The best books on vampire lore

Who am I?

In 2009 I published a book on the real vampire community. I didn’t know that Twilight was about to sweep America and I inadvertently became a “vampire guy” for a few years. I appeared on Geraldo and NPR. I was interviewed by the Colbert Report (but it never aired). I even talked to MTV about hosting a show where I interview teenage vampires. Then we all got into zombies instead and my fifteen minutes of fame were over! I learned a great deal researching my book and giving talks on vampires. In 2010 I taught a special class at Tufts University on vampires where I assigned selections from these books.


I wrote...

Book cover of Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism

What is my book about?

There exists a community of people who identify as “real vampires.” Some of them actually consume human blood (usually small amounts, with the consent of their donor). The vampire community has its own subculture, traditions, and specialized vocabulary. Some people have interpreted the vampire community as a “religious cult” while others have dismissed them as mentally ill. I spent time with the vampire community and found that their identity is neither “religious” in the traditional sense, nor inherently a sign of mental illness. But they do feel they are different from other people and the word “vampire” has become a kind of shorthand for talking about this difference. I found vampires so interesting because they demonstrate the ways in which culture presents increasingly new ways of talking about and understanding ourselves.  

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Psychic Vampire Codex: A Manual of Magick and Energy Work

Joseph Laycock Why did I love this book?

Michelle Belanger is a psychic vampire and an intellectual leader of the real vampire community. This book draws on her experiences of coming to self-identify as a psychic vampire and she actually began writing it in notebooks while in college. The Psychic Vampire Codex provided vocabulary for people in this community to talk about their experiences and a metaphysical theory of what exactly psychic vampires are and why they are different from other people.

I have had the opportunity to meet Belanger and she is a really fascinating person. She founded a metaphysical community called House Kheperu and offers workshops on magick and psychic energy.  She is also a fiction author, musician, activist, and many other things.

By Michelle Belanger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Psychic Vampire Codex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Psychic Vampire Codex is the first book to examine the phenomenon and experience of modern vampirism completely from the vampire's perspective. Father Sebastiaan, a fellow vampire writes in the foreword that Michelle Belanger's system "introduced a breath of fresh air into the vampire subculture. It freed us to look at ourselves in a new light, and it also helped those outside our community to view us differently. No longer were we parasites or predators . . . we could use our inborn abilities to help people heal." Psychic vampires are people who prey on the vital, human life energies…


Book cover of The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead

Joseph Laycock Why did I love this book?

This is a really thorough, fascinating encyclopedia of all things vampire––from folklore to nineteenth-century literature to obscure religious movements to comic books and movies to true crime. Whatever you want to know about vampires, this book will have it or tell you where you can find it. J. Gordon Melton is a total fanatic when it comes to vampire lore and he encouraged me early on when I first began researching the vampire community. Besides vampires, Melton loves to collect obscure information and data on all manner of religious groups. He once described himself to me as “a very greedy scholar” because there are so many topics that he tracks and researches. He can also tell you the best used bookstores in any city in America.  

By J Gordon Melton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vampire Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Death and immortality, sexual prowess and surrender, intimacy and alienation, rebellion and temptation. The allure of the vampire is eternal. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 3rd edition, explores the historical, literary, mythological, biographical, and popular aspects of one of the world's most mesmerizing paranormal subject. This vast reference is an alphabetical tour of the psychosexual, macabre world of the soul-sucking undead.This exhaustive guide has more than 400 essays to quench your thirst for facts, biographies, definitions, and more.


Book cover of Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead

Joseph Laycock Why did I love this book?

No one knows exactly where the idea of vampires comes from and there is a lot of bad information out there. To get accurate information about the origins of vampire folklore, you ideally need to know Slavic languages. McClelland has a PhD in Slavic studies and his observations are incredibly illuminating for understanding how the idea of vampires (and vampire-like creatures) makes sense within a larger cultural context of Slavic folklore. In particular, McClelland describes traditional vampire slayers—the folklore around them, the techniques they would use, and the circumstances in which a community might decide to exhume a corpse, conclude it’s responsible for the community’s problems, and then ritualistically mutilate it.

By Bruce McClelland,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Slayers and Their Vampires as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In contemporary Western popular culture, the vampire has evolved into one of the most recognizable symbols of evil. Yet, less has been said - and even less has been understood - about its nemesis, the vampire slayer. ""Slayers and Their Vampires"" is the first work to explore how the vampire slayer began, and it goes further to ask why the true history of the vampire slayer has been so long ignored. Author Bruce McClelland describes how the literary and screen dramas obscured the darker nature of the slayer, whose persecution of a corpse is accepted as heroic rather than corrupt.…


Book cover of Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality

Joseph Laycock Why did I love this book?

This is an important book of vampire lore for several reasons. First, it goes in-depth into early modern texts about vampires and vampire hunting as well as vampire “panics” that were once common in communities in Eastern Europe. Second, it applies forensics to theorize why normal aspects of the decomposition process could have been interpreted as evidence of vampirism. The book is informative but also written in a way that is witty and humorous.

By Paul T. Barber,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Vampires, Burial, and Death as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this engrossing book, Paul Barber surveys centuries of folklore about vampires and offers the first scientific explanation for the origins of the vampire legends. From the tale of a sixteenth-century shoemaker from Breslau whose ghost terrorized everyone in the city, to the testimony of a doctor who presided over the exhumation and dissection of a graveyard full of Serbian vampires, his book is fascinating reading.

"This study's comprehensiveness and the author's bone-dry wit make this compelling reading, not just for folklorists, but for anyone interested in a time when the dead wouldn't stay dead."-Booklist

"Barber's inquiry into vampires, fact…


Book cover of The Vampire, His Kith and Kin

Joseph Laycock Why did I love this book?

Montague Summers was a really unusual fellow for the early twentieth century. He was a closeted gay man (closeted because homosexuality was brutally repressed at the time) who was obsessed with the occult and liked to present himself as a religious witch hunter/demonologist. Reportedly he was often seen leaving libraries with a big black file that read “Vampires” across the front where everyone could see it.

Despite being a colorful character, Summers is one of the best early scholars of vampire lore. His work is even more interesting because it reflects the occult revival underway at the end of the nineteenth century. Occult groups such as the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Golden Dawn were reimagining what vampires could be. They hypothesized that vampires could be real but are perhaps more akin to invisible ghosts that feed on human life force. Summers also discusses things like ectoplasm, psychic vampirism, and other metaphysical ideas that helped pave the way for the real vampire community that emerged after his death.

By Montague Summers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Vampire, His Kith and Kin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

. Summers wrote numerous serious books about the witch hunts, vampires, werewolves, and other occult subjects.

This book has all of the apparatus to qualify as an academic study, including footnotes, extensive quotations in the original languages, and references to rare source documents. Of particular interest is the final chapter, which traces the development of the vampire craze in 19th century literature.


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Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…


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5 book lists we think you will like!

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