In eighth grade, I discovered Bram Stoker's "Dracula" to my absolute delight.
I was so enthralled with the story, the book had a permanent place on my lap the entire school year. During down moments, I'd read and re-read it. I read it forward, backward and down the middle.
I was not only paying attention to the story (which I loved). I was analyzing its construction and the elements that made it a fascinating read, since I was determined to write my own vampire fiction one day.
Through my high school years and beyond, I discovered other great classic vampire stories. These are not as well known as "Dracula" or even Stephanie Meyers' series "Twilight."
But all of them can either be read for free online or purchased on Amazon or other sites that carry used books.
For instance, "Vampires: Stories of the Supernatural" by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy (the elder cousin of Leo Tolstoy, most famous for "War and Peace"), contains four great novellas that can only be found in this volume.
One of them, "The Family of the Vourdalak," was part of the three-story film "Black Sabbath," which was released in 1964. Boris Karloff introduces each story and stars in "Vourdalak.
In "The Family of the Vourdalak," a stranger winds up in the home of a peasant named Gorch. But Gorch is not there. He had set out 10 days earlier to kill a Turkish thief and told his family to stake him if he returns after the 10 days have passed.
But Gorch shows up exactly on the 10th day, at the exact time he had left. His family is uncertain how to act. Hint: they make the wrong decision.
The other novellas in Tolstoy's volume include "The Vampire/Upyr" (about a vampire curse), “The Reunion After Three-Hundred Years" (more ghost than vampire but still very good) and "Amena:" a Christian on his way to martyrdom is tricked out of it by a beautiful vampire.
Here are some of my favorite short, classic vampire stories.
"Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker – A deleted portion of "Dracula" and published after Stoker's death, this is a story about an unnammed protagonist traveling on Walpurgis Night. He eventually sets out on foot, where a snowstorm blows up and he seeks shelter inside a mausoleum.
"For the Blood Is the Life" By Marion Crawford – A phantom apparition on a burial mound courts her victims in their dreams – and wake up on the grave site.
"Good Lady Ducayne" by Mary E. Braddon – A healthy young woman accepts a position as a companion to a rich, sickly, elderly woman. But as the companion gradually declines in health, she learns all of her employer's past companions had fallen ill and died.
"Mrs. Amworth" by E. F. Benson – A charming new resident moves into a small town and the town's inhabitants begin to die off.
"The Horla" by Guy de Maupassant – Written in diary form, a man falls ill, is visited at night by an unseen form and slowly goes insane.
"The Room in the Tower" by E.F. Benson – A man has a recurring dream where he visits an old classmate. The dream always ends with the phrase, "Jack will show you your room. I have given you the room in the tower," and a sense of great dread. One day, the day comes true.
"The Tomb of Sarah" by F. G. Loring – The tomb of an evil 17th century countess is disturbed – with disastrous results – during the restoration of an old church.
"The Vampire" by Jan Neruda – An atypical vampire story about an artist who sketches people, completing the sketches on the day they die.
"Wake Not the Dead" by Johann Ludwig Tieck – This one has similar elements to Stephen King's "Pet Sematary." After the wife of a powerful lord dies, the lord seeks out a sorcerer to bring her back to life. He's warned not to do it – and then...