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Northern Essex professor unwraps the vampire mystique

When Tom Greene visits assisted-living centers and nursing homes, he gets the same question: “Why is my granddaughter obsessed with vampires?”

Greene, 48, is more than qualified to answer. As an English professor at Northern Essex Community College, he specializes in Victorian literature and culture, which involves the history of vampires.

While in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he threw himself into Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and “stuck with it.”

Greene now discusses the evolution of vampires from monsters to boyfriends in his talk, “Why Are Vampires Sexy?,” which he presents in many venues through the college’s Speakers Bureau.


He explains how vampires tap into people’s fears and secret desires.

“It’s about living in cities with strangers and dealing with people from faraway places and the fear they are secretly predators,” Greene said. “And the whole genre of supernatural romance of a girl in love with a vampire is huge.”

Greene said the phenomenon that started with the “Twilight” movie series has been fueled by a largely female audience of “12- to 14-year-old girls and some of their moms.”

While that particular franchise may be fading, “There is an ongoing interest in vampires as new movies and incarnations come out. There’s also a new rash of television shows about people coming back from the dead, such as ‘Resurrection.”

Greene moved from Texas to Massachusetts to earn advanced degrees at UMass, where he received a master’s in creative writing and a doctorate in English. He has been teaching at Northern Essex — which has campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence — since 2008.

A resident of Salem, he led ghost tours in the city for a time. In addition to teaching, he writes science fiction.

“It all is definitely fun,” he said.

Wendy Killeen can be reached at wdkilleen@gmail.com.