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Vampirism

Date: 01-23-13
Host: George Noory
Guests: James Rollins, Michael Levine

Author James Rollins, who has a degree in Veterinary Medicine, discussed the literary and medical back story of vampirism, uniting the forensics, anthropology, and myths to show how vampires have earned their place in history. The notion of vampires as the blood-sucking undead has existed for millennia, he pointed out. In Homer's epic, The Odyssey, for instance, he refers to ghosts consuming blood so they can communicate with the living. Around the year 1100, the historian William of Newburgh wrote of an evil man who died from a fall, and then was seen rising from his grave, and terrorizing the villagers. "The brave young men, excited by wrath, struck a wound on the lifeless corpse, from which so much blood flowed that it was understood that he had been the bloodsucker of many," Newburgh wrote.

Many accounts detail how newly buried corpses were dug up and found with blood on their lips, their stomachs bloated as if from a recent gorging, with fresh looking organs, clawlike fingernails, and elongated teeth. Terrified villagers often drove stakes through the heart of the corpses or chopped off their heads. Rollins sought out a scientific or medical explanation for such reports. Necrotizing bacteria inside a corpse can cause the body to bloat with gas, distending the stomach, and moving blood from the lungs up the trachea to stain teeth and lips. Also the decay of flesh and gums would make the teeth and fingernails appear longer. Specific diseases such as rabies may have also contributed to the vampire mythos, he noted, adding that when humans are infected with the virus they can drool bloody saliva, act violently, and are sensitive to strong smells such as garlic.

Rollins also related vampirism to a rare genetic quirk called porphyria, and a more common condition known as polymorphic light eruption, in which sufferers are allergic or highly sensitive to the sun, and break out in blisters if exposed. They shun mirrors because of the risk of light reflection in a darkened room, "and often times sleep in dark boxes to further avoid the daylight," he noted. Interestingly, one of the treatments for this condition was a dose of enzymes their bodies couldn't produce, and before the modern medical era, the only way they could get those enzymes was through blood. Rollins touched on literary and filmic representations of vampires throughout the years (including his current novel, Blood Gospel), and how each generation has tended to re-invent the character, and relate it to social and cultural concerns of their time. He also analyzed the phenomenon of psychic vampires.

Psychology of Social Media

First hour guest, PR expert Mike Levine commented a new study that shows Facebook use may trigger envy and feelings of loneliness. Looking at idealized versions of friends' lives through their posted content such as photos of their vacations and celebrations can lead to discontent, and feeling that one is not measuring up, he explained. He spoke about how some people (particularly the young) are suffering from a kind of "social retardation," never looking up from their mobile devices, to even greet or say hello to anyone. Levine also addressed how businesses are using social media, creating a relationship with their customers, rather than using such media for direct sales.

News segment guests: Mitch Battros, Catherine Austin Fitts

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Bumper Music

Bumper music from Wednesday January 23, 2013

  • 1979
    Smashing Pumpkins

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