Most people confronted by ghosts can figure out how to find a paranormal investigator or ghostbuster to help them deal with the spirit. If it’s evil or possessing a person, most people know where to go to contact an exorcist. But what if the evil thing bothering you is a vampire? Would you know where to find help? What if no one wanted to help? Is there a YouTube video on vampire hunting? A better idea would be to contact Hanson Auctioneers in England – your go-to place for vampire hunting kits since 2020. Wait … what?
“It originally belonged to Lord Hailey, a British peer and former administrator of British India. Whether through fear or fascination, it’s interesting to know a member of the highest aristocratic social order, a man with a place in the House of Lords, acquired this item. It reminds us that the vampire myth affects people from all walks of life.”
On Jue 30th, 2022, Hansons Auctioneers put a “vampire-slaying kit” up for auction and expected it to sell for around $2420-$3630 USD (£2,000-£3,000). (Photos here.) The auctioneer was shocked when an intense bidding session ended the bidding ended at $15736 (£13,000). Who needed a vampire-killing kit that badly? Disappointingly, the winning bidder has chosen to remain anonymous so we don’t have a name, location or vampire description. Perhaps some details on the previous owner will help.
“William Malcolm Hailey, 1st Baron Hailey (1872-1969) was recognised for his intellect. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was Governor of the Punjab from 1924 to 1928 and Governor of the United Provinces from 1928 to 1934. And yet, amid his illustrious career, he was drawn to this vampire-slaying kit. That’s understandable. These objects are both curious and intriguing.”
Charles Hanson introduces Lord Hailey on the auction house’s website after the vampire kit commanded a price five times the house’s original estimate. Hailey was one of those leading figures controlling India prior to its independence in 1947. His long career included time as Governor of the Punjab from 1924 to 1928, and Governor of the United Provinces from 1928 to 1934. In 1936, India's oldest national park was created and was named Hailey National Park in his honor (it is now called Jim Corbett National Park). Lord Hailey also spent time on missions to Africa and eventually established the British Colonial Research Committee. In the west cloister of Westminster Abbey is a memorial tablet honoring “Indian administrator William Malcolm Hailey, Lord Hailey of Shahpur and Newport Pagnell” for his services to his country, ending his list of titles and accomplishments with the words ”Justum et tenacem propositi virum” -- a man of just and firm purpose. So … what was a man of just and firm purpose doing with a vampire-killing kit?
“Items in the late 19th century kit are stamped with Lord Hailey’s initials and it contains his name and address. The lockable box, which contains tools and holy objects to ward off vampires, features two brass crucifixes on the lid which act as a sliding secret locking device. Inside are more crucifixes, a matching pair of pistols, brass powder flask, holy water, Gothic Bible, wooden mallet, stake, brass candlesticks, rosary beads and Metropolitan police paperwork from the period.”
If you’re a fan of Bram Stoker’s novel, vampire movies or the popular vampire hunting TV series, you’ll recognize at least some of those items and accepted vampire deterrents or killing weapons. Since it is verified as having been owned by Lord Hailey, why would he need a vampire-killing kit in India – where the dominant evil being is the djinn? It turns out some scholars believe that vampire mythology began in India and was carried throughout Eastern Europe to Greece on the spice and silk trails. One popular vampire in Indian mythology is the Chedipe – the word means "prostitute" and the undead beings were believed to be the result of girls becoming temple prostitutes and dying unnatural deaths by suicide or during childbirth. Another vampire-like creature of Hindu mythology is the vetala – a reanimated corpse which is said to be found at charnel grounds, the traditional above-ground sites where bodies are left to putrefaction (decompose) uncovered. These areas are generally separate from burial grounds, cemeteries, crematoriums and crypts or burial vaults. After a vetala occupies a corpse, it no longer decays, instead wandering around driving people mad, killing children, and cause miscarriages. Sorcerers are said to be able to capture vetalas and turn them into slaves.
If Lord Hailey was familiar with Indian vampire lore, he may have carried his vampire-killing kit to bring a quick end to a Peymakilir and a Pey – a female and male couple that drained the blood of their victims and danced on the bodies. Or he could have feared the Pishacha, a nocturnal shapeshifter that feared daylight and drank blood as it haunted graveyards. Another nighttime Indian shapeshifter was the Rakshasa, which took on the appearance of animals, monsters and attractive women to lure men to their blood-draining doom.
“The task of killing a vampire was extremely serious and historical accounts suggested the need for particular methods and tools. Items of religious significance, such as crucifixes and Bibles, were said to repel these monsters, hence their presence in the kit.”
While India’s vampire-like demons closely resemble their European counterparts, Lord Hailey was most likely a good God-fearing Christian man who probably felt more comfortable with crosses, bibles, and holy water than the Hindu tools for repelling the blood-sucking undead. Of course, being a military man, he would have also appreciated and knew how to use the pistols, dagger and cross-engraved mallet that were included in the kit. The anonymous seller of Hailey’s kit said in the Hansons’ writeup “I liked it for its novelty and historical value,” so they didn’t purchase it for vampire hunting. The buyer was also anonymous, so there’s no word on what Lord Hailey’s vampire kit will be used for next. Whatever that is, Charles Hanson was shocked at the interest in the item.
“Bids came in from all over the world including France, America and Canada. Objects like this fascinate collectors and this one had particularly interesting provenance.”
If you’re in the market for a vampire-killing kit, caveat emptor – there are fakes on the market as well. Hansons’ auctioned another kit in 2020 that sold for far less due to it having no history like the Lord Hailey kit. That sale prompted Snopes to do some investigation and found a “19th century” kit that was actually made in 2013, and identified many in museums and collections that were made in the 1970s when the vampire soap opera “Dark Shadows” and Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” popularized vampires and their lore.
That brings us back to Lord William Malcolm Hailey, the 1st (and only) Baron Hailey. Did he truly believe he needed a vampire-killing kit while in India or was this a novelty he carried around? The new owner may want to check before trying to use it in an emergency.