Saturday, October 15, 2011

The original vampire story and other tales of the macabre

One enduring character in fiction is the vampire. But, dear reader, have you ever wondered as to what started this hugely popular theme? Well, it started in 1817 with a short story entitled "The Vampyre" written by John Polidori. Thankfully, this story is included in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre published by Oxford World's Classics.

The fanged monster in "The Vampyre" is one Lord Ruthven, who appears to have the ability to seduce women. As a vampire, Lord Ruthven has all the classic traits -- he appears out of nowhere, is extremely sinister, drinks the blood of his victims and kills them. He prefers virginal young women though, going to the extent of even marrying them first before finishing them off. "The Vampyre" has a gothic feel to it, and, as a tale meant to frighten, is very satisfying.

Each of the 14 stories collected in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre is horrifying in different ways. Here we read about family curses, the doppelgänger who will torment you forever, dementia and madness, and people who are mistakenly buried even though they're still alive, just to name a few. I'm telling you, it's enough to give you nightmares for several days.

My favorite is the story by William Carleton entitled "Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman." It's about how a group of vigilantes perform a lynching on a house of inmates. For a short story published in the 17th century, it can be excessively graphic.
. . . Just then from a window opposite him, proceeded the shrieks of a woman who appeared at it with the infant in her arms. She herself was almost scorched to death; but with the presence of mind and humanity of her sex, she was about to thrust the little babe out of the window. The Captain noticed this, and with characteristic atrocity, thrust, with a sharp bayonet, the little innocent, along with the person who endeavoured to rescue it, into the red flames, where they both perished. . . [page 49]
Just reading this excerpt gives me the shivers.

Read this book if:
  1. You love anything that has a touch of the macabre.
  2. You want to read the first ever vampire story.
  3. It's been a long time since you had a nightmare.