An authentic 19th-century vampire killing kit – containing a pistol with silver bullets in a coffin-style case, Holy water vials, a cleaver, a prayer book and a looking glass – sold for $8,800 at an estate sale held (appropriately enough) on Halloween, Oct. 31, by Stevens Auction Company, based in Aberdeen, Miss. A Victorian-era walnut casket (circa 1880s) also sold, for $522.50.
The coffin came up for bid right before the vampire killing kit and had a ghoulish plastic figure inside for fun and effect. “We told people the figure was a vampire and it was dead, proof that the killing kit worked,” said Dwight Stevens of Stevens Auction Company with a chuckle, adding, “I don’t believe in vampires and I’ve never believed in them. But somebody did. This is the fourth killing kit I’ve sold.”
The last one Stevens auctioned was a kit made around 1800. It came complete with stakes, mirrors, a gun with silver bullets, crosses, a Bible, Holy water, candles and even garlic, all in a walnut case with a carved cross on top. It sold for $14,850 at an estate sale held Oct. 3-4, 2008, in Natchez, Miss. The one just sold, a much newer kit, was housed in a rosewood case with mother-of-pearl inlay.
The winning bidder was a lady from Pennsylvania (not Transylvania!) who drove all the way to Mississippi to bid on the prize. “She told me afterward she was prepared to go as high as $20,000,” Mr. Stevens said, “and when nobody topped her bid of $8,000, she got up and started doing a happy dance. She even sported fake vampire fangs for effect. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier winning bidder.”
Mr. Stevens said the vampire killing kit attracted interest from as far away as England prior to the sale. “People are fascinated by them,” he said. “They were pieces of Americana specific to a rather small area – from Vicksburg to New Orleans. It’s all tied into the whole voodoo-superstition side of the region’s character.” Interest in the killing kits spiked when Sotheby’s sold one in the 1990s for $23,000.
The auction attracted a crowd of 600 people, a minor miracle in itself, considering it rained hard the entire day before. “We set up a sump pump and let it run all night,” Mr. Stevens said. “But the next day, it was as sunny and beautiful as could be. We had a great auction.” About 600 lots changed hands at the sale, which ran non-stop from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Phone and absentee bidding were both active.
Stevens Auction Company is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call them directly, at (662) 369-2200, or you can e-mail them at [email protected].
To learn more about Stevens Auction Company and the upcoming sales scheduled for later this month and January, click on www.stevensauction.com