The Literature of Terror: Vampire Narratives in the Historical Context Portrayed in works by Anne Rice, Newman Yarbro, Codrescu, and Stoker, Newman, and Kostova
There is currently a trend of nostalgia for death and history. Possibly, it is because we are living in difficult and dangerous times; people often turn to horror stories and monster tales for comfort in difficult and dangerous times, especially stories of supernatural beings that are immortal, like vampires. As I sat in a coffee shop writing the draft for this paper, there was a young girl reading a Laurel K. Hamilton vampire novel next to me. The wild success of the Twilight Saga and The Vampire Chronicles before that suggests that there is a wide spread appeal surrounding those creatures of the night that never die, the vampires and their many friends and manifestations. Too often in the past decade, we have been reminded of our own mortality and vulnerability. If the attacks of 911 and the Iraqi and Afghan wars have taught us nothing else, they have taught us that life is both fleeting and fragile, and it can be stomped out in an instant just as a fly is swatted into oblivion by a swatter or rolled up paper. How wonderful, then, is a being like the vampire, who is capable of retaining immortal youth and infinite life! How even more wonderful is such a being when he or she can give that gift of immortality and youth to us mere mortals. It is almost too wonderful when the literary vampire can participate in human events and help to shape and preserve human history.
When one adds telepathic powers, super-human strength, the ability to shape-change, fly, exhibit great intelligence and look good at any age, one has the most attractive being ever made. Who among us would not want to live forever under these conditions? Who would not want to share the Gift with loved ones, especially if it would obliterate for them all sickness and pain? Who would not like the opportunity to care for generations of one’s family and the chance to amass great wealth and treasure, if only by retaining one’s possessions till they became priceless antiques and art objects?
Furthermore, as many writers have pointed out, the Vampire’s beauty makes him/her sexually desirable and attractive. The creature’s mystery and slight unatainability makes him/her even more attractive. Vampire heroes are the “bad boys” of romantic fiction, just waiting to find the one thing many have not found in their long lives, eternal love. Vampire women are femme fatales, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” to paraphrase Jayne Ann Krentz; they exude sensuality and danger to the men who fall in love with them.
Vampires are also the ultimate scribes and historians of humanity and their own kind. Because they live nearly forever, they are eyewitnesses to history and can record and analyze it as no one else.
As a result, vampire culture, and its close relation to the Goth movement and Gothic literature, has attracted a huge following all over the world. But, the human love affair with vampire history and culture is not new. Vampire legends go back to the Stone Age, and vampire cults were known in the ancient Orient, and in ancient Greece and Rome.
This paper will explore how vampire culture intersects with the contemporary culture and mores portrayed in novels by Rice, Yarbro, Codrescu, Newman, and Kostova The author will use these and other literary and historical works to demonstrate how history enhances terror and vice versa. Also, the paper addresses on one hand, the history of the vampire itself, and on the other, how vampire lore and history blend into various fictional texts to enhance the literature of terror.
Blood thirsty gods and blood sacrifices of some form or another have appeared in every religion known to humanity, going back to the Stone Age, and it is implied in pre-human or human-like cultures even earlier than that. According to History of the Vampire, the oldest vampire image is from ancient Persia showing a man grappling with a monster, image on a vase. The creature is trying to suck the man’s blood (4). Early blood drinking goddess and gods include the Erynes, the Furies, Kali, Chac Mol, Baal, and Beelzebub. Though deified, vampire gods were often feared. In Africa, doll house sized huts with fetishes were built to drive off vampires (Vampires in History 6).
Vampire cults in ancient Rome were mostly female, but Romans began to link drinking blood with spread of diseases. Ancient insight predicted the medical truth that almost any exchange of body fluids will spread illness. Roman vampire hunters created and began to use a small, hidden dagger as a weapon. Secret cults developed. While we don’t know much about The Villa of the Mysteries, in Pompeii, we might intelligently surmise by viewing its still-existing artwork that many of the rites portrayed there could involve blood sacrifice and blood drinking, perhaps by members of early vampire cults. The Roman “Pay per kill” vampire assassins are not a new concept; just think of the witch hunters, bounty hunters, etc. of later eras It is all very Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code. According to History of Vampires, Lupus Apuleius, 125-180, the first “reference” to vampires, alleges the word from comes from the Slavic and a flying being, a drinking creature, a sucking wolf.
Later, woodcuts and images of Satan show him sucking blood, and link with witches and witch’s marks and familiars. Therefore, vampires became associated with the Devil and with satanic rites early in the Church’s history. The vampire cape was allegedly added to the myth by writer Hamilton Deane in1924 “to symbolize the bat” (Vampire History 3).
Because history and terror do indeed seem to enhance each other, vampires and their narratives are woven into history and historical fiction to create unforgettable characters and plots. These are often historical plots based on actual events, so that like episodes of popular television programs, they are often “ripped” from historical headlines.
Kim Newman’s forward in The Vampire Archives explains that “it took centuries for [the] vampire image to evolve” (xi). He notes almost every culture has its “blood sucking” demons and/ or shape-shifters (xi). Otto Penzler writes in “Introduction” to The Vampire Archives that the myth of vampires goes back to ancient history in both East and West. He writes about Lilith of Ancient Jewish legend, the first wife of Adam who allegedly sucked blood and attacked babies, and made them into Liliam or “children of Lilith.” These children also grew “to feast on blood”. The Lilith myth’s popularity lasted into the Middle Ages and beyond (xvii). In fact, Dr. Lilith Stearn, Frazier’s wife on Cheers, had vampiric qualities and there were often veiled references to her namesake on the show.
The Lamia were female Greek monsters who were kin to serpents, gorgons, sirens, mermaids, and vampires. Lamia were” humble monsters, often with a Gorgon’s face, fangs, and snakelike tongue” who killed children for their blood, according to Penzler (xvii). Keats, Coleridge, and Byron were fascinated by them and used them in their poetry. In fact, Byron read “Christabel” Coleridge’s vampire poem to Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Polidori. This reading helped lead to her Frankenstein. (XIX). Various poets also honored La Belle Dame including Keats and Browning. The female vampire monster was not complete until a female vampire, Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu was born in 1871. Fanu’s vampire Carmilla was better than la belle dame sans merci (Newman xii). She was an influence on Lara Parker’s portrayal of the witch/vampire Angelique in Dark Shadows. Camilla influenced narratives of other real and historical femme fatale vampires, including the real Erzebet Bathory.
According to vampire author Kim Newman, “in the late eighteenth century, the vampire of legend crossed over into romantic literature, helping to create the fatal men and femme fatales of gothic prose and poetry” (xi). Newman writes that the heroes of early gothic novels [later the Byronic romantic hero, the Rochester, the Heathcliff], “often struck poses we now associate with vampires . . .” As Rice’s Master of Rampling Gate, and even Dracula himself who comes in the late 19th century, the gothic heroes “live in decrepit castles, plot to destroy young innocents, exert mesmeric influence over victims and minions, affect black clothing . . .are pale and thin, take their interior decoration tips from crypts and catacombs, labor under family curses, strike Faustian bargains, shirk from [or blaspheme against] religious objects, are mostly seen at night, etc.” (xi). Newman’s description could be the CV for the heroes of many a romance novel, including the modern works of Maggie Shayne, Deanna Raybourne, Nora Roberts and Laurel K. Hamilton, as well as for Rochester and Heathcliff. Many of Rice’s vampires share the same traits, and the Vampire cops of Sizemore’s modern vampire novels, the hero of television’s Forever Knight, and Edward Cullen and the characters of Twilight certainly fit the bill
Femme fatale and Dark Hero vampires were known as children of Hecate, one of the dark goddesses worshiped by witches and supernatural creatures, including the three witches of Macbeth. In Ancient Greece, vampires were known shape shifters who could take the visage of other persons or even of animals or spirits. Dracula, Lestat, Newman’s children of the night, some of the Twilight characters and other vampiric beings have inherited the shape-shifting trait from their ancient Greek literary and mythological ancestors.
Another close, Greek cousin of the Victorian and modern vampire was Vrykolokos, the male type often compared to Byron himself. (Newman, Forward xii). In fact, Kim Newman writes that Dracula’s good taste comes from “Byron via Ruthven” (xiii). A funny lampoon of Byron, who became even more popular after Lord Ruthven, implies Byron had the manners and morals of a vampire [and note the traits in relation to Byronic heroes afterwards!] (xii).
There are many stories from Mykonos that detail the escapades of Vrykolokos, though they are not particularly glamorous in theme. Christopher Lee, according to Newman, was known for playing up the Vrykolokos or male vampire [xii]
Penny dreadful Varney the Vampire owes many traits of his pedigree to Vrykolokos as well.
Byron is not the only make historical figure to be linked with vampires, however. Fred Saberhagen made Sherlock Holmes and Dracula ancestors and distant cousins in The Holmes-Dracula Files and Vlad Tepes and Erzebet Bathory appear as themselves in many fictional and historical texts. Father Grigory Rasputin is portrayed as a vampire in fictional and historical texts because he was very difficult to kill (Penzler XVIII). Rasputin was finally killed by drowning, but withstood poisoning and beating. Running water is another way to kill vampires, too. Apparently, the Wicked Witch of The Wizard of Oz had some Vampire lineage; unlike other witches who supposedly float in water, the Wicked Witch melted when she was splashed.
While they may not be the only hybrids of fictional and historical characters Varney the Vampyre and Lord Ruthven may have been the first vampiric creatures meant to be funny. Newman writes that most fictional vampires are the descendants of Ruthven (Forward Vampire Archives xii). Sharing a sense of humor along with Varney and Ruthven are George Hamilton’s vampire in Love at First Bite and while not human, but certainly personable, the blood drinking plants in H.G. Wells’ “The Flowering of the Strange Orchid” or Little Shop of Horrors, and the car that runs on blood in Josef Nesvadba’s “Vampires Ltd.,” Venus flytraps are indeed real plants that survive on catching insects, so the fictional/factual connection between vampires and vampiric beings continues. Also, let’s not forget vampire bats, and the legends too numerous to detail here. There is also a link with vampire bats and Spanish Conquistadors, who allegedly slept in caves and were bitten, supposedly got rabies, etc. Who knows if this is true, but the association has become legendary (1). Also, let’s give a nod to the poisonous and dangerous plants that exist in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rapacinni’s Garden” and in the bloodstream of Rapacinni’s fatally beautiful daughter Beatrice.
Before Ruthven, claims Newman, vampirism was something a bad person did, but after Ruthven, vampires became a “particular type of creature, a specific subcategory of gothic literary villain” (xii). No longer was the vampire “the muddy, repulsive Middle European Peasant Zombie” of Dom Augustin Calumet’s Treatise. Now, Newman writes, a vampire was a “coldhearted, sophisticated, aristocratic, even humorous, fashion plate who indulged in a style of melodramatic villainy old-fashioned even in 1819” (xii). Relatives of the vampire as clever, handsome, and dastardly villain include: cartoon villains with long, curling moustaches, Lestat, Dracula himself, Rhett Butler, Shakespeare’s and History’s Richard III (only not hunch-backed), Varney, Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester, The Master of Rampling Gate, and Edward Cullen.
Newman uses the past because he is interested in retelling history through the predatory eyes of his vampires. He blurs the line of fiction/reality even further by merging historical figures like Vlad Tepes, Bathory, and Queen Victoria with fictional Characters like Dracula, Varney, and Lord Ruthven. Newman writes of his take on Dracula, that the age-old vampire is combined ” people and images” not just one person (xiii). Bram Stoker and his wife figure prominently and by using them as characters, continues the tradition of melding fact with fiction. Stoker, too, claimed that he was writing history and retelling and old story that was too curious to be fiction.
The vampires of Anne Rice share the Byronic/Dark hero traits of the characters discussed by Newman and others, yet they are among the most human of all the vampire literary characters. They record the history of their fellow humans and vampires, and they suffer angst, worry for their families, care about the state of the world and its creatures both human and non human, and mourn and sorrow for lost loved ones just as we do. They often believe in God, wear crucifixes, sleep in churches, and attend Mass; their religious affiliations and search for meaning to their lives and redemption are a far departure from the unthinking or cruel, self-centered monsters portrayed in Dracula, Nosferatu, and many other works.
Rice has written, “I think the vampire represents someone who’s transcended time and transformed himself into an immortal and has become a dark saint. .. He represents the longing for immortality and freedom, while our culture tells us to be practical and to face the fact that nothing lasts forever” (GW “The Lived World of Anne Rice’s Novels” 2). In fact, there is a little of T.S. Eliot’s Sybil from The Wasteland in Rice’s most famous and beloved vampire, Lestat. Like him, the Sybil has lived long enough, too long, and often is weary of living. Because he, too, longs for death at times, Lestat tries to destroy himself, goes underground for decades, goes on hiatus, suffers angst over the meaning of his life, watches other vampires “come to the light” and destroy themselves after they seek redemption and destruction through the young female Evangelist in Memnoch the Devil. Rice’s prologue to Memnoch reads: “We have souls, you and I. We want to know things; we share the same earth, rich and verdant and fraught with perils. We don’t- either of us - know what it means to die, no matter what we might say to the contrary” (Memnoch 4 quoted in GW “Vampires . . .” 4).
Rice explores contemporary moral issues and the human condition, while writing within, and remaining faithful to, the genre and format of gothic fiction (GW “Vampires, Witches,” 3). Her novels enjoy wide appeal and no typical group of readers; her fans all come from diverse backgrounds. (Id. At 2). She wants her stories to be a “venture into reality”(4).
Many of Rice’s vampires need to share their memoirs and to record and write the history of their kind. Louis in Interview with the Vampire is on a quest for life’s meaning, Rowan in The Witching Hour wants to link her family history, and her need is a “reflection of our own need for a connection to our family heritage that defines who we are” (4). How she treats history in Mayfair family chronicles, recording history of witchcraft in Europe, the new world, the Caribbean is a reflection f her need to understand her own background. Talamasca history written by one of its members ultimately killed by Lasher, the immature spirit, and later in the narrative of Oncle Julien and the Mayfair history told to Rowan and Michael in bits and pieces, especially in The Witching Hour, is essential to Rice’s plots. The history helps readers to relate to the characters and to find their stories believable.
Rice uses horror fiction to develop a cultural myth (4). Critics don’t always like it; they like their formulaic gothic horror fiction (5). Yet, other readers note she shares the same wide appeal as Stephen King by confronting social issues like domestic abuse and violence. Like all artists and master chefs, Rice knows how to alter the “recipe” or formula for horror fiction to her advantage by sprinkling it with original thought and verisimilitude. Rice, “Like E.L. Doctorow after him and Leroux [in The Phantom of the Opera] , had ably blended fact and fiction in a way that increased the reality of the horror.” (Officier at p. 48 “Horror; “Another 100 Best Books, ed. Kim Newman and Stephen Jones). Anne Rice begins using this technique by having Daniel, a reporter, In Interview with the Vampire; interview a being who turns out to be Louis the vampire. Memoir is a believable form for fiction, and Rice uses it, along with autobiography [The Vampire Lestat and other first person novels]. Historical facts addressed in Interview include: the Plague (Druids-Armand ties in with the Druids and the Sacred Wood), Racial Unrest, Famine under Napoleon, and slave uprisings. Louis and Claudia travel to Europe to find their ancestors, the real “Draculas” but are disappointed by the brutish, crude vampires found there. They can barely speak and are rude peasants. They felt hat they couldn’t possibly be descended from them. Her attention to vampire history and lineage inspired other writers, too. Newman later addresses bloodlines among vampires in Anno Dracula, and talks about diseased vampire genetics.
Lestat’s story, alluded to in Interview, is fully told in The Vampire Lestat. He beings in autobiographic form, ‘I am the Vampire Lestat’(1), and proceeds to explain how what he has to relate is true, but is disguised in songs of a rock band [we don’t learn much of the other members or what happens to them, they are mere instruments for the real Bard, Lestat]. Lestat is a modern Bard, relating history through song and literature. His epic is the tale of the vampire, but he is clandestine in certain ways because he knows he is breaking Vampire law by telling the secrets of his species. Lestat turns vampire history he learns from Marius of ancient Egypt into Rock Videos and identifies himself with Dionysus (GW Ramsland “The Lived World” 25).
Rice’s novel The Queen of Damned: uses vampires, especially female mother goddess figure vampires like Akasha and Pandora, to call into question the world’s violent ways. Akasha and her followers prove women can be as violent and bloodthirsty as men, and indeed prey upon them publically and destroy them, but they do so to punish men for the senseless war and violence they create.
Akasha wants to kill 99% of world’s men to create a new Eden, women make the world peaceful, and forces Lestat to help, but he rebels and joins other vampires who defy her at great personal peril, but ultimately destroy her and discover how to preserve the spirit that animates them. She addresses the history of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome in this novel, as well as ancient Celtic rites and ancient cannibalism rituals. A sense of personal history and family are also important; one of the oldest vampires, Maharet, uses her long life to take care of her mortal family through many generations, and to document their genealogical history into a magnificent family tree.
Pandora weaves historical elements involving Ancient Rome and Greece, slaves and ancient vendetta and unrest into her plot while The Vampire Armand addresses Russian history and the theological history of the Orthodox Church.
Like Anne Rice, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro mixes history with fiction, myth and theology to tell the life story of her vampire, Count Saint-Germain. She uses historical backgrounds like The Great Schism and distrust between the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox Churches to set the plot of Darker Jewels. Saint-Germain travels through history to save humanity from itself, like Dr. Who, Highlander, or even the comic Lord Black Adder. Therefore, Yarbro’s novels are rich in history, so much so, that they may easily be categorized as historical fiction as much as horror For example; An Embarrassment of Riches is set in 13th century Bohemia and is No. 22 in the Saint-Germain series of novels. Novel 23 in the Saint-Germain Chronicles is Commedia della Morte, set in 18th century France and Italy. Burning Shadows deals with the history of the Huns from the perspective of their victims. It is Novel 21 in the Saint-Germain series. Saint-Germain defends the villages against attack by the Huns during the 430s.
Even Saint-Germain’s provenance as gentleman vampire is steeped in history. Of her most famous hero, Yarbro has stated:
He became a vampire though a religious rite in about 2100 BC in the Carpathians. He is proto-Etruscan royalty, and was born at the Winter Solstice, which marked him for priestly service since birth. As a vampire, he is burned by sunlight, cannot cross running water…unless he has his native earth in the soles of his shoes. He does not eat; he can’t because he was killed by disemboweling and does not have a reflection or a clear photographic image. He can be killed by destroying his nervous system: breaking his spine, burning, or beheading. In addition to being a vampire, he is an alchemist and a practitioner of the healing arts. http://openbooksociety.com/article/exclusive-interview-chelsea-quinn-yarbro/
YarbroYet, Count Saint-Germain is not the only alchemist. Critics have noted and commented on Yarbro’s unique recipe of myth and history:
With her creation of Saint-Germain, she delved into history and vampiric literature and subverted the standard myth to invent the first vampire who was more honorable, humane, and heroic than most of the humans around him. The world and its mortal inhabitants, not the vampires, are forces of darkness in Yarbro's long-running "historical horror" series. She fully meshed the vampire with romance and accurately detailed historical fiction and filtered it through a feminist perspective that both the giving of sustenance and its taking were of equal erotic potency. Yarbro's Saint-Germain novels are notable for laying the groundwork for the concept of the romantic vampire and 1990s upsurge of "paranormal romance" and trans-genre "urban" fiction. known as the creator of the heroic http://www.chelseaquinnyarbro.net/bio.html.
Andre Codrescu has written in The Blood Countess a fictional biography of his own distant ancestor, Erzebet or Elizabeth Bathory, one of the most terrifying and important historical vampire figures. Bathory’s own biography is so muddled by myth and history that to this day, historians and fiction writers alike delve into her history to try to uncover the truth. She is most often accused of abusing and killing young girls and servants in her castle to use their blood for beauty rites. Andre Codrescu writes of her, in part as apologia, that Erzebet may have been victim to 17th century Eastern European sexism when she faced her accusers. He writes that were she a man, we would call her alleged excesses “Doit de Seigneur”
Today, history judges Erzebet Bathory in a somewhat equivocal and contradictory manner. She was allegedly beautiful, cruel, powerful, and afraid of aging. Many exaggerations are associated with her crimes, including the number of victims, stories of bathtubs of blood, stories of the mechanical automaton doll Iron maiden, stories of blood rubbed onto her pale skin rejuvenating it,. One needs to trace the history of cosmetics and the Snow White story to see she was not alone in believing beauty myths involving blood and magic elixirs. Some of her escapades clearly mirror those of the Evil Queen in Snow White, and Bathory’s physical description of a woman with black hair and a pale, translucent complexion are also reminiscent of Snow White herself. One wonders if The Brothers Grimm had not heard her story only to interweave it with theirs.
Bathory weaves in and out of Anno Dracula as a conceited, very royal, somewhat priggish figure come to tea at the palace. Newman calls her “an elegantly revolting alley cat” and dismisses her legend as so much nonsense.
To respected Dracula and vampire historian Raymond B. McNally, author of the Bathory history and biography, Dracula was a Woman, Erzebet was accused so fantastically and imprisoned because of her vast estate and land holdings. At the time she was accused, she was widowed and both her parents were dead. She was virtually without family or friends except servants and a few distant noble and royal male relatives who were far more interested in her landholdings than in her welfare or reputation. The area was also at war with a Turkish sultan and the Turks held part of the region and its population hostage. Blood Confessions, a novel based on Countess Bathory’s life takes this path and implies that while Erzebet was indeed involved in folk remedies and black arts, she did not mean to harm anyone. This novel notes hierarchy and exaggeration and reaction against women, as one article states: “There are several interests involved in the persecution of Erzebet Bathory. Most involve the family fortune she had. .. and people wanting an excuse to take it. She had the potential as being remembered as one of the best members of the Bathory family but she wound up being the most evil countess.” The author notes here that the same allegations and motives were behind the Salem witch trials, c.f S. Jackson History of the Salem Witches and Marion Starkey’s The Devil in Massachusetts. So vilified has been her name that it would be easier to resurrect and restore the reputations of Richard III and even Marquis De Sade and Milton’s Lucifer than that of Elizabeth Bathory.
The 2008 film about Erzebet called Bathory is a multidimensional study that portrays its heroine as a ruler, mother, daughter, defender of Christianity, and warrior. Her alleged vampirism and crimes are handled in a manner sympathetic to her. The film was a hit in Slovakia in part because she is a native daughter of the region, but also because it tries to make her a realistic human being, at least more so than the1971 Hammer Film Countess Dracula starring Ingrid Pitt. I am told by a close friend who is a native of the region that the ruins of Erzebet’s castle where she was imprisoned and died are only an hour from his home, and that she is still a feared and controversial figure in Slovakia and Hungary.
Wars and unrest in her region may have contributed to Bathory’s make up in many aspects. Codrescu alleges members of her family murdered in front of her and fear and “the subsequent roasting alive of those responsible,” which the young Erzebet witnessed, may have helped contribute to her indifference to violence as sort of A Clockwork Orange effect. Codrescu is an ancestor of Elizabeth’s and has been accused of not knowing when to stop writing history and when to start writing the novel. Adam Baron does say that the portrayal of Elizabeth herself is a “convincing humanization” of a horrific demon.”
Elizabeth/Erzebet still captures the modern imagination, especially among women. I am followed on Twitter by a woman calling herself Erzebet Bathory, 17th century vampire countess, and there are dozens of items sold that bear her likeness on eBay and Etsy over The Internet.
There is also a little Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre in The Blood Countess. Brontë actually likens Bertha to a vampire, and The Red Room in Bronte’s book is similar to chambers associated with Erzebet throughout her history.
Adam Baron’s article and review, “Andrei Codrescu: The Blood Countess” states that the author “attempts to portray the lingering traces of history which makes the politics of the present such a tangled web” and that Codrescu “has a problem with the sections portraying Elizabeth’s crimes” so he deals with them in a dry, “priggish” manner to avoid voyeurism.
Baron also writes that Codrescu “over-researched” and that he book doesn’t know if it should be a biography or a fiction. According to Baron, either a strictly historical account or a thriller would have been more “gripping” and convincing.
In Zimmerman’s “ Elizabeth Bathory: Lesbian Vampire as Gothic Fantasy Archetype” the author addresses female bonding and excludes the supernatural (3). In lesbian vampire filmology, Bathory and heroines like her are seen as rich, decadent women who seduce the young and powerless, and again their pedigree lies with within the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, more Brothers Grimm and other folk and fairy tales, especially the icon of the evil step- mother. Lizzie Borden was portrayed this way after her acquittal. To a certain extent, so was successful author Jacqueline Susann after her death in the posthumous biography Lovely Me. Other powerful and aristocratic women in history and myth are also portrayed as vamps, vampires, witches, femme fatales, or Lamia-types. Anne Boleyn, Isabella the She Wolf, Elizabeth I, Grace O’Malley, Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, Joan of Arc, Mary Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette, Boadicea, Hypatia, Cleopatra, Amazons and Warrior Queens, Kali and death goddesses, Furies, Egyptian goddesses of blood in Anne Rice [Akasha], Catherine the Great and others are often judged harshly for behaving like men and their downfall is often plotted and brought about after they have enjoyed the height of their power and achieved great wealth and fame in their own right. Decadence, corruption cruelty and zeal are connected with hem.
Also, stories of Lillith, Lady Macbeth, Morgan le Fey, The Morrigan, the Salem witches and other women accused of sorcery contributed to and fueled the fires of the 17th century witch craze all over Europe during Erzebet’s time. Since those accused and convicted lost their possessions and land, it is not a far stretch to believe that at least part of the accusations against Bathory were part of an elaborate agenda to bring her down and to take her property and power away from her. Lesbian scholars are attracted to Erzebet’s story because she was alleged to have had an Aunt Klara who was a well-known witch and lesbian. Jackie Collins has a character similar with relationship like one Elizabeth allegedly had with her relative Klara in Hollywood Wives. There are also lesbian myths in Hollywood alleging a relationship between The Black Dahlia murder victim, Elizabeth Short, and Marilyn Monroe, so that even in relatively modern times, women’s culture is linked with the occult and homosexuality. Magic, folk tales and witchcraft were popular subjects during Erzebet’s lifetime. The key work on witches, Malleus Malifacarm and James I‘s Demonologie were popular reads.
It remains to be seen if the interest in vampires and vampire history will further demonize Bathory’s reputation or shed light on her life to exonerate her. She was never allowed to testify at her own trial, and some sources claim she refused to attend because even then, the proceedings were unfair. She claimed her servants were responsible for many deaths in her castle, and there have not been reports that similar deaths and blood-letting took place the during the long periods of time Erzebet spent in the Viennese court. Her servants and cohorts were executed cruelly, but she was walled up in one room of her castle. A small slit allowed food and water to be given to her. When the empty plates were not put back through the slit, her door was opened, and she was found lying face down on the floor, dead. She was fifty-four, and had lived walled up and alone for some four years. Her daughter believed in her innocence completely, her son, who stood to inherit what was left of her estate, did not.
Perhaps, however, the master of blending fact with fiction vampire stories was Bram Stoker, author of the legendary and immortal Dracula. So skillful was the tale, that even seasoned writers confuse the factual account of Vlad Tepes with the fictional count Stoker created. Even during his lifetime, the story was popular. Dracula is also Broadway play, and it is from the play that most of the films are derived. His friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, wrote “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” in honor of Stoker, or of the count! “The Adventure of The Sussex Vampire” was first published in the January 1924 issue of The Strand Magazine, in book form in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes [London: John Murray, 1927].
Stoker named his vampire Count after borrowing An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820) by William Wilkinson from the library and reading about a Vlad Tepes and how he fought against the Turks. In his reading, Stoker discovered that Dracula means “the Devil” in the Wallachia language.
In Transylvania, the vampire was called “strigol” similar to strigla, and strega, witch in Greek and Italian. It also means “little dragon,” and the title “Dracul” or dragon was an honorary society to which Vlad Tepes and his father belonged. Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897) was not the first novel to bring to the attention of the public the nature of vampires, but it was the one that gripped the public imagination, possibly because of its barely suppressed, strong sexuality. Lucy's vampire tendencies were associated with strong feminine sexuality, the New Victorian Woman who longed for sexual freedom and liberty. Lucy had the desire to be had by at least three men, which she expressed with the thought 'Why can't they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her?’” She then quickly represses the desire reminding herself: “'But this is heresy, and I must not say it.' Yet, once she becomes a vampire, she is free to indulge her sexual fantasies. Jonathan Harker finds himself the hapless victim at Dracula's castle - the unwanted sexual attention of three voluptuous female vampires true femme fatales in their own right. Stoker may have been one of the first authors to so closely connect vampirism with sexual allure or voracious libido. He may have taken a hint from Charlotte Brontë who, in , Jane Eyre (1848), refers to the mad, sexually aggressive Bertha Rochester as the dark secret locked away in the attic, as a 'vampyre'. Both Charlotte's Jane Eyre and sister Emily's Wuthering Heights (1847) have their roots in Gothic horror the ancestral home of the vampiric hero and heroine. “Good Lady Ducayne” by M.E. Brandon talks about a young girl who is a Lady’s Companion to an aged vampire and who is nearly seduced into the lifestyle. The story calls into play the poverty of gentlewomen and rapaciousness of the class system; lie the vampire herself, the aristocracy parasitically prey on their inferiors, in class or mortality, to survive. (CF DuMaurier’s Rebecca and to novels of Barbara Pym and her unsuitable attachments and scheming women who often prey on others).
Dracula and vampires are now part of folk culture and mythology. We all know their life styles; vampires sleep during the day and go out at night, their bloodsucking habits, the need to lie within Transylvanian earth. Their victims become the undead. Holy water, silver crosses, and garlic offer protection. Vampires display no reflection in a mirror, nor do they cast a shadow. A vampire is killed with a wooden stake driven through its heart while it sleeps at night.
Stoker used the technique others have to make “fiction a way of lying to tell the truth; “he claimed he was writing history, too fantastic to be believed, as fiction, so that he could safely get his story out but not jeopardize his reputation. Prior to the publication of Dracula there were several accounts of vampires: Charles Maturin Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), John Polidori The Vampyre: A Tale (1819), of disputed authorship (possibly James Madison Rymer or Thomas Preston Priest) Varney the Vampire (1847), Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (1872).
Some of the folklore and history Stoker and other writers may have been familiar with include the Vlad Dracula Song, and Michel Beheim’s 1463, “Von einem wutrich her dies Trakle waida von der Walachei” [the story of Vlad IV] Also, the historical Vlad was at the Court of Mathias Corvinus, who fought with him. French Benedictine, Dom Augustn Calmet 1672-1757, important author wrote an essay discussing, vampires v. common ghosts and demons with some mention of Dracula.
Romanian historians argue that Vlad had a real crusading urge (Trow 233). This might be due to the fact that he was always fighting the Turks, and at times, a prisoner to them himself. For his struggles against the Ottomans as a Christian prince, the Eastern Orthodox Church wanted at one time to canonize him, and monks still guard the place where he is allegedly buried while holy candles light the site of his grave. His own words regarding his deeds and misdeeds are interesting, and he appears, indeed, to see himself on some Holy Crusade:
After my death, whoever the Lord God grants the throne of Wallachia, whether it be one of my sons or relatives or, for our sins, one of another family, if he will strengthen, protect and renew this deed of mine, may God grant him His support; but if he will not renew and strengthen it and ruins and destroys it, let God destroy and kill him in the body in his world, and in spirit in the hereafter he will be in the company of Judas and Cain and of all others to whom it was said; his blood be on them and on their children, as it is and will be forever. . . [Quoted in Treptow, 183]
As is the case with his distant relative, Elizabeth Bathory, much of Vlad’s history has been embellished to aid the fantastic fictional interpretations. Like her, it would not have been possible for him to kill as many people as attributed him. Furthermore, though he no doubt did much to earn the epithet, “Vlad the Impaler,” it was the French, not he, who really made that gruesome former execution and torture popular.
In her Dracula novel, The Historian: Elizabeth Kostova writes that she, too, addresses a “ real historical mystery, the question of where the Vlad the Impaler is buried—or what became his remains—and spun out a fictional speculation from there” (Flanagan interview 2) . Kostova, like Stoker and Newman, uses real history and mixes it with folklore and original invention to create her plot; the mystery of Dracula’s burial is a foundation for her story. Shawn Stufflebeam review writes that Kostova “peppers” her book with historical documents (1). Characters realize that “Bram Stoker may have just gotten the facts a little bit wrong. And that is when we all start to get a little scared; One reviewing author writes, “Why couldn’t his descendants be secretly marked with a dragon tattoo, to preserve his lineage for some dark purpose?” (in Stufflebeam “Review of Historian” 2).
She adds the twist of making Vlad an intellectual; his real mission is to create an immortal vampire librarian worthy of curating his rare library. Says Kostova, “I find it wonderful and eerie that language lasts so much longer than people, and that a book can transmit history from one generation to another, whether or not it’s actually a work of history” (Flanagan interview 2).
In short, Dracula is a bibliophile, and the novel is about love of books as much as anything else (Wikipedia 6). One critic has written that, “[At] the heart of the novel is an exploration of the power and price of scholarly obsession “ (Wikipedia 6) c.f. A.S. Byatt in Possession and Jane Langton, in Emily Dickinson is Dead, which address similar themes.
Part of the theme of Kostova’s book is concerned with history’s role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, “Dracula as a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history.” (Cited in Wikipedia review 1). In fact, she states, “Everyone around here knows how popular the combination of thriller and history can be and what a phenomenon it can become” (Wikipedia 5). In fact, so intermeshed are history, folklore, and literature that “Allegedly and deliciously” , Dracula has a copy of Stoker’s novel!! Kostova has borrowed a time-honored technique many novelists use in having Vlad possess Stoker’s novel about him. Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote de la Mancha does something similar when he has Don Quixote rail against plagiarized “false Quixote” books even as he praises Cervantes, and Barbara Pym often places herself and her books in her novels which feature quirky love stories and parodies of Anglican clergy, academics, and anthropologists.
As far as Dracula’s character is concerned, Kostova says that Stoker “created Dracula as a brilliant figure; a creature that is part monster and part genius. Dracula represents the best and worst of us” (Wikipedia 6). Dracula asks Rossi at one point: “History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so. Good isn’t perfectible, but evil is. Why should you not use your great mind in service of what is perfectible? . .. There is no purity like the purity of the sufferings of history. You will have what every historian wants: history will be reality to you. We will wash our minds clean with blood” (quoted at Wikipedia 7). According to Kostova: “Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history” (7). At one point Dracula is “shown influencing Eastern European tyrants and supporting national socialism in Transylvania” and as a man is “vainglorious, vindictive, and vicious” In reference to Vlad’s character and historical legacy, Michael Dirda in my employer’s newspaper, The Washington Post writes; “Most of history’s worst nightmares result form an unthinking obedience to authority, high-minded zealotry seductively overriding our mere humanity” (7)
Such authority is created by the vampiric antique dealers Straker and Barlow, who exercise undead tyranny over the gullible and unwary inhabitant’s of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Neil Gaiman, author of several graphic novels and related series, including The Sandman, found Salem’s Lot influential in his own work; he read it in East Croydon Station for the first time, and he read it with excitement. For one thing, the terror is dictatorial; not only are the vampire’s evil predatators, they are fascistic evil predators who want to subjugate their human serfs for all eternity. The brutal, unthinking monsters they create are all the more frightening because they are medieval thralls to their immortal masters’ sadistic whims. Of all the horror literature I read when I was young, this was by far the most frightening. The embossed cover of the first paper back edition I read, with this 3-D effect in glossy black of a child’s staring face, teardrop of red blood forever dripping from the corner of her mouth, made it impossible for me to read the book alone at night when I was fifteen. The television miniseries that followed the novel’s success was even more frightening, as the individual characters came to life on screen. Straker and Barlow, the vampires who take over a small New England town, are antique dealers who “deal” in history and the past. They are a nod to Bradbury’s evil carnies in Something Wicked this Way Comes, and the town itself is a direct descendant of the classic New England Town portrayed in Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”
Vampires have come a long way from their obscure, ancient origins as blood-drinking monsters and deities. They have evolved into beings as diverse as their human counterparts. In fact, they serve as the foil or “other” to humans, and are often their relatives and descendants as well as their predators. Like humans, they have come to have a sense of their own history and of genealogy, and the children of the night have joined in literature, especially historical fiction, to tell the story of the human condition, and to use the genres of literature enmeshed with history and the techniques of historical research to “lie” as a way to tell us all the truth about ourselves and our need for some kind of legacy and immortality.
Appendix A: Types of Vampires:
• Salt vampire of Star Trek
• King’s energy vampires
• Lamia some versions upper body of woman, lower of a winged serpent. See www.hellhorror.com/vampire/history_of_vampires/.
• China, red eyed monsters with green or pink hair. Newman addresses these.
• Japan: vampire foxes
• Malaysia, Pennanggalang, head with trailing entrails, sucks blood. Id.
• Blood drinking ghosts
• Zombie relatives
• Sterling Oblivion of Jody Scott’s I, Vampire
• Deanna Raybourn, Lady Julia Grey and The Dead Travel Fast.
• Emily Ashton books
• Ariana Franklin novels
• Twilight and Let me In and Let the Right One In, Swedish vampire movies that hearken to The Lost Boys, Manga, and adolescent romance.
• Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a favorite of Julie Powell in Julie and Julia, Forever Knight, Blade, The Count, Comic Book Monsters, The Night Stalker television series, and other modern manifestations.
• Sylvia Plath- vampire mentioned in “Daddy” and other works.
• Modern narrative and lit, including Peeps, Sizemore, Maggie Shayne, Chilbi
• Porphyria’s Lover by Browning. Porphyria is also a disease of the blood known as “The Vampire’s Disease.” The composer Handel is reputed to have suffered from it.
• “The Gentle Vampires of St. Elizabeth’s” : Anne Rice’s former doll collection which was housed in St. Elizabeth’s Orphanage, , dolls as bodies, vampires. Rilke and Freud, Eva Marie Simms “Uncanny Dolls,” Nutcrackers, Coppelia, Hoffman, Chucky, and the rest. Haunted Dolls and Haunted Doll Web Museum.
• I, Vampire ballet by Mike Romkey and the Musical Lestat.
• CF Arturo Perz-Reverte’s The Club Dumas (1993),
• Gothic Lifestyle in [The History of Vampires 2]. Either a fashion choice, or a real lifestyle with need to drink blood.
Appendix B: Poems-
Defiled is my Name Full sore
Attributed to Anne Boleyn
Defiled is my name full sore
Through cruel spite and false report,
That I may say for evermore,
Farewell, my joy! adieu comfort!
For wrongfully ye judge of me
Unto my fame a mortal wound,
Say what ye list, it will not be,
Ye seek for that can not be found
For Erzebet/The Blood Countess
“Justice, my lord,
Shall I have Justice?”
I say this to the barren
Wall, cold, stony, stoic.
Below more stones lie in wake,
Splotched with lichens, just lichens.
“Blood,” cried all,
“Blood,” swore my Cousin King,
“More Blood!” screamed the
Was it mine they wanted?
Was it mine they saw on the stones?
Was it maiden spilt, as I now
Stand judged of letting?
But where is my story?
When do lichens turn to Blood?
To Blood money for me?
Who speaks for me?
What ill fame cloaks me?
With no defense I am
Blood, mine royal, damns me,
My trial is forbidden to me.
My husband is gone,
His blood spilled in battle
For king and country he
For greed and ransom,
He forfeited my home…
Blood of innocents is spilled,
Blood of ignorance
Blood of young girls
Of Iron maidens never met,
Blood of crimes laid at my door
Till now, I stand and ask again
As the cold wind sighs through cracks,
“Shall I have Justice,
And the walls weep blood-red lichens
And reply, “For you, never more. ‘
Victims, my victims? Or victims of ignorance and gloom?
Amnesty, for me none, family, friends, mother, father, gone
Mountains between me and freedom ,caverns wall me up
Pity, is there none? Promise of justice, of freedom? None?
Youth misspent, mine and others, games and frolics misunderstood
Revenge of old enemies, robbery and mayhem of my father’s castle
Enigma, mystery, shrouds of truth, freedom, honor and justice.
The Vampyre Doll Collector
She holds her first patient in her hand,
A limestone mother figure,
Her hair cornrowed, her face blank.
She daintily repairs a tiny break in
One long, sculpted row of braids,
Ancient dust lying on her old
Oak table in primeval miniature
The full moon helps light her worktable.
The pale light of Hecate shines on the faces
Of her silent charges, lining the wall,
Silent witnesses to every historical epoch.
Here the stoic Ushabti mingles with the ancient Roman
The delicate ivory fingers of a Bunraku
Puppet touch the satin robe of a Bartholomew Baby.
Tiny wooden daughters of Queen Anne rub
Microscopic shoulders with wax dolls dressed
In stiff gold lace,
Inhabitants of Baby Houses, once hers in long ago
Immortal childhood, themselves now 400 years gone.
Her milliners’ models, her cornhusks and buckskin babies,
Gifts of the great chiefs of the great tribes,
The Sun Dolls, the Kachinas, the elegant
Lady brought to Roanoke by an Englishman and
Gifted her by a daughter of Powhatan,
The Nutcrackers and Mechanicals,
The Frozen Charlottes, the Noh masks
And African Fertility figures,
The Mlles. Huret, Thullier, Bru, Jumeau,
Mascotte, Eden, and Steiner,
Fräuleins Kestner, Simon, Halbig, Marseilles, Heubach, and the like,
All populate her shelves and nooks and crannies, where she works.
Heads and parts and bodies in this toy morgue reside in jars and boxes,
Glass eyes peer from glass and crystal tubes once part
Of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab,
Wracks of tiny dresses embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots, and
Catherine, late of Aragon, and Nan Bullen, and Lady Jane,
All once her friends and confidantes,
These line her cupboard shelves, and tin headed babies and
Metal young maidens take up space in her pantry where tinned beef
And canned soups were stored in more mundane households.
And all were her toys first; she had seen them new and shiny,
And their boxes and coffins, and trunks, where they had
Lay hidden in her cellar and attic, carefully labeled and preserved.
For millennia after millennia she had cared for them, her
Her Children, these “gentle vampires” crafted as icons
Presents to her, the child that was made by a spirit,
That could not die,
That lived by night,
There were even a few dolls of the undead,
“Corpses” of living corpses,
Each holding a bit of herself, of her story,
Of her mother that she still remembered,
She who gave her that first doll,
The limestone Goddess she now
Cradled in the palm of her hand.
Each night for centuries she labored for them,
Each twilight she rose from her own doll-box,
Lightly dusting them with the feather duster
Given her by Queen Victoria’s maid, along
With the little dolls loved by Dear Vicky herself.
Now these were her family, her human family long gone,
Her undead descendants scattered to the four corners,
More interested in feeding, and scaring, and dominating.
But she would go on, till time itself retired. She would sit, and look forever
Young, she would Etsy and eBay and surf for more treasures,
She would curate, and organize, and subscribe to journals and
Make repairs, and sew impossibly tiny seams and
Restring limbs too delicate to survive, though they did,
And she, and her charges, would endure, seeking
Refuge in her immortal haven of Misfit dolls.