As my dog Rowie and I walk through our neighbourhood, I notice Halloween decorations beginning to mark our route. There is a white sheeted ghost with holes for eyes hanging from a tree limb. There is a witch that definitely needs to retake her flying permit. And there is no question that a vampire lurks behind a garage door as he leaves an over-turned styrofoam tomb stone and spatters of ‘high gloss Benjamin Moore Red’ blood in his wake.
Every Halloween, pint-sized vampires knock on my door holding their pillow cases waiting for me to toss in my extortion payment of chocolate bars and potato chips. As I look at them, I think that the Count from Sesame Street is more their costume model than Bela Lugosi. I know that as a young teen going trick or treating, well before Anne Rice and other vampire sagas were flying off the shelves, Count Floyd was a safe and fun way for us to give a token nod to the dark side.
Stories of vampires are grim tales and the sound tracks to these films are intense and blood curdling. These supernatural beings neither ghost or human, have probably spawned more horror movies than any other subject. Well before the birth of film, and before Bram Stoker’s 1897 book ‘Dracula’, the philosopher/ writer/composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) wrote: “If there is in this world a well-attested account, it is that of vampires. Nothing is lacking: official reports, affidavits of well-known people, of surgeons, of priests, of magistrates; the judicial proof is most complete. And with all that, who is there who believes in vampires?”
First track from Bram Stoker’s movie “Dracula” soundtrack.
Title “The Beginning”
Composer Wojciech Kilar
Garlic, crucifixes, blood, bats, the cover of darkness…images from horror flicks have been around since creation herself with the story of Adam and Eve.
Most of us know the basics of that biblical story and the problems of the snake, the apple, and the mess that got us into with the concept of ‘original sin’. But there are different versions of this tale that point to other terrors. One of them talks about Adam’s difficulty with women well before Eve makes her appearance. Did you know Adam had a first wife and her name was Lilith? According to the ‘Alphabet of Ben Sira’ (c. 800s to 900s), Lilith enjoyed sex. This sounds like the Garden of Eden for most men and you would think that this would have made Adam happy. But Lilith was the first woman’s liber. She felt in no uncertain terms that she was Adam’s equal. She wasn’t going to serve him and frankly his skills in the bedroom left her unimpressed. So she cursed Adam and flew to a new home by the Red Sea. Angels were sent to fetch her to bring her home but she cursed them too and decided that her time was better spent enjoying the pleasures of the flesh with her very capable demon lovers.
Lilith is considered to be the first vampire. There was no couch to curl up on and watch Reality TV so she roamed the earth at night looking for babies to ‘SUCK THEIR BLOOD’. Lilith’s daughters called Lilim were like their mother, lustful demons who frequently visited men in their dreams. Consequently, celibate monks slept with crucifixes to ward of these temptresses. And circles of chalk were drawn around the cribs of baby boys to protect them from the perils of the night.
Heart of Lilith – Inkubus Sukkubus
Truth is indeed much stranger than fiction, as the following ghastly story about a woman who believed in blood’s eternal and curative powers reveals.
In 1560 Countess Erzsebet of Bathory of Hungary was born into a rich and powerful family. They produced kings of Poland and Transylvania as well as a devil worshipper or two, a number of perverts and a few card-carrying members of the criminally insane club. In the style of Lilith, young Erzsebet enjoyed sex. After a fling with a peasant, and giving birth to a daughter nine months later, she married the Count Ferencz Nasasdy. Erzsebet was beautiful, highly intelligent and evil. She was fascinated by the dark mysteries of the occult and developed a horrid fascination with torture. When her husband died she became increasing preoccupied with ageing and decided it wasn’t for her. After she struck a servant girl for combing her hair to hard – drops of blood landed on face. She felt that it made her skin look younger and convinced herself that the elixir of eternal youth could be found in applying the blood of virgins to her skin. This quest for eternal youth resulted in her becoming one of the most notorious mass murders in history. Justice was eventually served. Her accomplices were tried and condemned to death. The Countess was walled in a chamber where she was fed through a small hole in the wall until she died 4 years later.
Elliot Goldenthal: ‘Interview with the Vampire’
This next story isn’t about blood but about the walking dead preferring evening strolls to lying under the summer sun working on their tan. Like Countess Erzebet, Petar Plogojowitz was born in Hungary. He died in 1725 and was given a proper burial. About 10 weeks later some strange sightings were reported. Local villagers claimed to witness Petar prowling the streets at night. He wasn’t content to just stretch his legs after lying in a coffin for 2 and a half months. He attacked some of the townspeople while they were sleeping in their beds and nine people reportedly died within a week. Peter’s terrified wife claimed that he visited her asking for his shoes. (I guess even vampires don’t want to walk on sharp stones.) The community members decided to exhume Petar’s body to dispose of him as a threat once and for all. When Petar’s body was dug up, they remarked that it was odour free. Also shocking was the fact that the only part of his body to decompose was his nose. Where his skin had fallen away, new skin was growing and blood was flowing from his mouth.
To destroy his body, stakes were driven through his heart while fresh blood oozed from his body. He was then burned and the village was no longer troubled.
John Morris: ‘A Transylvanian Lullaby’
Arnold Paole was a Belgrade military man. He returned from duty in the spring of 1727 and bought some land, built a home and found himself a local girl for a bride. Can you imagine her surprise when he told her that he fully expected to die young because he had been visited by a supernatural being when he’d been stationed in Greece? He added, (maybe to impress her with his bravery), that he’d hunted down the grave and burned the corpse. But, long after making his marriage vows, his premonition came true. He died after falling from a great height while working on his farm – and a month later several villagers claimed to have seen him out and about. Soon thereafter, most of the people who witnessed this strange occurrence also died. Well – you guessed it – a digging ceremony was in the works. When the grave diggers, cleric and town officials exhumed the body, they found a fresh corpse. Arnold Paole looked remarkably good for a fellow that had been dead for a couple of months. There was no decomposition. Old skin and nails had fallen out only to be replaced by new ones. And the kicker was that fresh blood also rested on his lips. The grave diggers and the local priest scattered garlic around the corpse, and visited the graves of each of the victims of the dead Paole.
All was quiet until 5 years later. In 1732 – more unexplained deaths occurred. With Arnold Paole’s nightly prowling activities still fresh in their memory, the villagers took no chances. They immediately sent out a group of officials to the graveyard to investigate. Their report – signed by 3 renowned army surgeons and co-signed by a lieutenant-colonel and a sub-lieutenant – stated that they’d found no less than 11 corpses that displayed the same marks as Paole’s corpse. No explanation was given. Those who believe and study vampire lore suggest the deaths were caused by Paole snacking on the blood of local cattle as well as people during his nightly terrors, Then as time passed, the cows were killed for their meat, and the vampire qualities were passed on to anyone who ate the flesh.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1979). Composed and Conducted by John Williams, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The most famous vampire of them all was Vlad Tepes – The Impaler, The Prince of Wallachia, the Knight of the Order of the Dragon – DRACULA. Prince Dracula was not a vampire in the classical sense of the word but his evil surely came from a dark place where ordinary folk find unimaginable.
Vlad’s father was on good terms with Sigismund I of Luxemburg, the King of Hungary. He travelled to the Transylvanian border of Wallachia – The area of the present day Romania south of the Carpathian Mountains. This is where his second son, Vlad was born. Vlad’s mother was believed to have been Princess Mara of Hungary. Because Vlad’s father had been a faithful supporter of Sigismund, the King appointed him to be ruler of Wallachia. The King also invested him to the secret Knightly Order – the order of the Dragon, a Christian brotherhood dedicated to fighting the Turks. He became known as Vlad Dracul, or Vlad the Dragon.
The image of a dragon on a double cross hung around his neck and was imprinted on his shield. It was also identical to the Romanian Orthodox image of the devil. The word Dracul can be translated either as ‘dragon’ or ‘devil.’ For the average villager this terrifying symbol convinced them that Vlad had made a pack with the devil.
DRACULA Acto I (Parte 1) Rumbo a la estacion
Philip Feeney Dracula
Vlad was fascinated by death. As a boy he’d watched the hanging of criminals near the castle – and had developed not only a thirst for cruelty but a cunning mind. He’d also studied his father’s shrewd shifting of alliances between Transylvania, Turkey and Hungary. In December 1447 Vlad’s father was murdered and his brother was burned alive under the orders of the Hungarian governor and the elite ruling families of Wallachia. Vlad who was held captive by the Sultan, but escaped and reclaimed the Wallachian throne in 1456 at the age of 25. Not surprisingly, he had no love for the Turks or the aristocracy. ‘In the spring of 1457, on Easter Day, he took a force and surrounded the boyars at feast. He took their wives and children and impaled them around the feast tables, then chained the men and carried them away as slave labour to his new palace.’ Vlad’s rule was horrific. His cruelty was legendary as was his dealing with his enemies or those less fortunate. He was accused of the deaths of 40,000 – 100,000 people in ways that are much to gruesome for me to write about.
Vlad – Dracul’s notoriety was spread by books and pamphlets written by horrified Saxons. His legacy tortured the villagers of Wallachia and Transylvania for centuries – and they lived in fear that he would return to continue his reign of terror.
Philip Glass & Kronos Quartet – Dr. Van Helsing and Dracula (Dracula Soundtrack)
400 years after the death of Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s story triggered the imagination of the Irish writer Bram Stoker. His Dracula lived in a castle in Transylvania, lured his victims and drank their blood.
James Bernard Dracula
The Philharmonic Orchestra