I’ve been over the vampire thing for a bit but every once in awhile an old school one finds me and I can’t help but read it. While looking on the Gutenberg Project for some horror recently, I found this one. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a Victorian, Gothic, psychic vampire.
Reginald Clarke is a man everyone loves. He’s talented in every way and people crave his company. Artists flock to him and he takes in writers, musicians, and painters to his home. But something happens to all these talented people — they soon leave him with nothing, not a trace of the talent they arrived with. A young writer staying with Reginald, and for all purposes, under his spell, figures it out and tries to get out from under Reginald’s enchantment.
The House of the Vampire is good and creepy and the type of vampire story I want more of. There’s no blood and certainly no sparkling going on here. Let’s all take a moment to be thankful for that. It’s an interesting concept, a psychic vampire, and frankly one that’s more terrifying, in some ways, than an actual blood sucking vampire. This is someone stealing who and what you are. Taking it for himself and using it to his advantage until there’s nothing left of you. You are a shell of a human being with nothing to give or take from anyone. Think about that.
If Wikipedia is correct, this short story was written in 1907 but it feels younger than its 100 + years.
The House of the Vampire
By George Sylvester Viereck
Gutenberg Project Ebook
I’ve never read Lovecraft; I always had good intentions though. Time got away from me and I kept saying I would get to it. I never did, until recently that is. I found a story, this one in fact, while browsing the Gutenberg Project website. It was the only Lovecraft story they had listed and I thought why not, I always meant to read one of his stories.
An abandoned house sits on Benefit Street in the New England town of Providence, Rhode Island. The house, empty for years, is the source of many rumors, and many of these rumors have easily been explained away by most of the town’s people. Then one man and his uncle decide to finally put an end to the rumors. Both have a very strong interest in the house and have been actively researching it for years. They plan to spend the night in the basement of the house and discover the source of the supernatural rumors.
For a short story, about 35 pages, The Shunned House packs in so much. I loved the rumors, all neatly explained away by stoic New Englanders, the research done on the house and all its inhabitants, and the guesses as to the source of the possible supernatural on-goings at the place. It had a great creepy feeling, yet, having read it at lunch, it didn’t scare me much but I’m not sure if I’d go in for reading this while cozy in bed. At least not without all the lights on…but that would be a great way to read Lovecraft, if you aren’t attached to sleeping at all.
The Shunned House
By H.P. Lovecraft
A Gutenberg Project Ebook
Smith wakes up to find himself dirty and in an unknown place. Realizing the gravity of his situation, he decides he must get to the nearest town to clean up and find out what has happened. He begins his journey but recognizes nothing along the way. When he comes upon a group of people, a funeral in fact, he makes himself known and they take him home with them. During his time with the people kind enough to take him in, he begins to fall deeply in love with a woman named Yolette. His inability to understand his new situation and new home, lead to dire consequences.
It’s a great anthropological sort of story. Smith doesn’t understand the culture he’s now a part of. In some ways, he doesn’t want to understand it either and makes no attempt to figure things out with the exception of basic language skills. What he’s learned is all to his advantage though, it’s not to understand or even be able to thank the people who have taken him in, fed him, clothed him, and cared for him. He makes no effort to embrace this new life even after it’s clear that he isn’t going back to his world or time. While there, he becomes obsesses with a woman named Yolette. The love he professes to her is more an all consuming obsession and possession which she doesn’t understand, and by all rights, should feel uncomfortable with. I was uncomfortable with his weird obsession with her as the reader and wouldn’t want to be the receiver of those types of feelings. Smith, however, doesn’t think any of his actions are outside the bounds of normalcy.
There’s no explanation as to how Smith got to this new place or what happened to his old world. Smith doesn’t seem overly curious about it either which is rightly frustrating. He wants so much for things to be what they were but he doesn’t seem to miss the old place just what was familiar and understandable to him. He’s a very odd character that way which is frustrating because it would have been wonderful to see this world through his eyes. Instead we’re stuck with his complaining and pining for what he knew.
I kept thinking of The Left Hand of Darkness with the anthropological aspects and the story of an explorer who comes to a new land that is very different from his own. I liked that Smith was somewhat interested (even if it was only to get something to his advantage) but didn’t on some level have the ability to understand whereas the character in The Left Hand of Darkness did understand but didn’t, to me anyway, seem interested as he was supposed to be observing and not getting involved per se.
The ending, while not giving it away, is a total cop out. In dealing with his feeling for Yolette, Smith succumbs to a depression. The black wolf that follows him and waits patiently for him to wake each morning to become his shadow is the physical embodiment of this depression. It’s effective but letting that get the better of him felt wrong to me. It’s also a matter of his ignorance and the culture he has become integrated with. All around, Smith was a frustrating character and somewhat unlikeable.
It’s an interesting story though and I’m glad to have picked it up even if I can’t say it was a great book. It has its moments and there were more than enough appealing bits to keep me reading.
A Crystal Time
Gutenberg Project Ebook