Monday, November 14, 2016

Vampires, Animated Corpses & Ghosts in Romantic Fiction

Vampires, Animated Corpses & Ghosts in Romantic Fiction by Edward Yardley 1880

WHEN a vampire dies, he rises from his grave at night, and supports a fresh existence by sucking the blood of other persons whilst they are asleep. These other persons soon die, and themselves become vampires. A body suspected of Vampirism is disinterred, and is generally recognised by the freshness of the face. A stake is driven through the heart of the vampire, who then utters a loud scream. The body is burnt to ashes. This is supposed to be the only way of finally getting rid of the nuisance. Lord Byron's lines in the 'Giaour' will be remembered. A story is to be found in Phlegon's treatise on wonderful things concerning a girl of the name of Philinnium, a native of Tralles, in Asia Minor, who not only after her death visited her lover, but ate, drank, and even cohabited with him. This event, which happened in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, is the subject of Goethe's poem, 'The Bride of Corinth.' Similar stories have been told by Alexandre Dumas, Washington Irving, and perhaps by others. Hauff has a story concerning a vessel, which a couple of shipwrecked sailors boarded. They found only corpses in the vessel, but at nighttime these corpses were animated, and worked the ship, In Coleridge's 'Ancient Mariner' dead seamen are reanimated. In a story by Marryat, half the crew of a vessel murdered the other half, including the boatswain, and threw their bodies overboard. At night the guilty survivors hear the boatswain's whistle, accompanied by the summons for all hands to go on deck. They go, and find the corpses, of which they thought they had rid themselves, still on deck. They try to throw them into the sea again, but the corpses cling to the murderers, and roll with them overboard.

Apparitions are generally ghosts, but there may be apparitions, raised by magic or witchcraft, which are not ghosts. Such are the apparitions of the armed head, bloody child, and eight kings in 'Macbeth.' The apparitions of the dead have always been an important element in the supernatural. Amongst others, the spirit of Caligula is said to have walked very much in the manner of a modern ghost. It will be quite impossible to deal completely with the ghosts that belong to romantic fiction. Some, like the spirits of Hamlet and Guido Cavalcanti, are too celebrated to require mention; others are too numerous and too insignificant. A few, however, will be specified. The Wild Huntsman, if not himself a ghost, is always in ghostly company. He is supposed by some to be Odin, by others to be one of the classic gods. He issues from the Venusberg, the refuge of the classic gods of antiquity, who fled thither on the prevalence of Christianity. He rides on stormy nights, followed by a train both of the living and the dead. The ghost of the Trusty Eckart, who died contending with the demons of the Venusberg, and who in vain warned Tannenhauser not to enter it, precedes the hellish crew, and warns men of their approach. For it is dangerous to meet them; and if any person is so unfortunate as to come across them, he is generally smitten with paralysis or insanity. Those who have met nymphs, peris, and fairies seem to have been liable to a similar mischief. Heme the Hunter, described by Shakspeare, is a ghost who bears some resemblance to the Wild Huntsman. The Willis, or Wilis (for the name seems to be spelt either way), exist chiefly in Hungary. They are the spirits of brides, who die on their wedding-day before consummation of marriage. They are to be seen by moonlight, where cross-roads meet; and they dance to death any unlucky man who encounters them. The story of Burger's 'Lenore' is this: Lenore's lover, William, had fought on King Frederick's side at the battle of Prague. The army returns, but no news is heard of William; and Lenore, in spite of her mother's supplications, curses God. At midnight she hears the tramp of a horse's hoofs beneath the window, and the voice of her lover calling her to ride with him to their wedding-bed. She descends and mounts behind him, learning too late that she is carried off by the spectre of her lover, who is bearing her to the grave, to punish her for her blasphemy. This, however, may perhaps be more properly considered a devil in the form of a lover than a ghost.

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Another German ghost is the Bleeding Nun. This was a nun who, after committing many crimes and debaucheries, was assassinated by one of her paramours, and denied the rites of burial. After this she used to haunt the castle, where she was murdered, in her nun's dress, with her bleeding wounds. On one occasion, a young lady of the castle, wishing to elope with her lover, in order to make her flight easier, personated the bleeding nun. Unfortunately the lover, whilst expecting his lady under this disguise, eloped with the spectre herself, who presented herself to him and haunted him afterwards. This story is told by Lewis in his 'Monk,' and also by Musaeus. The Belludo is a Spanish ghost, mentioned by Washington Irving in his 'Tales of the Alhambra.' It issues forth in the dead of night, and scours the avenues of the Alhambra and the streets of Granada, in the shape of a headless horse, pursued by six hounds, with terrible yells and howlings. It is said to be the spirit of a Moorish king, who killed his six sons. And these sons hunt him in the shape of hounds at night-time in revenge. Besides the apparitions of the dead, there are apparitions of the living. It is mentioned, in one of the notes to 'Monsieur Oufle,' by the Abbe Bordelon, that monks and nuns, a short time before their death, have seen the images of themselves seated in their chairs or stalls. Another example may be given. Catherine of Russia, after retiring to her bedroom, was told that she had been seen just before to enter the state chamber. On hearing this she went thither, and saw the exact similitude of herself seated upon the throne. She ordered her guards to fire upon it. Another sort of ghost of the living is mentioned in an Eastern story. A soldier of the guard of a certain king met a spirit in the form of a beautiful woman, who was wailing bitterly; and she told him that she was the soul of the king, his master, who was fated to die within three days. Ghosts sometimes leave behind them substantial marks of their visits. In Scott's well-known ballad the phantom knight impresses an indelible mark on the lady who has been his paramour. In the Tartar stories, written by a Frenchman, a series of stories neither original nor well constructed, a ghost appears to Prince Faruk in a dream, and touches him on the arm. The prince finds the mark of the burn when he awakes.

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