Summers, Montague

Summers, Montague (1880-1948)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers was born in the Barton Regis district of Clifton, near Bristol, England, on April 10, 1880. His father was a justice of the peace and a banker. Summers had six older siblings.

He developed a love of drama at an early age and made himself a toy theater at age sixteen. Although brought up in the Anglican Church, he was fascinated by the ritual of Roman Catholicism and became a Roman Catholic. In 1899 he began studies at Trinity College, Oxford, then entered Lichfield Theological College. He obtained his B.A. in 1905 and his M.A. the following year. At the age of 28 he was ordained as a deacon and appointed to a curacy in Bath. There, with another clergyman, he was prosecuted for pederasty but acquitted. In 1909, as a pastor in the Roman Catholic Church, he took up residence in Wonersh, near Guildford.

Although Summers took the title of Reverend, there seems to be some doubt about his ordination, which is presumed to have taken place in Italy. He taught at private schools from 1911 to 1926 and published a number of books as an authority on Restoration literature and eighteenthand nineteenth-century Gothic novelists. He eventually moved to Oxford, where he wrote a succession of scholarly works, many of them on occult subjects such as witchcraft, Satanism, vampires, and werewolves.

Summers greatly admired both Oscar Wilde and Aleister Crowley. He believed very much that witchcraft and Satanism were synonymous and that all witches should be burned at the stake. It has been said that he had a split personality, being pious and kind yet having a fascination with evil and lust. He has been described as "a picturesque and somewhat sinister figure in a broad, black cloak, with bejeweled hands and a high-pitched, feminine voice" (Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, vol. 2, Ed. Leslie A. Shepard).

Summers's most notable books, seemingly heavily researched, include The His- tory of Witchcraft and Demonology (1926), The Geography of Witchcraft (1927), The Vampire; His Kith and Kin (1928), The Vampire in Europe (1929), and The Werewolf (1933). He translated and annotated the Malleus Maleficarum in 1928, the Compendium Maleficarum (1929), and Demonolatry (1930). Others of his books on witchcraft included A Popular History of Witchcraft (1937) and Witchcraft and Black Magic


Summers disagreed with Margaret Murray's theory that witchcraft was a religion dating from pre-Christian times. He sincerely believed that the confessions of the witches, obtained during the persecutions, were real, and he seemed to delight in the stories of evil and obscenity. Russell claims that "Summers's own works and his many editions and translations of classical witchcraft handbooks are marred by frequent liberties in translation, inaccurate references, and wild surmises." Summers died on August 10, 1948.

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Noted vampire expert Montague Summers.

Summers, Montague (1880–1948)

(pop culture)

Alphonsus Joseph-Mary Augustus Montague Summers was the author of a number of important books on the supernatural including several classic studies on vampires. Very early in his life, he began reading many of the more obscure writings by English fiction writers, including those of the gothic genre.

In 1899, Summers entered Trinity College and pursued a course toward the Anglican ministry. He went on to Lichfield Theological College where he received his bachelor’s degree (1905) and master’s degree (1906). He was ordained as a deacon in 1908 and assigned to a parish in a Bristol suburb.

While there, he was charged and tried for pederasty but was found not guilty.

In the wake of the trial, however, he left the Church of England and became a Roman Catholic. At some point—whether before or after he left the Church of England was not altogether clear—he was ordained to the priesthood. He was briefly assigned to a parish in London, but in 1911, moved from the parish into teaching school.

During his teaching years, Summers gathered an outstanding collection of books in various languages (many of which he learned) on occultism and the supernatural, from magic and witchcraft to vampires and werewolves. He also became an enthusiastic fan of Restoration drama and was one of the founders of The Phoenix, a society established to revive Restoration plays, many of a somewhat risque nature. After fifteen years as an instructor in various schools, Summers moved to Oxford and began the period of scholarly writings that was to make him a memorable author of works on the occult and related fields. His first important work, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology, appeared the year he retired from teaching.

Largely because of his choice of topics, his books sold well and Summers was able to make a living from his writings.

The first years of his Oxford period focused on his study of vampirism. In 1928, Summers finished his broad survey, The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, in which he traced the presence of vampires and vampire-like creatures in the folklore around the world, from ancient times to the present. He also surveyed the rise of the literary and dramatic vampire. Summers’s broad mastery of the mythological, folkloric, anthropological, and historical material on the vampire (a mastery rarely equaled) has been obscured by his own Catholic supernaturalism. On several occasions he expressed his opinion of the evil reality of the vampire, an opinion very much out of step with his secular colleagues.

The following year Summers published his equally valuable The Vampire in Europe, which focused on various vampire accounts in Europe (especially Eastern Europe) where the legend found its most complete development. Summers combined his reading of the diverse literature with personal observations formulated from visits to some of the more important centers where vampire belief had survived. Summers completed two volumes of a country-by-country report on vampire lore. While they superseded a number of particular areas, the volumes remain standard sources for vampire studies.

During the 1930s, Summers continued his prodigious output and successively published: The Werewolf (1933), a companion volume to his vampire studies; The Restoration Theatre (1934); A Popular History of Witchcraft (1937); and The Gothic Quest: A History of the Gothic Novel (1938), an enthusiastic history of gothic fiction. In the 1940s, he added Witchcraft and Black Magic (1946). His last book, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, was published posthumously in 1950.

During the last twenty years of his life, Summers also edited numerous volumes.

He released new editions of some of the most important texts on witchcraft and several anthologies of ghost stories. Toward the end of his life, he produced an autobiographical volume, The Galantry Show, which was eventually published in 1980. Beginning in 1956, many of Summers’s works, including the two vampire books, were reprinted in American editions.

Summers remains an enigma. A defender of a traditional supernatural Catholic faith, he was the target of numerous rumors concerning homosexuality and his seeming fascination with those very subjects which he, on the one hand condemned, and on the other, spent so much time mastering.


Frank, Frederick S. Montague Summers: A Bibliographical Portrait. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1988. 277 pp.
Frenschkowski, Marco. “Keine spitzen Zähne. Von der interkulturellen Vergleichbarkeit mythologischer Konzepte: das Beispiel des Vampirs.” In Poetische Wiedergänger. Deutschsprachige Vampirismus-Diskurse vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. Julia Bertschik and Christa A. Tuczay, eds. Tübingen, Germany: Francke 2005: 43–59.
Jerome, Joseph. Montague Summers: A Memoir. London: Cecil and Amelia Woolf, 1965. 105 pp.
Morrow, Felix. “The Quest for Montague Summers.” In Montague Summers, The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1960: xiii–xx.
Smith, Timothy d’Arch. A Bibliography of the Works of Montague Summers. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1964. 164 pp.
Summers, Montague. The Vampire: His Kith and Kin. London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1928. 356 pp. Rept. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1960. 356 pp.
———. The Vampire in Europe. London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1929. 329 pp. Rept. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961. 329 pp.
———. The Gothic Quest: a History of the Gothic Novel. 1938. Rept. London: Fortune Press, 1950. 443 pp.
———. The Werewolf. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1933. Rept. New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1966. 307 pp.
———. The Galantry Show. London: Cecil Woolf, 1980. 259 pp.