Smarty Pants Podcast

Bad Blood

Why the 17th-century vampire still haunts us today

By Stephanie Bastek | October 31, 2018
Alvaro Tapia/Flickr

You may have heard of them before: those pale creatures with suspiciously sharp canines that sleep in coffins during the day, hunt people at night, and occasionally transform into bats. Stories of bloodsucking monsters have haunted humanity for hundreds, even thousands of years—but the modern vampire was arguably born when Enlightenment rationality met Eastern European folklore. That’s Nick Groom’s argument: he’s known as the Prof of Goth, and he makes the case that vampires rose from the grave at the same time that philosophy, theology, forensic medicine, and literature were beginning to question what it meant to be human. Why have vampires lingered in the imagination for hundreds of years? Nick Groom joins us on the podcast to open some coffins for answers.



Go beyond the episode:

  • Nick Groom’s The Vampire: A New History
  • The London Library reported this week that it located some of the dog-eared books Bram Stoker used during the seven years he researched Dracula
  • Watch the trailer for The Hunger (1983), in which David Bowie and Susan Sarandon both suffer the love of an immortal vampire
  • We are also fond of Only Lovers Left Alive (2014), in which a glamorous Tilda Swinton and a depressed Tom Hiddleston puzzle out their place in modern society
  • Here’s a montage of all the bite scenes from Christopher Lee’s classic turn in Dracula (1958)
  • And, of course, there’s always Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996–2003), which inspired Slayage, a peer-reviewed journal from the Whedon Studies Association

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!


Music featured from Master Toad (“Dreadful Mansion”) and 8bit Betty (“Spooky Loop”), courtesy of the Free Music Archive. Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

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