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14th March 2021

Popular modern film and TV vampires have come a long way from their folkloric roots, since their migration to Western Europe from the disputed borderlands of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires around the turn of the eighteenth century. However, such folklore, seemingly based on often useful misapprehensions about epidemics, decomposition and sleep paralysis as well as the ever-present need for scapegoating, was very much a product of its time and place. Which is why one of Britain’s rare native vampire stories needs some explanation, and that’s where Deborah Hyde comes in.

To clarify, this is not Deborah Hyde, this is an illustration of The Croglin Vampire by Les Edwards.

The curious tale of the Vampire of Croglin Grange, which, Hyde informs us, features many of the standard conventions of the genre, was told to Victorian raconteur Augustus Hare at a dinner party and first appeared in print in his ingeniously entitled autobiography The Story of My Life in 1900 before being republished by Montague Summer along with the first chapter of Varney the Vampire in 1929. 

Researchers have subsequently managed to confirm many of the details of the story, but the question for Hyde remains, what was this creature from Eastern European folklore doing in rural Cumberland in the latter half of the nineteenth century? 

Cambridge Skeptics

The Vampire of Croglin Grange
with Deborah Hyde
Thursday, 18th March 2021 at 7:00pm
In 1875, a flame-eyed creature picked at the lead in a window pane to let himself in to a remote farmhouse in Cumberland. Thus started a campaign of menace against a young woman: a campaign which only stopped when her brothers tracked the creature down to its resting place in a local crypt. The Beast of Croglin Grange has entered our folklore as one of England’s very few homegrown vampires. So let’s take a look at the story see if we can work out what really happened. 

Deborah Hyde wants to know why people believe in weird stuff. She attributes her fascination with the supernatural to having spent her childhood with mad aunties. She approaches the subject using the perspectives of psychology and history. During the day, she’s a film/TV industry coordinator/production manager who has worked in makeup effects and scenery. She also gets on the wrong side of the camera from time to time as in Terry Gilliam’s Brother’s Grimm. Deborah was Editor the of The Skeptic Magazine, until she handed over the reins to Merseyside Skeptics in 2020. She was also the co-convenor of Westminster Skeptics and Speaker Liaison of Soho Skeptics. In February 2018, she was very honoured to have been elected a fellow of The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. PS Deborah has one sane auntie too. 

Useful Links:

Deborah Hyde's talks about vampires at the Ratio Forum for Popular Science. This event, which was filmed live, is now available for catch up on the RATIO Science Forum YouTube channel.
Deborah Hyde's talks about the Vampire of Croglin Grange at Conway Hall, London, in 2019. This event, which was filmed live, is now available for catch up on the Conway Hall YouTube channel.
So, I've Been Thinking...
Mostly Accurate Reporting from CBN News
On June 5th, 2020, Gordon Robertson, son of televangelist Pat Robertson, appeared on his father’s Christian Broadcasting Network warning of fake news and conspiracy theories about RFID chips in COVID-19 vaccines and calling their actual possible use for stock control on pre-filled vaccine syringes, "a good use of wonderful technology," but curiously failed to mention where this dangerous nonsense originated.

The source of Robertson's fake news seems to be a rather innocuous video, or rather videos (for it was posted twice under different titles) featuring Jay Walker, executive chairman (not CEO as stated in the video) of ApiJect Systems, promoting the pre-filled vaccine syringes the Trump administration had contracted under the $138 million public-private partnership titled Project Jumpstart.

The misconstrued statements that lead to these videos going viral come from a 50 second section two thirds of the way through the brief interview in which Walker, in direct response to a question from CBN News medical reporter Lorie Johnson, briefly outlines an optional RFID chip which could be attached for tracking purposes in apparent blissful ignorance of what he has just unleashed.

Published on May 22nd, 2020, under the title RFID Chip May Be Tied to the New Coronavirus Vaccine and tagged chip in vaccine and RFID Chip covid-19 vaccine, all the more misleading considering how small a part of the interview the chip made up, it generated such comments as, "I WILL DIE OF COVID-19, RATHER TAKING THIS RFID CHIP! (Mark of the Beast)."
The now viral video was seemingly immediately republished under the even more misleading title How Gov Could Use RFID Chips When Millions of Americans Inject COVID-19 Vaccine with a scarier thumbnail and additional tags including 666 and mark. This video has, at time of writing, over 576k views, compared to 46k for its original iteration and 1.7k for Robertson’s warning.

One week later, on May 29th, 2020, CBN News returned to the subject with a video titled Pre-Filled COVID-19 Vaccine Syringes May Have RFID Chip which clarifies the nature of the chip and includes the much needed disclaimer, "it would not be injected or touch the patient." However, no correction or clarification has, at time of writing, been attached to those original videos.

CBN News, according to Media Bias/Fact Check, "mostly reports accurate news that sometimes does not align with science." And, despite Robertson’s belated protestation, this irresponsibly sensationalist and misleading, though not outright false, coverage seems to indicate that, when large numbers of views are at stake, mostly accurate reporting is good enough for this "news" network.

Chris Gyford, Cambridge Skeptics

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Given that psychics aren't actually performing paranormal feats, is it fair to separate them into the deceitful and the deluded? Asks Chris French for The Skeptic.
As the vaccine rollout continues at pace, it's vital that messaging to patients remains clear: if you're invited for a vaccine, please take it, writes Michael Marshall for The Skeptic.
Join sociologist Dr Keith Kahn-Harris in preperation for the upcoming epochal shift to post-denialism. This event, which was streamed live on 11th March, is now available for catch up on the SitP Online YouTube channel.
In case you missed it, and we've seen the viewing figures so we know you did, you can now catch up with the pilot for Cambridge Skeptics Live on our YouTube channel. 
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