Long before the age of Stephanie Meyer, vampires were a horrific fixture of our culture. Movies, art, and literature have almost turned them into an obsession within the horror genre. For almost two hundred years, the lore behind these mystical beings has evolved, but many of the core facets–blood, sunlight, garlic, etc.–remain the same. And if you are truly serious about exploring these fascinating characters, you can get a great overall sense of what makes a vampire in the shelves of Wells Library.
Where better to start our evil inquiry than Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula. To be sure, it is the definitive vampire novel, popularizing many of the qualities familiar today. It introduces a mysterious aristocrat taking up residence in London, only to prey on victims for their blood. The story also establishes Abraham Van Helsing, possibly the first example of someone who has made a career of vampire hunting. Drawing heavily on a short story (John Polidori’s 1819 “The Vampyre,” which can be read here, in print or online), Dracula can absolutely be credited with bringing the horror icon into popular culture.
Let’s turn to film: two classic, early entries to the vampire saga are F.W. Murnau’s silent 1922 film Nosferatu and the 1931 film Dracula (available at our Music Library here) featuring Bela Lugosi as the Count. Both films hold up incredibly well, and are in many ways just as terrifying as modern horror films. These films continue the tradition of a mysterious Transylvanian gentleman who is more than he appears. In these films, we also witness two means by which these monsters can actually be vanquished–sunlight and stakes to the heart.
When you’re ready to make a long-term commitment, you can dive into the 90s television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a story that tells just as much about being a teenager in the nineties as it does about vampires. We follow a young girl as she deals with the day-to-day mundanities of high school, followed by a nightlife of hunting and killing vampires. And don’t forget to start the spinoff, Angel, when it’s time (somewhere around season 4 of Buffy).
Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not mention several modern choices of vampire literature. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is one such example, adding new themes to its characters and blurring the lines of their moralities. I also have to mention what is probably my favorite Steven King novel, Salem’s Lot, an incredible story about a town overrun by monsters after a pair of strange men set up an antique shop. Finally, there is a rule on the Internet: If it exists, there can be romance (or something more explicit than that). At any rate, you are all familiar with the phenomenon of the Twilight franchise. Is it just me, or is the popularity of these books and movies finally slowing down?
If you consider yourself even a passing fan of horror, then you already have a grasp on one of the most famous villains of the genre. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t dig a bit deeper into the legend. It is truly a fascinating journey.