Ok. I’m a sucker for anything that has anything to do with the old monsters: Vampires, Werewolves, Frankenstein—all of that. I admit it. I’ll read (or watch) any of it. And the more traditional, the more I like it.
But to me, it’s the Vampire that is the most frightening. Easily. Not these penny-any “I’ve grown a conscience,” 21st century weenies, but real, blood sucking, soul-stealing, mind-controlling monsters whose sole purpose is to corrupt and destroy any vestiges of contemporary humanity—that kind of Vampire.
I mean, really. What could possibly be more frightening than a vampire? Except maybe creeping through some dark castle, being pursued by his ghostly wolves, or seduced and drained by his (her) previous victims, to fight it out with one?
And just when you think you’ve read or seen them all, another one comes along. Well, inside the pages of The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, there’s a goody: “The Vampire of Kaldenstein,” by Fredrick Cowles. Now this story isn’t just a vampire story, it is the oldest kind of Vampire Story:
- Ancient European Castle on a wooded mountain
- Superstitious village full of folks that don’t like outsiders
- A Count from an ancient and tainted bloodline
- Priests and Crosses and all the things that defeat the Vamps of old
- And a foolhardy wanderer that finds his way into the Castle, pursuing some mad idea that he had to prove that the vampire is just a myth
- A theme that includes the destruction of this monster by the Priest himself (with a little help from the innkeeper).
This story was written in 1938, just prior to World War II and is set in some rural part of Germany near its eastern environs I presume. It is clearly a knock off (to my mind) of Dracula and other earlier Vampire stories, but it is wonderful for that very reason—at least to my way of thinking.
Although there is no sexual innuendo or young women whose virtue and values are challenged, the parallels between this and Stoker’s are unavoidable. The similarities between the main character in this story and Good man Harker are unmistakable as well—foreign visitor in a foreign land, mocking superstitions, goes to the castle when warned otherwise, gets locked up by the Count’s henchmen. Its Great.
And the visual effects and heightened senses portrayed by the author or a throwback to the 19th century too. Anyway, if you like Stoker, and old Vamp stories, this is a great little yarn.
Another good reason to buy this book, and spend a little time within its covers.
I’m going to take a break from this Gothic Anthology and explore some other things for a while. But I’ll be back.