Abraham "Bram" Stoker (November 8, 1847 – April 20, 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.
AT HIS INCEPTION, the vampire was a solitary figure. Typically the occupant of sprawling gothic ruins atop a desolate mountain, he was pallid, fanged, and obviously monstrous, occasionally distinguished from other members of his cohort by red eyes and other dramatic deformities. Often, he hailed from Transylvania, sometimes from other remote quarters of Eastern Europe — if we never learned just where, it only enhanced his mystique — where he invariably had an estate and a family fortune of opaque origins.
He was enigmatic, otherworldly, always a foreigner or a visitor from abroad, maddeningly standoffish and stubbornly impenetrable. Lord Ruthven, the protagonist of John William Polidori’s 1819 novella The Vampyr, had “nothing in common with other men,” and Dracula of the famed 1897 Bram Stoker novel lived in an all-but-inaccessibly remote fortress. Nosferatu, the iconic vampire in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film of the same name, sported claws, pointed ears, and a hunchback. He was strange, sullen and reclusive — nobody’s prom date.
In contrast, today’s vampires have traded their capes for fashionable leather jackets, their claws for manicures — and they’ve taken a turn for the social, crashing all manner of gatherings. From homecoming in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to prom in Twilight, from college fraternities in The Vampire Diaries to Merlotte’s Bar & Grill in True Blood,vampires have rapidly become the life of the human party. They’ve infiltrated our institutions (Twilight’s Edward and The Vampire Diaries’Stefan attend human high schools), and dated — and even occasionally married — our own (Buffy’s Buffy and True Blood’s Sookie boast a string of vampire boyfriends, and Twilight’s Bella marries hers). Starting in the 80s with films like My Best Friend is a Vampire, The Hunger, and Vampire’s Kiss, we’ve witnessed a host of vampires who seek to fit into society. The contemporary British series Being Human goes so far as to center on a vampire named Mitchell whose foremost ambition is to pass for a human being: “I just want something good and normal,” he confesses to his human love interest over a bloodless cup of coffee.
The transition from Nosferatu, so grotesque and off-putting, to Mitchell, who is charming and approachable (if somewhat anemic), is striking: creatures of the night, once satisfied to exist on the margins of society, have irrupted into our communities, intent on assimilation. Vampires like Dracula and Nosferatu helped us make sense of ourselves by differing from us so obviously, so savagely. They were monsters who brought our humanity into acute relief, outsiders who opposed human communities on the “inside.” They menaced us by standing against us, threatening not to obliterate us but rather to alter us — to change us into something terribly, appallingly other. Confronted with their freakishness, we were relieved by our comparative compassion; by what struck us, in the throes of self-satisfaction, as our humanity.
But today’s vampires cannot be counted on to provide such a dramatic contrast with their human counterparts. Where the threat was once external, bearing down on us from without, it’s become internal, originating within — and if it is often imperceptible, masquerading as your high school lab partner or a stranger at the bar, it is that much more treacherous, that much better equipped to chip away at our sense of self. Once, we had vampirism — Dracula — on the one hand, and humanity — Dracula’s righteous opponents — on the other. Now, we have Mitchell of Being Human and Edward of Twilight — vampires who are not quite vampire, humans who are not quite human.
A lesbian vampire couple abduct various passers-by, both male and female, to hold them captive at their rural manor in the English countryside in order to kill and feed on them to satisfy their insatiable thirst for blood.
... for it fades away like smoke above the earth.
They bloomed like flowers, were cut like grass,
Wrapped up in a linen and buried in the ground
Within an ancient church with lofty soaring dome,
Between tall waxen candles, does in her coffin lie,
Her face towards the altar, wrapped in white drapery,
The bride of brave King Harold, the King of Avari,
While softly chanted dirges do from the darkness come.
Upon the dead girl's breast a wreath of jewels glows,
Her golden hair hangs loosely over the coffin side,
Her eyes are sunken deep; a sad smile sanctified
Rest on her parched lips, that death to mauve has dyed,
While is her lovely face as pale as winter snows.
Beside her on his knees is Harold, mighty King,
And from his bloodshot eyes does shine untold despair,
His mouth with pain is drawn, dishevelled is his hair.
Though like a lion he would roar, grief holds him silent there;
Three days he thinks upon his life in nameless sorrowing.
"I was still but a child. Within the pine-tree glade
My greedy eyes already had conquered many a land,
I dreamed an empire grow beneath my fancy's wand,
I dreamed the world entire was under my command,
The foaming Volga's ford I fathomed with my blade.
Countless mighty hosts my youthful zeal led forth
By whom as of some God my name was worshipped.
I felt the very earth tremble beneath my tread;
Before my marching hosts the wandering nations fled,
Crowding in their terror the empty frozen North.
For Odin had deserted his frosty ancient home,
Down long and tortuous ways his wandering people went;
Priests with snowy locks and backs that time had bent
Roused and led through forests where peace an age had spent
Thousand diverse tongues along the way to Rome.