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Can You Help Anthony Hogg Find Vance’s Vampires?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rosalind V. Rini Larson

By Anthony Hogg — 

In 1893, a member of American Folklore Society gave a talk about vampires to the New York branch of the society. This is what The Sun (New York) had to say about it:

“Lee J. Vance read a paper on vampires at a recent meeting of the New York Folk Lore Society [sic], in which he gave illustrations of the existence in this country of the Old World belief in ghosts banqueting on the blood of the living. In one instance the belief was evidently transplanted, for it was found among Hungarian miners at Antrim, Pa. In another, it was found among the remnants of the Six Nations in central New York, and it is not clear whether it was indigenous with the Indians or it was borrowed at one time or another from the whites. In the first case an Hungarian miner at Antrim, who was suffering from consumption, due to the unhealthy nature of his occupation, conceived the notion that the oppression on his chest at night and constant loss of vitality were due to the spirit of a dead boss, who in life had tyrannized over him, sitting on him, and sucking his life blood. In Hungary ghosts who thus prey on the living are exorcised by burning the hearts which beat in the bodies they inhabited before death. The proof that a body is that of a vampire is a heart still fresh and full of blood when the rest of the corpse may be decayed. When a heart which is thus proved to be that of a vampire is burned the live person who has been the ghost’s victim recovers from the effects of the visitation.

“Believing all this implicitly, the miner, aided by his brother, dug up the corpse of the dead boss and cut out the heart. It was found to be fresh and full of blood, as they expected, and they accordingly burned it, with full faith that good results would follow to the sufferer from consumption. The immediate result was the arrest of the disturbers of the dead. They were not prosecuted, however, allowances being made for their ignorance. In spite of the burning of the boss’s heart, the consumptive miner, although he professed at first to feel perfectly well, died not long afterward.

“The aboriginal instance of this belief in vampires or its equivalent resulted in the burning of the entire body of an Indian, who in life had been quarrelsome and a nuisance to his neighbors. Those of them who became ill after his death made his ghost responsible for their maladies, and they burned his body to thus lay the troublesome spirit.”1

This is most likely the same talk covered in the Journal of American Folklore, as taking place on March 17, 1893, at the home of Mrs. E. L. Youmans: “Mr. Lee J. Vance gave illustrations of the existence in this country of belief in vampires, or in ghosts who feed on the blood of the living.”2

Although Vance wrote an article about vampires, published shortly after the talk,3 it does not discuss the Hungarian miner incident or Native American views on the subject. Vance’s other writings make no mention of these cases.4

So where did Vance get his information? Clint Pumphrey, Manuscript Curator of Special Collections and Archives at Utah State University, where the American Folklore Society’s records are kept, could not find Lance’s paper there. Was the paper filed away somewhere else? Does it still exist? Who was the Hungarian miner?

Michael E. Bell, an expert on vampire traditions in the US, is as much in the dark on this matters as I am.

I would love the answers to these and more questions. If you’re able to help, contact me at


1 “A Gruesome Superstition,” The Sun (New York), April 9, 1893, 7.<>

2 “Local Meetings and Other Notices,” Journal of American Folklore 6, no. 21 (April/June 1893): 152. <>

3 L. J. Vance, “Vampire Lore,” The Open Court 7, no. 292 (March 30, 1893): 3607–8. <>

4 Alan Dundes, “Robert Lee J. Vance: American Folklore Surveyor of the 1890's,” Western Folklore 23, no. 1 (January 1964): 27-34. <>

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