Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Truth Will Set You Free

The Mercer Museum outside of Philadelphia is a magical place filled with the massive collection of...stuff...acquired by eccentric businessman Henry Mercer. Some of it's more popular displays include an actual gallows, full sized boats suspended from the ceiling, and a Blomberg-style vampire killing kit. And by "Blomberg-style" I mean "fake". Thankfully, the museum is among the growing number of institutions that take that kind of thing seriously and openly admit the kit is an artistic creation.

"“When we acquired the kit, we hadn’t seen anything quite like it,” Amsler said. “Obviously, many of the objects were period to the 1800s -- percussion cap pistol, the bullet mold, the powder flask. The syringe had some age to it. The ivory crucifix which doubles as a wooden stake, were period, too.”

But there were suspicions. The items seemed to mix vampire legends and traditions. Silver bullets? That’s for werewolves, isn’t it?

“It seemed to reflect more of the literary and popular culture tradition of vampire lore, not the traditional folk legends of vampirism,” he said.

As it turns out, the kit is likely fake, although belief in vampires and how to dispatch the "undead" was real in Europe.

At the time the museum acquired the kit, similar kits suddenly arrived on the auction market, Amsler said. Each kit contained slightly different objects, but always noted Prof. Blomberg and the gunmaker Nicholas Plomdeur.

“What occurred to us is that someone was very likely assembling material and putting it in a different context. You know, finding a case that had been designed for a dueling set or a pistol case or something like that and recontextualizing the objects and presenting them as a vampire killing kit,” Amsler said."

I'm really happy to see this. I absolutely adore vampire killing kits, but none of them are authentic. Every single one is the product of an artist's hand, and it's embarrassing that reputable dealers and organizations have been allowing them to pass for genuine historical artifacts. Let's be honest- they're huge draws because people find them intriguing. I don't think their popularity is hurt one bit by the open acknowledgement that they're works of art.

Mr. Amsler was kind enough to provide a more detailed look at the Mercer's kit in this video.


CoastConFan said...

I really get a kick out of vampire killing kits and other assemblages. As a collector and dealer of antiques I have mixed feelings, due to the blurring the line, but I haven’t seen any that would really pose a serious threat to clear observation and knowledge of construction of not only the individual objects, but he case and supporting documentation as well as the cultural history of vampirism. All in all, if a trained curator is taken in by these assemblages, then the problem lies with them as long as no fraud was intended.

Purchased as a prop for a museum or private collection, a really well made vampire hunting kit should be worth at least the value of all the items in the kit plus a bit more for time and effort of the maker. A museum buying one for a special exhibit – why not! Nobody more then I (or perhaps Propnomicon) would love to see a real vampire killing kit or the like, but for the present they are out there with the pixies and the Bigfoot, uh Bigfeet? Gaff makers, keep on gaffing.

Mystic Scholar said...

Excellent. Thanks to Mr. Amsler for sharing that with us.

The "real deal" would be nice, but do they really exist? I mean, how many were actually made? How would they (did they) bare up over the years? Perhaps centuries?

A well made replica serves the purpose just as well. I really enjoyed the video.

Thanks for sharing.

Graham said...

Rather sadly it looks as if the video has been removed by someone.