Children’s hairstyles are often a source of trouble in schools, but I have only once been asked to intervene as a psychiatrist, although the boy’s hair was very long and beautifully cared for.
In the early nineteenth century Peter might have had ‘Plica Polonica’ (Polish Plait), supposed to be a disease caused by a demon which settled if the plait of neglected knotted hair full of lice eggs were allowed to grow, taking the illness with it. The condition largely disappeared in the nineteenth century when it became clear that lack of basic hair hygiene (washing, combing cutting) was the problem and rumours of a tax circulated.
Renfield, the ‘lunatic’ patient in ‘Dracula, is in need of a ‘back story’. So perhaps his cousin Gar Field was once invited to Christmas dinner with the Count and his Vampiresses. He successfully escapes, much to their fury, and doesn’t even get norovirus..,
Thank you to my neighbours for the festive post-box. In it are Greetings for all my blog readers.
The real blood-sucking (or blood-lapping) vampire bats, are found in the Americas. The common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) feeds solely on blood, a trait known as ‘haematophagy’. (Compare this with Renfield’s so-called ‘zoophagy’.) These bats are quite small, even cute-looking, but rabies is still a possibility.
For a dental note: it is the two sharp front teeth which open up the blood vessel, then the long tongue takes over. Note that in the ‘Dracula’ novel and most movies it is the canine teeth that cause the damage but Count Orlok in ‘Nosferatu’ has teeth like this, as do rats.
Rabies can be caused by a bite from a British bat, the Daubenton. It is caused by the European Bat Lyssavirus – EBLV, which was first found in a bat in Florida in 1953. While in the UK there has only been one case of human rabies acquired from a native bat, in 2002, this was fatal. An infected bat was found as recently as October 2019.
In humans symptoms of the disease include:
anxiety, headaches and fever in the early stages
spasms of the swallowing muscles making it difficult or impossible to drink (hence ‘hydrophobia’)
Post-exposure treatment (PET) using rabies vaccine with or without human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) is highly effective in preventing disease if given correctly and promptly after exposure. For advice see: www.gov.uk/government/publications/rabies
While Count Dracula seems to have had mild hydrophobia, his swallowing seems to have remained intact.
Coloured engraving by Josiah Wood Whymper (1813 -1903) from the Wellcome Collection. The accompanying text comments:
Sleeping during the day in the most retired places, in the hollow of trees, or hanging by its claws from the bark, or concealing itself in ruined buildings, or in the roofs of ancient churches, it avoids the glare of daylight; but when the shades of evening come on, and hunger tempts the timid animal from its lurking-place, it is brisk and lively enough.
In ‘Dracula’, Mina noted:
Between me and the moonlight flitted a great bat, coming and going in great whirling circles. Once or twice it came quite close, but was, I suppose, frightened at seeing me, and flitted away across the harbour towards the abbey.
We are in Whitby here, but it is not until Lucy is back home in Hampstead that the bites in her neck are noticed by Professor Van Helsing. He starts to suspect a diagnosis of Vampirism.