La-Morte-Amoureuse-crop-300x229In prepa­ra­tion for Hal­loween, my favorite hol­i­day, I always like to revis­it favorite spooky sto­ries. This year I’m fol­low­ing the excel­lent sug­ges­tion of my friend Charles R. Rut­ledge, the tal­ent­ed author of crime and hor­ror fic­tion like the Grif­fin and Price series (with James Moore). Every year Charles ush­ers in Hal­loween by cre­at­ing an imag­i­nary anthol­o­gy of favorite tales, and this year he has cho­sen to focus on vam­pire sto­ries. Know­ing of my fond­ness for vam­pires, he sug­gest­ed that I join him in this ven­ture. I’ll link to Charles’s choic­es at the end of my list. Here are my selec­tions for the 2016 DeWees Vam­pire Anthol­o­gy.

Théophile Gau­ti­er, La Morte amoureuse (often trans­lat­ed under the title “Cla­ri­monde” or “The Dead Woman in Love,” 1836). Hands down my favorite vam­pire romance, this is also the rare 19th-cen­tu­ry work that doesn’t use the fig­ure of the female vam­pire in a spir­it of misog­y­ny. Gautier’s radi­ant cour­te­san Cla­ri­monde, who returns from the dead to be with the smit­ten young priest (!) she loves, is a warm, lus­cious god­dess of love and plea­sure, a far more attrac­tive choice than the cold, stern, and ster­ile world of reli­gion, which tries to draw Romuald out of Clarimonde’s arms and back to the straight and nar­row. Per­haps because of its dar­ing in pre­sent­ing reli­gion in such a neg­a­tive way, this sto­ry is not anthol­o­gized near­ly as often as it deserves to be. The 1908 Laf­ca­dio Hearn trans­la­tion (for­tu­nate­ly the most fre­quent­ly found) is my favorite for its sheer poet­ry; read it online here.

Ken’s Mys­tery,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian (1888), is a gen­tle, poignant sto­ry that I wish were far longer. Like many sto­ries from this era, it is a sto­ry with­in a sto­ry, and the set­up goes on so long that the real meat of the tale—the encounter between the charm­ing Keningale and the elfin vam­pire bride—feels insuf­fi­cient. But that’s part­ly because I enjoy this wist­ful tale of Ken find­ing his ide­al woman in a vam­pire who car­ries with her the romance and poet­ry of an ear­li­er era, and I want to see more of this cou­ple. Read it here.

Mary Eliz­a­beth Brad­don, “Good Lady Ducayne” (1896). The moth­er of the sen­sa­tion fic­tion genre, which she launched in 1867 with the still-fas­ci­nat­ing Lady Audley’s Secret, Brad­don wrote many excel­lent sto­ries of the super­nat­ur­al. There’s lit­tle of the overt­ly super­nat­ur­al here, but the plucky hero­ine is charm­ing, and you can’t help but root for her to defeat the wicked old (lit­er­al) par­a­site Lady Ducayne, who uses up inno­cent young women to unnat­u­ral­ly extend her own life. There’s even a love sto­ry with a stal­wart young doc­tor to pro­vide a hap­py end­ing. Read it online here.

H.B. Mar­i­on Watson’s “The Stone Cham­ber” (1899) is intrigu­ing because it com­bines a sol­id vam­pire sto­ry with a pos­ses­sion plot. The vam­pire that preys upon the two ini­tial­ly ami­able young chaps in the sto­ry infects them with the spir­it of a drunk­en, vio­lent roué, with dis­tress­ing effects. Find it in the anthol­o­gy Dracula’s Brood, edit­ed by Richard Dal­by (1987), or read it online here.

E.F. Ben­son, “Mrs. Amworth” (1920). An exceed­ing­ly unusu­al female vam­pire, a far cry from the beau­ti­ful, seduc­tive fig­ures we are accus­tomed to see­ing. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anoth­er sto­ry in which the she-vam­pire was described as “jol­ly”! Nor is this vibrant wid­ow wai­flike or wast­ing. Per­haps it’s this genial, thor­ough­ly mun­dane “vam­pire next door” qual­i­ty that makes her vam­pir­ic activ­i­ties even creepi­er. In oth­er respects this is a good, sol­id sto­ry of the type in which a super­nat­ur­al threat is iden­ti­fied and then van­quished. Read online here, or watch the 1975 tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion on YouTube.

C.L. (Cather­ine) Moore, “Sham­bleau” (1933). I don’t read a great deal of sci­ence fic­tion, but this land­mark cross-genre tale by Cather­ine Moore, her first pub­lished work, has always remained vivid in my mem­o­ry. When inter­plan­e­tary adven­tur­er North­west Smith res­cues an odd young woman from a mob, he has no idea what he is get­ting him­self into. His new trav­el­ing com­pan­ion is a Sham­bleau, a mind vam­pire who sends her ten­ta­cles into your soul to feed. (I can’t help but won­der if this sto­ry was a pre­cur­sor to Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl With the Hun­gry Eyes,” from 1949.) There’s a squicky eroti­cism to the creature’s pre­da­tions that proves irre­sistible to Smith, lead­ing some crit­ics to hail the sto­ry as a depic­tion of addic­tion. Find it online here.

Hen­ry Kut­tner, “Mas­quer­ade” (1942). Meta before the term exist­ed, “Mas­quer­ade” is a delight­ful sto­ry that man­ages to be both tongue in cheek and gen­uine­ly creepy. The writer pro­tag­o­nist sees noth­ing but a bunch of bad hor­ror-fic­tion clichés when he and his wife are forced to take shel­ter from a storm in a crum­bling old house staffed with creepy yet self-aware back­woods ser­i­al-killer types who like to make wise­cracks about vam­pires. Are they pulling the legs of their guests, or is more going on? A per­fect­ly deli­cious yet some­how bit­ter­sweet end­ing is the mas­ter stroke. I also love the rela­tion­ship between the hus­band and wife, who wise­crack but share gen­uine ten­der­ness despite all their years togeth­er. It may be sen­ti­men­tal of me, but I like to imag­ine that it reflects the rela­tion­ship of Kut­tner and his writer wife, C.L. Moore (author of “Sham­bleau,” above), who fre­quent­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed with him. I haven’t been able to find an online source, but you can read it in the anthol­o­gy Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Ter­rors (1988), edit­ed by Mar­tin H. Green­berg, Robert Wein­berg, and Ste­fan R. Dziemi­anow­icz. Note: this was tele­vised in 1961 for Boris Karloff’s Thriller TV show, with Eliz­a­beth Mont­gomery (Bewitched) and Tom Pos­ton (Newhart). The sto­ry is supe­ri­or, but it’s a cute adap­ta­tion even though it has to stretch the sto­ry to fill the run­ning time. View it here.

Joan­na Russ, “My Dear Emi­ly” (1962). In the 1880s, docile, respectable young Emi­ly gains free­dom from the sti­fling world she was born into when a vam­pire takes her as his prey and lover. Russ’s fem­i­nist vam­pire sto­ry has stayed with me for many years, in part because it’s set in the Vic­to­ri­an era, my favorite peri­od for vam­pires (although it takes place, unusu­al­ly, in San Fran­cis­co). The bit­ter­sweet end­ing always sad­dened me until I dis­cov­ered Russ’s orig­i­nal end­ing, which can be found in her col­lec­tion The Zanz­ibar Cat--it is down­right blood-chill­ing. I’m a roman­tic, so I’ll take the bit­ter­sweet one, which can be found in antholo­gies such as Mas­ters of Fan­ta­sy, edit­ed by Mar­tin H. Green­berg and Ter­ry Carr, and The Dark Descent, edit­ed by David G. Hartwell. You can take your pick, too; it’s an evoca­tive tale in either form.

Robert Aick­man, “Pages From a Young Girl’s Jour­nal” (1975). Robert Aick­man was a mod­ern mas­ter of atmos­phere, as can be seen in such bril­liant­ly unnerv­ing sto­ry col­lec­tions as Cold Hand in Mine and The Unset­tled Dust. Unusu­al­ly for Aick­man, this is a peri­od piece, which lov­ing­ly evokes the 19th-cen­tu­ry British cul­ture that infus­es so much of our sense of the roman­tic vam­pire even today. This sweet­ly creepy tale is nar­rat­ed by a young, rest­less girl who is trav­el­ing in Italy with her par­ents and begins to observe some strange goings-on… and to find her­self fas­ci­nat­ed with a mys­te­ri­ous stranger. Read it online here.

Dick Bald­win, “Mon­ey Talks” (1981). A deli­cious, sly swipe at sta­tus-sym­bol-lov­ing yup­pies fused with a good sol­id (yet com­pact) vam­pire sto­ry, “Mon­ey Talks” is per­haps the best exam­ple I have yet found of vam­pire mythol­o­gy in which the effec­tive­ness of weapons against the vam­pire lies not in their reli­gious sym­bol­ism but in the faith of the per­son wield­ing them. Sus­pense­ful, with a won­der­ful­ly repel­lent vam­pire, and a bril­liant end­ing. This def­i­nite­ly deserves to be more wide­ly known. Find it in Ghosts: A Trea­sury of Chill­ing Tales Old and New, edit­ed by Mar­vin Kaye and Sar­alee Kaye.

Tanith Lee, “Bite-Me-Not or Fleur de Feu” (1984). The leg­endary Tanith Lee brings her inim­itable style to a one-of-a-kind sto­ry of doomed love between vam­pire and mor­tal. “Fleur-de-Fer” reads like a for­got­ten fairy tale or folk bal­lad from the time before such tales were cleansed of their vio­lence and pow­er; in ele­gant, myth-spin­ning prose she cre­ates vam­pires that are tru­ly alien to humans, more akin to birds and angels than to the crea­tures they prey upon. Yet in this unlike­ly sce­nario, a scullery maid will res­cue a fall­en vam­pire prince, and theirs becomes a beau­ti­ful, bit­ter­sweet tragedy with a poignant, per­fect end­ing. Utter­ly orig­i­nal yet with a time­less qual­i­ty. Read it online here if you don’t mind lousy for­mat­ting, or find it in The Pen­guin Book of Vam­pire Sto­ries, edit­ed by Alan Ryan. Lee is also the author of “Red as Blood,” a fairy-tale retelling that reimag­ines Snow White as a vam­pire and is well worth a read.

I hope this list has giv­en you some promis­ing leads on vam­pire sto­ries you’ll enjoy explor­ing dur­ing Hal­loween sea­son. And for even more great vam­pire tales, see Charles’s sug­ges­tions here. Hap­py read­ing!