CHRIS FRIEND’S BP #75
Hi there, Martians. Old cold winter has finally grasped the land in
her (or is it his?) frozen grip. Time to sit by the hearth and read a good
It was once customary to hold vigil when someone died to make sure
that the dearly departed was not disturbed in their eternal rest. This
practice was likely a relic of the ancient belief that if an animal or human
passes over a corpse it will re-animate into a vampire or some other type of
undead. The belief holds that if some living thing moves over the cadaver,
it will snatch just enough life force to return from the dead. The belief is
widespread and can be found in many places throughout the world.
From Eastern Europe to China it was considered unlucky for an
animal, such as a cat, to jump over the corpse. The most likely
culprits are dogs and cats, but birds, bats, and certain insects were also seen
as guilty parties in bringing back the dead.
In Romania a black rooster was considered most likely to jump-start
the un-life of a corpse. But in the Russian Steppes it wasn’t always a living
thing that would create a vampire. In many Russian villages it was believed
that to pass a candle over the body would resurrect it as a vampire.
(Candlelight was seen as a living force). Wind blowing over the corpse was also
seen as dangerous.
In many parts of Europe it was customary to leave windows and doors
open as long as the corpse was housed there, so that the person’s soul might
escape. But this created the potential that some animal might get in and jump
over the corpse. Thus, someone was assigned to stay with the corpse to keep its
rest from being disturbed. In most folklore, vampires were usually created from
their rest being disturbed or if the corpse was not given a proper burial.
I once heard of a medieval case of an old woman who was suspected
of being a witch dying. The villagers quite unceremoniously tossed her dead body
into a ditch. Well, at night, she allegedly ran up and down the village streets
screaming and pounding on doors. So the townsfolk got together
and gathered up the remains. They staked her with a crude stick of wood,
and tossed her again into the offensive ditch. This time she rose up, tore
the stake out, and used it as a weapon to hit the villagers over the head.
After a while the old woman’s ghoulish presence became too much for the villagers, who
broke down and gave her a Christian burial. This seems to have done the trick,
since her reanimated corpse was never seen again.
And 2016 has already started on a sad note. One of rock music’s
most influential superstars, David Bowie, passed away in January. Bowie was a
clear influence on such rock genres such as glam rock, new wave, punk, and
a host of others. He was a genius who shape-shifted from one striking character
to another. So I will take this time to recommend one of Bowie’s films: The
Hunger. Visually striking and
erotic, The Hunger was an unusual
horror film. The film starts out with two immortals (Bowie and Catherine
Deneuve) who hang out at punk rock clubs looking for potential victims.
Soon John (Bowie) begins to age rapidly and seeks help from a scientist (Susan
Sarandon), whose work deals with the aging process. We soon find out that all
of Deneuve’s past lovers also began to age and wither away. Unable to die, she
places their mummified remains in boxes in her attic where they lie whispering
to themselves. In need of a new partner, Deneuve sets her sights on
Sarandon in a very tasteful love scene. Well filmed by the late Tony Scott, The Hunger
can be seen as the Miami Vice
of vampire films. Glitteringly beautiful and stylish, a cult following is
assured. RIP David. Happy spring,
recommends Bowie’s character, The Goblin King, in The Labyrinth.]