Following the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and his killing of the nefarious count’s vampiric wives, Professor Abraham Van Helsing commits himself to Dr. John Seward’s Purfleet Asylum, suffering from violent recurring fantasies, where he is diagnosed with melancholic lycanthropia.
Upon his discharge, seeking a relaxing holiday, Van Helsing volunteers to transport the remains and earthly effects of Quincey P. Morris back to the Morris family ranch in Sorefoot, Texas. But when he arrives, he finds Quincey’s brother Cole embroiled in escalating tensions with a neighboring outfit of Norwegian cattle ranchers led by the enigmatic Sig Skoll.
Men and animals start turning up dead and dismembered. Van Helsing suspects a preternatural culprit, but is a shapechanger really loose on the Texas plains, a murderous cult, or are the delusions of his previously disordered mind returning? He must decide soon, for the life of a woman may hang in the balance…
Here’s an excerpt –
From The Journal Of Professor Abraham Van Helsing(translated from the original Dutch)
Thank God I am sane.
Those were the last words I wrote concerning my previous expedition to the Carpathian Mountains. How much has happened since I wrote those words, and in such a short time! Eight whole months have passed. Where to begin?
I will tell of how I came to be diagnosed with lycanthropy.
Following the series of events which took me away from my teaching at the University in Amsterdam to London, and at last to the mountainous region of Wallachia, I deemed it necessary that I should submit myself to the observation and care of my old friend Dr. John Seward in his asylum in Purfleet. The particulars of my stay I will not here recount. If John has learned anything from his old mentor it is the value of copious notation, and thus it would be mundane to relate here what has probably been more thoroughly documented on his phonographic records.
I know now that the specific reasons behind my decision were conceived in certain deeds which I was forced to commit in my pursuit of Count Dracula. In particular, I believe that the seed of my instability was planted by his wives – those three beauteous ladies with whom I dealt so harshly whilst they lay in their ghastly repose. I do not know how much of my current mental state is the product of whatever preternatural bewitchment almost stayed my hand in their execution, and how much is the perfectly logical after-effect of prolonged mental stress and fatigue.
Whichever, not long after the funeral for our heroic Mr. Quincey Morris, I privately confided in John that I had begun to harbor some very unsettling, violent phantasies centering around our beloved Mrs.Mina Harker.
I was possessed of an unusually keen paranoia concerning her safety. I could not sleep for wont of assurance that she was at all times secure. I was at the Harkers’ nearly every day, and I am sorry to say I made quite a nuisance of myself. When at last Jonathan spoke frankly to me about my peculiar habit, I took to visiting the Harker home unannounced by night, watching from the silent shadows of the courtyard until the last lamps in the house were extinguished.
I would find myself passing cemeteries, which were not on my usual route. A ghoulish compulsion began to grow within me, that I should inter the graves within and subject the innocent corpses to the same maschalimos treatments I had prescribed for the vampires. I took to carrying my implements with me—my mallet and stakes, vials of blessed water, and garlic cloves. I knew the bodies in those plots were not the creatures that my imagination was telling me they were, and yet I was overwhelmed with a desire to do them violence.
I also had terrible nightmares in which I would pry open the tomb of Miss Lucy Westenra-Holmwood, thinking to find Dracula’s favored bride there—the very lovely, dark haired one whose coffin had commanded such a special place in his ossuary. When I flung aside the sarcophagus however, it was always Miss Mina who would leap from the casket, slavering and hungry for my blood. Sometimes these terrors ended with my death. Quite a peculiar thing, for is it not speculated that those who die in dreams die in life? Other times, they ended with her’s—and if it was her’s, it was always a prolonged, bloody end, and my phantasmic alter ego would perform acts of lustful malice upon her too vile even to recount here.
In a moment of clarity I saw that it would not be long before I was apprehended in the midst of some atrocity that would bring myself and my loved ones much shame. It was with no small relief that I surrendered the care of my body and mind to my friend John.
I have been on extended leave from my teaching for far too long, but I am grateful to the understanding of my colleagues, who have written me with assurances that I can return whenever I am able. It is good to feel needed.
I also take comfort now that I am once again the man that I was, and am pursuing an active role in my emotional convalescence. I feel that my return to these notes, which are evolving into a kind of journal, is somehow a part of it. John tells me that there was a time when I would place this book within a circle of holy water and bury it in sprigs of fresh cut roses, and cower in the corner of my room, not daring to look at it, fearing the entries scrawled within. I have no memory of this, and it seems humorous to me now that I should have been so foolish. I hope that John will share his documentation of my case with his grateful patient one day, if only to amuse an old man.
It was John who diagnosed me with melancholic lycanthropia. I was of course already familiar with the condition. It has been in the physician’s lexicon since the fifth century, though with the advent of modern medicine and the eradication of humoral theory, the melancholic has been mostly done away with, leaving the lycanthropy (the Greek lykos –‘wolf’ and anthropos–‘man’) alone intact.
In folklore of course, it is the name given to the werewolf—the man or woman who assumes the shape of a wolf, usually by night. The means by which this is achieved are numerous, and include everything from wolf-hide belts and imaginatively composed unguents, to the ubiquitous pact with Satan.
In psychiatric terms, lycanthropy refers to the belief of the patient that he or she assumes the form and characteristics of a wolf or other beast. This belief often translates itself into violent and in the extreme, even cannibalistic acts. While it was never in my mind (I do not think) that I should become a beast and eat the flesh of the living (or the dead), I do believe that the acts which I was contemplating were of a potentially bestial nature.
When John first brought his theory to me, I was reminded of the case of the soldier Bertrand, who in 1849 in France began his horrific career by strolling through cemeteries at night just as I had. Bertrand took to digging up and mutilating the bodies of young women and girls. It took a spring gun trap set into a freshly buried coffin to end his diabolical career at last. I did not want my ailment to progress so far as had Bertrand’s.
But these things are behind me now. The nightmares have ceased, and the barely controlled instincts have abated.
It is most ironic however, to have written this and now to have to tell that I am on a passenger steamer with only the remains of poor Quincey Morris for company.
But I must explain.
Having born the body of our dear Mr. Morris back to London after the end of our travails, it was mutually agreed that as our American friend had made no preparations for his sudden and regrettable departure from this earth, we should let Arthur Holmwood Lord Godalming, who was his eldest and closest friend, decide what should be done with him.
“He was a man at home in so many places, and yet…it seems to me that he should want to rest at home, in Texas. He spoke very fondly of his family’s ranch there. Yes. Texas, I should think.”
This was the proclamation I heard Lord Godalming give prior to my illness, and so far as I knew, it was carried out when I entered John’s care.
Yet when I emerged again, Mr. Morris was still in London, reposing in an urn on Lord Godalming’s mantle.
During my recuperation much had occurred in the life of Arthur Holmwood that did not allow sufficient time for a voyage to America. There were many decisions to be made regarding his late father’s estate. Not only were there a good deal of unforseen settlements to be arranged with his father’s creditors, but there was also the managing of the will and the mediation of rival inheritors who were not at all disposed in their shameful avarice to allot to the executor and chief heir time enough to mourn for both a fiancé and a best friend. A miser’s patience is truly as short as his compassion.
With John’s encouragement (he seemed to see in the hiatus some therapeutic value), I offered and was then granted the task of bearing the remains and worldly remembrances of Quincey P. Morris home to his native land, which lay in the Callahan County of Texas, United States American.
Pick up Terovolas here –
And here’s the unexpurgated cover art from the very talented Wayne Miller, which I think deserves a look…