Peter Haining – The Midnight People
Posted by demonik on September 7, 2007
Peter Haining (ed) – The Midnight People (Leslie Frewin, 1968; Ensign, 1974: Everest, 1975)
Introduction – Peter Haining
Montague Summers – Fritz Haarmann ‘The Hanover Vampire’ Augustus Hare – The Vampire of Croglin Grange
John Polidori – The Vampyre
Thomas Preskett Prest – The Storm Visitor
Bram Stoker – Three Young Ladies
M. R. James – An Episode of Cathedral History
August Derleth – Bat’s Belfry
E. F. Benson – ‘And No Bird Sings’
Sydney Horler – The Believer –
‘Stephen Grendon’ (August Derleth) – The Drifting Snow –
Manly Wade Wellman – When It Was Moonlight –
P. Schuyler Miller – Over the River
Richard Matheson – Drink My Blood
Ray Bradbury – Pillar of Fire
Basil Copper – Dr Porthos
Robert Bloch – The Living Dead
Fritz Leiber – The Girl with the Hungry Eyes
Postcript – Montague Summers
The two Montague Summers extracts are an account of a notorious murderer and cannibal and Summers’ thoughts on ‘real’ cases of supernatural vampirism which he believed to be “hushed up” by the authorities. Hare’s famous account of the Croglin case also claims to be factual. Read “The Storm Visitor” (wrongly attributed to Prest: it was actually written by James Malcolm Rymer), the opening chapter from “Varney, the Vampyre”, and you’ll notice some alarming similarities between the two. Stoker’s “Three Young Ladies” is another extract, this from “Dracula”, where-in Harker encounters the Vampire brides.
Manly Wade Wellman – “When It Was Moonlight”: An episode in the life of Edgar Allan Poe: Eddie, investigating a reported case of premature burial in Philadelphia, encounters the woman who survived the ordeal, Elva Gauber. His ensuing efforts to get to the truth about the incident almost costs him his life, but it does give him the germ of the idea for “The Black Cat”.
Basil Copper – “Dr Porthos”: Famously bonkers Gothic yarn owing much to Poe and Lovecraft. when Angelina falls ill, her husband suspects that the physician who tends her is in some way to blame. A midnight attack, which leaves the patient bleeding from the neck, hints strongly as to the nature of her assailant. Narrator’s grim determination to keep his journal up to date whatever the circumstances recalls the anti-hero of C. M. Eddy’s “The Loved Dead”, and leads to an (intentionally?) ludicrous climax .
Copper devotes an entire chapter to his story in “The Vampire: In Legend, Fact And Art”, but it’s by no means as convincing as his “The Knocker At The Portico”, with which it shares an almost identical plot.
Richard Matheson – “Drink My Blood”: Jules is obsessed with vampires. He tells of his ambition to become one in a composition which he reads aloud to his teacher and terrified classmates (it reads like the outro to the Mothers of Invention’s “Who needs the Peace Corps?” if Zappa had been targeting phony Goths as opposed to phony Hippies) : “I want to live forever and get even with everybody and make all the girls vampires. I want to smell of death … I want to have a foul breath that stinks of dead earth and crypts and sweet coffins”.
Eventually he kidnaps a bat from the zoo, names it ‘The Count’ and nicks his finger to feed it blood. His devotion is ultimately rewarded.
Fritz Leiber – “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”: “There are vampires and vampires and the ones that suck blood aren’t the worst …”
The lethal beauty at the centre of this acknowledged classic is the Monroe-like projection of man’s desires made flesh. Dave, her photographer, finally learns her secret when he finally ignores her warning never to follow her when she leaves the studio …
Sydney Horler – “The Believer”: Two Roman Catholic priests discuss the case of a man of whom everyone seemed to have an “instinctive horror”. When a terrible murder is committed, leaving the victim minus most of her throat, the shunned individual confesses to Father ——, who, of course, he is powerless to pass on the information to the police.
‘Stephen Grendon’ (August Derleth) – “The Drifting Snow”: Aunt Mary insists the curtains remain drawn after sunset. When Henry decides to open them, he sees two beckoning figures outside. It transpires that a servant girl froze to death on the Western slope after being dismissed from the house during a snowstorm.
Robert Bloch – “The Living Dead”: World War II. Erich Karon, an ex-actor in the Paris Grand Guignol, is a Nazi collaborator. To keep the villagers away from Chateau Barsac, where three radio operators are holed up, he masquerades as the district’s vampire count of legend. With the advance of the allies, he realises the game is up and makes to abscond. But …
Ray Bradbury – “Pillar Of Fire”: In the year 2349, dead people have been abolished. The last cemetery – at Salem – is being excavated, the bodies fed into the incinerator, the pillar of fire, by order of the Government who have outlawed morbidity. Disturbed during the excavation is William Lantry (1898-1933). Reanimated by sheer hatred, he declares war on this dreadful, soulless world in which “the living are deader than dead ever was”. Lantry commits the first murders in 300 years and blows up several of the incinerators then heads for the morgue and attempts to resurrect the dead. In one touching scene, he visits the library and requests something by Poe, only to be told by the assistant: “there is a red mark on the file card. He was one of the great burning of 2265”. As with Poe, so with Lovecraft, Derleth, Bierce, Machen, and co.
Bradbury would return to this theme – society destroying imagination – throughout his career in the novel “Fahrenheit 451” (1953) and such stories as “Usher II” and “The Exiles”. The last word to William Lantry: “That is the worst thing you can say to any man. You cannot tell him what to do. If you say there are no such things as vampires, by God, that man will try to be one just for spite”.
Vampires At Midnight
The Warner edition, retitled Vampires At Midnight (1993) is supplemented by an introduction by C. Lee (the usual ‘did I ever tell you I met M. R. James’ anecdote) but otherwise it’s business as usual.
For the Haining biblio freaks among us, this confirms that there was an earlier US edition. “Published in the United States (as Vampires At Midnight) in 1970 by Grosset & Dunlap”
Thanks to nightreader for this one too!