Reminder: Those 'Real' Vampire-Hunting Kits From History Were A Joke
Every so often, you'll see a photo on your feed claiming to be an authentic Victorian vampire kit. The one pictured above is currently on sale at Etsy for $585. The one below costs more ($1,200), but we prefer the cheaper one because you can't beat plain wood when it comes to elegance. Sometimes, one of these kits goes up for auction and fetches a lot more than either of those prices—the biggest sale we could find was in 1994, when one at Sotheby's fetched $12,000.
Hopefully, we're not blowing anyone's minds by pointing out that these kits never slayed any actual vampires, since no actual vampires have ever existed, not even in Victorian times. Still, when you see these pics shared, the appeal is that the whoever originally owned the kit thought it was for real. People kept the kit in the hopes of protecting themselves from vampires, we imagine, and if they ever used it, well, that was an unfortunate misunderstanding.
Not so, insist angry vampire historians (meaning, scholars of vampire myths, not historians who feed on human blood). When one of these kits went up for auction in 2020, experts pointed out that the items within—a Jesus portrait, a mysterious vial, and a gun—mixed up a bunch of different traditions. If you, an aspiring vampire hunter, did carry a pistol with silver bullets, you likely wouldn't bother carrying a separate bit of garlic, for example. It was also generally accepted that decapitation kills a vampire, making a decent hatchet the best weapon but the included pocketknife unhelpful.
So, these kits weren't really made to kill suspected vampires then. They were made around the time Dracula was published in 1897, as novelties for people newly interested in the vampire myth. April Fool's! That still leaves us with an artifact from the 19th century, though, and that's still cool to have.
But wait. The Curator of Firearms at Britain's Royal Armouries weighed in on the issue and revealed that, according to his research, these kits were all made in the 1930s or later. Some will use a single older piece (perhaps the case itself is from the 1800s, or it includes an old pocket Bible) but the kit was put together later. Even the oldest were inspired not by the novels of the 19th century but the vampire movies of the 20th century.
The Royal Armouries now keep one vampire kit on display. It looks cool, and has some old items, but they officially date the kit to "around 1970."
Even the ones you see for sale online may be more honest about their origins when you read close. That Etsy one we showed above calls itself a "Civil War Era Vampire Killing Kit" (and also "Buffy Dracula Goth"; gotta get all those keywords in the name), but the description explains that it's an artwork, "designed to look as if it were constructed by someone during the middle 1800s in America." Oh, and the gun is non-functional. Apparently, Etsy gets a little weird about selling actual guns from your page.
Fifty years from now, definitely, we'll be seeing 2020s comic book store zombie gag gifts sold, labeled as authentic Depression-era survival gear. No one will be able to trace the items' provenance, due to all records having been destroyed in the actual zombie apocalypse of 2036.
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Top image: LostLenoreAntiques