It’s still the weekend, so we’re not late yet (just barely) for the Spooky Song Of The Week. This time, it’s “The Vampire Waltz,” by Hannah Fury. Fury is an American singer-songwriter not unlike Tori Amos, except that Fury focuses more on melancholy than anything else and is too shy for live performances. Fury began songwriting at the age of 15, and this tune was her first effort. As a debut, it’s a damned fine one; and vampires, of course, are spooky and appropriate for Halloween.
You can’t think about vampires without thinking of that granddaddy story of them all, Dracula. Author Bram Stoker was Irish. This is something I didn’t know until recently, but doubtless it informed his writing. He may have set his creepy Gothic novel about vampires in Transylvania (then part of the kingdom of Hungary, now in Romania) and combined what he’d learned about Romanian folk tales, but due to his Gaelic heritage he probably already knew a few stories about vampires. And we don’t mean the Twilight kind, either. Besides, Stoker was the business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London and also knew of the novel Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, the leading teller of ghost tales then. Carmilla may have been the first vampire novel ever.
Stoker wove his knowledge of Irish stories with his research about the myths of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania and the history of Vlad III the Impaler, prince of 15th-century Wallachia (now part of Romania). Vlad, also known by his patronymic as Vlad Dracul or Dracula, was cruel and ruthless in pursuit of the enemy Ottoman Turks, who were constantly trying to invade the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its client states; impaling his enemies and, apparently, letting them bleed to death was his favored form of execution. This may have been suggestive to Stoker about characterizing Dracula as a vampire.
But it probably all started with the Irish folk tales. Courtesy of Ed Mooney of Ed Mooney Photography in County Kildare, Ireland (thanks, Ed!), we have the tale of Dearg Due. I love the idea that one of the first vampires (if indeed she was one of the first) may have been a wronged woman. But as is usually the case, you have to be careful what you wish for, because it may not turn out exactly as you hoped. The wrong woman wished for vengeance and reunion with her true love, presumably, but what came of it was not quite that.
Our story begins with an incomparable beauty, pale of hair and face with blood-red lips, betrothed against her will to a wealthy, cruel, older man in a marriage arranged by her greedy father. Actually, in this case, both men were greedy – never a good sign. She had a handsome, faithful peasant boy for a lover, but her father forbade her to see him and the wedding went ahead. Predictably, the nasty husband was steadily abusive for several years, and our young heroine was not long for this world. Whether she died at his hands, of a broken heart, or committed suicide is lost to time, as is her name; but she died soon enough, and unhappily. Legend has it, however, that before she died she swore a terrible vengeance.
The abusive husband wasted no time – before she was even in her grave, the story goes, the lecher had already remarried and was bedding his new wife in our poor heroine’s bed. Meanwhile, the peasant boy was the only one to mourn her and, visiting her grave often, prayed for her to come back to him. Here’s where the story gets interesting. One year from the day of her death, the young woman rose from her grave and went first to her unfeeling father’s house; finding him asleep, she sucked the life from him and left him dead. Next she went for her husband, who was so involved with his new wife and she with him that neither noticed the girl’s presence. Enraged and vengeful, she not only sucked the life from both of them but also their blood. This appears to be the turning point: the fresh blood made her feel alive again, and she went in search of other lustful, faithless men to drain them of life as well. This so consumed her that she forgot all about visiting her one true love and letting him know that she appreciated his loyalty and devotion. Instead, she became like a wild beast, trying to sate her anger and her thirst with more deaths; but unsated she remained, and the rampage continued.
After that, she rose at will from her grave, using her stunning beauty to lure more men to their deaths. It was said that the only way to prevent her from doing this was to cover her grave with heavy stones. That was the theory, anyway. Did it work? Well, the locals did that for many a year, but now and then, somebody forgot to keep the stones in order and, well, you can imagine …
Anyway, since we bothered to mention Dracula, one good waltz deserves another. Here’s the waltz from the film Van Helsing (I need only the smallest excuse to mention anything with the luscious Hugh Jackman in it). Enjoy!
Your own Gothic deejay,