Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dracula's Revenge and the Great God Pan

When the fearsome being called Count Dracula launched his plan to relocate in London during the year 1887, he had hoped to ultimately take over the heart of what was then the greatest Empire on Earth.  Some notion of what his goal can be glimpsed in the novel Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.  Imagine the Impaler as Prince Regent, a bodyguard of Eastern European vampires enforcing his will, civil liberties slowly but surely restricted until only the living become less than second class citizens, more like serfs, while the undead under Dracula's command fan out to invade and conquer.

This horrific vision never came to pass because of many factors, not least the expertise and readiness of Abraham van Helsing (whose bride Elizabeth had slaked Dracula's thirst in 1876 as recorded in Dracula Lives! #3).  But he did not act alone.  Without the aid of Arthur Holmwood (later Lord Godalming), Dr. John Seward, Quincy Morris, Jonathan Harker and his bride Mina the dread Lord of the Vampires might yet have carried out his plan.  Instead, forced to retreat to his stronghold in Transylvania, the Impaler was put down by a band of seemingly ordinary human beings.

He did not, alas, stay that way.  Nor was he likely to forgive such an affront.  His vengeance against those individuals and their families proved complex and ruthless--mostly involving soul clones.

Dr. Chuck Loridans posited years ago that Dracula developed a method of creating a vampire like himself, but then infusing himself into that being, creating a soul clone--a puppet who believed himself to be Dracula but exhibited individual characteristics and variations like any vampire.  Few such soul clones ever exhibited the raw power of Dracula Prime, for which the world can be grateful.  The actual process of creating such was dramatised in the film The Seven Golden Vampires.  The full history of these creatures, which sometimes created soul clones of themselves, makes for complex reading.  For now we are concerned with Dracula Prime's revenge against the Van Helsing, Holmwood, Seward and Harker families.  Four different soul clones--dubbed Balderston, Saville, Matheson and Dragoti--were created in 1907 and dispatched to England in 1909, targeting those very families.

But the Dragoti clone proved a failure (as happens now and then in the process) so a new clone was created in 1908 to take up where the fourth left off--Dracula Pan.  However, this individual was a little different, a would-be occult scholar fascinated by primal passions who had succeeded once in an experiment which allowed the physical manifestation of a demon into this world via a girl whose mind was destroyed in the process and whose child then wrecked havok upon all who encountered her for decades (her career was chronicled by Arthur Machen in his novella The Great God Pan).  In other words, this elderly Englishman, named Raymond, already displayed a propensity for evil, as well as antipathy for the Holmwood family (Lord Godalming's cousin, Lord Holmwood had been a rival of Raymond's years earlier).  Raymond's associates, a secret society known as The Brotherhood, had been contacted by Lord Holmwood's son George.  The young man had learned only days after proposing to the girl he loved that he had been born with syphilis, and indeed such was the reason for his mother's suicide.  Within days Lord Holmwood died, body and mind destroyed by the disease, leaving his son with a vivid image of what future awaited both him and Erica, his fiancee.  Desperate, he had agreed to pay the Brotherhood's leader Singleton (very likely Adrian Singleton, former friend of the strange, seemingly ageless dilletante known as Dorian Gray) any amount of funds to wash his blood clean.

At this point the stage was set.  Raymond only too willingly agreed to become a vampire--the prospect of youth and vigor and immortality overcame any meager scruples he may have had, while revenge against his old rival Holmwood he saw as an extra treat.  The eclipse of his own identity was never mentioned.

Young George Holmwood paid for his own destruction, hiring the vessel that would bring Count Dracula (i.e. Dracula-Pan) to England.  Vampires of the Dacian bloodline are weakened by water, requiring more and greater feeding--hence sailing ships that carried vampires for any length of time tended to lose most if not all of their crews before arriving at port.  This eerie, tragic pattern occurs many times in those who study such matters.  Dracula-Pan, an old man seeking to regain and keep his youth, certainly proved no exception!  But instead of London, where the ship was supposed to arrive, it ended up further up the coast where Holmwood Castle stood (the seat of the Lords Holmwood, as opposed to Rings, the inland estate of their cousins, the Lords Godalming).  Here, George dwelt with his increasingly frustrated bride, Erica.  Her friend (and former suitor) Dr. Thomas Seward (a nephew of the man who helped defeat Dracula Prime) noticed something wrong in the marriage and in George himself.  Erica was far more open to her best friend, Nina Murray (Mina Murray's distant cousin), telling her details--that George refused to consummate their union, nor explain the reason why.  Nina sympathized, despite her own grief at the mysterious disappearance of her fiancee (in fact as a solicitor he'd been secretly hired by George as a legal agent to Transylvania--where his blood fed the vampire's lust).  Worse, her fiancee's partner had been murdered and his papers destroyed (by agents of the Brotherhood).

Into this brew entered Dracula-Pan, a suave but sinister figure radiating dark power and longing for eager young flesh.  Although Erica remained his primary target, he felt great interest in the delicate and genuinely religious Nina.  First, though, he crept into the new Lady Holmwood's bed to ravish her--flesh, blood and soul.  She nearly died that very day, saved only by a blood transfusion her husband forced a very suspicious Dr. Seward to perform using himself rather than George as a donor.  It did little good.  The vampire simply returned, mocking his "host" in word and deed.

Here Thomas Seward had a bit of luck.  Tracing George's movements to the Brotherhood's London headquarters, he discovered the Brotherhood's prisoner--David van Helsing (brother to Fritz) who had up until recently scoffed at the families tales of the walking dead and bloodthirsty ghosts.  Lured as an expert on folklore by the Brotherhood, Van Helsing ended up in their basement, filthy, half-starved and terrified.  More to the point, he filled in all the details for George and Thomas, including the terrible fact of what they had to do with Erica, i.e. drive a wooden stake through her heart.  (Although she was staked, it remains uncertain if she remained that way--reports indicate her presence a century later among a formal Coven of mostly-Corvini vampires in Hungary, as per the motion picture Underworld ).

Nina did not at first believe the bizarre tale from these three men, one of whom she did not even know.  Ultimately, though, they went back to the headquarters of the Brotherhood in London where Dracula-Pan had used his mental powers to make Singleton kill himself.  The vampire easily killed George Holmwood, but in the end saw defeat as Seward drove a wooden stake into his heart.  Or so they believed.  Some evidence suggests this particular creature survived, perhaps because the stake missed or only grazed his heart.  If so, it would seem he then lost the youth and vigor stolen via the blood of others.  Exactly what became of him remains to be seen.  Dr. Seward meanwhile married Nina Murray.  It seems more than likely their offspring continued to play parts in the secret history of the world.

When dramatized, the filmmakers (as per usual) included elements from the novelization by Bram Stoker in telling the tale of this specific soul clone--such as changing people's first names, the name of the ship that bore the vampire to England, the location of Holmwood Castle, etc.

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