Tag Archives: Salem’s Lot

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.

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

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I Was Almost A Teenage Vampire or The Road to The Vorbing Part 1

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

“I vant to bite your neck!” went my brother’s dodgy Bela Lugosi imitation and a lifetime’s fascination with vampires began for me. We were in our New York apartment and he would follow me around goading me with his vampire voice. I’d put my chin on my chest to protect my neck and flee and my brother would creep after me. I got a “taste” of what it was like to be a vampire’s victim.

My next run-in with vampires was, again, my brother’s doing. We were in Ireland by then. It was my 12th birthday party and my brother put on our VHS copy of “Salem’s Lot” with David Soul. That was and still is the only really terrifying vampire film for me (along with F.W. Murnau’s seminal Nosferatu). My father told the kids that they could leave the room if it got too much for them. One by one, they did until all of us were in the back room. The terror didn’t end there. The kids refused to walk home alone in the dark after the party. They insisted on phoning their parents to collect them, even the kids that lived around the corner! You don’t forget things that scar your psyche like that. The windy, autumnal nights that followed were filled with a creeping dread of nightfall. Thanks again, bro…

Fast-forward another decade. I was dating a girl when vampires unexpectedly entered my life once more. “I want you to bite me on the neck,” she said seductively as she leaned against the wall of our deserted acting class. “What?” I said. She repeated what she wanted. It didn’t sound any less strange the second time so I repeated it. “You want me to bite you on the neck?” I parroted. “Yes,” she said. “Are you sure?” I asked, offering her one last chance to back out of it. “Yes,” she replied again. “Okay,” I said with uncertainty but with a certain amount of intrigue at playing the vampire himself for the first time. Before I sink my fangs into her neck, I’ll provide a little background on my “victim.” Her uncle was a haemophiliac who had died of AIDS (this was the 90s when it was still a death sentence). This had fuelled her interest in death and vampirism and its blood disease similarity with her uncle’s affliction. Tune in to my next blog post to find out what happened next…

© 2014, Stewart Stafford. All rights reserved.