In the Vampire’s Grasp: Narrating America’s Restless Dead

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Vampire. One word, so many images, from Bela Lugosi as Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula to Robert Pattinson as the young and sexy Edward Cullen of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. But another kind of vampire survived in the remote areas of New England more than one hundred years before Stoker penned Dracula in 1897. Michael Bell related his quest to unravel the mystery of these little-known, so-called vampires, beginning with a family story told to him by an old Yankee from rural Rhode Island, in his award-winning book, Food for the Dead (2011 edition by Wesleyan University Press). Now, more than thirty years and eighty vampire exhumations later, Bell is completing his second book on the topic, In the Vampire’s Grasp: Narrating America’s Restless Dead. He shares both old and new exhumation stories in this illustrated talk.

Michael E. Bell was awarded a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington; his dissertation topic was African-American voodoo practices. He has an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Archaeology from the University of Arizona, Tucson. Bell was the Consulting Folklorist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, Providence, Rhode Island, for twenty-five years. He has also taught courses in folklore, English, anthropology and American Studies at several colleges and universities. Michael Bell and his wife, Carole, split their time between Rhode Island and Texas.