Tag Archives: Bram Stoker

Wuthering Heights & Its Influence on Vampire and Popular Culture

Wuthering Heights, the only novel by author Emily Bronte before her death at 30, has been highly influential on popular culture. It was published in 1847, the year of the great Famine in Ireland, Bram Stoker’s birth and exactly 50 years before he published Dracula.

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The book begins with the narrator Lockwood coming to stay at Wuthering Heights. He is given the former room of Catherine Earnshaw. During the night, he dreams that the ghost of Catherine or Cathy Earnshaw comes to the window, grabs his arm and begs to be let inside. Lockwood informs Heathcliff, the landlord, who opens the window to let the spirit enter but none appears. This supernatural appearance at the window is similar to how Dracula gains entry to the bedrooms of his victims, except he uses his mental, physical and/or erotic power to get in. In some vampire stories, it is necessary to invite a vampire in for them to gain access. It would appear to have at least partially originated in this standout scene from Wuthering Heights.

The story of Wuthering Heights is then told in flashback (Stoker also uses narrators to tell the story of Dracula but in the form of letters and journal entries). Heathcliff as a child is discovered wandering homeless by Mr Earnshaw on his trip to Liverpool. (Liverpool is a port and, as with Dracula, Heathcliff seems to have arrived in England by ship although that is never stated in the book. Judging by the ethnic description of him though and the location where he was found, it is a strong possibility.) The boy is described as “a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect.” Earnshaw names him Heathcliff and brings him home where his presence stirs up jealousy from Earnshaw’s son Hindley and infatuation from his daughter Cathy.

Heathcliff, like Dracula, is the mysterious, dark foreigner bringing his obsessive, destructive and ultimately lethal love to England’s stuffy upper classes. The theme repeatedly used in Wuthering Heights about eternal love even after death was one Bram Stoker would return to in Dracula five decades later.

Although they appear destined to be together, Cathy and Heathcliff grow up and marry other people and their relationship turns jealously masochistic with fatal consequences. Only after their deaths do they appear to fulfill their destiny and become soulmates at last.

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Sir Henry Irving
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Irish author Bram Stoker

Dracula author Bram Stoker was the manager of actor Sir Henry Irving. Irving was a fearsome figure who dominated Stoker. Many believe him to be the inspiration for Stoker’s vampire count.

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Laurence Olivier’s Heathcliff (1939)

Not only did Irving serve as inspiration for Bram Stoker but, indirectly, for actor Laurence Olivier who played both Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Van Helsing in Dracula onscreen.

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Olivier as Van Helsing in Dracula (1979)

When stuck for ideas on how to play Shakespeare’s Richard III in the movie he was directing, Olivier said: ‘I’d always heard imitations of old actors imitating Henry Irving. And so I did, right away, an imitation of these old actors imitating Henry Irving’s voice. That’s why I took that sort of rather narrow vocal address.’

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Olivier as Richard III (1955)
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Ralphie Glick returns as a vampire

Cathy’s ghost appearing at the window echoes the victory over death and return from the grave in vampire lore. Stephen King’s 1975 novel Salem’s Lot was inspired by Dracula. One night over supper, King mused what would happen if Dracula reappeared in the-then 20th century. Again, King makes the connection between Dracula and Wuthering Heights explicit when dead boy Ralphie Glick comes to his brother’s window after being preyed upon by the master vampire in the town. He also wishes to be let in as Cathy does.

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Kate Bush in the video for Wuthering Heights

In 1978, Kate Bush reached number one in the UK charts with her song Wuthering Heights. It was directly inspired by a 1967 BBC adaptation of Emily Bronte’s novel that Kate Bush saw when she was 18 (she even shares the same birthday as Emily Bronte). Bush specifically chose Cathy’s appearance at the window in the book to structure the song around and wrote from her perspective: “Heathcliff! It’s me, your Cathy, I’ve come home. So co-o-o-old, let me in at your window.” She definitely played up the scary, supernatural side of the scene and wasn’t afraid to potentially frighten away record buyers. Her bravery paid off with her first and only number one to date.

Kate Bush’s mother was from Ireland. With her high-pitched wailing and scary eyes in the video, it’s tempting to imagine Kate Bush shifting the setting of Wuthering Heights to Ireland and the ghost of Cathy becoming a Banshee coming in from a misty bog in the Irish countryside. Journalist Clive James famously stated in 1978 that he wasn’t sure ‘whether Kate Bush is a genius or a headcase, but she is definitely something else.’ Her ethereal, otherworldly performance spooked some people just as the original scene in Emily Bronte’s book had.

Here are the two very interesting versions of her Wuthering Heights videos:

It just demonstrates how, when an author hits upon a striking and powerful image, it can permeate down consciously and unconsciously through many forms of artistic expression for decades and even centuries to come.

© Stewart Stafford, 2016. All rights reserved.

If you’re a generous person who believes this writer should be paid for his hard work, you may donate here.

To read more of this author’s work, check out his short story Nightfall and novel The Vorbing.

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The Vorbing Cometh: October 29th, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, at long, long last (19 years), my book The Vorbing is finally available for pre-order on Amazon.

US: 

UK: 

Exciting times ahead in the near future. Join me.

The Power of Dreams, The Richness of Nightmares

Dreams have inspired thinkers of all kinds to come up with great works throughout history. Author Salman Rushdie referred to it earlier this week as “the world of imagination and dream, the irrational world which is not subject to logic.”

The theory of relativity is alleged to have come to Albert Einstein in a dream. The genre of science fiction owes its existence to the nightmare Mary Shelley had that inspired her to write the novel Frankenstein in 1816. Bram Stoker had an erotic dream about female vampires ravishing him after a crab supper one night. That surreal spark lit the touchpaper of his classic vampire novel Dracula and became the “brides of Dracula” sequence.

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A nightmare inspired Stephen King to write The Shining:

“In late September of 1974, Tabby and I spent a night at a grand old hotel in Estes Park, the Stanley. We were the only guests as it turned out, the following day they were going to close the place down for the winter. Wandering through its corridors, I thought that it seemed the perfect – maybe the archetypal – setting for a ghost story. That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his over shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of the bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in the chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.”

Misery

A nightmare also inspired King to write Misery:

“I was on Concorde, flying over here, to Brown’s. I fell asleep on the plane, and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. His skin, the writer’s skin. I said to myself, ‘I have to write this story.’ Of course, the plot changed quite a bit in the telling. But I wrote the first forty or fifty pages right on the landing here, between the ground floor and the first floor of the hotel.”

James Cameron was in Rome in the early 1980s. The production company behind his directorial debut Pirahna II: Flying Killers (you’re not missing much, folks) fired him. He was starving and penniless. In his hotel room, he had the “fever dream” that would lead to his big breakthrough – The Terminator:

“I was sick at the time. I had a high fever. I was just lying on the bed thinking and came up with all this bizarre imagery … I think also the idea that because I was in a foreign city by myself and I felt very dissociated from humanity in general, it was very easy to project myself into these two characters from the future who were out of sync, out of time, out of place.”

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Dreams can even inspire musical compositions. Singer/songwriter Sting keeps a diary of his dreams and he named his 1985 album “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” after one of them.

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Queen guitarist Brian May on how he wrote the classic track We Will Rock You:

“Queen played a gig at Bingley Hall near Birmingham. It was a popular venue at the time. It was a big sweaty barn and that night it was packed with a particularly vocal crowd. They were definitely drowning us out with their enthusiasm. I remember that even after we left the stage they didn’t stop singing – loudly. They sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, which is very emotional. Quite a choking thing really. I certainly found it inspirational. Later that night back at our hotel I said to the others, “That was great. So what should we do to continue generating that kind of energetic response?” I woke up with the We Will Rock You lyrics in my head and had it written in about 10 minutes.”

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A similar thing happened to Paul McCartney when he wrote The Beatles classic Yesterday:

“I just fell out of bed and it was there. I have a piano by the side of my bed and just got up and played the chords. I thought I must have heard it the night before or something, and spent about three weeks asking all the music people I knew, ‘What is this song?’ I couldn’t believe I’d written it.”

The idea for my first book The Vorbing also came to me through a dream. I’m not for one minute comparing myself or my book to the aforementioned works of genius. Their reputations are set in stone, mine has yet to begin. I am merely stating that the process was the same for me. It was in June 1996 that I had a nightmare, a fragment of a dream really about vampires. They were coming out of the sky and flattening people around me. I woke up and ran downstairs to type it up before I forgot it. I wrote a short story that would become the first chapter of The Vorbing. From there, I kept working on it every day that summer. I was not on the internet then, so there were no distractions. I recreated the world of my dream on the page and then expanded it to see where it would take me. I was about to start the second year of my acting course and was so lucky to continue being paid during the summer recess. I could put 100% into seeing if I could write a book for the first time. Somehow I did and it felt like climbing a mountain.

It did become an obsession. I had not chosen to write a book about vampires, they had chosen me to write about them for some reason and I couldn’t stop. Now, 19 years later, the book is nearly ready for release. It is a time of great excitement but also great uncertainty as I push my baby chick out of the nest to see if it can fly. Some will try to shoot it down, no doubt, but some will also give my baby a chance and nurture it. Vampires should fly at Halloween and this year, The Vorbing takes flight.

“I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams” – William Butler Yeats

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

If you’re a generous person who believes this writer should be paid for his hard work, you may donate here.

To read more of this author’s work, check out his short story Nightfall and novel The Vorbing.

Inward View of the Vampire

“As the vampire myth developed and went through a rationalising/secularising process, various authors have posed alternative, non-supernatural theories for the origin of vampires – from disease to altered blood chemistry.”

– J. Gordon Melton

I published my first novel, The Vorbing, at Halloween 2015. Even though I began writing my vampire book nine years before the first Twilight novel appeared, you could see my book as the antithesis of that series. I don’t see vampires as being sparkly hunks with six-pack abs. Far from it. My vampires are disgusting, parasitic predators. I wanted to give the vampire its nasty bite back.

That’s not to say I’m dissing the work of Stephanie Meyer at all. I applaud anyone that can get a piece of writing out there. To be as successful as Ms Meyer has been is even more impressive. I thought the basic premise of Twilight was interesting – an updated, supernatural twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (instead of the Montagues and Capulets keeping the young lovers apart it’s humans and vampires and then vampires and werewolves) Fifty Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fan fiction and it’s been widely panned but remains mega-successful.

It just demonstrates how the vampire is an archetypal mould into which we pour our obsessions with sex, sexuality, disease, death, addiction and rebirth. The core material can be tweaked to fit any era and its fears (some would argue that the human condition is a constant state of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of sickness and death, fear of alienation from family, friends and wider society, etc). Different writers see different things in the vampire legend just as writers always bring their own perspective and baggage to any story.

In her very fine book, Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice stripped away all the Christian folklore around her vampires. In the movie version that Ms Rice wrote the screenplay for, Bram Stoker and Dracula were dismissed as “the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman.” (Neil Jordan did some uncredited rewrites on the script and it’s possible that the line is his.) Is Anne Rice disregarding Stoker and his Count or is it the “real” vampire in the story setting the journalist interviewing him straight on fictitious misrepresentations of his kind? I believe it’s the latter. Nevertheless, it takes a brave and unique voice to disregard convention and strike out in a new direction.

I’ve nicknamed Interview with the Vampire “Inward View of the Vampire” as, shorn of so much of their outside mythology, they reflect inwards on their eternal state of ennui. In the December 1998 issue of Starlog magazine, director John Carpenter said of his movie Vampires: “I wanted to get away from the Anne Rice aura, of the vampire as lonely bisexual. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach.” In the last scene of the film Interview with the Vampire, Tom Cruise’s Lestat reappears after several centuries to berate Brad Pitt with the words: “Still whining Louis!” At least they’re starting to have a little fun with this undead thing.

I like to believe that when I read another writer’s work, I’m filtering their imagination through mine which alters and improves my thought process as my mind is opened to new possibilities and different ways of approaching the same subject. In a June 2014 Moviepilot article on Interview with the Vampire, Laylla Azarbyjani wrote: I’m not saying I don’t watch vampire films/series that portray vampires differently, I don’t mind them, I just prefer films that stay true to the original story about vampires. For example burning in the sun, stake to the heart and crucifixes – these are just some examples, there are so many more.” All of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series are important works in the vampire canon.

As I drink my blood-red tea and return to the world of my vampires, it’s comforting to think that the vampire legend will continue and change ad infinitum. What do you think?

[The Vorbing is available here; getBook.at/TheVorbingAmazon]

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

Vampire To Some, Lost Soul To Others

“They say he’s some kind of vampire,” a young cop says about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. “They don’t have a name for what he is,” Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling replies. Oh yes, they do. Lecter is an oral sadist. When he can’t physically bite someone in the wild, he does it verbally from behind bars with stinging insults and taunting clues. Serial killers are nothing if not expert manipulators. Lecter’s oral sadism probably began in infancy when he was either forcefully breastfed against his will or he was denied it when hungry. He began to have fantasies of biting his mother or even consuming her. A real psychiatrist said that Lecter would be untreatable and that the only way to stop him would be to have his teeth removed by a court order (effectively castrating him).

The vampire is somewhat different. He has to bite and feed on blood or he will perish. He is something of an oral rapist. Several women I have known over the years have confided their rape fantasies to me. This surprised me (I have always said that women are an enigma even to themselves, hearing those statements confirmed it to me). They then quantified their remarks by saying that they only wanted to be raped by their partner and not a stranger. They would never admit it publicly for fear of being branded a slut or being accused of letting the feminist cause down. Taking these admissions as consent would be walking into a moral and legal minefield for a man. Nevertheless, these feelings bubble away under the surface. Sexuality cannot be compartmentalized into simple black-and-white parameters no matter what the propaganda says. Fifty Shades of Grey was aptly named for a reason.

The actress Barbara Steele once said that women feel sorry for the vampire and feel that they can save him. You could argue that from a feminine perspective, the vampire could be viewed as a sort of desperate, lonely addict impelled to attack strangers to survive. Anne Rice put that female perspective across very well in her Vampire Chronicles series. She rejected the mythology that had gone before (“The rantings of a demented Irishman,” Brad Pitt’s Louis says in Interview with the Vampire when asked if he is afraid of crucifixes, a reference to Dracula and its author Bram Stoker’s suspected death from Syphilis.) Her work focused on the eternal ennui of the vampire. “Still whining, Louis!” Tom Cruise says near the end of the movie, sending up all that has gone before and ameliorating the withering Stoker put-down earlier.

Even the glittering, hunky teen Twilight vampires have a place in the lexicon. The vampire as a psychological symbol has always thrived as it touches on so many of our desires and fears. It is a mutating virus that fits the human psyche hand-in-glove. It is open to the interpretations of any era. As sophisticated as we think we are in the modern world, the vampire is always lurking in the shadows of our subconscious to fascinate us. Comments welcome.

© Stewart Stafford, 2014. All rights reserved.

Losing My Media Virginity: My First Newspaper Interview

Stewart Stafford, The Vorbing, The Vampire Creation Myth Begins, Horror

Thanks to Maurice Garvey at The Echo Newspaper.

Nightmare! The Birth of Horror: Dracula BBC Documentary

I have just added the excellent BBC documentary on the origins of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to my website. Perfect Halloween viewing; http://thevorbing.com/the-birth-of-horror-bbc-documentary-dracula/

The Vampires of Dublin & The Road to Dracula

In a suburb of West Dublin called Ballyfermot lies the inconspicuous sign pictured below.

The Vorbing, Le Fanu Road, Stewart Stafford
© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.

The people that live there may not know what the name means or where it leads to but it is the beginning of not only Count Dracula but of the vampire legend itself.

You may wonder why Dublin has such an association with vampires, dear readers, but it becomes clearer when you remember that the festival of Hallowe’en began in pagan Celtic Ireland. Hibernia (or “the land of winter” as the Romans called the Emerald Isle) was awash with superstition and the supernatural. From the Banshee (“bean” is Irish for woman and “shee” is the Anglicized pronunciation of “sídhe” which means fairy or ghost), to the ubiquitous leprechauns (a jovial re-imagining of the malevolent fairies that abducted babies and replaced them with changelings) to Samhain, Lord of the Dead, and the sullen spirit the Púca that walked abroad on Halloween night spitting on fruit to blight it. A writer named Sean Hillen even put forward the theory in 2009 that Stoker got the name of his vampire Dracula from the Celtic phrase ‘droch fhola’ (pronounced ‘druc ulla’) meaning ‘bad blood.’ Once you set the cultural background in place, the concoction of the vampire not only becomes clearer, it becomes almost inevitable.

Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu (1814 – 1873) wrote one of the first modern vampire stories in his 1871 novella Carmilla. It never stated outright that its vampires were lesbians (the repression of the time saw to that) but the Sapphic overtones were certainly heavily implied and were made explicit in the movie adaptation The Vampire Lovers in 1970.

Le Fanu spent part of his life in nearby Chapelizod, at the bottom of the hill that leads down from the Ballyfermot road named after him (Le Fanu Park also bears his name there). He graduated from Trinity College (I pass Trinity College every day on my way to my social media course in Ballyfermot) and worked as a journalist and wrote an influential vampire story. In doing so, Le Fanu set the template for another Irishman and Dubliner who came after him – Bram Stoker. He too would graduate from Trinity College, work in journalism (as theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail newspaper owned by Le Fanu) and write an important vampire tale, Dracula (for most people, THE most important vampire tale of them all). Le Fanu mentored Stoker, he must have been aware of the many similarities between them.

The road to Dracula began early on. Bram Stoker’s mother Charlotte told him hair-raising stories when he was a sickly child of what happened during the great cholera epidemic of 1832 in her native County Sligo. The outbreak began after a suitably spooky, Draculaesque thunderstorm. Stoker’s mother recalled mass graves full of bodies and people being buried alive. The young Stoker was simultaneously terrified and fascinated and the ideas were salted away in his fertile mind for future use.

Those disturbing ideas begat further ones. Stoker’s first real idea for Dracula came to him in a nightmare he had after a late crab supper one evening. He imagined the Brides of Dracula sequence in the novel when a furious Dracula returns to his castle, pushes the female vampires away from Jonathan Harker and says: “This man belongs to me!” (A lot has been made of the homoerotic subtext of that, so again, there is a similarity with Le Fanu and his then-taboo glimpse into what we would probably call LGBT erotica today).

Bram Stoker had the misfortune to die the same week that the Titanic sank in 1912, the 9/11 of its day. His death was buried on the inside pages and he rather faded from the public consciousness until a black-and-white silent German movie by the name of Nosferatu appeared in 1922. It mirrored the story of Stoker’s Dracula closely and his widow sued and won, the judge declaring that all copies of the film Nosferatu be destroyed for infringing copyright. Thankfully, some copies survived and a major part of film history was preserved for future generations to enjoy. It is a truly extraordinary, expressionistic and surrealist tour de force by director F.W. Murnau and his leading man Max Shreck. Today’s movies still reference it all the time and, for many, it remains the definitive Dracula adaptation.

I am also a Dubliner about to publish my take on vampires, The Vorbing. I will reveal, for the first time, the logo I designed for it myself earlier today (let me know what you think in the comments section, I also have a new Twitter page here; https://twitter.com/TheVorbing).

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.
© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.

I knew Le Fanu Road was somewhere in Ballyfermot. I had no idea it was about a minute from where I was studying and for there to be such an immediate connection geographically and literally with what I am about to publish. Indeed, I started writing about Chapelizod for some reason months before I had ever heard about the current course I am doing. Strange, as I have never been to the place before now (Le Fanu’s birthday is even one day before mine, Stoker was one inch shorter than me, our surnames begin with St and both our ideas for our vampire novels came to us in nightmares. Okay, I’ll stop there). It was as if something was calling me there. Yes, the Brides of Dracula were whispering seductively in my ear. Oh, to taste that forbidden fruit. Ah, but that way, dear friends, lies the road to hell and don’t we all enjoy visiting there now and then?

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.

If you’re a generous person who believes this writer should be paid for his hard work, you may donate here.

To read more of this author’s work, check out his short story Nightfall and novel The Vorbing.

Stewart Stafford’s Quotes