Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter Facts vs. Fiction

The recently published book "Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter" by Seth Grahame-Smith has attracted a lot of interest from readers in recent weeks. It's garnering great reviews, including one I wrote here. The book is well-written and Grahame-Smith has skillfully blended historical fact with a fun fictional account of Lincoln as a hunter of vampires.

I've been struck, though, by how many "hits" this blog has been receiving from people who are trying to determine what is fictional and what is fact in the book. As a small public service, I thought I'd help out those who are having difficulty in this area. The list below touches on some of the major events in the book. WARNING: There will most likely be spoilers here!

  • The Secret Journal Of Abraham Lincoln - complete fiction. It would be a major historical find if such a journal were ever to be discovered.

  • Lincoln befriending Edgar Allen Poe - also fiction. The real Lincoln loved Poe's works of poetry and fiction, but the two gentlemen never met in real life. That photo in the book which shows them posing together? Nicely faked.

  • Lincoln venturing to Mississippi to confront Jefferson Davis - fiction. The two probably did meet somewhere along the way, but Lincoln never travelled to Mississippi to confront him.

  • The photos - mostly doctored, blatantly or not. Most of the photos in the book have been "enhanced" to go along with the story. For example, Jefferson Davis and John Wilkes Booth never posed together for a photo. The photo with Lincoln sitting in General McClellan's tent at Antietam is real enough, with the exception of the ax shown next to Lincoln. The photo showing the close-up with the skull on the battlefield? Mostly real, with the exception of the fangs.

  • Lincoln in New Orleans - fact. Lincoln did travel twice to New Orleans, once in 1828, and once in 1830. He was hired to deliver crops and other cargo from Illinois down the Mississippi River.

  • Lincoln's mother Nancy dying when Abe was 9 - fact. She indeed died when Abe was only 9, but from drinking milk poisoned by a cow eating white snake root, a poisonous plant.

  • Lincoln's son Willie dying in 1862 - fact. He died of typhoid fever.

  • Vampires - sorry, folks. Henry Sturges is fictional. So are all the other vampires which pop up in the story. I didn't really have to tell you this, did I?


Undine said...

About Lincoln and Poe--In the fall of 1848, Poe traveled to Lowell, MA to lecture. However, he was "bumped" from the hall's schedule in favor of political speeches and rallies related to the upcoming election.

I remember reading somewhere (I can't find the reference now, and that's driving me nuts) that one of the speakers who supplanted Poe was Abraham Lincoln. Do you have any idea if that's true?

By the way, I'm so glad to find this blog! I have a "side interest" in U.S. Grant and the Civil War, so I find your site quite fascinating.

Geoff Elliott said...


Thanks for the compliments. Always nice to welcome new readers.

Indeed, you are correct about Lincoln. He spoke in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1848. From The Lincoln Log (a great site listing the events of many individual days in Lincoln's life). I don't know if he replaced Poe or not.

Saturday, September 16, 1848.
Lowell, MA.

Browse Month
"The Whigs of Lowell had one of the tallest meetings on Saturday night that they have yet held. The large City Hall was crowded in every part. The meeting was addressed by Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, and George Woodman, Esq., of Boston. . . . The work goes bravely on." Speech at Lowell, Massachusetts, 16 September 1848, CW, 2:6; Boston Atlas, 16 September 1848.

Undine said...

Thanks for the clarification. My source--I think it was an old clipping from a Lowell newspaper--got it wrong. Poe's visit was about a month after Lincoln spoke there, so their paths couldn't have crossed.

Pity. It kind of tickled me to think of The Rail-Splitter and The Raven bumping into each other at the local hotel or street-corner.

Abigail said...

I love it, I was going to add something about one of the conspiracy theories I love but I would not want a reader to think I was being truthful.

Jel said...

Man, I too am excited by the idea that Poe and Lincoln could have met. I love Poe, and it's not hard to see why Lincoln enjoyed his work.

Thanks for these clarifications. There's much I don't know about Lincoln, so while reading this book sometimes I forget that it's mostly fiction! :)

Jel said...

By the way, just stumbled across this tonite...apparently a film adaptation of the book is in the works, with the involvement of Tim Burton. I wonder who will be chosen to play Abe? Should be interesting!

Jennifer Weston said...

> I wonder who will be chosen to play Abe? Should be interesting! <

Liam Neeson would be a good casting. He's got the requisite craigy facial structure:

If Tim Burton ends up directing, there's a good chance Johnny Depp will be in this flick (hopefully not in the title role; he's too short and pretty.)

I would really like to see Johnny play Henry Sturges- that darkly driven quality he displayed in 'Sweeney Todd' would be perfect. But, knowing Depp's quirky taste in roles, he might prefer to play John Wilkes Booth.

Lady Em said...

Very interesting blog, I will certainty be back! Thanks for giving me the true facts of the book!!!!

Unknown said...

Hello, I stumbled here while reading the vampire book too. Any possibility that the idea that Willie Lincoln was poisoned could be based on fact?

Geoff Elliott said...

Hello Rhonda,

Thanks for reading the blog. Always nice to have comments from readers.

There's nothing in the historical record to show that Willie Lincoln was poisoned. Not even a hint of it. He died of Typhoid Fever.

The author of the book did a wonderful job and blending historical fact and fiction to the point that many readers simply don't know which is which. That's why I posted this particular article.


Carol said...

I am so glad I found this site. I have been very interested in Mr. Lincon since I was a child. I bought the book "Vampire Hunter" and was wondering if it was fact or fiction. I love everything about Abe Lincoln and have read a lot of books about him. He really was an amazing man!

Anonymous said...

Just read the book and must admit that i slowly started taking everything in the book as facts when it came to the daily life of Lincoln.
But i was curious if it was true about Lincoln being called out by the Clary's Grove Boys and the fight with Jack Armstrong?
Was Abe really known for being the strongest, toughest fighter in town?

Geoff Elliott said...

Hi Alex,

Thanks for dropping by the Lincoln blog. I'm glad you're reading the Vampire Hunter book, which is quite enjoyable.

To answer your questions, yes, there really was a Jack Armstrong. Yes, he was a member of the "Clary Grove Boys" which was a "gang" on the frontier where Lincoln lived.

Jack was a strong, tough man. Yes, he and Lincoln wrestled, and Abe defeated him. No one else had ever been able to take on Armstrong successfully.

Lincoln was incredibly strong himself, even up to the day he died. He was known for being able to hold an axe by its handle, straight out (perpendicular) to his body for many minutes, without trembling. That's very difficult to do.

As Lincoln lay dying after being shot, his doctors were amazed at how "ripped" or "defined" his muscles were when they removed his clothing.

Apparently chopping wood and splitting rails from the age of 9 will do that to a person.

Thanks again!


nickiejoy said...

I have just finished the book and loved it. As I'm from the UK your site has been brilliant at determining the facts as English history is very different from the states in terms of slavery and independence etc. Ever since Bill and Ted Abe Lincoln has been on my radar but I had no idea he was such an inspirational and important man. It's such a shame that Henry is fictional, I thought he was rather lovely for a vamp. The pics were faked to perfection.
I think I prefer to 'believe' that the book was more fact than fiction as it was so amazing scripted and I'm not 100% that vamps don't exist in some form or another.

Unknown said...

I just today came across your blog and find it very interesting and informational.
I am very interested in the Civil War and enjoy reading about it. Also, being interested in the life of Abraham Lincoln, I decided to read Vampire Hunter. I found the book extremely entertaining and well-written, and found myself almost believing in vampires. However, I would next like to read a more factual (or less fictional) book about Lincoln.
I was wondering if you could recommend some books that are highly regarded accounts of his life? I appreciate any advice or recommendation you can give.

Geoff Elliott said...

Hi Brad,

The best single volume biography about Lincoln is simply titled "Lincoln". It was written by David Herbert Donald and published in 1994, I believe. A more recent bio is "A. Lincoln" by Ronald White. Also top-notch. There are also excellent photo biographies out there, too.

bearkat said...

Not a Lincoln question, but did Edgar Allan Poe and John Wilkes Booth ever meet? It looks like the latter was 11 when the former died? Thank you for sharing your grasp of the facts.

Geoff Elliott said...

To my knowledge, Poe and Booth never met.

Historyfanatic85 said...

Hello my name is Rachael and you seem quite knowledgable about Abraham Lincoln. I lovedAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and couldn't put it down. I am an amateur historian and I'm writing a novel set in the Civil War era with the battle of Antietam as a core part of the novel. Do you know if Abraham Lincoln ever visited the battle fields and the soldiers during the war?

Geoff Elliott said...

Hi Rachael,

Thanks for dropping by! Lincoln certainly visited some of the battlefields, but not during the battles. He paid a visit to Gen. McClellan on the Antietam battlefield on October 3, 1862, about 2 1/2 weeks after the battle. He of course spoke at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863, about 4 1/2 months after the battle.

He paid many visits to sick and wounded soldiers in Washington. He also visited Gen. Grant in the area of the final fighting, at City Point, VA in March/April 1865.

I hope this helps!


Shad said...

The Vampire Hunter mentioned that in Lincolns day politicians did not campaign as they do today. Then, the supporters and allies did the campaigning for the person runnung for office. Any truth ti the statement? Do you know when this changed, politicians started campaigning? Thank you for this service. Excellent blog!

Shirl in DC

Deana Blevins said...

As someone who grew up in Elizabethtown KY I loved this book and all the references to IN and IL and I've taken many a school field trips to his birthplace. My husband and I both saw this book in the same vein as many of Dan Brown's novels. Where the author wonderfully smudges the lines between reality and fiction. Very much looking forward to the movie in June and the darkness that can only be captured by Tim Burton. Thank you for the spoilers because even though I know this was ultimately fiction I will grin to myself the next time I meet Mr. Lincoln at the state fair or county fairs in KY.

Geoff Elliott said...

To "Shad" - Presidents began campaigning for themselves right around the time of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President. I could be off by a few years. And yes, in Lincoln's time, it was very unseemly for a candidate for the Presidency to campaign for himself. Lincoln's supporters did his campaigning for him.

Geoff Elliott said...

Hi Deana - I'm glad you liked the post about Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter. I was asked by the publisher to review it. I admit that I had serious doubts about it, but was very pleasantly surprised how good it is. Sure, it's ridiculous and silly, but it's a very fun read. I only hope that people do not think that Abraham Lincoln really hunted vampires. He was, however, known to beat up zombies on occasion.

Anonymous said...

So glad to find this blog, I just finished the Vampire Hunter book over the weekend and really enjoyed it. Although it's obviously fiction, it was fun to think about the idea of how the historical events could have actually related to vampires. I've always enjoyed reading and studying Lincoln so this was a new, fun aspect. I would say if these stories of Vampires were true during this period of history, if any man would be hunting and killing them, it would be Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, after reading the book, I'm not so excited about the book.

Nancy said...

Thank you for the clarifications. I just finished the book and couldn't help wondering about the real history in it, especially the idea of Lincoln and Poe having a friendship and Lincoln having traveled so much. I must confess to a merely superficial knowledge of Lincoln, even though I'm descended from one of Mary Todd's brothers. You saved me a lot of research! Appreciate it. Nancy Rector

Tashamia said...

Oh my goodness, thank you so much for this post and this blog. I just recently finished the book, loved it, and am anxiously awaiting the film. I was curious about the "friendship" between poe and lincoln. although i think it would have been a very cool thing, i figured it wasn't true. This book has definitely awakened an interest in mr. lincoln for me. Being born and raised in Illinois, lincoln is pretty much everywhere (he is on our license plates ^_^). well, again thank you for this blog and am looking forward to reading your posts in the future.

abevamphunterfan said...

Not trying to disprove or anything but if by chance lincoln and Poe had been in the same place at the same time is really that easy to say oh no they did not at all meet. How do we know maybe they did meet nonchalantly in a tavern I know from common Poe knowledge he was a drinker and if he had met Lincoln whose to say Poe just didn't remember and after meeting Poe ( if u know anything about Poe he was not very well liked by anyone he met) Lincoln decided his meeting of Poe wasn't anything to brag about so never mentioned it think about that haha loved the blog thanks

darrindickey said...


Nice blog. In reference to Lincoln visiting battlefields, it's not Antietam, but don't forget the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864!

Unknown said...

Great blog! I finished the book just in time for the movie and I have to say-- The movie really botched this book. I really hope people who see that movie will be tempted to pick up the book and learn some of the actual truth that the movie just ignored-- that's what made this book so amazing! All of the real history. All movies take poetic license to tell stories, but this one really took that to extremes, axing through facts, and indeed most of the more interesting parts of the novel, like abe through a vampire. How disappointing.
But I know your blog is no place to review the movie. I just encourage everyone who comes looking for answers here to READ THE BOOK!!

Lora Style said...

I am so glad I stumbled across this blog! I have just finished the book 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' and was so fascinated by him I had to google loads of things I had read in the book. Being a teen from Ireland I have not learnt anything about American history or Abe until I read the book. I can tell you with truth that I will be reading through this blog until dawn.

Abraham Lincoln was one amazing man, Vampire Hunter or not.

Unknown said...

The blog is fantastic! And good to see that I am not the only one so excited about this book. I' m still reading it but agree with every word you wrote.
I think Abe Lincoln it the person I need to learn more about, it will be challenging since I am from Poland and need to understand those times and history.
Hope to find more intresting facts from history.

Unknown said...

The blog is fantastic! And good to see that I am not the only one so excited about this book. I' m still reading it but agree with every word you wrote.
I think Abe Lincoln it the person I need to learn more about, it will be challenging since I am from Poland and need to understand those times and history.
Hope to find more intresting facts from history.

Leia Tortoise said...

Just finished the book too and preparing my review, thanks a lot for this list!
I was right for most of my guessings (the photoshoped pictures are such excessive, they quite spoil the fun of the book, in my opinion) but I really needed confirmation ^^

Unknown said...

Did Abe really had any Afro-American friend named William H. Jhonson???

Unknown said...

I'm about halfway into the book now! Thanks for the clarification between Abe and Edgar. I'm pretty bummed that they never personally knew each other! I was too excited to think that had actually happened! Thanks for taking the time to make this post and put some of my questions to rest. I originally had seen the movie first, but now I'm reading the book just to see how much different it is from the movie. I'm amazed at how much was changed and cut out!

my fantasy said...

Hello Mr. Geoff..
i am so glad reading this blog. it actually helps me to find out some facts about Abraham.
i was fascinated when i watch the movie especially the book.
my question if you don't mind answering.
Why it must be Abraham? why it doesn't president before or after Abraham?
#thank you, i am sorry if you find any mistakes in grammar. i am an early English learner.

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