For those of you who have read my Young Adult urban fantasy novel, Blood Family, you will know that it features a whole host of vampire hunters, including Logan DuPris, her father, Quenton DuPris, and reluctant vampire tracker Pastor Nathan Dark. But that is fiction. What about reality? Are there really – I mean REALLY – vampire hunters in this world? Well, I tracked one down and have interviewed him for Written Worlds! Get your crosses and garlic ready, and read on…
You will be more than a little amazed by his blood-curdling accounts of Bishop Seán Manchester.
Bishop Manchester has specialised in the ministry of exorcism for four decades, having entered the Minor Order of Exorcistate in early 1973 and acknowledged by many as one of Britain’s foremost authorities on demonology (including vampirology) and exorcism.
I am very happy (and a little intimidated!) to be interviewing him for Written Worlds…
Mark Knight: You came into the spotlight with the Highgate Vampire case in the 1970s, but your interest and knowledge of vampires no doubt goes back further in time. When did you first start researching this unusual subject?
Seán Manchester: Serious introduction to the subject came about in the 1960s (I cannot recall precisely when) with my reading The Vampire: His Kith & Kin (1928) and The Vampire in Europe (1929), both by Montague Summers, prior to which the supernatural had always held a fascination since early childhood. Summers led me to read more obscure vampirological works from earlier centuries. I have the good fortune to know quite well someone who themselves knew Montague Summers and received from Summers a “vampire protection medallion” (referred to and illustrated in The Vampire’s Bedside Companion anthology published in 1975 where I also make a contribution). The medallion has been bequeathed to me by its owner.
Mark Knight: How much of the current vampire lore is generated by Hollywood and how much of it is genuine? Or is any of it genuine?
Seán Manchester: I am unfamiliar with much of the current culture appertaining to vampires and vampirism, but I suspect it has little bearing on the lore of centuries past. My knowledge, albeit supplemented by experts from yestercenturies, is based more on experience than it is on speculative consideration and contemporary culture.
Mark Knight: Among your fields of research are the areas of demonology and demonaltry. Please can you explain the meaning of these two terms?
Seán Manchester: The word “demonology” refers to the study of demons whereas the word “demonolatry” covers the study of those who practice diabolism and the minutiae of their darkly occult ritualism. Since the late 1950s and early 1960s the word has also been adopted by diabolists themselves as a reference to describe their demon worship. When I use the word it is in its older meaning, that is, pertaining to studying and researching about diabolists and their sinister practices.
Mark Knight: What would you say to someone who insists that vampires and demons do not exist in the real world?
Seán Manchester: I think you will find that most people not only dismiss the existence of demons (vampires are predatory demons) in our largely atheistic, secular society, but all things supernatural. I would merely say that I hope they are never confronted by the demonic whilst I pray they encounter the angelic. To those who do not believe, no amount of words from me will convince them of anything supernatural, whereas no words or convincing are required from me to those who already believe.
Mark Knight: Would you recommend anyone who is interested in vampirolgical research and demonology to get involved and if so, what advice would you give him/her?
Seán Manchester: I would not advise anyone to “get involved” unless they absolutely know they have a definite calling to the ministry of exorcism. Then I would advise them to seek out a traditionalist branch of their Church. Otherwise, study the subject by all means, but do not dabble in it or otherwise become involved.
Mark Knight: Lastly, what are your current interests and projects? Who is Seán Manchester in everyday terms, outside of all things clerical?
Seán Manchester: I do not like to talk about projects where I am only a consultant or contributor (and there are several) or where I have been asked not to discuss the project until it is in post-production and closer to release. Where I am solely in control I would feel free to engage in that conversation and only then where it does not compromise the integrity of the project or any confidences placed in me by other people.
Outside of all things clerical, I am a portrait artist (oil on canvas), a photographer, poet, musician and composer. I am a collector of antique objects ranging from sacred relics to Byronania, rare books, paintings, phonograph cylinders and 78rpm records, daguerreotypes, Victorian and Edwardian photographs, artifacts, curiosities and miscellany. I have a number of old cameras, my favourite being a 19th century Thornton & Pickard brass and mahogany plate camera. The majority of my antiques are 19th century and earlier with only a few specific items of more recent vintage.
Artifacts most precious to me are the relics of saints and those awaiting canonization, that is, the venerated and the beatified. These are housed in reliquaries installed at my private retreat. I have written a memoir which I doubt I shall ever offer for publication. My current instruction is to have it burned to ashes upon my demise.
Don’t forget your Holy Water…