Lair of the Beasts: Blood Sucking Monsters (Mania.com)
Date: Saturday, October 13, 2012
Mention the word “vampire” to most people and, depending on their age and the era in which they grew up, it will inevitably provoke a wide variety of imagery. For some, it will be 1940s-1960s memories of black-cloaked characters roaming around creepy, old, Eastern European gothic castles in the dead of night (deep shades of long-departed Bela Lugosi and still-active Christopher Lee, in other words).
For others, it will be the twee, watered-down Twilight movies, and the far more entertaining, sexually-driven, bloodthirsty HBO series, True Blood.
Decades ago, however, vampirism was an issue that also caught the attention of the U.S. Government, as did the matter of how beliefs in vampires extended way back to the civilization of ancient Babylonia, and the incredible means by which the legendary blood-suckers of old could be resurrected as part of the American military’s fighting force.
That’s right: In a strange and convoluted way, the government of the United States of America has had vampires in its employ.
Back in the 1950s, psychological-warfare planners within the American military began spreading tales of blood-sucking, monstrous vampires on the loose in the Philippines. There was, of course, reason behind this seeming madness.
It was to terrify the superstitious, Communist Huk rebels that, at the time, were engaged in an uprising in the Philippines, and hopefully get them to flee the relevant areas when they heard the rumors. Somewhat amazingly, the strange operation was a complete success.
The genius behind it was a certain Major General Edward Geary Lansdale. Born in 1908, Lansdale served with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War. Then, in 1945, he was transferred to HQ Air Forces Western Pacific in the Philippines, and, in 1957, he received a posting to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, working as Deputy Assistant to the SoD for what were vaguely, but intriguingly, termed as Special Operations.
It happens that Lansdale had a deep – and near-obsessive - fascination with the Strix, an owl-like creature prevalent in Roman and Greek folklore and history that had a maniacal thirst for human blood.
On this specific issue, Lansdale’s library was also home to a paper that he particularly cherished. It was titled The Story of the Strix, and was written by one Professor Samuel Grant Oliphant back in 1913. It detailed the vampiric story of the Strix legends in their full, captivating, and gory glory.
Even more notable, one of Lansdale’s most beloved and repeatedly-digested texts was Ornithogonia penned by the Greek writer Boios, parts of which were referenced in Metamorphoses by Antoninus Liberalis – also a Greek writer - who lived around 100 A.D.
Although Boios’ almost-legendary and elusive manuscript is believed by most scholars of vampirism and the Strix to be utterly and forever lost, dark legend has it that Lansdale secretly obtained a copy from a high-ranking Nazi officer two weeks after the official ending of the Second World War.
Lansdale’s only payment, after weeks of negotiation, was the promise of a 24-hour delay in reporting to his superiors the officer’s whereabouts, thus allowing the war criminal a modicum of time to escape, in exchange for the ancient book. Faust would undoubtedly have been proud of Lansdale.
Or maybe not: Quite rightly, Lansdale did not keep his promise and the Nazi was taken into custody immediately. As for Boios’, Ornithogonia its priceless pages reportedly included details of how, and under what circumstances, legendary vampires could be called forth, conjured and invoked, including the much-feared Greek undead drainer of blood, the Vrykolakas, and the Jewish Aluka, which – very appropriately - translates into English as “leech.” Nice!
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including The World’s Weirdest Places; There’s something in the Woods; and Celebrity Secrets.