by Bram Stoker
(New Edit by Walter Eugene Lane)
The sun was shining brightly
on Munich and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer. Just
as we were about to depart, Herr Delbruck came down, bareheaded, to the
carriage. The maitre d'hotel of the Quatre Saisons, where I was
staying, after wishing me a pleasant drive, spoke to the coachman, his
hand on the handle of the carriage door. “Remember you are back
by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a shiver in the north
wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am sure you will not
be late,” he smiled, “for you know what night it is.”
“Ja, mein Herr!” Touching his hat, he quickly drove off.
After we cleared the town, I signaled him to stop. “Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?”
He crossed himself and answered, “Walpurgisnacht.”
He took out his watch, a
great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a turnip. He looked
at it with his eyebrows gathered together and a little impatient shrug
of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully
protesting against the unnecessary delay and sank back in the carriage,
merely motioning him to proceed. He started off rapidly as if to make
up for lost time.
Every now and then the horses
seemed to throw up their heads and suspiciously sniff the air. On such
occasions, I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak,
for we were traversing a sort of high, wind-swept plateau.
As we drove, I saw a road that
looked but little used and which seemed to dip through a little,
winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of
offending him, I called Johann to stop. When he pulled up, I told him I
would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of excuses and
frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat piqued my
curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered fencingly and
repeatedly looked at his watch in protest.
Finally, I said, “Well,
Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come unless
you like, but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I
For an answer, he quickly
threw himself off the box to the ground. Then he stretched out his
hands appealingly to me and implored me not to go. There was just
enough of English mixed with the German for me to understand the drift
of his talk. He seemed about to tell me something—the very idea
of which evidently frightened him. But each time, he pulled himself up,
crossed himself and said, “Walpurgisnacht!”
I tried to argue with him, but
it is difficult to argue with a man when I do not know his language.
The advantage certainly rested with him. Although he began to speak in
English, a very crude and broken kind, he always got excited and broke
into his native tongue — and every time he did so he looked at
The horses became restless and
sniffed the air. At this, he grew very pale. Looking around in near
panic, he suddenly jumped forward and took the houses by the bridles
and led them on some twenty feet.
I followed and asked why he
had done this. For an answer he crossed himself, pointed to the spot we
had left and drew his carriage in the direction of the other road,
indicating a cross.
He said, first in German, then in English, “Buried him—him what killed themselves.”
I remembered the old custom of
burying suicides at cross-roads. “Ah! I see; a suicide. How
interesting!” But for the life of me, I could not make out why
the horses were frightened.
Whilst we were talking we
heard a sort of sound between a yelp and a bark. It was far away, but
the horses got very restless and it took Johann all his time to quiet
them. He was pale and said, “It sounds like a wolf—but yet
there are no wolves here now.”
“No?” I said. “Isn’t it long since the wolves were so near the city?”
“Long, long, in the spring and summer. But with the snow, the wolves have been here not so long.”
Whilst he was petting the
horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds drifted rapidly across the
sky. The sunshine passed away and a breath of cold wind drifted past
us. It was only a breath, however, and more in the nature of a warning
than a fact, for the sun came out brightly again. Johann looked under
his lifted hand at the horizon and said, “The storm of snow, he
comes before long time.” Then he looked at his watch again.
Straightway, holding the reins firmly—for the horses were still
pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads—he climbed
to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our journey.
I felt a little obstinate and did not at once get into the carriage.
I said, “Tell me about this place where the road leads.” I pointed down.
Again he crossed himself and, before he answered, mumbled a prayer. “It is unholy.”
“What is unholy?”
“Then there is a village?”
“No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years.”
My curiosity was piqued. “But you said there was a village.”
“Where is it now?”
At this, he burst into a long
story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not quite
understand exactly what he said. Roughly, I gathered that long ago,
hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves.
Sounds were heard under the clay and when the graves were opened, men
and women were found rosy with life, and their mouths red with blood.
And so, in haste to save their lives (aye, and their souls! here he
crossed himself), those who were left fled away to other places where
the living lived and the dead were dead and not—not something
else. He was evidently afraid to speak the last words.
As he proceeded with his
narration, he grew more and more excited. It seemed as if his
imagination had gotten hold of him and he ended in a perfect paroxysm
of fear—white-faced, perspiring, trembling and looking around as
if expecting some dreadful presence would manifest itself there in the
bright sunshine on the open plain.
Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried, “Walpurgisnacht!” and pointed to the carriage for me to get in.
All my English blood rose at
this. Standing back, I said, “You are afraid, Johann—you
are afraid. Go home, I shall return alone; the walk will do me
The carriage door was open. I
took from the seat my oak walking-stick — which I always carry on
my holiday excursions and closed the door, pointing back to Munich.
I said, “Go home, Johann. Walpurgisnacht doesn't concern Englishmen.”
Now the horses were more
restive than ever. Johann was trying to hold them in while excitedly
imploring me not to do anything foolish. I pitied the poor fellow; he
was deeply in earnest. But all the same, I could not help laughing.
His English was quite gone
now. In his anxiety, he had forgotten that his only means of making me
understand was to talk in my language, so he jabbered away in his
native German. It began to be a little tedious. After giving the
directive, “Home!” I turned to go down the cross-road into
With a despairing gesture,
Johann turned his horses towards Munich. I leaned on my stick and
looked after him. He went slowly along the road for a while.
Over the crest of the hill,
there came a man tall and thin. I could see so much in the distance. As
he drew near, the horses began to jump and kick, then to scream with
terror. Johann could not hold them in; they bolted down the road,
running away madly. I watched him go out of sight, then looked for the
stranger. I found that he, too, was gone.
With a light heart, I turned
down the side road through the deepening valley to which Johann had
objected. There was not the slightest reason, that I could see, for his
objection, and I daresay I tramped for a couple of hours without
thinking of time or distance, and certainly without seeing a person or
a house. So far as the place was concerned it was desolation itself.
But I did not notice this particularly till, on turning a bend in the
road, I came upon a scattered fringe of wood; then I recognized that I
had been impressed unconsciously by the desolation of the region
through which I passed.
I sat down to rest and looked
around. It struck me that it was considerably colder than it had been
at the commencement of my walk. A sort of sighing sound seemed to be
around me, with, now and then, high overhead, a sort of muffled roar.
Looking up, I noticed that great thick clouds were drifting rapidly
across the sky from north to south at a great height. There were signs
of a coming storm in some lofty stratum of the air. I was a little
chilly and, thinking that it was the sitting still after walking, I
resumed my journey.
The ground I passed over was
now much more picturesque. There were no striking objects that the eye
might single out, but in all, there was a charm of beauty. I took
little heed of the time and it was only when the deepening twilight
forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I should find my way
The brightness of the day had
gone. The air was cold and the drifting of clouds high overhead was
more marked. They were accompanied by a sort of far-away rushing sound,
through which seemed to come, at intervals, that mysterious cry which
the driver had said came from a wolf. For a while, I hesitated. I had
said I would see the deserted village, so on I went and presently came
on a wide stretch of open country, shut in by hills all around. Their
sides were covered with trees which spread down to the plain, dotting,
in clumps; the gentler slopes and hollows showed here and there. I
followed with my eye the winding of the road and saw that it curved
close to one of the densest of these clumps and was lost behind it.
As I looked, there came a cold
shiver in the air and the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles
and miles of bleak country I had passed and then hurried on to seek the
shelter of the wood.
Darker and darker grew the sky
and faster and heavier fell the snow till the earth before and around
me was a glistening white carpet, the farther edge of which was lost in
misty vagueness. The road here was crude. On level ground, its
boundaries were not so marked as when it passed through the cuttings.
In a little while, I found that I must have strayed from it, for I
missed underfoot the hard surface and my feet sank deeper in the grass
and moss. Then the wind grew strong and blew with ever-increasing
force, till I was fain to run before it.
The air became icy cold and,
in spite of my exercise, I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so
thickly and whirling around me in such rapid eddies that I could hardly
keep my eyes open. Every now and then the heavens were torn asunder by
vivid lightning, and in the flashes, I could see ahead of me a great
mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress, all heavily coated with snow.
I was soon amongst the shelter
of the trees, and there, in comparative silence, I could hear the rush
of the wind high overhead. Presently the blackness of the storm had
become merged in the darkness of the night. By and by the storm seemed
to be passing away: it now only came in fierce puffs or blasts. At such
moments the weird sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many
similar sounds around me.
Now and again, through the
black mass of drifting cloud, there came a straggling ray of moonlight,
which lit up the expanse and showed me that I was at the edge of a
dense mass of cypress and yew trees. The snow had ceased to fall so I
walked out from the shelter and began to investigate more closely.
It appeared that amongst so
many old foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a
house in which, though in ruins, I could find some sort of shelter for
a while. As I skirted the edge of the copse I found that a low wall
Following it, I presently
found an opening. Here the cypresses formed an alley leading up to a
square mass of some kind of building. Just as I caught sight of this,
however, the drifting clouds obscured the moon and I passed up the path
in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver
as I walked. But there was the hope of shelter and I groped my way
I stopped, for there was a
sudden stillness. The storm had passed and, perhaps in sympathy with
nature's silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only
momentarily, for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds,
showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before
me was a massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and
all around it.
With the moonlight there came
a fierce sigh of the storm, which appeared to resume its course with a
long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked and
felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the
heart. Then, while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble
tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it was
returning on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I
approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood
alone in such a place. I walked around it and read, over the Doric
door, in German:
COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ IN STYRIA SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH 1801
On the top of the tomb,
seemingly driven through the solid marble—for the structure was
composed of a few vast blocks of stone—was a great iron spike or
stake. Upon going to the back, I saw, graven in great Russian letters:
THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST.
There was something so weird
and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me
feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken
A thought struck me which came
under almost mysterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This
was Walpurgis Night! Walpurgis Night, when, according to the belief of
millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were
opened and the dead came forth and walked. When evil things of earth
and air and water held revel.
This very place the driver had
specially shunned, this was the depopulated village of centuries ago.
This was where the suicide lay; this was the place where I was
alone—unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a
wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the
religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a
paroxysm of fright.
And now a perfect tornado
burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered
across it. This time the storm bore on its icy wings, not snow, but
great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have
come from the thongs of Balearic slingers—hailstones that beat
down leaf and branch and made the shelter of the cypresses of no more
avail than though their stems were standing corn.
At the first, I had rushed to
the nearest tree, but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only
spot that seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble
tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained a
certain amount of protection from the beating of the hailstones. For
now, they only drove against me as they ricocheted from the ground and
the side of the marble.
As I leaned against the door
it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was
welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter when there
came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the
heavens. In that instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my eyes were
turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded
cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier.
As the thunder broke overhead,
I was grasped as by the hand of a giant and hurled out into the storm.
The whole thing was so sudden that, before I could realize the shock,
mental as well as physical, I found the hailstones beating me down. At
the same time, I had a strange, dominating feeling that I was not
alone. I looked towards the tomb. Just then there came another blinding
flash, which seemed to strike the iron stake that surmounted the tomb
and to pour through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble, as
in a burst of flame. The dead woman rose for a moment of agony, while
she was lapped in the flame. Her bitter scream of pain was drowned in
the thunder-crash. The last thing I heard was this mingling of dreadful
sound, as again I was seized in the giant-grasp and dragged away, while
the hailstones beat on me, and the air around seemed reverberant with
the howling of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague,
white, moving mass as if all the graves around me had sent out phantoms
of their sheeted dead, and that they were closing in on me through the
white cloudiness of the driving hail.
Gradually there came sort of a
vague beginning of consciousness, then a sense of weariness that was
dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing, but slowly my senses
returned. My feet seemed positively racked with pain, yet I could not
move them. They seemed to be numbed. There was an icy feeling at the
back of my neck and all down my spine, and my ears, like my feet, were
dead, yet in torment. But there was in my breast a sense of warmth
which was, by comparison, delicious. It was a nightmare—a
physical nightmare, if one may use such an expression—for some
heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.
This period of semi-lethargy
seemed to remain a long time, and as it faded away, I must have slept
or swooned. Then came a sort of loathing, like the first stage of
sea-sickness, and a wild desire to be free from something. I knew not
what. A vast stillness enveloped me, as though all the world were
asleep or dead—only broken by the low panting as of some animal
close to me.
I felt a warm rasping at my
throat. Then came a consciousness of the awful truth which chilled me
to the heart and sent the blood surging up through my brain. Some great
animal was lying on me and now licking my throat. I feared to stir, for
some instinct of prudence bade me lie still, but the brute seemed to
realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head.
Through my eyelashes, I saw above me the two great flaming eyes of a
gigantic wolf. Its sharp white teeth gleamed in the gaping red mouth
and I could feel its hot breath fierce and acrid upon me.
For another spell of time, I
remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by
a yelp, renewed again and again. Then, seemingly very far away, I heard
a “Holla! holla!” as of many voices all calling out in
Cautiously, I raised my head
and looked in the direction from where the sound came, but the cemetery
blocked my view. The wolf still continued to yelp in a strange way and
a red glare began to move around the grove of cypresses, as though
following the sound. As the voices drew closer, the wolf yelped faster
and louder. I feared to make either sound or motion. Nearer came the
red glow over the white pall which stretched into the darkness around
All at once from beyond the
trees there came at a trot a troop of horsemen bearing torches. The
wolf rose from my breast and made for the cemetery. I saw one of the
horsemen (soldiers, by their caps and their long military cloaks) raise
his carbine and take aim. A companion knocked up his arm, and I heard
the ball whizz over my head. He had evidently taken my body for that of
the wolf. Another sighted the animal as it slunk away and a shot
followed. Then, at a gallop, the troop rode forward—some towards
me, others following the wolf as it disappeared amongst the snow-clad
As they drew nearer, I tried
to move, but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that went
on around me. Two or three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and
knelt beside me. One of them raised my head and placed his hand over my
“Good news, comrades!” he cried. “His heart still beats!”
Then some brandy was poured
down my throat; it put vigour into me and I was able to open my eyes
fully and look around. Lights and shadows were moving among the trees
and I heard men call to one another. They drew together, uttering
frightened exclamations, and the lights flashed as the others came
pouring out of the cemetery pell-mell like men possessed.
When the farther ones came close to us, those who were around me eagerly asked them, “Well, have you found him?”
The reply rang out hurriedly.
“No! no! Come away quick—quick! This is no place to stay,
and on this of all nights!”
“What was it?”
The answer came variously and
all indefinitely as though the men were moved by some common impulse to
speak, yet were restrained by some common fear from giving their
“It—it—indeed!” gibbered one, whose wits had plainly given out for the moment.
“A wolf—and yet not a wolf!” another put in shudderingly.
“No use trying for him without the sacred bullet,” a third remarked in a more ordinary manner.
“Serve us right for
coming out on this night! Truly we have earned our thousand
marks!” were the remarks of a fourth.
After a pause, another said,
“There was blood on the broken marble. The lightning never
brought that there. And for him, is he safe? Look at his throat! See,
comrades, the wolf has been lying on him and keeping his blood
The officer looked at my
throat and replied, “He is all right, the skin is not pierced.
What does it all mean? We should never have found him but for the
yelping of the wolf.”
“What became of
it?” asked the man who was holding up my head. He seemed the
least panic-stricken of the party; his hands were steady and without
tremor. On his sleeve was the chevron of a petty officer.
“It went to its
home,” answered the man, his long face pallid. He actually shook
with terror as he glanced around him fearfully. “There are graves
enough there in which it may lie. Come, comrades—come quickly!
Let us leave this cursed spot.”
The officer raised me to a
sitting posture, as he uttered a word of command; then several men
placed me upon a horse. He sprang to the saddle behind me, took me in
his arms, gave the word to advance and, turning our faces away from the
cypresses, we rode away in swift, military order.
As yet my tongue refused its
office and I was perforce silent. I must have fallen asleep, for the
next thing I remembered was finding myself standing up, supported by a
soldier on each side of me. It was almost broad daylight and to the
north, a red streak of sunlight was reflected, like a path of blood,
over the waste of snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing
of what they had seen, except that they found an English stranger
guarded by a large dog.
“Dog! That was no
dog!” cut in the man who had exhibited such fear. “I think
I know a wolf when I see one.”
The young officer answered calmly, “I said a dog.”
the other ironically. It was evident that his courage was rising with
the sun. Pointing to me, he said, “Look at his throat. Is that
the work of a dog, master?”
Instinctively, I raised my
hand to my throat. As I touched it, I cried out in pain. The men
crowded round to look, some stooping down from their saddles.
Again came the calm voice of
the young officer. “A dog, as I said. If aught else were said we
should only be laughed at.”
I was then mounted behind a
trooper and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here we came across
a stray carriage, into which I was lifted, and it was driven off to the
Quatre Saisons—the young officer accompanying me, whilst a
trooper followed with his horse. The others rode off to their barracks.
When we arrived, Herr Delbruck
rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me that it was apparent he had
been watching within. Taking me by both hands, he solicitously led me
The officer saluted me and
turned to withdraw. When I recognized he was leaving, I insisted that
he should come to my rooms. Over a glass of wine, I warmly thanked him
and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was
more than glad and that Herr Delbruck had at the first taken steps to
make all the searching party pleased; at which ambiguous utterance the
maitre d'hotel smiled. The officer pleaded duty and withdrew.
“But Herr Delbruck,” I enquired, “how and why was it that the soldiers searched for me?”
He shrugged his shoulders as
if in depreciation of his own deed, and replied, “I was so
fortunate as to obtain leave from the commander of the regiment in
which I served to ask for volunteers.”
“But how did you know I was lost?”
“The driver came hither with the remains of his carriage which had been upset when the horses ran away.”
“But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers merely on this account?”
“Oh, no!” he
answered. “But even before the coachman arrived I had this
telegram from the Boyar whose guest you are.” He took from his
pocket a telegram which he handed to me.
Be careful of my
guest—his safety is most precious to me. Should aught happen to
him, or if he be missed, spare nothing to find him and ensure his
safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often
dangers from snow and wolves and night. Lose not a moment if you
suspect harm to him. I answer your zeal with my fortune.
As I held the telegram in my
hand the room seemed to whirl around me. If the attentive maitre
d'hotel had not caught me, I think I should have fallen. There was
something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to
imagine, that there grew on me a sense of my being in some way the
sport of opposing forces—the mere vague idea of which seemed in a
way to paralyze me. I was certainly under some form of mysterious
protection. From a distant country had come, in the very nick of time,
a message that took me out of the danger of the snow-sleep and the jaws
of the wolf.
I invite you to look over my old-school vampire novel Curse of the Vampyr HERE