Chicago Tribune, March 20, 1921. I think we all instinctively feel the same way about “brown spirit rays,” whatever their source. Then again, if Egyptian mummies turn out to be the primary or sole source of these brown emanations, then charges of Orientalism are sure to follow. In that case, our very favorite color of spiritual radiation is brown–we don’t want any trouble from the late Edward Said’s ronin bodyguards.
More generally, I’m posting this to kick off a series on the diverse uses that early 20th-century newspapers made of the concept of vampirism.
A primary metaphorical meaning attached to “vampire,” reflected above, was “sexually manipulative babe.” This use of the V-word draws upon Rudyard Kipling’s misogynist poetic chestnut “The Vampire,” which, back in the day, even draymen and hod carriers knew by heart. (Get caught up with it here.) In 1915, Kipling’s poem was adapted by Hollywood into a hit silent film called “A Fool There Was,” starring early sex symbol Theda Bara as “The Vamp.” That fixed said definition in the popular imagination for a generation. But there were a lot of other strange and competing meanings attached to “vampire” at the same time, including one related to traffic safety. Stay tuned.
It’s no surprise that a high-profile lady psychic would take a swipe at jazz. We’re looking here at the seedbed of the New Age, which was solidly middle-class and predominantly feminine. A proto-Oprah audience, in a sense.