Old Sturbridge Village explores region’s vampire folklore

Date: 9/25/2015

STURBRIDGE – The very word “vampire’ conjures such diverse images as the ghoulish creature in Bram Stoker's Dracula portrayed in film by Bella Lugosi, to the young and sexy Edward Cullen of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, portrayed by Robert Pattinson.

However, at a special lecture at Old Sturbridge Village on Oct. 1, author and folklore expert Michael Bell will explain yet another variety of "vampire" that stalked the remote areas of New England more than 100 years before Stoker's tale appeared in print.

Bell has been on a 30-year 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, which he described in his award-winning book, "Food for the Dead" (2001). Now, more than eighty vampire exhumations later, Bell is completing his second book on the topic, In the Vampire's Grasp: Narrating America's Restless Dead. At the Oct. 1 program, he will share both old and new exhumation stories in his illustrated talk.

The program begins at 6 p.m. with a reception and book signing with the author, followed by his lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person, or $8 for OSV members, and may be reserved online at www.osv.org, or by calling 800-733-1830. Refreshments and a cash bar will be provided.

Bell was awarded a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington; his dissertation topic was African-American voodoo practices.

He has an masters degree in folklore and mythology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a bachelor's degree 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.

The third program in the 2015 Speaker Series takes place on Oct. 22, featuring R. Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations at the Kennedy School of Government and former Ambassador to Greece and NATO.