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Professor Tom Greene refers to the book Dracula, by Bram Stoker, during his lecture "Why are Vampires Sexy," at the Andover Senior Center.

What's grandma to do? Vampire fever has taken over the lives of their teen granddaughters and they want to know what's so special about the notorious blood suckers.

For the past several Halloween seasons, teen girls have been smitten with a vampire named Edward, star of the hot-selling Twilight book series and movies.

Andover Senior Center went to a top authority on vampires and his answers were not as horror-filled as some might have feared. Dr. Thomas Greene, who specializes in Victorian Literature and Cultural Studies at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, came to the center on Monday afternoon to discuss "Why are Vampires Sexy?" He ended up calming the audience.

The book Dracula (published in 1896) spawned an entire genre of written tales about night-walkers who drink the blood of the living, and the fascination about vampires keeps the stories alive, Greene said.

"Vampires are fascinating, from the 17th century up to Edward," he said. "Booklore calls them revenant legends...They come back from the dead, like ghosts, zombies and some mummies."

Greene explained that the label probably came about in London around the 17th century. Women were being attacked by so-called vampires and the men of that era banded together to fight them. Stories of blood and gore were rampant as the men defended their women.

Vampire personalities have shifted over time and the creatures have become more attractive over the years. Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise played vampires early in their movie careers. But vampires have retained a troubling trait during the movie era - vampires don't die.

"This brings us to Edward...as symbols of vampires persist," said Greene, who manages ghost tours in Salem, Mass., when he's not teaching.

First of all, Edward is 114 years old, Greene said. He has many positive attributes that young teen girls admire. He's confident, true only to himself and would not hurt anyone intentionally, especially his girlfriend, Bella.

"I think girls just want to be like him," Greene said. "They don't want to be vampires...They just want to be like him."

And that's when a collective sigh of relief filled the room.

TRICK OR TREAT

Andover's official hours for candy collecting are 5 to 7 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31

Spooky fun

For a list of activities in town, see page 5.

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