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I hate vampires--not that there really are such things, but I'm
afraid of the portrayal of vampires in movies and on TV. I
hate their teeth and their general creepiness.
In 1967, we were living in Bremerton, WA, in a large house
that had been divided into apartments. It was during the
Vietnam War, and my husband Frank was serving on the
aircraft carrier, the USS Ticonderoga, which was in the
shipyards there for maintenance.
Away from my job, in a single apartment with a murphy bed
that could be cleaned in half an hour, I had very little to do
during the day. I did a lot of walking to explore the area,
made pies and cobblers from the wild blackberries that grew
along the roadside, read and sketched until smoke and ash
from forest fires in the mountains forced me back inside.
That was when a friend from a neighboring apartment
introduced me to Dark Shadows, a vampire-centered soap
opera. It wasn't my Granny's soap opera.
Starring the Canadian actor Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, the
200-year-old patriarch of the wealthy Collins family, the plot
centers on his attempts to find his lover, the beautiful
Martinique heiress, Josette du Pres.
It was the first portrayal of a vampire that I was able to
enjoy. It was so over the top that I could suspend
disbelief--almost. Every afternoon, my neighbor and I would
sit in front of the TV and tremble together.
Frid appears in a cameo in the recent Tim Burton remake of
Dark Shadows which stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas. Frid
died just weeks before the film was released.
There have been essentially two types of vampires portrayed
in movies and on TV--the monsters created by the Germans
and personified by Nosferatu, and the romantic heroes
created in this country.
Monster-style vampires are like the creatures in any other
show. Romantic vampires play off the implications of the
word penetration, as in the vampire's teeth and in sex.
Vampires are identified by two elongated front teeth through
which they suck a victim's blood, creating other vampires.
They walk at night, but must return to their coffins during the
day. Despite being handsome and perfectly coiffed, they are
unable to check their appearance because they cast no
reflection in a mirror.
Superstitious people protect themselves from vampires with
garlic and crosses or drive a stake into their hearts or remove
their hearts from their graves and burn them, as in the current
Smithsonian article about a vampire scare in Rhode Island.
I may hate vampires, but they are fascinating to me as an
embodiment of the evil in all of us.
This month's website includes pages on Dracula, Lord Byron's
doctor's story "The Vampyre," and vampires in today's
If you're afraid of vampires too, or have any stories to tell
about them, let me know at email@example.com.
Waves breaking on the coast from the opening sequence (top); the Collins
family mansion (center) and Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins (left).
Johnny Depp revives the role in the
2012 Tim Burton movie.