There is nothing quite as satisfying as listening to a scary story, and here is your opportunity to "hear" the old vampire stories read, and well read. Simply CLICK the image and you travel to the Audible website.
Listening to the stories instead of reading them also also frees your hands up to clutch the stake and holy water.
Vintage Vampire Literature (Stories)
Old (Vintage) vampire literature (usually short stories, novellas, or serials) existed well before Bram Stoker produced the genre setting Dracula, yet the we tend to think of Count Dracula as the classic vampire, measuring all others vampires against the structure built by Bram Stoker. We forget, if indeed we ever knew, that supernatural creatures were the an essential staple of Gothic romance and Gothic horror fiction, and they were wildly popular. Undead blood-drinkers crawl the corridors of hovels and castles, of Inns and old country mansions, in fact they haunted any location the imagination of an author was capable of going.
Table of Contents Organized by Date
1800 "Wake Not the Dead" Johann Ludwig Tieck
This story is a German Gothic Vampire novella. Published in _Odds and Ends _ it is now one of the oldest vampire stories (available in English). It is a story about love gone wrong due to the twisted personality of the protagonist Walter. It is his inability to allow his first wife, Brunhilde, to rest in peace, his insistence that he must have her, that causes the problems. He pretty much spurns his second wife, who does everything in her power to please him because of his total fixation on Brunhilde. (Yes, the Biblical story of Jacob is echoed here; note also the twist to the story of the prodigal!) While you read it, note the various and different characteristics of this particular undead. They aren't those we are used to.
I have set the study-notes to open in a new window to enable you to have both the story and the notes up side-by-side.
Click this for the Teick Study-Notes
In case the original language version is hard on your comprehension, here is a modernized version.
Click here for the modernized Teick "Wake Not the Dead"
1819 "The Vampyre" John Polidori
John Polidori's (1819) "The Vampyre" truly changed the face of the undead for English readers. Published in 1819, it moved the English vampire out of the darkness of shuffling zombie-hood and into the well-lit parlors of society.
Polidori has been treated as a light-weight because he borrowed some of the ideas from a fragment written by Byron. I recommend reading the two together. To enable side-by-side study, I have written a study guide available for purchase from the bookstore.
The language of this is fairly archaic, and I recommend having a dictionary page up as you read this.
Supernatural Study Guide Polidori and Byron
1817 (or 1819) "Augustus Darvell" Byron
Lord Byron's "Fragment" of a vampire story (1817) is the really the skeleton to Polidori's story. The unpublished version was written before Polidori's story was published, but the actual publishing date is later. While the essence of this story is that of "The Vampyre," the protagonist is not ever called a vampire.
Note Byron provided dialogue in his version, while Polidori's is strictly a narrative, no dialogue. What I am providing here are quick questions for you to focus on while reading. If you want a more complete study quide, hit the shop button on the navigation bar at the left.
1820 Anonymous “the Bride of the Isle” Set in Ireland. Lady Margaret is vampire bait (he wants her as revenge for her not “wanting” him) Ruthven, Earl of Marsden is the vampire. In this fiction vampires are “the wicked spirit who enter the body of another person at the moment of death, as the original soul departs, the corpse was thus reanimated — the same look, the same voice, the same expression of countenance, with physical powers to eat and drink, and partake of human enjoyments, but with the most wicked propensities. (Think Julie Kenner’s Demon versus soccer mom series). This second existence, is held on a tenure of the most horrid and diabolical nature. Every All-Hallow E’en, he must wed a lovely virgin, and slay her, catch her warm blood and drink it, then his existence is renewed for another year, and he is free to take another shape, and pursue his Satanic course; but if he failed in procuring a wife at the appointed time, or had not opportunity to make the sacrifice before the moon set, the vampire was no more — he did not turn into a skeleton, but literally vanished into air and nothingness. In short, Marsden is handsome and well spoken. He worms his way into the virginal (and spinsterish) Margaret’s good graces, but as they are about to marry, he has to ride to war with Margaret’s dad, Baron Ronald(?), He is “slain” on the battlefield, and parked for later burial. His body is missing when the Baron goes to collect it for burial. Upon his return home, Ruthven is there, joy occurs and the marriage is once more to happen. Robert, a loyal servant who saw Ruthven die, knows he must be dead. He recognizes him as a vampire. He get’s termed a “Vampire slayer” for his care. The Baron stops the show and asks for a month to get a decent wedding together. Forced, the marriage is postponed. Hallow’s eve is now approaching, and Ruthven goes behind the Baron’s back and arranges a private wedding, which is stopped in the nick of time. The Baron is now declares his reason for waiting till after Hallow’s eve, is called crazy, and locked in his room. Robert frees him, and he once more stops the wedding. Ruthven now despairs of Margaret (this incarnation), and tries instead for Robert’s girl, Essie. As he and Essie run away to marry, Robert sees them, and shoots Ruthven, who once again “dies.” Before dying the talks the Baron and Robert into telling no one about his death. They go to toss the ring as a last request, unknowing that the outer part of the vampire was not subject to disease, and it was invincible to the sword. If they could contrive to have Stuffa’s ring flung into the well of the cave of Fingal within twenty-four hours after the death wound it was restored to its vile career for the appointed time, and for that season the malignant spirit hovered round the body. Thus Ruthven was restored to try once more at marrying Margaret. With the assistance of the young Gilbert, it is thwarted, and the vampire vanishes away. Gilbert and Margaret wed. (Male vampire)
The anonymous (1823) German vampire novella, "The Mysterious Stranger" has recently been made available on LitGothic.com. This is one of the few sites that feature it in electronic format. Until I manage to find a copy on microfiche or in a local rare-book library, I will send you to LitGothic to read the story. I try not to plagiarize. The link below will lead you to a summary of this story in modern language.
The Mysterious Stranger: a Summary
1828 The Skeleton Count or The Vampire Mistress by Elizabeth Grey
An incredibly rare text, and the only place it can be found is in The Vampire Omnibus edited by Peter Haining. The link takes you to Abe Books which has more copies available more inexpensively than Amazon US currently does.
The Skeleton Count or The Vampire Mistress features Count Rudolph who (as did Dr. Faust) made a pact with the devil to be unaffected by age or death. The exchange was that he was to transform into a skeleton each night at sundown, and remain a skeleton until dawn. Rudolph is a necromancer/sorcerer and he wants to reanimate someone (to prove he can, I guess). He picks a beautiful young village named Bertha. She has long black hair with purple overtones, dark eyes, and a "surpassing symmetry of form and a loveliness of countenance" which has him all hot and bothered.
He draws a magic circle, places her in it, then touches her with his magic wand while "recit[ing] cabalistic words by which necromancers call to life the slumbering tenants of the grave." She reanimates but in order for the spell to be compete, she has to drink a magic cordial he has prepared for her. She wakes up senseless -- the blank slate children are supposed to be -- but really admires him. They talk until nightfall the next day, then do it until midnight. She zones out, exhausted, and she creeps out and her true character is known: vampire.
Appetite wetted now?
1833 "The Mortal Immortal" Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (yes, the Frankenstein Shelley) published "The Mortal Immortal" in 1833. Honestly, I am uncertain if this belongs on this list since there is no vampire in the story.
The story features a thoroughly nice young man. He drinks a potion which he believes will break him out of love with a local beauty, but it is really an immortality potion. It gives him a real lasting high. He stays with the female through her lifetime, and he is still wandering around, Methuselah style, years later. Click above, and read it for yourself.
1836 La Morte Amoureuse (The Dead Woman in Love) Gautier
Victim is an elderly priest Romuald who is taking his vows when sees the beautiful vampire Clarimonde. She offers him eternal youth if he will leave the church. (Note, she is in the Church!) He ignores her call; leaves town for assignment with his mentor Seraphion. Eventually he goes to deliver last rites to a woman, it is her. He awakens her by a kiss since she is so beautiful. He faints, and awakens THREE days later thinking he dreamt it. Eventually he goes to Venice with her, during day doing priestly stuff, and masked at night as Seignior Romuald of Venice. This takes a toll. He offers her his all. All his blood. Sérapion shows back up, and realizes what is happening. He takes Romuald to Clarimonde's tomb (daylight) revealing her body, miraculously preserved thanks to Romuald's blood. Sérapion poured holy water on Clarimonde's corpse, and she turned to dust. He never looks at another female. (female vampire)
1838 "Ligeia" Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe's "Ligeia" Unnamed narrator meets Ligeia and falls in love with her (she is the vampire) Ligeia dies, He goes crazy and gets hooked on opium. He marries Lady Rowena Trevanion although not over wife one. He doesn’t love her. She gets ill and the bastard wanders the halls lamenting his already dead first wife. After a few “get well/get sicks” she dies. Shortly before she dies he has a vision of a 3 - 4 drops of ruby red blood falling into the glass of wine she is drinking. She returns to life/ reborn as the Lady Ligeia.
Notes for Poe's "Ligeia"
James Malcom Rymer's Varney the Vampire (1845) is the first repeating weekly vampire serial in the English language -- or any other that I have heard of. It ran for 119 weeks. All too often it gets treated as the ugly step-child when early classic vampire literature gets mentioned. The critics tend to judge it by the same standards they would judge a major work of Gothic literature. It is like judging a weekly serial, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer by the same standards as an Opera.
Free! Sample chapter one of Risen From the Grave:Varney the Vampire: The Feast of Blood.
For more of the original version, travel over to Project Gutenberg. They list it under Prest as the author.
But this is an important enough vampire piece that it needs to be more widely read. So I am providing two options to modern readers who would prefer a Varney-lite.
1840's (Published 1884) "The Vourdalak" by Count Alexis Tolstoy
An interesting tale (but hard to find -- hence short summary) which is set in the outback of Serbia in the middle of nowhere. The protagonist is traveling on a diplomatic mission to the Prince of Moldavia and discovers he can't make it before full night falls. Hence he accepts a bed with a peasant family. The Grandfather goes off into the forest to fight bandit insurgents, and ten days later, just at night-fall, he comes back. Since he arrived just a nightfall, uncertain if he has been vampirized or not, he is invited back into his home. Everyone goes to bed, and that night he snacks on the blood of the youngest -- who doesn't die immediately -- but soon. He is buried, and three days later returns as well.
The grand-father had left instructions that if he returned after nightfall on the tenth day he was in the forest, they were to stake him with an aspen stake. Too late to save the life of the infant, George stakes him instead of the grandfather; releasing his soul.
The one vampire breeds another vampire who breeds another vampire until the village is abandoned and only vampires "live" there.
Poe 1850 Morella. Weird story about a man who is overwhelmingly in love with Morella until he has married her, bedded her, and spent several years studying with her. Then his feelings wane. She knows this change of feeling and ignores it… until she is dying while giving birth. At first he is thrilled with the infant… until time passes and she grows to look, sound, move, and express herself just like her mother. At an apparently late in life baptism, he finally names her… Morella after his wife… she faints and dies, and when he buried his child, there is no trace of the mother in the tomb.
1860 Anon. “Mysterious Stranger “ Set in Carpathia. Franziska is the heroine (and a spoiled and willful one at that), Bertha is her traveling companion, Baron Franz von Kronstein is in love with Franziska, Knight of Fahnenberg is her father who has inherited the Castle Klatka from a childless brother. They move to Klatka, and F loves everything Carpathian including the attractive Azzo (Ezzelin von Klatka) who only comes visit at night, controls the wolves, must return home (to his ruined chapel and crypt) every evening, who can turn to mist, has super-strong grip in his hands. She invites him in. Notably he can’t eat real food. He sucks blood from her throat repeatedly while she thinks she is dreaming it. He is eventually staked with three wooden nails driven through his coffin, at vesper while the Credo is said/sung by her companion. She must be the one to do it, and then must smear the dripping vampire blood on her throat, or she too will become a vampire. (Male vampire)
1867 The Last Lords of Gardonal: This link will take you to Gaslight, a Canadian Website
William Gilbert's two really despotic brothers, Conrad (who inherits the whole valley of Engadinand) and Hermann (inherits land in Bresciano district) on the border of Italy. Conrad is totally wacked, and takes everything he can get his hands on from his feudal tenants. He has a nasty band of brigands to help him. Herman isn’t much better, but he isn’t much in the story. Conrad is out Brigading one morning and spots the lovely Teresa, daughter of one of this tenant farmers. He has to “have” her. But he decides he wants to marry her. Her father turns down his offer, so he decides that he will kidnap her. He sends him men to do it, but they accidently kill her when they set fire to the farmhouse to drive the family out. They know what reception they will get upon their return if they tell the truth, so they lie. They maintain she got away. He goes ape-shit. He kidnaps the Mayor’s young son to hold til she comes to him. Eventually someone suggests that he visit the sorcerer who lives a few days travel away to find out where she is hidden. The sorcerer tells him that he, himself, will see Theresa delivered for marriage if Conrad gives up his despotic ways, and releases the young mayor’s son. He promises to do so, and after a few extremely magical and threatening incidents, Theresa shows up for marriage. It happens, and on the wedding night she jumps him and drinks his blood while she “slowly sucked from him his life's blood; while he, utterly incapable either of moving or crying, was yet perfectly conscious of the awful fate that was awaiting him.” By day, she is a normal individual, by night, a blood sucking vampire. Conrad flees to his brother, who sends him to his villa on the shore ten miles distant from Genoa. The night he arrives, Theresa shows up and offers him a goblet of blood. If he drinks, he will live forever, and she will have him to drink from forever. He doesn’t. The next AM he is found drained dry. She is gone.
1870 Vikram and the Vampire, at Project Gutenberg
Published in 1870 by Sir Richard F. Burton this is a wonderful 1001 Nights sort of story, set in Persia. It puts a fair amount of emphasis on the descriptions of people and locations. The vampire must find a new body yearly (think Kelly Armstrong's vampires).
(1872) "Carmilla" by Sheridan le Fenu solidified the identity of the female vampire and her illicit desire for the female victims. The seduction is couched in sexual terms, and the female victim, while uncomfortable with the intimacy of the seduction, allows the familiarity -- unable (or unwilling) to defend herself.
This particular heroine is a ditz.
Click here to read Le Fenu's "Carmilla"
If you lack time to read the full version, I offer the Study Guide (short version) at a reasonable price in my bookstore.
1884 A Vampire by A.S,G.
Seemingly written to be read to children, this interesting story features animals who must deal with an animal vampire. Interesting take. Available on Google books.
Click here to travel to googlebooks.
1887 "The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant
The 1887 "The Horla" by the French Guy de Maupassant is available online though the University of Virginia's electronic text database. The link will take you to it (it opens in a new window). Takes place on the Seine. Four days after he sees a “superb three-master” boat and impulsively waving at it, the supernatural being aboard the boat begin to haunt his home (he has unconsciously invited it in). At first the narrator suffers “an atrocious fever,” and has trouble sleeping. He wakes up from nightmares with the chilling feeling that someone is watching him and “kneeling on [his] chest.” The presence of the Horla becomes more and more intolerable to the protagonist, as it is “watching…looking at…[and] dominating” him. After reading about a large number of Brazilians who fled their homes, bemoaning the fact that “they are pursued, possessed, governed like human cattle by…a species of vampire, which feeds on their life while they are asleep…[and]drinks water,” the narrator soon realizes the Horla was aboard the Brazilian three-master that he had previously greeted. He feels so “lost” and “possessed” to the point that he is ready to kill either the Horla, or himself. (WIKI) (I still don't like the story -- too slow moving).
Click on me to open the story of the happy vampire, and sad victim
1887 Anne Crawford “The Mystery of the Campagna” The story is told by Robert Sutton. The victim, Marcello, is a composer of Operas. He takes it into his head to stay in the poor section of town, Porta San Gioviani, where there just happens to be a vampire out behind. He stays there over the protest of his friends. They try to talk sense into him, but once a few nights have passed, he is hooked. He has found the perfect model for his inspiration. He meets her out back by the catacomb crypts at sundown. The friends are too late to save Marcello, who they find has had his blood sucked out of a small incision over his heart. After taking him to be buried, they return in daylight to the crypt, where they find their way down to a place with a sarcophagus, and inside the body of a beautiful woman, with ruby red lips which still have blood upon them. There is a sign upon it which says, “The blood drinker, the vampire – and Flavius – the lover, ‘himself hardly saved’ from that deadly embrace, had buried her here, and set a seal upon her sepulcher, trusting the strength of the mortar to imprison the beautiful monster forever. He takes the pickaxe from his friend Magnin, and uses his knife to create a stake, which he then drives into the breast of Vespertilia. He stamped it in with his heel. (Female vampire)
1887 Julian Hawthorne “The Grave of Ethelind Fionguala” Set in Ireland. This is the story of Keningale who went on the trip to Ireland with a new banjo to tourist. He visits the Dragoon’s frequently since there is nothing to do. It is on his way back from a visit at night that he loses his way and wanders into the now deserted time (time travel) and wanders into the house of Ethelind Fionguala. When he walks in, it is empty and dilapidated. Then she walks in, and it is wonderful. She leeches the warmth from him, ages his banjo, but he walks out alive.
1896 "The Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary E Braddon
1896 "The Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary E. Braddon is our first vampire who mixes science into the traditional genre -- she gets the victims blood via transfusion; they fade gradually way, and she gets younger. The link will take you to one of the few locations where you can read the story free. (Female vampire)
It turns out that there really is a scientific basis between transfusions of young blood into older cells. The following link leads to a scientific (be warned -- language ahead) article covering research on the cutting edge of Alzheimer's research and their scientific experiments with blood.
Clicking here will open a new page about the uses of young blood to rejuvenate older individuals.
1900 "The Tomb of Sarah" by Frederick George Loring. This was published in Pall Mall. Click the hyperlink to travel over to Litgothic to read it.
1912 "The Room in the Tower"
Moving into the twentieth century we see the same elements of the Gothic appearing in short stories, such as this story by E. F. Benson.