It was a dark and stormy night . . .
Um. Such words immediately invoke the knowledge that something
is going to happen. Something frightening.
Because, whether we wish to believe it or not, we're all victims
of our own minds, our distant and shared genetic pasts, and, quite
frankly, to one degree or another, we can all be mental cases,
animals with instincts that we can't quite deny. And, of course,
there's that something inside of us . . .
We love a good fright. One in the world of fantasy, of course.
Sometimes fear, in just the right dose, can be absolutely delicious.
As rational, mature adults, we're taught that we shouldn't be
afraid of the dark. And yet, a fear of darkness is as basic and
primeval as any fear we might face. And with good reason. Years
ago, while our cave-people ancestors were fighting to survive,
darkness held a virtual plethora of very real dangers. As to the
rain? Storms made the very heavens shake, thunder seemed to be
the voice of a furious god, and lightning could strike like an
angry arrow, bringing death and destruction, and if not, one hell
of an impressive show! What man would not fear the fury of those
who reigned in a different world, and who had the kind of power
to make man, earth, and even the sky, tremble as well?
To this day, we instinctively fear darkness because it can hide
so very much. And because we fear the darkness and the creatures
that might lurk within it, a setting at night will always make
the skin crawl a bit. We know that any manner of creature might
leap from night and shadows.
Just as we historically fear darkness, throughout the ages, we
have feared the entities that are cloaked within its folds. As
human beings, with our thumbs, forefingers, and most importantly,
immense brains (relatively!), we are always seeking for answers,
explanations. From the beginning of time, man has looked for deeper
meaning, he has found gods and goddesses, and naturally, a way
to explain evil, pain, and death, as well. Just as our religious
beliefs are varied and profound, so are our beliefs in all other
matters of what goes on beyond the realm of what the eye can see-or
science yet explain.
Long before Bram Stoker penned Dracula, ancient peoples in the
Near East feared the lamia-bloodsucking harpies that attacked
infants and children and drank their blood. Then there was Lilith,
possibly Adam's first wife, and possibly an entity that stirred
human imagination and tempted and haunted man years before the
Old Testament was written-wherever she actually emerged, she was
evil. Gorgeous and evil, a succubus, a female demon, luring men
to their doom. In dozens of legends, from dozens of societies,
we have met the vampire-the creature of doom who survives in his
own, icy, death-cold existence through the warmth and life of
the blood of others. Nosferatu was a creepy, scary being . . .
as was Stoker's original Dracula. In more recent years . . . well,
if you're going to get bitten, a vampire such as that portrayed
by Chris Sarandon in Fright Night might certainly explain the
lure to allow lips-and teeth-near neck!
Werewolves, shapeshifters, and men who perhaps bear mortal form
by day and are monsters by night do more than draw upon ancient
legends and fears. They are actually part of all of us, the absolutely
classic fight between good and evil within our own souls, totally
exemplified in Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Such stories may be as old as time, but they
still have the same remarkable draw-can good win out over evil.
Even more classic-can the true love of a good man or woman reach
out to goodness within another, and quell the evil that haunts
Whatever the demon, the beast, the creature, therein lies the
fight! Good against evil.
These days, we've done an incredible job modifying the fight.
A vampire is a bloodsucker-but then, George Hamilton's vampire
visited blood banks and rather than lose her man, his beloved
became a vampire as well, flying off into the sunset with him.
Ann Rice created one of the classis scenes of all times when her
vampire couldn't quite kill a human being-but managed to munch
down on a pair of obnoxious little dogs!
Whatever our creature may be, we're seeking the humanity within
it-and heck, there are those that are just pure evil, and must,
of course, be destroyed.
Not quite the same substance as creatures are ghosts. Talk about
"dark" and "stormy." Throw in a cemetery at
night as well, and . . . whew!
Truthfully, I don't know my own feelings. I can't actually say
that I believe, but then again, I'm not so sure that I don't.
If there is life after death, then, indeed, the realm of possibilities
is endless. In my particular experience, I lost my father when
I was twenty. I was devastated, and miserable, and hated everyone
who had made it past his age. Certainly, I was a totally wretched
child, leaving my mother to deal with me as well as her loss.
But it went on and on-I really wanted to die myself. Then I had
a dream, and I was with him in that dream. I knew he was dead,
but he kept telling me that he was fine. We were driving around
Arizona-where I'd never been at the time, and he was impatient
with my concern for him, telling me to pay attention to the wonderful
new sights I was seeing.
After that, I began to heal. And sometimes I wonder if he came
He wouldn't do so in the flesh. Knowing that I'm your basic coward,
he'd know that I'd have a heart attack on the spot. But maybe
. . . he was a ghost. Scientists might say that it was my mind,
busy with survival, trying to get on. Still . . . I wonder.
I was alone with my father-in-law when he went into a coma just
an hour or so before he died. He'd been sleeping, he sat up suddenly,
stared across the room, and saw something. I'd swear it, a thousand
times over. I jumped up to see what he saw. He fell back and never
woke again. He was deeply religious, and I believe that he saw
some entity . . . someone, something, gentle and kind, come to
bring him home. Again, the logical mind might say that his brain
was malfunctioning in the final moments. I know it was more than
that. So . . .
What I love is all that might be. Exploring the realms that we
can't really touch, don't really know. After writing vampire stories,
I received lots of strange questions, such as-are you a Satanist.
Actually, I see myself as not a good, but a very decent, Roman
Catholic. Also, my Mom was born in Dublin. I was brought up with
the very real conception that banshees and leprechauns do exist.
Maybe they do . . . and maybe they're just the wonder and fantasy
of the human mind. Whatever may be true, I am one of those people
who simply loves a good story that begins in any manner or fashion
of . . .
It was a dark and stormy night!