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Components of Vampire Killing Kits






In perusing so many vampire killing kits, a pattern of contents (especially vials of arcane substances) has emerged. Here is an account of those useful elements common to Blomberg and other kits:

Component
Best Likely Explanation
Provenance
Vial labelled
Vampirism
Nondescript white powder in glass jar. Potentially an alchemical 'cure' for vampirism. Found in some Blomberg kits. Screw-top bottles and jars became common in the 1850s.
Vial labelled
Professor Blomberg's New Serum
This is the signature element of Blomberg kits. One account of a German text provides the ingredients, which include holy water, garlic extract, honey, and salt.

This kit, while not from Blomberg, contains two vials of serum, one 'red' and one 'blue,' without any other explanation.
Found in this Wisconsin Ripley Blomberg kit, but often labelled only 'serum.'
Vial labelled
Emetic Tartar for Putric Fever
Possibly a reference to 'putrid fever,' an archaic term for epidemic typhus, a louse-borne disease that causes rash, fever symptoms, stupor and delerium. First described in 1083, it commonly following wars and famine until a vaccine was developed during World War II.

Emetic tartar refers to antimony potassium tartrate, which presumably induces vomiting.

According to Dr. John George Zimmerman's Treatife on the Dyfentery: with a Defcription of the Epidemic Dyfentery that happened in Switzerland in the Year 1765 (as translated to English here by C. R. Hopfon, M. D. in 1771):
'The cream of tartar and tamarinds did not only occafion no pain, but very much diminifhed it when they proved fufficiently purgative. They had alfo this advantage over rhubarb, that by means of their acidity, they acted very powerfully againft the putrid fever....'
Found in the Wisconsin Ripley Museum kit and this Blomberg kit.
Vial labelled
Verde-Gris
A possible reference to verdigris, the green patina that forms on weathered copper or brass, specifically copper carbonate or copper chloride. Most commonly used as a pigment, it has also been used in some medicines. Found in some Blomberg kits
Vial labelled
Agrimony
Agrimony (meaning thankfulness) is a perennial flowering herb native to the northern hemisphere, including Europe. Its flowers are yellow, and its leaves are eaten by several species of butterflies. Varieties that grow in Europe are Agrimonia pilosa (Hairy Agrimony) and Agromonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony). Historically, the plants were believed to have medicinal value, including a cure for a lack of 'male virility.' Found in several Blomberg kits and some non-Blomberg kits as well.
Vial labelled
Elixir of Vitriol
Likely ties to oil of vitriol, the name for sulfuric acid discovered in the 8th century and prized by European alchemists. Vitriol also applied to hydrated sulfate salts, which occurred in compounds of various colors. Highly reactive, it was a key element of alchemy. Found in several Blomberg kits, including this kit and the Wisconsin Ripley's Kit.
Vial labelled
Daffy's Elixir for Purging
Daffy's Elixir is regarded as a quack medicine, attributed to English clergyman Thomas Daffy (Vicar of Redmile), who created his elixir salutis as a cure-all in 1647. Most often found in flat-sided embossed bottles, it remained popular into the late 1800s.

A recipe from 1700 lists the ingredients as aniseed, brandy, cochineal, elecampane, fennel seed, jalap, manna, parsley seed, raisin, rhubarb, saffron, senna and spanish liquorice. However, modern chemical analysis has shown this to be a laxative made mostly from alcohol. This is consistent with 'purging' in a medical context, which may refer to an agent to induce vomiting or diarrhea.
Found in several Blomberg kits
Vial labelled
Powdered Garlic
Also described as flour of garlic, which may have been corrupted into garlic flower or flower of garlic. European folklore considered garlic to be a powerful tool in warding off vampires (and other evils), often hung on windows or rubbed into keyholes and on chimneys to 'lock' the house. Named Usturoi in the old Romanian. Found in most Blomberg kits
Vial labelled
Dr. Anthony's Fire
Vial of powder, possibly related to St. Anthony's Fire, an archaic name for ergot poisoning. During the middle ages, the monks of the Order of St. Anthony had some success in treating the ailment. Long term ergot poisoning resulted from the ingestion of cereal crops (such as rye) infected with ergot fungus (Claviceps Purpurea). Symptoms include hallucination and seisures, and are generally attributed as a cause of (at least some) outbreaks of witch hysteria (such as Salem, 1692) and werewolfism. Found in a non-Blomberg kit
Vial labelled
Dr. Boerhaave's Fever Powder
Dr. Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) was a Dutch botanist/physician, well known throughout Europe, and regarded as the founder of clinical medical teaching. Although this powder purports to treat fever, Dr. Boerhaave first described Boerhaave's Syndrome, a tearing of the esophagus resulting from 'vigorous vomiting.'

Some of these vials are labelled 'Boehaave' in an apparent mis-spelling.
Found in a non-Blomberg kit
Vial labelled
Tincture of Jalap
Jalap is a cathartic medicine, intended to accelerate defecation, derived from the root-tubers of Ipomea Purga, found in the Mexican Andes, but known to Europe since the early 17th century. Other uses include removing fluid from the body, relieving congestion, and lowering blood pressure. A tincture indicates a solution in alcohol, as the roots are dried and ground before use. Use of this tincture was common in India and 'the Colonies.' Found in a non-Blomberg kit, and in this Blomberg kit.
Vial labelled
Cardvus Benedictuse
Likely misspelling of Carduus Benedictus, an herb known as the 'blessed thistle.' Native to southern Europe, this Carduus has a pale yellow flower, and has been cultivated for centuries for its medicinal use as a cure-all. In the late 1500s, it was even considered effective against the plague. It was especially useful for heart ailments and expelling ingested poison, and as a salve. The whole herb is used, with leaves and flowers collected in July, then dried. Found in two non-Blomberg kit, including this one.
Vial labelled
Flour of Briviatone/Brimstone
Vial of unknown powder. Possibly related to the Cornish term 'brivia,' meaning to bleat (like a lamb), or possibly to to bleed, which would be more appropriate, given the current context. More likely, this is a mis-read of Flour of Brimstone, as appears in this Blomberg kit. Found in a non-Blomberg kit
Vial labelled
Potassium Nitrate
Vial of unknown powder. Potassium Nitrate is a naturally occurring salt often called Saltpeter. It is used in fertilizer, and is one of the primary ingredients in gunpowder. It has been used to preserve meat since the Middle Ages, often in solution as a brine. It can be used as a treatment for high blood pressure, which isn't often a problem for the victims of vampires. It was once thought to induce impotence, which might be useful against certain vampires - but there is no evidence of such effect. Found in this fake Blomberg kit.
Holy Soil Rarely seen, blessed soil is probalby intended to despoil the resting place of revenants. It is unclear if it is soil from consecrated ground, soil obtained from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or simply soil that has been blessed by a priest. Pamant in old Romanian. Found in this non-Blomberg kit.
Stake

Often very plain, kits may include a carved mahogany or silver-tipped stakes, or possibly inset with bone, or even apparently made from metal (although the it claims to be of oak). Historically, the wood of choice varies by region, but Hawthorn and Holly are among those preferred in eastern Europe. Found in Blomberg and non-Blomberg kits
Crucifix Inclusion of a crucifix is clear, as indicated by their renowned ability to turn the forces of evil. Some are simple, others may be more ornate, or even portable. Occasional kits include a crucifix combined in form with another implement, such as a pistol or a stake. Found in Blomberg kits. A fine ivory crucifix-pistol went to auction in 2010.
Pistol The historic Nicolas (Vivarro/Vivario) Plomdeur was a gunsmith of Liege (Belgium) between 1836 and 1863, but started to works in Paris around the 1850s. He also reportedly participated in London's Great Exhibition of 1851 (lot 146, pair of pistols with ebony stocks). Some of his works are in Liege's museum of Weapons; most are blackpowder pistols. he is reportedly referenced in "Les Armuriers Liégeois" (The Gunsmith from Liege) on page 130. At least one example of a kit containing a revolver has been observed, also attributed to Plomdeur. By one account, he was court gunsmith to the Belgian King, Erwerbsscheinpflichtig.

However, watch for Blomberg-label references to Nicholas Plombeur or Nicholas Plomduer as the spelling may change the whole deal.

I have seen references to Plomdeur percussion pistols being auctioned to collectors with no connection to vampire hunting. Some of his pieces bear the engraved maker's mark "Nlas. Vivarro-Plomdeur Agqr. du Roi à Liège" and ELG proof marks.

Also watch for the combination pistol and cross, a rare find indeed.
Mentioned on virtually every Blomberg kit label. Emily Gerard commented in 1888 that a pistol-shot, fired into the coffin of a suspected vampire, could be effective against "less irreclaimable vampired."
Bullet Mold/Bullets/Powder Often reported as silver bullets, those included in the Mercer Museum's kit have been found to be pewter. Bullets engraved with the sign of the cross are perhaps effective, too. Powder horns attributed to Nicolas Plomdeur are reported to bear the same maker's mark/proof marks as his pistols. I have also seen a reference to a kit that includes 'silver nuggets,' presumably to be crafted into new bullets using the enclosed bullet mold. An ivory crucifix-pistol kit included ivory bottles for gunpowder, and possibly wadding, shot and percussion caps. Common to some Blomberg kits.
Crossbow/Bolts Perhaps the crossbow is a better weapon for vampires or rainy weather, and if crossbow bolts can double as stakes. While often small, some kits included a collapsible crossbow to save on space. Bolts may be silver-tipped. Found in unusual Blomberg kits, since gunmaker Plomdeur is not involved. A crossbow with silver-tipped bolts (and no pistol) was observed in this non-Blomberg kit, which was sold at auction in October 2010.
Holy Water/Anointing Oil Blessed holy water universally esteemed for its ability to turn the forces of evil. Perhaps it goes well with the syringe for injection into suspected vampires. Agheazma in old Romanian. Only one kit has included anointing oil (Mir in the old Romanian), possibly because it should only be employed by a priest. Found in some Blomberg kits and non-Blomberg kit.
Holy Incense Also called 'tamaie,' incense is an important element of any ritual acts, bringing the holy spirit. Found in some at least one non-Blomberg kit.
Syringe Possibly of use for injecting holy water into the suspected revenants. While many vampire kits include various serums and elixirs, most are today reduced to a powdered form. However, it is possible that some were intended to be administered by injection. Just don't share needles with the undead. The description of this kit suggests that it can be used to injext 'liquid garlic.' Found in Blomberg kits
Brimstone The archaic name for burning sulfur, often associated with God's wrath (as in fire and brimstone), known for its acrid odor, similar to rotten eggs. Prized for its flamability, it is a component in black powder. The alchemical symbol for sulphur is a triangle at the top of a cross.

Its specific uses against the undead are not immediately clear. See 'flour of briviatone/brimstone' above, as an apparent reference to powdered brimstone included in this Blomberg kit.
Found in Blomberg kits
Candle/Holy Incense

Vampires probably like dark places, so a candle makes sense - even better is a blessed candle (inlaid with metal crosses), which would certainly be appropriate. No indication if matches or flint/steel are likewise included. The candles may alternately be described as wax tapers. Holy incense (Tamaie in old Romanian) has been observed in only one kit, but would be presumed to repel evil. Found in Blomberg kits and in this non-Blomberg kit.
Rosary
Presumabaly included to strengthen the fortitude of the vampire killers, may also cause harm to vampires upon contact. Found in some Blomberg kits.
Forceps/Pliers Presumably a vampire without its teeth is less dangerous. I have seen references for a type of pliers called Dentol, specifically designed for pulling teeth, but often these kits just include a few odd tools, including a 1900-vintage screwdriver. Found in Blomberg and non-Blomberg kits
Magnifying Glass Perhaps vampire hunters were also the scientists or philosophers of their day, and intended to study all phenomena to the best of their abilities. Clearly, a magnifying glass (such as that found in Ripley's Los Angeles museum) would come in handy. Found in the Mercer Museum's Blomberg kit, although its age has been discredited.
Knife/Rope A knife is a seemingly obvious and essential tool, and is completely absent from the Blomberg kits seen so far. Rope would also be useful, either in restrianing the undead, or to access their subterranean resting places. A good knife is found in this kit, apparently the only weapon, since the typical pistol is not included. A suspicious substitute is a common straight razor, seen shoved into this Blomberg kit. This kit included a cleaver (and cudgel) for serious decapitation. Only seen in non-Blomberg kits. A silver knife/dagger was observed in this non-Blomberg kit.
Prayer Book/Bible A Romanian prayer book, seen once among these kits, sounds especially credible. In that case, it was written in the old Romanian language chirilica. Other kits include a Bible, presumably for fortitude in the face of the undead. Some kits may include blessings engraved on the box itself. Generally found in non-Blomberg kits.
Mallet Inclusion of a mallet with stakes makes sense - but it also makes me wonder how all the kits with no mallets intend to install all those stakes. Some mallets seen are finely crafted, decorated with holy emblems, others are quite plain, similar to woodcarving mallets of the period. Found in non-Blomberg kits.
Mirror After the publication of Dracula in 1897, it became common knowledge that vampires cast no reflection. Testing this in the field would require a mirror. Found in this non-Blomberg kit.