Carmilla – A prequel to Dracula

For the uninitiated, which I was, Carmilla is a Gotchic (read saucy) novella that was originally published in 1872 and is believed by many to be the foundation upon which Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. It certainly has all the elements such as shape shifting, neck biting, seduction, rising from the grave, a vampire slayer and of course the hunting of the vampire to drive a stake through the heart.

In this story, we have a female vampire that is seducing and then taking the life of female victims. Considering the time period this book was written in that alone makes this quite a risqué story. Carmilla is the mysterious stranger who has to be rescued after her horse and cart meet with an accident. Her mother has urgent business and can’t spare the time to stop and take care of her child so she leaves her in the care of Laura and her father. (Apparently babysitting was much different back in the late 1800’s). To add to the mystery Carmilla’s mother has forbidden her from speaking of their past or their destination. She even tells Laura’s father not to ask about them right before she rides off.

As you may expect, once Carmilla is around all sorts of strange things begin to happen. First off, Laura recognizes Carmilla from dreams she had over a decade ago. Additionally, Carmilla begins to seduce Laura, lavishing her with praise and stirring up odd feelings in her. When some old restored photos show up at the house they’re amazed to find that one of the pictures looks exactly like Carmilla. Of course, the portrait was done over a hundred years ago. (You always know that’s a bad sign. There is also the other subtle sign of Carmilla sleeping all day and disappearing at night.)

Ironically there is a malady going around the village where young girls are becoming sick and dying. In some cases the young girls only live a couple of days. It’s not too far of a leap to guess that Laura gets this same malady and becomes increasingly pale and lethargic. Doctors are brought in but they fear something more supernatural is going on. This leads to an investigation, a hunt and stories of more girls suffering in the same way as Laura. Pretty soon it’s obvious Carmilla isn’t who she claims to be nor is she anywhere near as young as anyone thinks.

If anything, this is a condensed version of Dracula and is really quite good. It has the same first person narrative style told by the victim (although Dracula brings in a lot more characters and many different forms of telling the story) and has many of the same elements; which it should considering it was written first. There is a lot of interesting lore to gather from this story, and clearly sets up the vampire legend. If you have a chance and want to get to the origins of the vampire, this is worth reading.

Carmilla on Librivox
Carmilla on Wikipedia

Dracula – The book is nothing like any of the movies

Since I’m already in my Halloween mood, I just finished reading the original Dracula. In actuality I listened to it as an audiobook from I’ve been listening to it for the past several days at the office while I did my regular work. It’s a really good recording and well worth the time.

It was terribly good fun, but it was almost laughable at how different the actual book is versus what we have come to know "about" the book. Taking a step back, the original Dracula starring Bela Legosi (or any other rendition really) is nothing like the original story. In the main novel Dracula shows up for the first two chapters while revealing his plans to Harker and then all but disappears for the rest of it. He does show up here and there to deliver a few lines but otherwise we "feel" his presence rather than see his person.

Another thing that really caught me was the idea that Dracula is a handsome seducer that merely has to look at women and they fall under his spell. There is certainly seduction in the very early stages of the novel and the idea of sexuality is obviously prevalent, but you don’t actually see Dracula running around bending the will of women and luring them. His actions are very much out of sight and you only see some of the end result.

To take it step further, Dracula isn’t even a main character in the original. We barely see him, we mainly hear of his deeds and the fear he causes. If anything, Dr. Seward and Van Helsing are the main characters with Mina and John Harker having major supporting roles. Everything is about the hunt for Dracula not their interaction with him. Even the "final showdown" barely has Dracula involved. Van Helsing and group cross the vast oceans on a long trek, then make their attack against the gypsies that are protecting Dracula. But once they fight off the gypsies, Dracula is defenseless and is killed without putting up and sort of fight. There is no mortal struggle between Van Helsing and Dracula as we see so often.

I also found it humorous that Dracula is killed with a knife in the heart and not a wooden stake as we are all so accustomed to. And let’s not forget that lopping off of the head bit. That usually gets left out. To graphic for television? Hard to say.

We all know the "legend" of Dracula, but this was a great reminder that the legend and the original story aren’t really that similar. Anyone else agree or am I out on a limb here?

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Funny how the paranormal has changed

I was watching Season 1 of the X-Files over the weekend (ah, the nostalgia of it all) and the thing I found funny was the use of the word paranormal. In this specific case (and we all know how popular the X-Files became, and still is) paranormal almost exclusively meant UFOs and aliens. There were plenty of genetic mutation episodes but the main crux was of course the aliens and the abductions. Yes, yes, government conspiracies and cover-ups too. Stay focused.

Jump ahead a few years and the term paranormal is almost unanimously associated with ghosts and spirits. You don’t hear too much about flying objects anymore, but everyone seems to be having ghost sightings. Seems like just about every other home in the country is haunted these days. Libraries have sprits. Schools, jails, asylums, factories and even lighthouses have them.

Just funny how the same term has come to mean something completely different, at least to me anyway. Mulder had people looking to the sky, while Jason and Grant have people looking under the bed. Anyone else noticed the same thing?

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Paranormal TV – Which shows are coming back?

I’m getting my desktop ready and I’m looking forward to some new seasons of investigations. It looks like we lost a few shows along the way, but to be honest, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A few of those shows needed to go and a couple more still need to go. So which ones do I think are coming back?

Shows on now:

Right now there is only one show back on the air and it’s GHI. I really liked the first season of this show but there have been dozens of cast changes and the way they break up the season is just maddening. I can’t say how much longer I’ll be on board for this one.

Shows coming soon:

I know two shows will be starting soon, Destination Truth on September 9th and Ghost Adventures starting up in September as well. These are the two I’m looking forward to the most, I just have a great time watching these and they look like they’re having a great time making the show.

Shows on the fence:

Paranormal State: It has no start date listed but the fact it’s still on the books leads me to believe it will be coming back. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last year for Satan seeking, Holy water throwing, seeing shadows in every corner, Ryan Buell and the PRS team. Ryan has become just way too damn melodramatic and quite honestly the show just isn’t that interesting anymore. Every single thing about this show seems staged and fake. The stories are weak, their reactions from the PRS team are WAY over the top, nothing is ever discovered and in the end Ryan buries a couple of medallions, tells the “spirits” they aren’t welcome, says a blessing and then heads home. And that “Director’s Log” crap is really wearing thin.

Shows that probably won’t be back:

Ghost Lab looks like it got the axe. Nothing is listed on Discovery and no new listings on IMDB. A Wikipedia entry sites they’re coming back for a second season but there is no actual confirmation of that. Their own websites lists two upcoming investigations this year, but no mention of the show. They may have had some of the coolest equipment, but their crazy antics and experiments may have done them in.

Looks like Paranormal Cops didn’t make it either. It has no return date listed in IMDB and the show has been pulled from the roster on the A&E website. There were some interesting aspects to this show, but overall it needed some work. They had procedures and guidelines which was great, but some of their fact checking seemed a little off and they made far too many connections that seemed to be huge leaps at best.

Shows that should never come back:

Ghost Hunters Academy. Please tell me we’ll never have to see or hear of this stupid show again… I can only hope.

Ghost Hunters will air again sometime this year, but really, who cares anymore?

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