Sources: International Science Fiction Database (ISFDB); Wikipedia; Brian J. Frost’s The Essential Guide to Mummy Literature (Scarecrow Press, 2007); Bill Pronzini’s Tales Of The Dead; and the anthologies and collections listed in parentheses below.
If you are aware of a story or novel or nonfiction work not on this list, in which a mummy/mummies figure(s) as a character/villain or subject, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it to the bibliography.
This bibliography is current up through the most recent publications of The Book of the Dead, mummy stories ed. Jared Shulin, Jurassic London, 2014; and The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, ed. Paula Guran, Prime Books, 2017.
The North London Book of the Dead
by Will Self, from The Quantity Theory of Insanity
Bloomsbury, London, 1991
I suppose that the form my bereavement took after my mother died was fairly conventional. Initially I was shocked. Her final illness was mercifully quick, but harrowing. Cancer tore through her body as if it were late for an important meeting with a lot of other successful diseases.
I had always expected my mother to outlive me. I saw myself becoming a neutered bachelor, who would be wearing a cardigan and still living at home at the age of forty, but it wasn’t to be. Mother’s death was a kind of relief, but it was also bizarre and hallucinatory. The week she lay dying in the hospital I was plagued by strange sensations; gusts of air would seem personalised and, driving in my car, I had the sensation not that I was moving forward but that the road was being reeled back beneath the wheels, as if I were mounted on some giant piece of scenery.
The night she died my brother and I were at the hospital. We took it in turns to snatch sleep in a vestibule at the end of the ward and then to sit with her. She breathed stertorously. Her flesh yellowed and yellowed. I was quite conscious that she had no mind any more. The cancer — or so the consultant told me — had made its way up through the meningitic fluid in the spine and into her brain. I sensed the cancer in her skull like a cloud of inky pus. Her self-consciousness, sentience, identity, what you will, was cornered, forced back by the cloud into a confined space, where it pulsed on and then off, with all the apparent humanity of a digital watch.
One minute she was alive, the next she was dead. A dumpy nurse rushed to find my brother and me. We had both fallen asleep in the vestibule, cocooned within its plastic walls. “I think she’s gone,” said the nurse. And I pictured Mother striding down Gower Street, naked, wattled.
By the time we reached the room they were laying her out. I had never understood what this meant before; now I could see that the truth was that the body, the corpse, really laid itself out. It was smoothed as if a great wind had rolled over the tired flesh. And it, Mother, was changing colour as I watched, from an old ivory to a luminous yellow. The nurse, for some strange reason, had brushed Mother’s hair back off her forehead. It lay around her in a fan on the pillow and two lightning streaks of grey ran up into it from either temple. The nurses had long since removed her dentures, and the whole ensemble – Mother with drawn-in cheeks and sculpted visage, lying in the small room, around her the loops and skeins of a life-supporting technology — made me think of the queen of an alien planet, resplendent on a high-tech palanquin, in some Buck Rogers style sci-fi serial of the Thirties.
There was a great whooshing sensation in the room. This persisted as a doctor of Chinese extraction — long, yellow, and divided at the root — felt around inside her cotton nightie for a non-existent heartbeat. The black, spindly hairs on his chin wavered. He pronounced her dead. The whooshing stopped. I felt her spirit fly out into the orange light of central London. It was about 3.00 a.m.
An Anthology of Classic Mummy Stories
Edited by Johnston & Shorn for the
Egypt Exploration Society, 2013
Unearthed resurrects eleven classic tales of the mummy, selected by John J. Johnston (Vice-Chair, Egypt Exploration Society) and Jared Shurin.
These stories date back to the middle of the 19th century, and many have not been republished for almost two hundred years. They have all been carefully edited and formatted to accurately represent their original publication quality.
Unearthed comes complete with “Going Forth by Night” (2013 BSFA finalist), a comprehensive introduction from John J. Johnston, outlining the complete pop cultural history of the mummy, from its first appearance in print to its latest appearance on screen.
This volume is published in partnership with Egypt Exploration Society, the UK’s oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture.
Table of Contents
- Going Forth by Night, an Introduction
- The Mummy’s Foot by Théophile Gautier (Trans. by Lafcadio Hearn)
- Some Words with a Mummy by Edgar Allan Poe
- Lost in a Pyramid by Louisa May Alcott
- The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Lot No. 249 by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Unseen Man’s Story by Julian Hawthorne
- A Professor of Egyptology by Guy Boothby
- The Block of Bronze by Herbert Crotzer
- The Story of Baelbrow by E. and H. Heron
- The Vanished Mummy by Charles Bump
- The Death-Bridal of Nitocris by George Griffith
- The Egypt Exploration Society
The Book of the Dead
Edited by Jared Sharon for the
Egypt Exploration Society, 2013
“The first complete anthology of new and specially commissioned short stories addressing [the mummy]”
– An Encyclopedia of Mummies in History, Religion, and Popular Culture (2014)
The Book of the Dead addresses the most fascinating of all the undead: the mummy. The mummy can be a figure of imperial dignity or one of shambling terror, at home in pulp adventure, contemporary drama, or apocalyptic horror. The anthology is published in collaboration with the Egypt Exploration Society, the UK’s oldest independent funder of archaeological fieldwork and research in Egypt, dedicated to the promotion and understanding of ancient Egyptian history and culture.
This anthology includes nineteen original stories of revenge, romance, monsters and mayhem, ranging freely across time periods, genres and styles. The stories are illustrated by Garen Ewing, creator of The Adventures of Julius Chancer and introduced by John J. Johnston, Vice Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: “Some Words from an Egyptologist” by John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society)
- “Ramesses on the Frontier” by Paul Cornell
- “Escape from the Mummy’s Tomb” by Jesse Bullington
- “Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore
- “Her Heartbeat, An Echo” by Lou Morgan
- “Mysterium Tremendum” by Molly Tanzer
- “Tollund” by Adam Roberts
- “The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar” by Gail Carriger
- “The Cats of Beni Hasan” by Jenni Hill
- “Cerulean Memories” by Maurice Broaddus
- “Inner Goddess” by Michael West
- “The Roof of the World” by Sarah Newton
- “Henry” by Glen Mehn
- “The Dedication of Sweetheart Abbey” by David Bryher
- “All is Dust” by Den Patrick
- “Bit-U-Men” by Maria Dahvana Headley
- “Egyptian death and the afterlife: mummies (Rooms 62-3)” by Jonathan Green
- “Akhenaten Goes to Paris” by Louis Greenberg
- “The Thing of Wrath” by Roger Luckhurst
- “Three Memories of Death” by Will Hill
Finalist, Shirley Jackson Awards (Edited Anthology)
Finalist, Sidewise Awards (Short Form – Adam Roberts’ “Tollund”)
David Thomas Moore’s “Old Souls” selected for The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (ed. Liz Gryzb and Talie Helene).
Maria Dahvana Headley’s “Bit-U-Men” and Maurice Broaddus’ “Cerulean Memories” received Honorable Mentions for The Year’s Best Horror (ed. Ellen Datlow).
Read Headley’s story “Bit-U-Men”, free, here…
Read Paul Cornell’s story “Ramesses on the Frontier, free, here..
Joahn J. Johnston’s “Unearthing The Book of the Dead” on Tor.com:
Lost in a Pyramid & Other Classic Mummy Stories
Selected by Andrew Smith
The British Library
“As he rushed madly and wildly through the night, he could hear a swift, dry patter behind him, and could see that this horror was bounding at his heels, with blazing eyes and one stringy arm out-thrown.”
A mummy disappears from its sarcophagus in the dead of night; a crazed Egyptologist entombs a beautiful young woman; a student at Oxford reveals the terrible secrets of an ancient papyrus. These are among the twelve tales from the golden age of the mummy story collected here—stories that still cast a spell with their different versions of the mummy’s curse, some chilling, others darkly romantic and even comic. This enthralling collection is introduced by Andrew Smith, a leading expert on ghost stories and Victorian gothic.
From the publishing house of the British Library comes Lost in a Pyramid & Other Classic Mummy Stories, a collection of twelve tales selected and edited by Andrew Smith—a knowledgeable reference of Nineteenth Century Gothic English Literature—and originating from the Golden Age of Egyptian-based British horror between 1869 and 1910. The first origins of this type of story are said to have come from the British strategic interest in the Suez Canal and its discoveries uncovered in Egyptian tombs. Some of these writers are known to many, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the world famous Sherlock Holmes stories, Louisa May Alcott, writer of Little Women, and Sax Rohmer, author of the Fu Manchu series of books; however, there are also some more obscure offerings and those which, hitherto, have never seen the light of day.
The beautifully understated cover artwork is by Rawshock Design.
Contents & Brief Snopses of the Stories
- In Lost in a Pyramid, or the Mummy’s Curse, by Louisa May Alcott, an archaeologist and his daughter become lost in an Egyptian tomb and burn whatever is to hand, to ensure their rescue – including a Mummy protectively clutching tiny seeds.
- In A Night With King Pharaoh, attributed to Baron Schlippenback, KSL, two British explorers are tricked and left to die in the depths of an Egyptian pyramid.
- In My New Year’s Eve Among the Mummies, by Grant Allen, an explorer has a restless night and so explores the tomb he should be entering the next day with his expedition, only to stumble upon the long-dead pharaoh and his gathering enjoying a grand banquet.
- In Professor Petrus, by Justin Huntly McCarthy, an aged adventurer tells a young man setting out on a similar path in life, of his encounter with an expert on historical Egyptian culture, and his obsession with discovering the man’s dark secret.
- In The Curse of Vasartas, by Eva M. Henry, a traveller takes the newly discovered Mummy of an archaeologist to England, but soon receives a desperate message to return it to Egypt on pain of his friend’s life and that of his daughter in England.
- In Lot No. 249, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a mature student at Oxford University has an Egyptian mummy in his rooms, which he purchased at auction. An associate warns a young student about the man, but it isn’t until individuals who have crossed the man are attacked by a barely seen figure that he begins to realise the danger he is in from the man and his possession.
- In The Unseen Man’s Story, by Julian Hawthorne, a young traveller is advised to visit certain parts of Egypt and to seek out a very unusual individual. The strange man tells him he was born to serve an ancient queen.
- In The Story of Baelbrow, by Kate and Hesketh Prichard, a resident ghost becomes notorious, much to the amusement of the owner of the house, until it begins to seriously hurt people, and a friend determines to get to the bottom of its origins.
- In The Mysterious Mummy, by Sax Rohmer, an antiquity from an Egyptian collection on display in a London museum, mysteriously disappears. Is this part of an ancient curse or something much more mundane?
- In The Dead Hand, by Hester White, an officer in the British army, acquires the hand of an Egyptian mummy; and so begins a string of bad luck.
- In A Professor of Egyptology, by Guy Boothby, a Greek professor hypnotizes a British lady and takes her to an Egyptian tomb, where she experiences a personal link to the ancient past.
- In The Necklace of Dreams, by W. G. Peasgood, we are told a story of ancient Egypt relating to a rare antiquity, which still holds a dangerous power in the present.
I am not only a long-time lover of horror fiction but particularly enjoy the formal writing style of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I have several leather bound collections, including H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James. So any new collections along these lines are always welcome. In fact, it’s a shame this isn’t in hardback. The format here is to say a little about what is known of the author of the individual tale. My only quibble is that right afterward, almost as an introduction to the story, the plot points are mentioned which rather spoils the magic of uncovering the outcome yourself. I found myself reading each short story first before going back to the editor’s comments. In this manner, even the synopses above are my own interpretations.
What really surprised me here is the lack of diminishing returns. In other words, how many variations on a theme of Egyptian curses and mummies coming to life can you have? Well, the answer is quite a few, it seems, and this is testament to Smith’s eclectic mix which has been gathered together here with more than a little thought and balance in mind.
I enjoyed immensely the reading of these classics from the golden era. My fear is that younger people than me, who have grown up expecting constant action, whizzes and bangs, will sadly and short-sightedly find anything from this era wanting. Many of this era’s tales take a page or two to get started, as one gentleman tells another gentleman about a third gentleman’s gentleman friend who told him about a strange event! The Sherlock Holmes stories are from this period setting (except for the contemporary Sherlock series) and are still adapted for TV on a regular basis, so it proves subject matter from these times still have relevance.
This book took me back to my childhood when little books on shop spindles depicting Uncanny, Suspense, Eerie or Creepy Horror seemed much more common. Innocent days.
I found that I preferred the mystery-related versions present in stories eight and nine. The final story doesn’t involve a mummy, and the tale before it only in the loosest sense. But I found it didn’t matter; the collection is more than welcome, all the same. So, in conclusion, this is a damn fine read which should attract the regular horror buffs and fans of the halcyon days of Hammer Films. I look forward to any subsequent horror or mystery collections from the British Library in a similar vein.
Pick up your copy here…
(Sources: The Guardian, The British Library, Amazon)
“In The Mammoth Book of the Mummy: 19 Tales of the Immortal Dead—a cool edition to her already cool library of great horror and other weird fiction anthologies (see list after this post)—editor Paula Guran has assembled a collection of new mummy stories that will scare the linen strips of mummy wrapping right off you. And yo Mama. 😱😜🤣
In that professional and passion-filled Guran fashion we have come to know and love (and dread!), Paula Guran goes outside the box in this new mummy book—way beyond the traditional “spook-show” or the Universal Karloff batting at intermittent sunshine through a hole in castle roof (we adore you, Boris, you mute, you!). and includes mummy stories that come from facet of fiction, including quite a few tales that blur the lines between genres, delving into full-fledged mash-ups.
First, Guran welcomes readers with a well-researched introduction to the stories, entitled: ‘My Mouth Has Been Given to Me That I May Speak’ the goal being to provide ‘a breath of fresh air in the mummy genre’ (and after 3000 years wrapped up tight like a tamale, inside three coffins, in a secret Tomb down at the bottom of a pyramid, in the pitch dark of time immemorial—that’s saying a hell of a lot), which she does nicely.
Below: There seem to be a few different covers, depending on where you live; for instance left is the cover of Guran’s book in India; and right is the United States cover. I believe the one I posted first, above, is the U.K. cover, which is my favorite.
Here is a list of the stories and a brief synopsis of each…
- In ‘Private Grave 9’, author Karen Joy Fowler pulls readers into the anthology by delivering a story that sets the stage for this non-traditional anthology. Haunted by their discovery of an entombed princess and badgered by an upstart young murder mystery writer, the archaeologists feel pressures mount as Howard Carter starts pulling gold from the ground at nearby Tut’s tomb. With exquisite prose and pacing, Fowler unspools tension as a true master of the short story.
- Nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, Robert Sharp’s ‘The Good Shabti’ takes readers from a slave’s experiences in the court of King Mentuhotep to a Crichton-esque sci-fi future where science is being used to give new life to the dead. Fascinating in story and tone, Sharp carries readers through two fascinating worlds to an unexpected and deeply satisfying conclusion.
- Angela Slatter’s ‘Egyptian Revival’ is a great private eye story, flipping the gender of the detective and engaging the reader in a 1950s world where Egyptian gods are back in fashion, and resurrection is something that can be traded … or stolen. With tight prose, a great set of characters, and a knack for blending the fantastic with the intriguing, Slatter’s story is a whole lot of fun.
- ‘The Queen in Yellow’ uses the time-traveling science fiction characters of author Kage Bakers The Company series. This one plays with a lot of the more traditional mummy tropes, and using a tomb-raiding, 1920s Egypt as setting and flavor for a story of cyborgs and time-travelers feels a little like a Star Trek:TNG holodeck episode. It’s a great introduction to Baker’s larger body of work, but not one of the strongest stories in the anthology.
- John Langan is a horror writer who’s made a career of taking traditional monsters and turning them on their heads. With his response to the mummy genre, ‘On Skua Island,’ Langan knocks it out of the park with a deeply unsettling tale of a cursed body buried in a bog on an island outside the Shetlands, and its impact on one man who still carries the fear of that experience. A great story, and one that works as a palate cleanser for a reader between tales of Egypt.
- ‘Ramesses on the Frontier’ is a strange genre smash-up from author Paul Cornell, with a mummy’s waking in a tourist attraction museum and his journey across a surreal United States towards an afterlife. Cornell was a writer of Dr. Who, and this story shares a similar vibe. Funny, bizarre, and sweet, this addition to the anthology is charming and unexpected.
- In one of the creepier tales of the anthology, Australian horror author and fantasist Terry Dowling’s ‘The Shaddowwes Box’ is steeped in the intrigues and morals of Egyptologists, and upsetting clockwork. Dowling’s dark imagination fills this story with strangeness, and has a wonderfully ghoulish ending that will make horror fans grin.
- In ‘Egyptian Avenue’ by author Kim Newman, a tomb leaking sand and beetles sends Richard Jeperson, agent of Newman’s entertaining Diogenes Club, on a supernatural adventure. Long time readers of Newman’s world will enjoy this entry, and new readers might go running for Newman’s backlist if they’ve never heard of the occult mystery series. A solid entry, and a fun read.
- Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series of Victorian-era urban fantasy stories, offers up an amusing story with the amazing title of ‘The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy that Was, and the Cat in the Jar.’ Carriger’s characters can seem cartoony at times, but with monsters and mayhem in the heyday of the British Empire, all of it seems to work. Another fun read, if a little lighter than the others.
- ‘The Night Comes On’ by Steve Duffy is an interesting take on the idea of cursed objects and academics with no regard for those curses. Duffy’s prose can be a little dense, but it is filled with ideas and concrete elements that really bring the history to life … and the thing in the crate.
- Stephen Graham Jones tells a story of dark deeds and dark revenge in ‘American Mummy.’ Like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, Jones delivers a solidly creepy story with just the right twist of the knife at the end. Great build-up of suspense, and filled with great reveals, Jones is a master of short fiction.
- Outrageous and darkly hilarious, ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ is one of Joe R. Lansdale’s more notorious stories that crackles from the page. It starts off like a story you’d overhear in a bar–So, Elvis is in this nursing home in Texas, right? And his buddy’s this old guy who thinks he’s JFK and his brain is running on batteries at the White House. Then there’s Egyptian hieroglyphs of dirty jokes, and a sassy nurse, and a mummy … and gets crazier and crazier. Lansdale is a brilliant writer, fearless and utterly unique, and this mummy story is unlike any other.
- ‘Fruit of the Tomb: A Midnight Louie Past Life Adventure’ by Carole Nelson Douglas is quirky, and kind of a hard sell to This Is Horror readers. If the concept of a cat detective dealing with the supernatural is your thing, you’ve come to the right place, but you’d better have a high tolerance for puns. Could be charming to the right audience, though.
- In ‘The Chapter of Coming Forth by Night,’ authors Lois Tilton & Noreen Doyle explain a forgotten epilogue to the Book of the Dead–new instructions for what comes after. This is a darkly delightful tale, expanding upon myth and legend to shed new light on the secrets of the mummy.
- Norman Partridge, a master of horror, comes in swinging with ‘The Mummy’s Heart.’ This one is genuinely scary, a Halloween nightmare come to life. Partridge is always worth a read, and if this anthology gets him more followers, they won’t be disappointed.
- ‘The Emerald Scarab’ by Keith Taylor blends the mystery and mysticism of mummification with the enchantment of ancient Egypt. It follows Archpriest Kamose, follower of Anubis, and a stolen jeweled scarab. An entertaining story, filled with rich details.
- In Helen Marshall’s ‘The Embalmer,’ a kid with an interest in embalming–not the modern-day techniques involving chemicals, but the ancient Egyptian techniques he learned from a museum–goes a little too far in this creepy, modern horror story. Marshall is one of the recent stars of weird fiction and horror, and this story shines like a dark jewel.
- ‘Tolland’ by Adam Roberts is an alternative-history monster story. It’s strange, imaginative, and a wild ride. Roberts is great at pacing his story, but there’s a learning curve to get into the world the author has created. A very interesting take on the mummy, for sure.
- With ‘Three Memories of Death’, author Will Hill wraps up the anthology with a beautifully-written story of the relationship between a pharaoh and the man who will finish the burial rites. Fascinating, and filled with details about mummification, it’s a strong story to complete a strong anthology.
In the Mammoth Book of the Mummy, Paula Guran has curated an anthology that could do more for mummy fiction than anything has in decades.”
For more information about Paula Guran’s, and a list of all of her books, visit her website, here…
(Article Source: This Is Horror blog)
Dracula, the novel from 1897, is one of my favorite books. If you haven’t had the chance to read it, it’s filled with passages such as this one, which may have been caught visually, on film, but not with the atmosphere Bram Stoker stirs up, like fog coming down the mountain to curl around your feet. Jonathan Harker has travelled to Romania to serve as a legal consultant to Count Dracula who is seeking to purchase property in England. They are scheduled to meet on the night of May 4, at the Borgo Pass. Harker’s driver has arrived at the pass an hour earlier than expected, no doubt so he could save Harker (and himself) certain doom upon meeting Dracula this night (on the night of May 4, St. George’s Day, the dead are permitted to walk the earth and hold sway). As we see here, though—the “undead” are not so easily fooled…
Jonathan Harker’s Journal, May 4…
‘When it grew dark there seemed to be some excitement amongst the passengers, and they kept speaking to him, one after the other, as though urging him to further speed. He lashed the horses unmercifully with his long whip, and with wild cries of encouragement urged them on to further exertions. Then through the darkness I could see a sort of patch of grey light ahead of us, as though there were a cleft in the hills. The excitement of the passengers grew greater; the crazy coach rocked on its great leather springs, and swayed like a boat tossed on a stormy sea. I had to hold on.
The road grew more level, and we appeared to fly along. Then the mountains seemed to come nearer to us on each side and to frown down upon us; we were entering on the Borgo Pass. One by one several of the passengers offered me gifts, which they pressed upon me with an earnestness which would take no denial; these were certainly of an odd and varied kind, but each was given in simple good faith, with a kindly word, and a blessing, and that strange mixture of fear-meaning movements which I had seen outside the hotel at Bistritz—the sign of the cross and the guard against the evil eye. Then, as we flew along, the driver leaned forward, and on each side the passengers, craning over the edge of the coach, peered eagerly into the darkness. It was evident that something very exciting was either happening or expected, but though I asked each passenger, no one would give me the slightest explanation.
This state of excitement kept on for some little time; and at last we saw before us the Pass opening out on the eastern side. There were dark, rolling clouds overhead, and in the air the heavy, oppressive sense of thunder. It seemed as though the mountain range had separated two atmospheres, and that now we had got into the thunderous one. I was now myself looking out for the conveyance which was to take me to the Count. Each moment I expected to see the glare of lamps through the blackness; but all was dark. The only light was the flickering rays of our own lamps, in which the steam from our hard-driven horses rose in a white cloud. We could see now the sandy road lying white before us, but there was on it no sign of a vehicle.
The passengers drew back with a sigh of gladness, which seemed to mock my own disappointment. I was already thinking what I had best do, when the driver, looking at his watch, said to the others something which I could hardly hear, it was spoken so quietly and in so low a tone; I thought it was “An hour less than the time.” Then turning to me, he said in German worse than my own:—
“There is no carriage here. The Herr is not expected after all. He will now come on to Bukovina, and return to-morrow or the next day; better the next day.” Whilst he was speaking the horses began to neigh and snort and plunge wildly, so that the driver had to hold them up. Then, amongst a chorus of screams from the peasants and a universal crossing of themselves, a calèche, with four horses, drove up behind us, overtook us, and drew up beside the coach. I could see from the flash of our lamps, as the rays fell on them, that the horses were coal-black and splendid animals. They were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us. He said to the our driver:—
“You are early to-night, my friend.”
The man stammered in reply:—
“The English Herr was in a hurry,” to which the stranger replied:—
“That is why, I suppose, you wished him to go on to Bukovina. You cannot deceive me, my friend; I know too much, and my horses are swift.”
As he spoke he smiled, and the lamplight fell on a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory. One of my companions whispered to another the line from Burger’s “Lenore”:—
“Denn die Todten reiten”
(trans. “For the dead travel fast.”)
The strange driver evidently heard the words, for he looked up with a gleaming smile. The passenger turned his face away, at the same time putting out his two fingers and crossing himself. “Give me the Herr’s luggage,” said the driver; and with exceeding alacrity my bags were handed out and put in the calèche. Then I descended from the side of the coach, as the calèche was close alongside, the driver helping me with a hand which caught my arm in a grip of steel; his strength must have been prodigious. Without a word he shook his reins, the horses turned, and we swept into the darkness of the Pass. As I looked back I saw the steam from the horses of the coach by the light of the lamps, and projected against it the figures of my late companions crossing themselves. Then the driver cracked his whip and called to his horses, and off they swept on their way to Bukovina. As they sank into the darkness I felt a strange chill, and a lonely feeling came over me; but a cloak was thrown over my shoulders, and a rug across my knees, and the driver said in excellent German:—
“The night is chill, mein Herr, and my master the Count bade me take all care of you. There is a flask of slivovitz (the plum brandy of the country) underneath the seat, if you should require it.” I did not take any, but it was a comfort to know it was there all the same. I felt a little strangely, and not a little frightened. I think had there been any alternative I should have taken it, instead of prosecuting that unknown night journey. The carriage went at a hard pace straight along, then we made a complete turn and went along another straight road. It seemed to me that we were simply going over and over the same ground again; and so I took note of some salient point, and found that this was so. I would have liked to have asked the driver what this all meant, but I really feared to do so, for I thought that, placed as I was, any protest would have had no effect in case there had been an intention to delay. By-and-by, however, as I was curious to know how time was passing, I struck a match, and by its flame looked at my watch; it was within a few minutes of midnight. This gave me a sort of shock, for I suppose the general superstition about midnight was increased by my recent experiences. I waited with a sick feeling of suspense.
Then a dog began to howl somewhere in a farmhouse far down the road—a long, agonised wailing, as if from fear. The sound was taken up by another dog, and then another and another, till, borne on the wind which now sighed softly through the Pass, a wild howling began, which seemed to come from all over the country, as far as the imagination could grasp it through the gloom of the night.
At the first howl the horses began to strain and rear, but the driver spoke to them soothingly, and they quieted down, but shivered and sweated as though after a runaway from sudden fright. Then, far off in the distance, from the mountains on each side of us began a louder and a sharper howling—that of wolves—which affected both the horses and myself in the same way—for I was minded to jump from the calèche and run, whilst they reared again and plunged madly, so that the driver had to use all his great strength to keep them from bolting. In a few minutes, however, my own ears got accustomed to the sound, and the horses so far became quiet that the driver was able to descend and to stand before them. He petted and soothed them, and whispered something in their ears, as I have heard of horse-tamers doing, and with extraordinary effect, for under his caresses they became quite manageable again, though they still trembled. The driver again took his seat, and shaking his reins, started off at a great pace. This time, after going to the far side of the Pass, he suddenly turned down a narrow roadway which ran sharply to the right.
Soon we were hemmed in with trees, which in places arched right over the roadway till we passed as through a tunnel; and again great frowning rocks guarded us boldly on either side. Though we were in shelter, we could hear the rising wind, for it moaned and whistled through the rocks, and the branches of the trees crashed together as we swept along. It grew colder and colder still, and fine, powdery snow began to fall, so that soon we and all around us were covered with a white blanket. The keen wind still carried the howling of the dogs, though this grew fainter as we went on our way. The baying of the wolves sounded nearer and nearer, as though they were closing round on us from every side. I grew dreadfully afraid, and the horses shared my fear. The driver, however, was not in the least disturbed; he kept turning his head to left and right, but I could not see anything through the darkness.
Suddenly, away on our left, I saw a faint flickering blue flame. The driver saw it at the same moment; he at once checked the horses, and, jumping to the ground, disappeared into the darkness. I did not know what to do, the less as the howling of the wolves grew closer; but while I wondered the driver suddenly appeared again, and without a word took his seat, and we resumed our journey.
I think I must have fallen asleep and kept dreaming of the incident, for it seemed to be repeated endlessly, and now looking back, it is like a sort of awful nightmare. Once the flame appeared so near the road, that even in the darkness around us I could watch the driver’s motions. He went rapidly to where the blue flame arose—it must have been very faint, for it did not seem to illumine the place around it at all—and gathering a few stones, formed them into some device. Once there appeared a strange optical effect: when he stood between me and the flame he did not obstruct it, for I could see its ghostly flicker all the same. This startled me, but as the effect was only momentary, I took it that my eyes deceived me straining through the darkness. Then for a time there were no blue flames, and we sped onwards through the gloom, with the howling of the wolves around us, as though they were following in a moving circle.
At last there came a time when the driver went further afield than he had yet gone, and during his absence, the horses began to tremble worse than ever and to snort and scream with fright. I could not see any cause for it, for the howling of the wolves had ceased altogether; but just then the moon, sailing through the black clouds, appeared behind the jagged crest of a beetling, pine-clad rock, and by its light I saw around us a ring of wolves, with white teeth and lolling red tongues, with long, sinewy limbs and shaggy hair.
They were a hundred times more terrible in the grim silence which held them than even when they howled. For myself, I felt a sort of paralysis of fear. It is only when a man feels himself face to face with such horrors that he can understand their true import.
All at once the wolves began to howl as though the moonlight had had some peculiar effect on them. The horses jumped about and reared, and looked helplessly round with eyes that rolled in a way painful to see; but the living ring of terror encompassed them on every side; and they had perforce to remain within it. I called to the coachman to come, for it seemed to me that our only chance was to try to break out through the ring and to aid his approach. I shouted and beat the side of the calèche, hoping by the noise to scare the wolves from that side, so as to give him a chance of reaching the trap. How he came there, I know not, but I heard his voice raised in a tone of imperious command, and looking towards the sound, saw him stand in the roadway. As he swept his long arms, as though brushing aside some impalpable obstacle, the wolves fell back and back further still. Just then a heavy cloud passed across the face of the moon, so that we were again in darkness.
When I could see again the driver was climbing into the calèche, and the wolves had disappeared. This was all so strange and uncanny that a dreadful fear came upon me, and I was afraid to speak or move. The time seemed interminable as we swept on our way, now in almost complete darkness, for the rolling clouds obscured the moon. We kept on ascending, with occasional periods of quick descent, but in the main always ascending. Suddenly, I became conscious of the fact that the driver was in the act of pulling up the horses in the courtyard of a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky’
(Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897)