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Old 03-17-2022, 12:42 PM   #41 (permalink)
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There’s a pretty strong sense of abiding love between the men too, even if this is only barely skimmed over and they’re treated more as all lads together on a grand adventure, and Harker’s love for Mina and hers for him is certainly undeniable, one of the main things that keeps him alive, induces him to get out of the castle and escape from the women (I mean, having your blood sucked aside, the idea of three beautiful girls making love to you every night does have its advantages) and to save her in the end. I think though that those who talk of a sexual bond between the vampire and Harker are reaching; nowhere in the novel do I see him profess love for Dracula. On the contrary, he is repelled by him, disgusted by him, terrified of him. The count, of course, tells the women Harker is his, but this is more a case of his being the vampire’s property, the source of his life-renewing (or un-life-renewing?) energy, and it’s really more a nineteenth century version of Dracula warning the women not to touch his stuff. Harker might almost bear a label: PROPERTY OF DRACULA. HANDS OFF.

In terms of vampire literature though, this is where it all comes together. The previous authors have laid down the framework, but it’s Stoker who puts it all into one manageable whole, he who takes the skeleton and clothes it in flesh and looses it on the world, he who takes what others have begun and creates the first, and most lasting, of the literary vampires. Some aspects from previous vampire stories and novels are retained, some are not. The idea of moonlight healing a vampire, so prevalent in Polidori’s story, is nowhere mentioned here, nor I believe is it again. Polidori’s vampire, as Le Fanu’s and Rymer’s, and even Byron’s possible one, all seem to begin as more or less vital humanoid figures and undergo little change, whereas we meet Stoker’s Dracula as a frail old man, who gets younger and stronger by sucking the blood out of his unwilling visitor. This is, I think, the first time that the vampire figure uses the drinking of human blood not only to sustain himself and satisfy his devilish thirst, but to renew himself, to remake himself and almost rise from the dead, or from very old age. Using the power of the blood (“The blood is the life!”) he can actually combat time, force it back and reverse the ageing process.

To my knowledge, none of the previous vampires, other than Carmilla, refused or did not consume food. Dracula pretends he is simply not hungry, but it soon becomes clear that he is unable or unwilling to eat, or uninterested in human food. Blood is what sustains him, and terror, and possession of the will. Like Carmilla - and only her, up to that point - Dracula can change his form into that of an animal. He first appears as a dog, then as a bat, but not only that, he can perform extraordinary feats of strength and agility, this last displayed when Harker sees - as he thinks, in a horrible dream - the count crawling, insect-like, up the side of the castle. Though the moonlight can’t revive him, Dracula’s power seems to be at its height during the night, and he avoids the sun, something touched on in Carmilla, who sleeps through the days, though she does seem to be able to walk in the daylight.

If Dracula resembles the format of any of the previous treatments of the vampire legends, we have to go back to Byron, whose A Fragment is literally that; a tiny snippet of what should or could have been a longer story (and became one, in John Polidori’s perhaps plagiaristic hands) which takes the form of a letter. Stoker’s novel is made up exclusively of letters, journals, newspaper reports and is what is called an “epistolary novel”, which is to say, there is no single narrator and it is made up of extracts like the above. Where Dracula differs from A Fragment is that the narrative is all in the present tense; Byron wrote about an event which had taken place, which he was now relating later, whereas Stoker tells it as it happens, giving very much a sense of immediacy to the story, and making us feel as if we live it through the eyes (and pen) of the various internal authors.

It’s perhaps interesting, though not that surprising, as you’d hardly expect Dracula to keep a journal, that there’s little actual dialogue from the title character. Other than his speeches in his castle to Harker, Dracula is, to some extent, almost a passive character once he leaves his home, spoken of, referred to, but seldom speaking for himself. You might see him as a moving narrative device, being utilised by each character as he enters or impacts on their life, the effects of his interaction with them then being related by that person. In later versions of the tale, of course, he will assume complete control, but it’s telling that here he depends on the words of others mostly to direct his actions. In that respect, you could almost make an argument for his being the weakest character in the novel, being buffeted by circumstances from place to place, and finally driven back to his starting point, where he, no longer needed or wanted, is eliminated as the story comes to an end.

And again, though later versions would address this, there is no attempt by Stoker to either justify the Count’s behaviour or explore the reasons behind it. There is literally no backstory. Nobody knows - or, I guess, cares - where Dracula came from, what made him into who and what he is, whether he had any choice in the matter and whether or not he is just trying to survive. In typical Victorian attitude, he is Evil, and there is nothing more to be said. Evil with a capital E. The Bad Guy. No redemption, no understanding, no analysis. And oddly enough, nobody asks who he is or where he comes from (other than the literal origin, as in, Transylvania) or even why he’s targeting Lucy and Mina. It’s not seen as being important. He’s evil, and that’s enough. Evil is evil because it’s evil. He’s a servant of the Devil, and abhorrent to God. There is no sympathy for him, and the novel is fiercely and determinedly, and almost in a blinkered way, very much black and white.

Future authors would not only expand on the vampire myth, but delve - some quite deeply - into the life, or unlife, the past at any rate of the vampire, some of them referencing events way back in history, to show how old the vampire was and perhaps to give him a sense of realism too. If you can think of a vampire who exists today being, say, the shield-bearer for Alexander the Great, or helping Columbus discover the New World, he feels more real, more… there. And this I think also then almost humanises him, in a way writers like Anne Rice and Charlene Harris would later attempt, mostly successfully. You wouldn’t think it, from the way Dracula is portrayed here as a slavering, amoral, pagan and evil monster, but through the writing of these and other authors we would actually come over the years to sympathise with, understand and even grow to love vampire characters. Not so for Stoker’s fiend though. There are no ambiguities in his novel.

The good guys are good. There’s not even the hint that one of the three men who vied for Lucy’s hand might have darker pasts or deeper feelings on losing her. It’s quite unrealistic in that way. Two men who have fought for one woman are unlikely to remain friends with the third, who won her. It just would not happen. There’s never even any sign of tension, jealousy or even schadenfreude when Quincey loses Lucy, and then his own life. Harker is never anything but a good guy, no stain attaches to him, and his enslavement by the vampire brides is never brought up. Everyone (other than Quincey, Lucy and of course Dracula) lives happily ever after in this dark and at the time modern fairy tale.

I feel compelled though to point out that in giving Harker the profession of a solicitor, a lawyer, Stoker may very well be saying something about the business. At a time when his contemporaries like Dickens were loudly and savagely lambasting the trade in novels like Bleak House, and in an age where lawyers were thought of, and often described as bloodsuckers and leeches, draining clients of their financial life blood for the maintenance of their own living, was Stoker taking revenge on the law profession, giving it a taste of its own medicine? Having been a bloodsucker for so long (though possibly not him personally) was Harker being drained as a figurative backlash against the system, a triumph for the people who had lost all their money in endless court cases, a case of, um, the vampire strikes back? Maybe not; I guess Harker would have to have been a lawyer in order to necessitate his being in the Count’s castle, but I do wonder.

There is, of course, a strong sense of religion running through the novel. Well, when you have basically the devil as your main antagonist, it only stands to reason that God is going to be in there too doesn’t it? The religious imagery used to fight Satan I mean Dracula does not, I think, necessarily come from folk belief, as much of that was pagan anyway, but I’d have to check. I feel the idea of using the crucifix to stop the vampire was a crude way of showing how God - and religion - triumphs and prevails over darkness, the same as with the sprinkling of holy water and the placing of Communion wafers in Dracula’s coffins to preclude his lying in them. But garlic was a long-held remedy against the Undead, and Stoker uses it here, first by Van Helsing as he tries to protect the sick and dying Lucy - his efforts would have succeeded had it not been for the naivete of Lucy’s mother, who removes the garlic and dies as a result, as if Stoker is punishing her for not obeying the strict orders of the male authority figure, and later, when she is undead, as a protection against her coming back, though how she would do so minus a head is puzzling.

One of the ideas Stoker had in Dracula, but which sadly was never carried forward and adopted into later vampire literature, was the idea of being unable to capture his likeness. In his time, the only real way to do this was by being painted, as photography was very much in its infancy, but the same would have held true for photographs or movies with the vampire on them. The premise went like this: if Dracula were to sit for a portrait, or someone sketched him unawares, the resultant picture would look nothing like him, would look entirely like someone else, as his image could never be properly captured. The logic behind this being, I think, that Dracula was not of this world, and in today’s scientific terms might be described as a being from another dimension impinging on our reality, thus not really here, thus unable to be captured. I guess the idea survives somewhat in the mostly accepted belief that vampires can’t be seen in mirrors, for presumably the same reasons.

I also find it all but unbelievable that an agency of defeating the vampire which went forward from his wellspring of vampire lore and literature was not actually in the book. When Harker and the others come upon Dracula it is almost sunset, and, while it could be said the Count is despatched in the rays of the dying sun, almost but not quite able to rise, not until the sun goes down, the trope would quickly develop that the rising sun would destroy the vampire, burning him up like a torch. This is not addressed here at all: the sun is an enemy, not a friend, for when it sinks below the horizon Dracula will rise and be powerful and deadly, and quite probably invulnerable. The rising of the sun, half a day away surely now, will not help the adventurers kill t their adversary, and again in a departure from what would become canon, Dracula is not despatched by a stake through the heart, or beheaded or set on fire. A simple dagger thrust (well, two) are enough to rid the world of this monster.

One can only assume that Stoker had not quite worked out what was necessary to kill the vampire king (although that’s not true, as he was quite clear on how Lucy and later the vampire women were to be dealt with) and just went with his best guess, but it’s hardly iconic is it? Dracula slashed across the throat and stabbed in the heart (if he has one): not quite the stuff of legends, which may be why it was changed. It will be interesting to see who, where and for what reason it was changed; who was the first to introduce the whole death-by-sunlight and staked-in-the-heart idea (Stoker claims the latter but has not embraced or even thought of the former, so who put them together?), establishing a clear idea in the literature of the best way - perhaps the only way - to kill the Undead?
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Old 03-17-2022, 01:55 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Renfield is a character I just don’t get. He doesn’t seem to do much at all in the novel and I feel that in some ways he was merely put into it to allow Stoker to indulge all the worst excesses of horror that he wished to depict, but could not do so with the other characters. A “shock value” player I believe, and certainly one of the most repulsive creatures ever, more closely tied to Igor in later Frankenstein adaptations than anything to do with vampires. Later works would have those who fell under the vampire’s spell and swore to serve them, often allowing themselves voluntarily to be drained - though never to the point of death - maybe in the hope of one day being turned, that is, made a vampire themselves, or assisting by sourcing and delivering to their master fresh victims, but there has never, to my knowledge, been again a character like Renfield. I guess he certainly made an impression, but a bad one, and later writers were not interested in extending his short legacy.

The idea of the dreary, ruined, cold and dark castle is of course a familiar trope in Victorian Gothic literature, featured in such disparate works as Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, as well as, of course, the original, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, though here, possibly for the first time, Stoker gives the dread mansion an occupant just as dark and evil as his abode. Gothic literature tended to rely on a sense of suspense, the idea that something awful was lurking in the shadows, but more often than not it either was never shown or turned out to be something quite human and mortal. An old relative, locked away and gone mad. A murderer taking refuge. A child who had some strange defect and had been imprisoned in the house. Here, for (maybe) the first time is a real, honest-to-Satan, in the flesh demon, stalking the halls of his home with arrogant superiority and contempt, and evil intent. The half-glimpsed nightmare come frighteningly to life, the old stories some true, the shadows taking on an actual form. Evil, to use modern parlance, is in da house.

You have to wonder about Quincey too. Of the five men he’s the only one who dies, and of the three men he’s the one Lucy chose. Has she, in submitting to Dracula, not only sold her own soul but that of her lover too? He’s also the one who has the dubious honour of killing her, and later puts an end to her master too; has she cursed, or passed on the curse that has fallen upon her, to her intended? Was Stoker trying to say that by associating with, and being identified with Lucy, the American was dooming himself, was taking upon his own soul the darkness Lucy had embraced? Till death do us part? Was he aligning them in evil, the sins of one becoming those of the other?

Another telling point is that, of the six female characters in the novel, only one survives, and that through the intervention (rescue) of the males. Admittedly, one male dies (two, if you count Dracula and indeed three if you count Renfield) - and this is of course discounting the crew and passengers on the Demeter - but in terms of percentages and ratio, the female side fares the worst in this battle, if you will, of the sexes. Even the sole survivor, Mina, is marked by her experience and is never likely to be the same again. She’ll certainly sleep with the gaslight on for a while, that’s for sure.

I can’t speak for Varney the Vampire or indeed The Vampyre: A Tale, as I’ve yet to read them, but I’m pretty sure Carmilla played out differently, and it seems to me that Stoker was the first to create what I possibly might call the “secret adventure” style of book, where no matter how great the danger, and the fact that it affects everyone, a small band of one or two people, or slightly more, must operate in the shadows, alone, without recourse to any sort of assistance from the authorities. Mostly, I feel, this is because firstly, to enlist the help of, say, the police would be time-consuming, as, in this case, Harker and his friends would have to try to convince them that they were not mad, which would be no easy task. Of course, if they did manage somehow to convince them, panic would surely ensue, making the job the harder.

But there’s also perhaps what you could refer to as the superhero complex here, the idea that these people, and only these people, must save the world/England/Europe/all life from the evil they fight, that only they can do this and they must do it alone. I guess it makes their job harder, taking away any resources they might normally have access to in such an investigation, and thereby the triumph the sweeter. Also, if, as often happens, someone must die in the course of the adventure, it needs to be hushed up, as the law tends to take a very black-and-white view on murder, with few extenuating circumstances considered. And, of course, as in all such enterprises, the more people who know about it the bigger the chance it will fail, as someone either falls victim to the evil or decides their path might be easier if they throw in their lot with it.

Overall, the work must be done in secret, the victory - if there is one - must be celebrated in secret and never spoken of outside the circle, and if necessary, a cover story must be invented and stuck to by all participants. This tends to hold true for most vampire novels from here on in; you rarely if ever see the police, the government, the military or any other authority involved. I don’t say never, but the trope Stoker seems to have developed here runs mostly along the lines of keep the circle small and secret the better to succeed, and this is followed in most of the stories that come after, build on or are given birth to by his novel.

The battle in Dracula is, of course, at its heart and at a very basic level, the age-old struggle of good versus evil, with, as I noted above, no doubt as to who is on which side. It’s also, almost by association, the battle of religion versus superstition, lore against reality, ignorance versus science and the ancient world versus the enlightened one, both meeting in a truly terrifying way, as Stoker’s characters realise that the monsters they were always told never existed were there all along, not under the bed but lurking in a castle hundreds of miles away. On another level, too, as already indicated, it’s a battle between cultures: the strange and foreign versus the comfortable and the familiar, the “godly” against the “heathen”, England against darkest Europe.

It’s also possible that, given Stoker’s fierce Protestant upbringing and his mother’s hatred of Catholics, that Dracula and his dark lore are standing in for the older, more superstitious (as Protestants saw them) practices of Roman Catholics, the Count himself a dark Pope, ready to come over and rend and rip the country’s “true” religion with his bloodstained hands. Ever suspicious of each other, Dracula could be read as the Protestant Ascendancy fear that Catholics were growing too powerful as the Penal Laws were relaxed and then repealed, and that their way of life, their very faith was under threat from this “foreign power”, ie Transylvania taking the place of Rome, where another “dark prince” watched England with (as they would believe anyway) hate-filled and envious eyes, and plotted how to bring it again under his yoke.

And as there is a battle going on between faiths, and as this is 1890s Victorian England, God has to win, but unlike the braver Mary Shelley, whose Frankenstein does not end well for either protagonist and says a lot about hating others just because they’re different, Stoker I feel takes the easier way out, the happy ending (even though people die, the vampire is defeated in the end and the good guys win the day) and in this, for me, though I love the novel, misses an important opportunity to explore further, as Shelley did, the very nature of humanity, evil and faith. To some extent, Stoker’s characters are a little cardboard-ish, caricatures of Victorian adventurers who take on all comers and, despite losing one of their number (and after all, he’s only an American, not a God-fearing Englishman!) win through. Hurrah!

Although there had been a few vampire stories, novels and plays before this, most of them had taken what they wanted from the vampiric legends and discounted what they did not. Stoker, to be fair, did this too, but his is the most complete and comprehensive early image of the vampire we have in writing, and in terms of research, nobody except maybe Byron had done more. However, Byron contemptuously told us that he did not have any interest in vampires (making it, to me, more and more likely that Darvell was no vampire, nor intended to be) so Stoker is the first to put it all together and with the enthusiasm of a real adherent of the lore. He may have seen, with the massive popularity of Varney the Vampire and later Carmilla, the appetite (sorry) for vampire stories, and tailored his novel to that need, but he surely saw too that nobody before him had done it properly, and determined to set that right.

The truth is that Stoker should have earned the title held today by Stephen King as the master of horror, but he did not. Though Dracula was well received it made him little money and brought him little fame, and a screw-up over copyright meant that an American version was able to be printed and sold without his getting any royalties at all. In a similar manner to Dickens, cheap copies, knock-offs, imitations and unauthorised adaptations of his work were to flood the market, and with copyright law in the fluid state it was in at the time, it was hard, even impossible to protect his work. Later, his widow would successfully sue to prevent a film - the first ever - being made based on his novel, but once the floodgates were open, rather like the emergence of the Count himself on the shores of England, there would be no stopping it and it would flow like a river, crushing all before it.

In a very real and tangible way, the true age of vampire literature had begun.
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Old 03-17-2022, 03:28 PM   #43 (permalink)
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The next dark step for vampires...


It's fitting that Dracula becomes the last (and paradoxically, also first, at least first proper) vampire novel of the nineteenth century, as it marks a turning point in vampire, horror, gothic and even adventure literature, setting down standards and tropes, and introducing us to concepts which would characterise novels of its type right up to today. Dracula can easily be seen as a demarcation line, showing where the idea of just writing a novel about a vampire, or a novel with a vampire, changed to become the process of writing a vampire novel. In other words, the point at which vampire novels rose out of the grip, as it were, of gothic fiction and became their own genre.

Nowhere would this be more evident than in vampire movies.

And so, after a deep exploration of the origins, and rise within early literature of vampires, we come to the next stage. Although vampires are as popular today in books as they ever were, and have gone on to star or feature in comics too, the beginning of the twentieth century would herald a new age, and provide for the humble literary vampire a bridge to a new world, as they took their first faltering, and indeed silent and monochrome, steps onto the silver screen. Once vampires were seen on film, their popularity soared and they would become inextricable from the public consciousness. Those who did not care for books, had no time for them or, perhaps in some cases, certainly at the turn of the century, could not read, were able to experience the full drama, mythos and horror of the creature who had frozen the blood and quickened the heartbeat of all who had read about him.

For a long time, as you might expect, vampires remained exclusively male. Despite the power of Le Fanu's quasi-lesbian anti-heroine Carmilla, it was either decided having female vampires on the screen was too much of a leap for the audience, or was considered immoral to portray women in such an evil and lustful way. It would take time - mostly due, I think (though I will research and we'll explore it in depth once the time arrives) to Hammer Pictures, who would break many cinematic taboos in their time - before women would take their place alongside their male counterparts in evil. But for now, the only roles available for them would be that of the victim, screaming (soundlessly, for some time) and imploring someone, anyone to rescue them.

Of course, in time vampires would transition to the small screen, where they would become even more popular and famous, and, some might argue, quite watered down as the writers of various televisions series strove to de-monstrify, if you will, the creature of the night and explore what made him tick, and how he - or she - might survive, even thrive in the new century they found themselves in.

But most people would come to know vampires under the name all but copyrighted by Bram Stoker, and for many decades Dracula would reign supreme as the only vampire in town. But he wasn't the first, and in time he would be supplanted by, ironically, younger (at least looking), hipper vampires more in tune with the modern world, and would find himself, in a sort of closing of the circle, again out of touch, pushed to the background, all but forgotten, occasionally dragged screaming out into the daylight to suffer yet another reinvention, reinterpretation or even rebirth, as writer after writer put their own spin on Stoker's unique creation.

So in part two I will of course be continuing to track this remorseless killer through the pages of the novels he, and she, stalked, but I will be concentrating more on the movies, as this is when the vampire really came of age. You could call the onset of movies – from the black-and-white silent ones to the first ever talkies - almost the true birthplace of the vampire we know today, the silver screen the conduit through which the creation of Stoker and the writers before him came snarling into our collective human consciousness, and has never really left. A golden age, perhaps, or more accurately a dark age for the vampire, as he – and she – strode purposefully forward in this brave new world, determined to bend it to their will.

I'll again have to check, but I think it may be the case that the first true horror movie was also a vampire one, as other supernatural creatures, from ghosts to werewolves and mummies – and later zombies of course – only turn up much later in the history of cinema, so in many ways, if that's true, then the vampire was, as it were, in on the ground floor, or, to completely screw up the metaphor, at the very top of the horror food chain from the beginning. As he was destined to be the monarch of the macabre in literature, so too would he assume his throne as the apex predator of movie-goers' minds and stride with a sneer of contempt into their dreams and their nightmares, kicking off many an epiphany in the brains of writers of later vampire fiction.

If the literary vampire of the eighteenth and nineteenth century had, by and large, survived by cloaking himself in shadow and hiding from the world of light, the twentieth century equivalent would walk boldly out into that (metaphorical) light and declare his presence for all to see. You could almost hear in his hissing, sibilant, seductive voice the words of the pharaoh Ramesses II, as imagined by Shelley: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
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Old 02-22-2023, 08:50 PM   #44 (permalink)
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Part II: Walking off the Page:
O Brave New World, That Has Such Monsters in it!


As the century turned and the nineteenth gave way to the twentieth, vampire literature remained popular, but was about to make something of a transition which would make it even more so, and allow it to reach a larger and more varied audience. Now set free from the chains of superstition and folklore, and accepted as a genuine character in literature, vampires were hungry for more, and with the advent of new technologies on the near horizon, they would soon get their wish. As silver screens across the country began to light up with “magic pictures”, and cinema took its first, fumbling, silent steps in the dark, vampires would be there. One thing, as I noted in the very beginning of this journal, some years ago now, that people love is to be frightened, and while today you can be shocked by anything from a slasher stalking unwary co-eds to maniacal lunatics with saws, other dimensions and even Hell itself - or a variant of it - this is all possible due to hi-tech special effects, myriad colour film and the one thing that really brought movies, if you will, to life: sound.

But back in the first years of the twentieth century film-makers were just getting to grips with this new and exciting medium, and feeling proud if they could get images of people up on those screens. And so they should have been: early cinema was fraught with trial and error, and paved the way for the blockbusters we take today for granted. But sound was a long way off yet, and so cinemas rang to the music of pianos and audiences watched in rapt amazement as people moved jerkily across the screen, their words mouthed and carried to the eyes of the onlookers via speech cards.

Such a medium would not suit today’s horror movies, even going back fifty years or more, but one creature that needed few if any words to hypnotise and terrify was our friend the vampire. If you watch even the classic Hammer Dracula movies, the only real dialogue is from the human characters; the vampire (usually Stoker’s eponymous father of vampires, or a variant of him) tends to speak but little, allowing his movements and his expressions to convey the fear and spellbinding awe of his presence. So vampires were from the beginning a good fit for silent movies, which is probably why they feature in the very first of what could be called horror movies, where the action generally is minimal, the effects all but absent, and evil can be conveyed by the arching of an eyebrow, a shadow thrown across a wall or staircase, or a bat flying across a moonlit sky. Hey, who needs words, right?

Still, though I don’t know a lot about silent cinema (that will change when I start researching my History of Cinema journal, projected 2026/2028) it’s fairly clear that though there were some classics such as Broken Blossoms , The Wind and of course Metropolis, the heyday of the medium seems to have been in the area of comedy. Slapstick, physical, pratfall comedy: your Keystone Cops, your Buster Keatons, your Harold Lloyds. And of course your Charlie Chaplins. So I’m not going to suggest that vampire movies came of age in the era of silent film. There was one classic of course, as we probably all know, but other than that, it’s a sporadic history really up until a certain studio whose name relates to a workman’s tool got involved, and then suddenly everyone loved Dracula. And slowly -very slowly - by extension, other vampires. Nevertheless, vampire movies - well, let’s be honest: Dracula movies, which is really about all there was back then - did surface in the early years of the medium.

That of course does not mean for a moment that vampire literature vanished, or that people lost interest in the written word regarding these monsters. Far from it: like two of their kind feasting on each other, the one fed the other and even now, it’s hard to say which is the more popular, with television in the frame too. But all that’s for later. Back as the twentieth century dawned, people were still fascinated with writing about vampires, and to be fair to these authors, few if any took Stoker’s story as their guide, despite perhaps the, to say the least, loose nature of copyright at that time. So we have plenty more vampire literature to look into, and we will.

But inevitably, as time marches on and cinema comes of age, it will be the screen we will be mostly concentrating on. I will be doing a full timeline, which is to say, looking at when this book was released and then this film, so that it will involve both media (and later of course television, but that will be in part three) so that neither gets missed out. And with the century only begun and cinema not due to raise its head for another twenty years, it leaves us with two decades of writing to get through, so this is where we begin, or indeed, take back up the story.

Timeline: 1900 - 1920

Title: “The Tomb of Sarah”
Format: Short story
Author: F.G. Loring
Nationality: English
Written: 1900 (note: from now on I'm just going to put down when the story was published as the date here; if it was written years prior, I generally don't know that, and anyway, it's more a case, surely, of when people could read it. So "written" is now interchangeable, in this case, with "published").
Impact: ?
Famous firsts: First “sympathetic” vampire story?
Synopsis: Before I even read it through, based on the little I have read, it appears to me that Loring was basing his story somewhat on that of Countess Bathory, the infamous “Blood Countess” of the sixteenth century, in that it concerns the opening of the tomb of a woman described as “the evil Countess Sarah.” Now, I may find this to be mere coincidence, but consider: given that this is a story written only three years after that seminal Stoker novel, and that unsubstantiated sources often claim Dracula was based on her legend, it sort of makes sense, especially if Loring, a navy man and radio technician by trade, wanted to write something different, but building on the success and fame and indeed popularity of the Irishman’s novel. Why exactly he decided to write a vampire novel is a mystery to me; I read that he normally wrote technical manuals and so forth, so how that suddenly becomes an incentive to delve into the dark world of gothic fiction I don’t know, but there it is.

Rather like the more famous story, “The Tomb of Sarah” is also written in the form, mostly, of a journal, though in this case the author’s father. As a restorer of churches, he is called upon to renovate a particular church wherein he finds a tomb with a rather disturbing message inscribed on it, more a warning really (well, to those of us who can see what’s going to happen anyway). The inscription reads: SARAH.
1630.
FOR THE SAKE OF THE DEAD AND THE WELFARE
OF THE LIVING, LET THIS SEPULCHRE REMAIN
UNTOUCHED AND ITS OCCUPANT UNDISTURBED TILL
THE COMING OF CHRIST.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND
THE HOLY GHOST.


To be fair to the author’s father, he doesn’t wave away the warning dismissively - in fact, so far as I can read, he doesn’t even take it as a warning, more a request not to disturb the dead - and is greatly concerned that, due to the subsidence of the old church, it must be moved, otherwise the floor may collapse. Reading up on the legend, he discovers this Sarah to be the Countess Sarah, who was believed to be a witch or some monster, who had as a familiar a wolf. This wolf, it was said, would catch children or small animals and bring them to the countess so that she could suck their blood. Believed invincible, this contention was proven false when a mad peasant woman, who blamed her for the loss of her two children, carried off (she said, according to the legend) by her wolf, strangled her. She died, as the tomb notes, in 1630.

The description Loring gives, and that of the decoration upon it, is chilling: The tomb is built of black marble, surmounted by an enormous slab of the same material. On the slab is a magnificent group of figures. A young and handsome woman reclines upon a couch; round her neck is a piece of rope, the end of which she holds in her hand. At her side is a gigantic dog with bared fangs and lolling tongue. The face of the reclining figure is a cruel one: the corners of the mouth are curiously lifted, showing the sharp points of long canine or dog teeth. The whole group, though magnificently executed, leaves a most unpleasant sensation.


When the top part is removed - the tomb is so heavy that they must move it in two pieces, Loring notes that it seems to have been sealed with some sort of putty or mortar, which has kept it airtight, and when they look in, expecting to see a wizened corpse and smell the foul stench of over two hundred years of decay, they are amazed that the body, though looking emaciated and starved, yet looks fresh and young, and there is no smell. Lacerations around the neck show that the legend may very well be true, and the cord which hung around her throat in the carving is here too.

The author’s father has been described by the author at the beginning as a man who is well-versed in folklore and tradition, and has been researching the history and legends attached to his own family. A man, it would seem, ahead of his time - a sort of Van Helsing figure, you might say - he knows all about vampires, and so when at sunset the day the tomb is opened every dog in the village begins howling, then suddenly stops, and mist rolls in on a summer night, he fears the inevitable. Not everyone, of course, is as open-minded as he, and he can’t mention his suspicions to anyone, so he decides to observe alone. With great courage and determination, he watches as, after another chorus of dog howls, this time from the churchyard, a huge lupine shape appears out of the fog and bounds away. Terrified, but intent on proving that it is what he thinks it is, he waits for it to return.

And it does. Just after midnight, with another dreadful howl, and vanishes into the mist. The next day he goes to see the rector, and tells him of a “large dog” he has noticed prowling around. They decide to see if they can trap it, lest it worry the cattle, or worse, and the author’s father - whom we now learn is called Harry, and therefore so shall I name him - prevails upon the rector, a man called Grant, to help him lift the lid of the tomb, pretending he wants to take a sample of the mortar for some reason. As they do, the rector gives out a gasp. The corpse in the tomb looks to be alive, all colour having returned to it, and its eyes seeming to contain a light of malevolent life. Spooked (he quickly convinces himself it was a trick of the light, or his own imagination) Grant has the lid closed. But Harry knows what they have seen.

He also knows what the “mortar” that sealed the tomb is: pieces of the Host, the Communion wafers which vampires abhor - apparently - as the power of God and light. He believes this protects him; he also knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the wolf spoken of in the tales of the countess was not her pet or her familiar, but she herself. Drained by two centuries of sleep and starvation, the undead thing is weak, and can only hunt as a wolf for now. But once her strength returns, the curse of the vampire will descend on the village. He has to stop her before this happens.

He prevails upon Grant to accompany him, and, having failed to penetrate the ghostly fog - “there was something so chilly about it, and a faint scent so disgustingly rank and loathsome that neither our nerves nor our stomachs were proof against it” - they hide and watch the big wolf walk by, coming out of the churchyard. Finally convinced this is more than a simple dog, Grant agrees to help, though being a rector his first instinct is to pray and put it all in the hands of God. Harry tells him though that he knows what to do, and when they open the tomb again there is such a change come over the corpse that the rector almost believes. The body is now fresh and young, the teeth grown long over the lips, a trickle of blood leaking down from them, and worst of all, the smell! Like that of a slaughterhouse, writes Harry, knowing what has happened.

The next night they prepare to put an end to the vampire. Harry leaves a message in his account that, should he or both of them fall, whoever reads his words will know what to do to save the village. They lock themselves into the church and gasp as a mist arises from the tomb, coalescing into the figure of Sarah. Even the sceptical parson cannot pretend this is anything other than what it is, and places himself in Harry’s hands. They wait till Sarah leaves the church, walking literally through the wall, then they go to her tomb and open it. They place dog roses in the now-empty sepulchre, and Harry makes a circle of garlic and dog roses around the tomb, a circle the vampire cannot step into. He warns Grant to be on his guard, as the vampire can hypnotise him from a distance and cause him to walk outside of the circle, where he will be hers.

And she does. She tries her best to entice him, but Harry remains strong. Forcing her into the tomb he removes her power, and then the two of them lift her out and read the burial service over her, releasing her soul, as Harry stakes her, and all is well. Or is it?

A sort of postscript or epilogue tells of a child being found a few days later in the church, very pale and drawn, with two small marks on her throat…

Comments: I really like this story. For only the second one after Dracula - and Blood of the Vampyre was written, or at least published, the same year - Loring does a very good job both paying homage to Bram Stoker and making sure he is not copying him. While he uses some elements of Dracula there are others he makes up - or takes from folklore - himself, and he turns a few of what would later become vampire literary traditions on their head, such as vampires being unable to go into a church - Sarah is buried in one, and seems to suffer no ill-effects leaving it - and weakness confining the vampire to animal form. In Dracula this seemed to be a sign of his strength. He also allows his vampire to walk through solid objects, just as she is. We know Dracula can do this, but he has to turn into a mist in order to do so.

I like the overall sympathetic way Loring treats his vampire. Is this because she is a female and he felt that women should not be too demonised in his story, especially as, as would be the case for decades, the vampire hunters are both male, and as always the hammering in of the stake couldn’t have a more phallic interpretation when used against a female vampire, an almost ultimate rape? But in his story, the stake does not necessarily kill the vampire, but releases the spirit of the woman it has trapped for centuries. This is really interesting, and deserves further discussion.

Stoker’s - and, for a long time, everyone else’s - vampires are pure evil. Monsters, fiends from the pit, creatures preying on humanity, gorging on their blood. There will not really be a story which, to again I think quote Otto from The Simpsons, looks at it from the vampire’s point of view till the closing parts of the twentieth century, when Anne Rice will make us think differently about the undead. Here though Loring is sympathetic. He doesn’t see the vampire as evil, or, to put it more accurately, he doesn’t see the countess as evil. He believes her possessed of an evil spirit, and therefore essentially innocent, as he calls her “the poor body” and speaks of “release from this living hell”, so it’s clear he does not see her as a monster, but only that which has her entrapped in its evil web.

This is in contrast to, I think (would have to check as it’s been over a year since I wrote in this journal) the first vampire not seen as an out-and-out evil monster, but a soul ensnared, and able to be released. Even in Dracula, Stoker does not give us to understand that the count’s soul has been released when he is killed. There is no mention of any evil force inhabiting his essence; it is assumed he is evil, and this is the case with just about every other vampire we have come across. There have been exceptions, where in one - I can’t recall, but the one where the man is telling his wife his friend has been taken over and he is next - the idea of pity for the damned soul is floated, but once taken, the human and the vampire are, even in that story, treated as one.

So here I think, while we cannot call his vampire the first female example, and while it is surely, as I hazarded at the start, based at least partly on Countess Bathory, I think we can allow him the first notion of a vampire who is not beyond redemption or salvation, or to be more accurate, a soul which is not beyond the grace of God, if only the evil being holding it prisoner can be destroyed. I’m also not sure (though I should be) that Dracula turned to dust, so this could be the first example of the usage of that form of vampire death. It’s also interesting that the panther the countess is said to own/turn into is called Bagh: is this a reference to Kipling’s Bagheera from The Jungle Book?

While I am very impressed with this story, if hardly original, I would say there is a fundamental flaw in it that shows me that perhaps Loring may not have been cut out for fiction, or at least, adventure or suspense writing. While the father relates the tale well, he tends to, if you will, shoot himself in the foot literarily, as twice he tells us the outcome of the event and then goes into the narrative. Stoker at least had the sense to have Harker talk about what they were going to do, then write the scenes, and leave the outcome till afterwards, as is, to be fair, the way this sort of writing should be done. But Loring says things like, “July 12th. All is over. After the most terrible night of watching and horror one Vampire at least will trouble the world no more". And then “And now to my tale”. It’s like putting the ending before the denouement, or something. It tells you that everything is okay, so that the tension, the suspense, the fear is removed, and you really don’t have any worries for the hero, as you know it all worked out. I feel that’s a mistake.

Otherwise, he makes good use of vampire lore, while choosing not to reference all of it (nothing about running water, mirrors, bats or crucifixes) and the story stands up very well for one of, if not the first of the twentieth century.
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Old 02-23-2023, 08:34 PM   #45 (permalink)
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Title: For the Blood is the Life
Format: Short story
Author: F. Marion Crawford
Nationality: American
Written: 1905
Impact: ?
Synopsis: The story takes place in Calabria, in Italy, and concerns the narration of a tale or legend by one man to his artist friend, concerning a mound he sees on the mountain which he can observe from where they sit, in an old castle. He thinks it is a grave, but if so then the body is outside it, and though his friend tells him he is right, he has to go down and look. While there it seems he is embraced by something called, well, the Thing, and the author notes that when he himself visited the mound previously, he too felt this presence unfolding around him. When his friend returns, a little shaken, though trying not to show it, and swears there was something following him (the author notes he felt the same the time he went down) he is told the story of the mound.

It seems a local miser’s son, Angelo, who lost his inheritance after his father died and his stash was stolen, begins to feel a local girl, Cristina, who was murdered by the two who took the miser’s treasure, is coming to see him. They meet at the mound - he thinks it’s a dream - and he falls asleep, waking drained, tired and pale. Though he knows now what is happening, and tries to resist, he is under the Thing’s spell and cannot help but wander down to the mound every evening after his work is done. He gets weaker and weaker, and paler and paler. Nobody remarks upon his pallor, thinking he is pining away for the girl he was to have married, who dumped him once she realised he was potless. And, you know, Italians aren’t very nice, so says the author.

Then a man called Antonio, who has been away and missed all the events of the miser’s death and robbery looks out and sees Angelo and his undead lover, and goes to the priest the next morning. The priest knows what to do, and the two of them head down to the mound to put this evil thing in Hell once and for all. Coming upon the Thing (it’s never called a vampire, just a Thing) and Angelo, the priest throws holy water on her and then Antonio goes down into the grave, and stakes the creature. After having thrown the holy water the priest is no more use, crying and gibbering while Antonio does all the work.

Comments: The story uses some of Stoker’s tropes and indeed some of the ones from previous stories, though I think this may be the first where holy water - which would later become one of the many weapons used against vampires - is brought into play. I’m not certain if it’s meant to drive the creature back into her grave, or even into her mortal body, where she can be staked, as it doesn’t make that clear. Unlike F.G. Loring above, this guy knows how to build up the tension and make the story seem real, including an ending which hardly satisfies but does seem more authentic, as the two men wonder whether the vampire is dead or not. This also becomes one of an increasing number of female vampires in these stories (almost always written by men) which tends to reinforce the point I made when discussing Carmilla, that it’s kind of a heavy-handed metaphor for the dangers of consorting with the wrong type of woman. Angelo was promised to another girl, who lost interest when she realised he no longer had any money, but Cristina had been after him all along, though he had never noticed. You could say, I guess, that now she takes either her revenge on him for ignoring her, or just satisfies her lusts, which have become a little more than a desire for some slap and tickle.

There are problems with this story. There’s absolutely no reason why Cristina should become a vampire, if we assume that’s what she’s supposed to be, even if it’s never named. She’s murdered, yes, and wants revenge, but how is she turned? Are we to believe that some evil force got hold of her in the grave, allowing her to take her revenge? And should that revenge not have been turned on the people who killed her? Though of course it seems, in somewhat Byronic tradition, that she can’t wander far from, or indeed at all from the mound which is her grave. If she’s drinking Angelo’s blood, are we to take it then that her body has not decayed, or will not, and may in time rise to stalk the village again? Crawford does not make this in any way clear; in fact, much of his story, well-written as it is, asks more questions than it answers, and in that way is quite incomplete.

There’s also that old current of racism/xenophobia running through this that we had in Eliza Linton’s The Fate of Madame Cabanel, with the Italians laughed at by the American author for their superstitious ways. “That sort of thing could not happen anywhere else,” observed Holger, filling his everlasting pipe again. “It is wonderful what a natural charm there is about murder and sudden death in a romantic country like this. Deeds that would be simply brutal and disgusting anywhere else become dramatic and mysterious because this is Italy.”

Given that Holger is Scandinavian, a people with a rich history in folklore and mythology, this seems an odd comment. Were we talking Irish or Spanish I might make the same comment, even a German might understand. But while the unnamed narrator - whom we have to assume is American, as is the author - could be, well, not excused for but understood for his dismissal of the beliefs of these Italians, Holger’s sneer is harder to credit. Either way though, it’s an unnecessary slur on a whole people. Had Holger confined his remarks, perhaps, to the country folk, superstitious villagers, maybe it might not have been so insulting. As it is, it leaves a sour taste.

Unlike Loring’s tale, here there is no scrap of sympathy for the creature. It’s not even said, or perhaps believed, that the human girl is innocent and that Antonio and the priest are releasing her soul; she is simply a monster, to be put down as violently and - again with the rape - phallically as possible. One small note is that there is no guarantee this has worked, and as in Loring’s tale, the vampire might still be abroad, as evidenced in Holger’s feeling a chill and swearing something was behind him as he comes back from the mound.


Title: The House of the Vampire
Format: Novella
Author: George Sylvester Viereck
Nationality: German
Written: 1907
Impact: ?
Famous firsts: First psychic vampire; first one not to drink blood
Before I begin any synopsis, a few words. This is not the first German vampire tale (though it may be the first German vampire novella, I’ll have to look back and check) but it is the first (only?) written by a Nazi. Seems Viereck was a Nazi sympathiser and spy in the Second World War, using his influence as a writer, poet and publisher to get close to Congress members in the USA, where he lived in New York. In fact, in 1916 an actual lynch mob chased him, Benny Hill-like (alright, not Benny Hill-like) from his home and he had to hole up in a hotel. He disseminated Nazi propaganda through sympathetic contacts in Congress, and interviewed both Freud and Hitler. In fact, the number of famous people he interviewed is beyond impressive - Mussolini, Henry Ford, Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Nikola Tesla and others. He was imprisoned in 1942 for violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Wait, what? During wartime (America being in the war now at this stage) you could be legally in the States as an enemy agent, once you came clean? Huh? Wow, yeah, seems so. Weird.

Anyway, while I wouldn’t want to give oxygen to Nazi propaganda, I will try to read this if I can and get an idea if it expounds the old master race ideals. Given that it was written long before the outbreak even of World War One, I think we’re probably on relatively safe ground. Maybe. I'll have to come back to it at some point in the future, as I can't find a synopsis. I did download it but god knows when I'll get to read it. I'll get back to you. No, I will. No I have not got my fingers crossed!
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Old 02-23-2023, 08:42 PM   #46 (permalink)
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Title: Il Vampiro
Format: Short story
Author: Enrico Boni
Nationality: Italian
Written: 1908
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Unfortunately I can tell you almost nothing about this, other than it seems to have been one of the first stories to really plunder rural superstition and folklore for its subject, but as it’s in Italian, and every source I look up is, well, in Italian, and I don’t speak or read Italian, I got nothing.


Title: The Lair of the White Worm
Format: Novel
Author: Bram Stoker
Nationality: Irish
Written: 1911
Impact: - 10 (Minus ten)
Synopsis: How is it possible that a man who more or less created the popular fictional vampire, and gave birth to, or at least played midwife to a whole genre of literature, could, only fourteen years later, be castigated for his next book, widely regarded, I’m told, as one of the worst ever - even H.P. Lovecraft hated it. But I would have to say, on my brief skim through its summary, that I question its inclusion as a vampire story. Of course, I haven’t read it, and there may be more to it than comes through in the synopsis, but from what I can see it’s more concerned with some monstrous worm who may, or may not, be sucking victims’ blood. But other than that I don’t see any connection. There are none of the classic vampire tropes here, none of the elements Stoker masterfully created/used/adapted for Dracula, and at best, I would see this as a monster/horror story rather than anything approaching a vampire one.

Still, I suppose it is interesting to see where the all-but-father of vampire literature went with his next venture. I imagine he wanted to steer clear of being accused of writing Dracula II, or whatever, so tried his hand at a standard horror story in the vein of Lovecraft, but without any of that man’s skill for horror and terror and storytelling. Actually, I see this was his last novel, published a year before his death, and he had had others published before it, so I don’t know, maybe he was running out of steam as he ran out of breath? Perhaps it’s telling that of the six other novels - not including this - he wrote after Dracula, not one appears to have been a vampire novel. Could it be that he just got lucky that once? Had he the talent, or was it just that he caught the imagination of the reading public at the time? I don’t know, but iIf reviews are to be believed, were this Stoker’s first instead of last story then this would likely be the last anyone would have ever heard of him.


Title: Wampir
Format: Short story
Author: Wladyslaw Reymont
Nationality: Polish
Written: 1912
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Is this the first Polish vampire story? I don’t remember seeing another one prior to this. Unlike other authors, who tended to move the action to foreign countries (even F. Marion Crawford, an American, basing his story in Italy, while Loring did use England as the setting, but vaguely spoke about the West Country, though he did mention Bristol) Reymont decides to use London as the setting. However he uses it differently to most authors. Whereas in Stoker’s classic, London was, until Dracula’s arrival in England, the safe haven, far from the wilds and legends of Transylvania, Reymont sees it as a dark web, an endless network of warrens and lanes, close-packed dwellings that seem to close in on his character, a maze from which he can never extricate himself. Add in the thick London fog and you have all the setting needed for a dark, creepy horror story, right at home. Well, not at home to Reymont, but to most of his readers.

The vampire is again female, though this time (and possibly for the first time?) with red hair. She exerts her influence over the protagonist, Zenon, a writer and Polish immigrant, until he forgets his wife and child back home, and is enslaved to the beautiful and deadly, um, Daisy. Right. Veering away slightly from other interpretations, Reymont brings in Satanism, having Zenon attend a black mass. Though vampires have, until now, been more or less assumed to be associated with dark powers and Hell, the Devil has not been mentioned (possibly in Dracula, where Van Helsing may snarl “the devil has made her his own” or somesuch, but if so, I believe he’s referring to Dracula as a devil, not the Devil). But here the writer draws a very clear connection between the two.

However, again from a summary, it seems the vampire Daisy is not of the bloodsucking variety, but could most closely perhaps be compared to Viereck’s Reginald Clarke, more a psychic than physical vampire, feeding off hopes and dreams until the victim is forever under their spell. Reymont’s novel looks to be more one of spiritualism and mesmerism than horror per se; his vampire, though important, is merely the conduit through which he gives up his will and embraces the things he wants to do, even if he didn’t realise he wanted to do them. I personally feel that without some interest in psychology, spiritualism or other aspects explored in it, this novel would be a boring read. I doubt it would be for me.
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Old 02-23-2023, 09:09 PM   #47 (permalink)
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I dont say a lot but I do follow your journals TH and man, you are a great writer. Like seriously. You have such a passion for so many things and it's always neat to see your thoughts on stuff. I enjoy reading even if I dont respond much.
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Old 02-23-2023, 09:22 PM   #48 (permalink)
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Oh man, that really means so much. And I am not being sarcastic. It makes all the difference when someone posts and comments; makes it all worth doing. Thank you for your interest and I hope I continue to keep you reading.
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Old 02-24-2023, 11:03 AM   #49 (permalink)
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Title: “The Room in the Tower”
Format: Short story
Author: E.F. Benson
Nationality: English
Written: 1912
Impact: ?
Synopsis: A man ruminates on the nature of dreams, and tells of a recurring one which he has had for fifteen years, in which he finds himself in an unfamiliar house, apparently the guest of a schoolfriend he barely knew, and did not ever like, and who had left school a year before he did. There would be absolute silence as he sat at tea, then the mother, Mrs. Stone, would declare “Jack will show you to your room; I have given you the room in the tower.” On being shown into this room, at the top of the house, a terrible dread would seize the man, though he would not know why, and he would wake in terror. At one point, he stops having the dream for six months, but then it comes back. This time however the severe matriarch of the Stone family is missing, and as the children are all dressed in black, he assumes she has passed away. Nevertheless, though she is not there in his dream, he hears her voice intoning the same dreaded sentence, though it seems to come from off beyond the wall that rings the garden. There appears to be some sort of graveyard there, and he sees one tombstone with the inscription “In evil memory of Julia Stone”. He is shown again into the terrifying room, but this time it is much darker, smells of mould and decay.

And then the author gets an invitation from a friend of his, John Clinton, to visit him in Sussex, and glad to leave (as he thinks) the dream behind, accepts and to his amazement finds himself in the very house which has been haunting his dreams. No silent family, no graves and no actual feeling of dread or oppression, until his friend’s mother says the words he has been hearing for years now in his dreams. Her son, his friend, is called John, so “Jack will show you to your room; I have give you the room in the tower” seems quite plausible, but fills him with momentary horror at the remembrance of his nightmares. However he soon dismisses it, finding this harder to do when, in the room, he finds two life-sized paintings, one of Mrs. Stone and one of her son Jack. Her portrait seemed to him to exude evil, mocking laughter, and though she is painted as old and feeble, he can see the vitality in her eyes, in her body. The painting is signed by her, so a self-portrait then.

He’s not about to sleep with that in the room, not surprisingly, and so he and his friend move it out, with the help of a servant - it turns out to be a lot heavier than it looks. But when they have done so, they all three notice their hands are covered in blood, yet none of them can see any wound on their hands. Shaken by the incident, they do not talk of it, but later that evening observe John’s terrier, Toby, snarl and bark and growl at something beyond the gate. They look through and see a cat, which the author thinks solves the mystery, but John tells him no: the cat, Darius, and the dog are good friends. But what then can it be that Toby snarls and growls at that Darius seems to love, as the cat walks around purring and sniffing the grass, its tail proudly up?

He goes to bed, feeling no horror now that the picture is out of the room, but as the storm which has been threatening all day breaks overhead, he wakes to find the picture hanging again in his room. That’s bad enough, but then he sees the figure of Mrs. Stone leaning over him in her grave shroud. She tells him she has been waiting for him, and will feast tonight, and then soon they will feast together. Going wild, he punches out and knocks her down then bales for the door, running into John as he slams it shut. He tells him what has happened but of course his friend just thinks he has had a nightmare - though he does note he has blood on his shoulder. He changes his mind though when he goes into the room and sees that, yes, the portrait they had moved out of the room is back in there, there is a disgusting smell and there is a grave shroud on the floor, covered in mould. He retreats out of the room, no longer laughing.

As a postscript, the author notes that some months ago, the body of a woman believed to be evil was buried, but the coffin kept coming back up out of the ground. Eventually they reinterred it in unconsecrated ground. There it then remained. But later, for some reason, someone dug it up and opened it, and found it to be full of blood.

Comments: There are parallels here to Goethe’s The Bride of Corinth, not in the attraction (ugh!) but in the idea of someone being in a room and being visited by a vampire, and kind of knowing all along what’s happening. I feel it’s possible that the late Tanith Lee may have used part of this story as the basis for the Scarabae in her Blood Opera series, of which more later, or maybe not, as I never really understood whether they were vampires or not. But the idea of heat, oppression, darkness, silent eyes watching, an outsider - that all feeds into her story. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but you’d have to wonder. Well, I do anyway. The idea of the grave shroud is used here again to confirm the being is or was dead, or undead, linking the vampire closer to the grave and making it as grotesque as possible, when he talks about mould covering the thing, and then the stench too, which overall tends not to be associated with the vampires of literature, as their efforts to enchant humans usually depends on them either blending in or being able to pass for normal mortals. Nothing bound to give you away as a creature of the undead than that nasty odour of the grave!

It’s not the first, I don’t think, but one of the few in which almost all of the action takes place in a dream, or nightmare, which then becomes real. I do admit I find his contention at the beginning hard to agree with. He claims, in the opening lines, that “It is probable that everybody who is at all a constant dreamer has had at least one experience of an event or a sequence of circumstances which have come to his mind in sleep being subsequently realized in the material world. But, in my opinion, so far from this being a strange thing, it would be far odder if this fulfilment did not occasionally happen, since our dreams are, as a rule, concerned with people whom we know and places with which we are familiar, such as might very naturally occur in the awake and daylit world. True, these dreams are often broken into by some absurd and fantastic incident, which puts them out of court in regard to their subsequent fulfilment, but on the mere calculation of chances, it does not appear in the least unlikely that a dream imagined by anyone who dreams constantly should occasionally come true. “

But I can’t think of many, perhaps even any dream I had that then came true: well, I don’t really tend to remember my dreams all that clearly, so there is that. But I don’t think I know anyone who had a dream and then experienced the real version. So I suppose he’s just trying to justify his story here, but if he really does think dreams are a reflection of the waking world, and that something experienced in a dream could occur in reality, I think he’s somewhat off the beam there. I also see some holes in the story (and you know I love poking holes in plots!) - when he mentions the dog and the cat, the one snarling at, the other seeing to enjoy the patch of ground outside the gate, we assume this is because Mrs. Stone is buried there. This is sort of alluded to, but not quite explained.

His narrative says that, eight years ago, she was buried “just outside the iron gate belonging to the garden of the house where this woman had lived”, but he does not specify that that house is this house, so to speak. If he made some reference to the Clintons having bought the house after the owner passed away, then the mystery might be better solved. You’re left to wonder if this is the same house, and even if it is, why is the cat happy to be pawing at the ground where presumably Mrs. Stone was buried, while the dog hates it? Are we supposed to take it as read that cats love evil - the old stereotype, I guess, of cats being the familiars of witches - or even that the cat is her in another form? But the cat is called Darius, a male name, so how would that work?

There is merit in his using the picture as the medium through which Mrs. Stone returns, no doubt latching a little on to the idea behind The Picture of Dorian Grey, but it’s the first time I’ve seen this be used, and it does mark the story out then as being different. It’s unfortunate he has to include the cliched thunderstorm, which breaks as the action climaxes; could have done without that. There’s a nice eerie sense of deja vu when Mrs. Clinton repeats the words of Mrs. Stone in his dream. I would ask though, he mentions that two portraits hang in the room, that of her and her son. They don’t seem to remove the other one? Why is that, and is the fact that it’s left there a factor in her being able to rematerialise back in the room? Is his portrait also acting as a conduit for her soul, or maybe calling, inviting her in? It’s another loose end that isn’t tied up, and it could have been addressed quite easily, I feel. And once again, we have a woman in the role of the evil one, this time an older one, but still, male dominance rules huh? Like in Dracula, it’s the boys banding together who defeat the monster. Even the only other female character - other than Stone’s daughter, who is only mentioned in passing - gets one line and that’s it. She’s not involved in the story at all, except as a sort of proxy for Stone. Go boys!


Title: “Dracula’s Guest”
Format: Short story
Author: Bram Stoker
Nationality: Irish
Written: 1914
Impact: 8 (after the success of Dracula, anything by the author associated with it would have attracted a lot of attention)
Synopsis: Although he is never named, it’s been more or less accepted that the narrator of the story, the “Englishman” who is its focus, is Jonathan Harker, though here he is on a visit to Germany - Munich - prior to heading to Transylvania. For reasons not explained, though probably pure interest and sight-seeing, Harker (let’s call him that for now) decides to go looking at an old village. His guide warns him that it is Walpurgis Night, which coincides in Germany with Hexennacht, the Witches Night, when you’ll never guess what goes abroad in the world of men. So I guess, though it’s set for April 30, it must be a similar idea to our Halloween, a night when spirits stir and the dead walk, though possibly with less candy-collecting and more soul-harvesting. Anyway, it’s not a good night to be out, is the basic idea chanelled here. Harker, of course, as a good Christian Englishman (not sure if he’s supposed to have been a Protestant, but given that he’s English and seems to hold a reasonable status in society, I’d say it’s more likely than not) dismisses all this as superstitious nonsense, or possibly poppycock, maybe even balderdash, tells his guide he can fuck off home and he’ll make his own way back to the hotel.

Without any doubt, a really stupid thing to do. Here he is, in a foreign country, in a cold night (even though it’s technically spring it seems to be really cold here, with snow falling and everything; possibly up in the mountains?) and having been given a clear warning not to stay out. But mad dogs and Englishmen, right? Anyway he soon has cause to regret his rash action and his proud British stiff upper lip, as more than his lip begins to stiffen with the cold as night draws on, a storm moves in and he can’t find his way back. Driven on by the mow shrieking storm, he takes refuge beside what turns out to be a tomb, that of a countess. The door creaks open, and inside he sees the occupant not at all decayed and looking quite fresh and young. He feels, of course, a sense of creeping terror, but just then the wind catches him and he is hurled away from the tomb, just before lightning hits it and it explodes in flames.

Dazed and gasping, he awakes to find a great wolf standing over him, and then soldiers appear out of the night, soldiers sent to look for him and deliver him safe back to the hotel. It turns out that these have been sent by a certain count, who we must assume has either been visiting or has for some reason been in Germany, possibly shadowing Harker. He has power here too, and had ordered that Harker be found and returned unharmed.

Comments: Apparently originally part of the novel, this was removed by the publisher as it was deemed superfluous. It was later published on its own as part of a collection of short stories by Stoker, entitled Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories. Well to be honest I can see why they withdrew it. First of all, as a, if you will, preface chapter, it sort of gives away too much. Dracula is expecting Harker, and abjures the innkeeper to make sure that he is safe. We know why later of course. The woman in the tomb? Meh. She’s never referred to again in the book, and we can’t assume she has anything to do with the “brides of Dracula” who eventually take Harker in the count’s castle, so who is she? Doesn’t matter; she is not integral to the story.

There’s also a little too much exposition here. The first few pages are taken up with lavish descriptions of the terrain, and then the storm (again with the storm!), so much so that pretty much everything is an anti-climax, and the only real good bit at all is the note from Dracula right at the end. And it raises questions never answered. If Dracula has control of all the beasts, especially the wolves - (“Ah! The children of the night! What music they make!”) - then how can any wolf disobey his commands and menace Harker? Why can’t Dracula just reach out with his mind and tell the wolf to fuck off and leave him alone? Or is the wolf Dracula himself? Unlikely, as otherwise why would he be ordering a search? Then again, is the wolf in fact keeping Harker safe, at Dracula’s command, until the soldiers find him?

It’s a very confused story, and had it been left in I think we would have been expecting perhaps a different figure when we do eventually meet Dracula. Of itself, it’s not much of a story. Taken apart from the novel, were we not to know who Dracula was, maybe it would have more impact. Here, it kind of plays, to me anyway, like one of those opening scenes that sets up the episode on a TV show. Superfluous is definitely the word for it. I think had it been left in, it would have damaged rather than enhanced the novel.


Title: “The Vampire”
Format: Short story
Author: Jan Neruda
Nationality: Czech
Written: 1920
Impact: ?
Synopsis: Another story written, like almost all vampire stories up to now, including the most famous, in the first person, this takes place at some place called Prinkipo, which I think is mentioned as being near Constantinople, now Istanbul, in Turkey. It’s a very short story, and reading it you kind of wonder how anything can happen as, somewhat like Stoker’s “Dracula’s Guest”, the writer spends an inordinate amount of time describing the view, the weather and so on. Then right at the end, the kicker. The Greek, who has been sketching the family, among which is a girl who appears to be sick, is chased out of the hotel by the owner, who snarls that all the man paints is dead people. He paints them beforehand, living, and next thing they are dead.

As the daughter swoons, and presumably dies, her lover runs after the artist and tackles him. He scatters his drawings on the beach, and sure enough, there is one of the girl, dead. This is very clever, and a great example of how to really put a punch at the end of a very short story (it’s something like 1,300 words) which suddenly makes sense of everything that you’ve read up to then. It doesn’t, to be fair, describe or reveal the Greek as a vampire (even though that’s the title) but you can more or less guess that he is. It’s a story that would have worked without a vampire: a man who sketches people and then they die. Superb, and for the time, so close to being a candidate for The Twilight Zone or something.
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