account does not mention the bulcolaca, or its variants, drinking blood. Nor are common tropes, like warding them off with garlic, staking the corpse, etc., present. Instead, it's described as a "dead body, possessed by the devil, which rises black and swollen from the dead and roams the streets bringing disease and death." They were destroyed through cremation.

Allatius describes another similar revenant, the tympaniaios, which is a "body prevented from decaying by an excommunication from the church." They were "cured" by a priest absolving them, not staking them through the heart. It's this type of revenant that Allatius professed belief in. Not vampires. Hats off to Karen Hartnup's 'On the Beliefs of the Greeks': Leo Allatios and Popular Orthodoxy (Leiden: Brill Academic, 2004), p. 30 for the info. Oh, and I should also mention that the concept of the excommunicated, undecayed dead is primarily an Orthodox Church doctrine, not something the Catholic Church generally advocates.

Next up, there's Johann Heinrich Zopf (1691-1774), who the VRS page renders as "John Heinrich Zopfius". He's best known for his 1733 work, Dissertatio de vampyris Serviensibus. Admittedly, he did believe in vampires, acknowledging that "the devil could indeed animate the bodies of evil beings." See: Massimo Introvigne, "Antoine Faivre: Father of Contemporary Vampire Studies", Ésotérisme, Gnoses & Imaginaire Symbolique: Mélanges offerts à Antoine Faivre (Leuven: Peeters, 2001), p. 603.

It should be noted, however, that in spite of Manchester's claim that the Catholic Church accepted widespread vampire belief amongst its clergy, Zopf was actually an Evangelical Lutheran. Yep, a Protestant.

Now, back to Catholics. In this case, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708), who studied at a Jesuit convent, but became a botanist after his father's death. The VRS page draws upon an 1741 edition of his work, Relations d’un Voyage du Levant. The work was first published, posthumously, in 1717, and translated into English the following year.

It's best-known for the author's account of the spectacle surrounding a supposedly restless corpse on the Greek island of Mykonos. Once again, we're dealing with a vrykolakas. The inclusion of de Tournefort's account in the VRS's "vampirological testimony" was a hell of a gamble. It'd only make sense if they were banking on readers not being unfamiliar with the rest of what de Tournefort wrote on the subject.

Time and time again, he refutes the villager's claims of witnessing extraordinary phenomena around the exhumed body. It's hard to get more demonstrative of de Tournefort's dim view than this passage, as quoted in Paul Barber's Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988):
In so general a prepossession, we chose not to say anything. They would have treated us not just as fools but as infidels. How is one to bring an entire population back to its senses? Those who believed in their soul that we doubted the truth of the matter, came to us to reproach us for our incredulity and claimed to prove–by authoritative passages taken from the Shield of Faith of Père Richard, a Jesuit missionary–that there was such a thing as a vrykolakas. He was a Latin [Catholic -ed.], they said, and therefore you should believe him. Nor should we have got anywhere by denying the conclusion (23).
And this:
As for the Turks [Greece was under Ottoman rule at the time -ed.], it is certain that, at their first visit, they did not fail to make the community of Mykonos pay for the blood of this poor devil [the alleged vrykolakas -ed.], who became in every way an abomination and horror to his country. And after that, is it not necessary to point out that the Greeks of today are not the great Greeks, and that there is among them only ignorance and superstition! (24)
Hardly a glowing endorsement for the existence of vampires, is it?

And speaking of superstition, that's the same term Emily Gerard (1849-1905) used to describe Romanian belief in the undead. In fact, it was incorporated into the title of a July 1885 article she wrote for The Nineteenth Century. Was was it called? You guessed it: "Transylvanian Superstitions." It was later incorporated into her book, The Land Beyond the Forest (1888). No wonder the VRS chose to cite this relatively innocuous title, instead.

It also makes you wonder why they chose to cite James Frazer (1854-1941). His 1934 book, The Fear of the Dead in Primitive Religions isn't written as a validation of "primitive" beliefs, but, rather, examines them from an anthropological and mythological viewpoint. He even personally believed that "human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, in turn replaced by science." A strange choice of source, indeed, for an organisation presided over by a Bishop.

I admit that I haven't read Jean Marigny's (b. 1939) La Tradition Legendaire du Vampire en Europe (1987), another VRS source. I can't even speak or write in French. Ah well. Fortunately, I have a copy of one of his English-translated works! So, going by the contents of Vampires: The World of the Undead (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994), I think it's a pretty safe bet that Marigny doesn't believe in vampires, either:
The specific attribute of the vampire that sets it apart from other supernatural creatures of the night is that, to exist, it must drink the blood of living beings. The vampire myth was unquestioningly born of fantasies linked to blood, that precious life force whose loss could lead to death. The origins of these fantasies can be found in the most ancient reaches of human history (14).
Now we're down to two more sources on the VRS's "Vampirological Testimony" page: eighteenth century vampire authority, Augustin Calmet (1672-1757) and twentieth century occultist aficionado, Montague Summers (1880-1948). Both of 'em, Catholics. Will they attest to Manchester's claim that vampires are incorporated into Catholic doctrine? Wait and see!

Sidetrackin' Dave

The first cycle of the stalker saga concluded recently. This time 'round, David brings it full circle by referring back to my initial enquiries. That is, the ones that bizarrely lead me to getting stalked by his anonymous informant.

Once again, Dave's usual sidetracking methods are on display. His response concerns issues I raised here, which also reveal the true audacity of his hucksterism. Oh, and I meant to say "That's", not "Thanks". Whoops. Anyway, here's my response:

The Church vs. the Undead, Pt. 1

To justify vampire hunting as part of his exorcistate role, Seán Manchester sometimes claims sanction from the Church. Does the Church actually encourage vampire belief? What have other Church members said about the undead?

During his interview with Andrew Gough, Manchester was asked "What position has the Catholic Church taken, both publicly and privately, with respect to your work?" He replied thusly:
The Catholic Church has always accepted the existence of such things and the need to deal with them by way of exorcism. I would only refer today, however, to the traditional wing of the Catholic Church in this respect and not the modernist, liberal elements who struggle to believe in the supernatural and question the very essence of Holy Scripture.
Oh really? Interesting. More on that, later. Meanwhile, the Vampire Research Society (VRS) website also incorporates a page on "Vampirological Testimony" featuring thirteen quotes from certain notables on the undead. Let's break these down a bit, shall we? Firstly, it's imperative to reveal that five of these quotes are derived from people who've had some sort of affiliation with the VRS.

The first such "testimony" comes from Life-Member and Associate, Peter Underwood. He wrote and edited The Vampire’s Bedside Companion: The Amazing World of Vampires in Fact and Fiction (London: Leslie Frewin, 1975). It's the same book in which Manchester contributed his account of the Highgate Vampire, on pp. 81-121.

Next up, we have Elizabeth Wojdyla, an alleged victim of the Highgate Vampire. At the time, she was Keith Maclean's girlfriend. Who's he? Oh, just the VRS's former Regional Area Secretary (Fig. 1). He's since been replaced by Robert Finch (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 A cached page confirms the identity of the VRS's former Regional Area Secretary.

Fig. 2 The current Regional Area Secretary can be viewed on the VRS's homepage.

The next testimony comes from Gothic scholar, Devendra P. Varma. That is, the VRS's Honorary Vice-President, who died in 1994. Interestingly, Jeanne Keyes Youngson, the President and founder of Vampire Empire, alleges that Varma was critical of the VRS, when he visited her Dracula Museum in New York.

The last two of the VRS-affiliated quotes come from the same source. That's right, the VRS's own president President and founder: Sean Manchester himself. In this case, the "testimony" is take from two of his books, that is, The Highgate Vampire (1985, 1991) and The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook (1997).

Before we proceed onto the next part of this investigation, let's get a clear definition on exactly what "testimony" is, in this context. Obviously, the quotes used on the VRS's "Vampirological Testimony" page, are intended to indicate a demonstrated belief in vampires of the people cited, thereby justifying their promotion of the reality of the undead. Thus, the quotes serve as "testimonials". So, let's say that testimony is "is evidence provided by a competent witness."

In the next installment, I'll examine the "testimony" of the other eight people featured on the page and we'll soon get to the heart of the Church's views on vampires.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Stalker Saga, Vol. 1

At this point, it's fairly obvious that Dave's not gonna come clean with the identity of the person who handed him my home address. So, I've decided to let the matter drop. For now.

But, if any further details come to light, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I've gathered the relevant entries into this handy, bite-sized blog entry for your reading pleasure.
  1. Stalker Dave
  2. David Attributes Stalking Ability to the Supernatural
  3. The Plot Thickens
  4. The Cult of Dave?
  5. The Lighter Side of Being Stalked
  6. The Long and Winding Road
  7. Cat's Outta the Bag

Cat's Outta the Bag

David continues his shameless deception and hucksterism. Also, the recent stalking escapades he's condoned, have inspired a new blurb for this blog.

Yes, the great proponent of free speech has been (unsurprisingly) selective in publishing my comments on his blog. My response to one of his latest deceptive tirades is still "awaiting moderation."

Meanwhile, he's allowed comments by regular commentator, "John Baldry's Cat" (JBC) concerning purchasing his latest book. Yes, despite saying "I do not use this Blog to advertise my books". Whatevs! As a result, JBC was left without context for what I actually wrote, instead relying on David's rhetoric.

I followed it up with a comment that David actually allowed, amazingly enough (maybe because of the coverage I've been giving the matter on my blog?), in which I set JBC straight. Yet, he still managed to censor it.

The missing name? Manchester. David frequently alludes to him, but clearly doesn't like using his actual name. So much for "naming names" and backing up his claims. Funnily enough, the Manchester crew likes hiding David's name on occasion, too. Note the reference to "The Devil's Fool" in this thread on The Cross and the Stake message board is actually Farrant. Yet another similarity of the opposing sides.

Now, back to the comments. Next up, Dave tries to dissuade JBC ordering a copy of the book on my behalf, encouraging me to buy my own copy. Yes, yet another sales pitch. He also discusses my lack of awareness of the book's contents:

There's a pretty obvious reason why I don't know what's in the book. It'll become readily apparent. But first up, JBC's response:

Well, I'm gonna take his word on that one. He might be pesky, but I don't think he's that nutty. So it was a longshot. But it still leaves open the mystery of who my stalker was. Notice how conveniently that was brushed aside by Dave? Typical. Anyway, now it's time to reveal why my knowledge of the book is somewhat limited. Strap yourselves in, folks!

Yes, amazingly enough, in all the time Dave's been sales-pitching, he's refused to discuss what the damn thing's about! Do you buy books online without knowing anything about their contents? As I've pointed out before, the damn thing doesn't even have a product description on Amazon. Do authors usually spend this much time dodging questions concerning basic information covered in their book? Worst. Salesman. Ever.


Lastly, I come to this blog's new blurb. In light of all the stalkyness that's been going on, I've been concerned that my readers might find themselves exposed to it, considering the nuttiness of the stalker in question. So, I've composed a new blurb for this blog, which'll hopefully give readers (the sane ones) a heads-up on what they might be getting into:

Felt like I needed something a bit more direct than my "Public Service Announcement". If you're a newbie, or never really paid attention, and you wanna see what the old blurb said, then you'll find it here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vampires: Demons in the Sack

I briefly discussed the semantics David employs regarding vampires, in the previous post. It's time to explore his unusual, alternative interpretation of vampiric phenomena. You'll see that vampires aren't outside his supernatural worldview.

Time and time again, David will insist that he doesn't believe in vampires, despite his association with the Highgate Vampire Case. However, he's particularly keen on emphasising his dismissal of the bloodsucking variety. Here's what he has to say on the matter in his interview for International Vampire Magazine:
I do not believe in "vampires" in the commercially accepted sense of the word ... i.e. physical figures or entities that go around draining victims of their blood in order to ensure "life everlasting".
There are two problems with his dismissals. Firstly, the "commercially accepted" use of the term, vampire, has historical and folkloric origins. It was introduced into the English language via an article published in the March 11, 1732 edition of The London Journal. The article covered an outbreak of vampirism in Serbia. This case popularised the Western concept of vampires, which is still used today.

However, writers and commentators soon saw the metaphoric applications of vampirism. Thus, the vampire could also be used as a political allegory, a reference to greedy people and a term for sexually voracious women.

The vampire was also given "new life" by occultists eager to distance it from its folkloric and historical status as an undead corpse, while retaining its supernatural element, to give themselves a "rational" edge in a post-Industrial society. Their alternate theories held that vampires were actually living people or discarnate entities that derived their sustenance not from blood, but from our vitality, or lifeforce. It was used to explain a metaphysical dilemma: how could a vampire transport a physical substance (blood), yet materialise in a grave under six feet of soil, without breaking the surface.

And now we arrive at the second problem with David's bloodsucking vampires dismissals. Despite his keenness to avail himself of the vampire tag (except when selling merchandise), it's clear that not only does he use the term himself, but he also believes in a variant of the vampire espoused by occultists, introducing an largely found in Medieval lore.

After yet another dismissal of the "Hammer Horror" style vampire, this time in an interview with Andrew Gough, David was asked "So, what are vampires then?" Here's his reply:
OK, fair point; just thought I’d mention it! So what are vampires?

Good question. Right, so I will tell you how the vampire legend was born. I assume most people have heard of the legend of the incubus and succubus?
Andrew responds with "Why yes, I believe most have." In case you haven't, an incubus is "a demon in male form who, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions, lies upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have sex with them." The succubus is its female equivalent. And now, back to Dave:
Well, what is interesting is that they are said to visit people in their sleep, and the symptoms exhibited by these people – these victims, as it were - are invariably the same as those of vampire victims. People wake up for no apparent reason and are paralysed, and often report a pressure, as if someone is kneeling on their chest. I had a German girl visit me in 2001, and she was in quite a state. She had visitations at night and, like many victims, appeared to lose her appetite and, in this instance, the girl was anaemic and required iron pills from a doctor. Still others develop an aversion to bright lights and start sleepwalking; all characteristics of vampire victims. Furthermore, a lot of these people actually report a sexual element to the visitation. Sexual communication between the visiting entity and the person is very common.

So, Bram Stoker would have been aware of these legends and it is very possible that he could have based the legend of Dracula on the legend of the incubus and succubus.
At this point, you might think David was gearing up for a scientific explanation of this phenomena, especially in light of his harsh attitude towards people who believe in the bloodsucking variant. You'd be wrong.

Andrew continues his line of query with "We are back to the chicken and the egg again. Where do the legends of incubus and succubus come from, then?" David responds thusly:
Yes, but that quotation might be truer than you think you know! You see, I have often answered this point in my writings that ‘what came first’ was the consciousness or ‘life force’ that created and then formed both of these. This is perhaps not so irrelevant if you think about it, because psychic energy (like the incubus and succubus that you have mentioned) could operate in a similar way. It is neither ‘formed’ nor reproduces itself in human terms. In fact, reports of these entities date back for centuries and are world-wide.
The moral of the story is: when investigating this Case, don't take dismissals at face value. Explore the semantics of what's being said. Unravel the attacks. It's clear that the war being fought between Dave and his opponent is one of interpretation: bloodsucking vampires vs. "vampire-like" psychic entities, not science vs. supernatural or superstition vs. reason.

And in case you thought that Dave's take on vampires is simply a personal view, note that he's also applied it to the Highgate Vampire itself. Here's another extract from his interview with International Vampire Magazine:
Why was I inclined to admit or suggest that this particular entity or phenomenon pointed towards being "vampirical"? ... Well, during the course of the investigation it came to light that at least two independent people had been physically attacked by some unknown person or entity whilst they were passing the Cemetery late at night.


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