“Vampire Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Anthony Masters – Part 1

Yes, it’s a whole book about vampires. Check your copies of Twilight at the door, and pour a strong Bloody Mary. You’ll need it.

You know the drill by now. A bunch of kids are gathered somewhere, telling scary stories that they claim are TOTES TRUE and happened to them. You could YouTube a few episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark, or you could waste an hour or two reading this book. And you know which one I’m gonna pick.

It’s the usual beginning with some kids sharing scary stories, except this time they’re in a crypt which they have broken into. I hope this book gets a happy ending where they are all hauled off to juvie.

Summer Pudding

Tony lives on a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere. His only friend is Susan Parker, the old lady who lives on the next farm. But he has to wait for summer to see her, because she and her husband never leave the house during winter. Susan has run into a bit of trouble lately after her sheep started dying from a mysterious “wasting disease.” Remember Larn in Scary Tales? Looks like “wasting disease” is Masters’s code word for “here be vampires.” Anyway, Tony thinks the whole thing is strange, because he hasn’t seen the vet go up to her farm. You can tell this was written in the ’90s. If Susan’s sheep started mysteriously dying today, the authorities would be down on her ass faster than you can say “foot and mouth.”

Whilst Tony is visiting Susan one day, he thinks he sees a face at the window. Susan says this is just his imagination. She tells Tony that her last sheep has just died. He’s worried about her but she dismisses his concerns, and brings out a plate of her summer pudding. It’s super delicious, dripping with lovely red juice. She insists on serving this every time Tony comes over.

Anyone who doesn’t get it yet, go to the back of the class.

Your daily recommended iron intake on a plate.

Your recommended daily iron intake on a plate.

For several days, there are terrible storms and Tony can’t go to see Susan. As soon as the weather clears up, he goes over to her farm; but he finds her body completely drained of blood. Her husband’s body is in the dining room, where he had been eating a plate of her summer pudding. They both have a small wound on their throats. The authorities rule that the Parkers caught the “wasting disease” from their sheep, and that the wounds on their throats are just horsefly bites. Both of them … in the same place? Really?

Shortly afterwards, Tony’s family’s sheep start dying too. They are quarantined. While walking his dog, Tony goes over to Susan’s old house and is convinced he sees the face at the window again. The dog runs into the house and Tony has to follow. They go into what looks like a child’s nursery, full of broken-down old toys. On the table are the remains of a summer pudding, which looks brighter and redder than the ones Susan made for Tony. Then the dog goes downstairs into the kitchen, where Tony finds an entire freezer full of summer puddings. He realises that someone’s been in the house and plugged in the freezer with an external cable. Tony finds a note from Susan to her husband, saying that the puddings are “not up to strength” now the sheep have died. She says that she contributed to this last batch herself, and reminds him to continue feeding their son after she’s dead.

At this point, Tony hears footsteps on the stairs, and wisely runs for his life.

At home, he asks whether Susan ever had a child. His mother says that the Parkers had a son who suffered a brain injury, and (according to Susan) had to go to an institution.
Tony’s mother says she has a surprise for him: she’s made him a summer pudding.

This story makes very little sense. I’ve read it a few times through, and I still can’t get my head around it:

  • Why did the blood have to be made into puddings?
  • Why did the Parkers love pudding so much? Surely, in their situation, the last thing you would want to eat would be pudding?
  • For that matter, “black pudding” (made from pig’s blood) is quite readily available in the UK. Why didn’t they just feed him that?
  • What did they do in winter? Presumably they needed to stock up on blood because their son wouldn’t have ready access to animals during the winter months – but then who or what was he feeding from before he started on their sheep?
  • It’s implied he really was brain damaged, so how does that come into play? Did the injury somehow turn him into a vampire? Was he already one, but after his injury he could no longer get “food” for himself?
  • Why did no one bother investigating this “wasting disease”? It could become a pandemic! It could be as dangerous as Ebola!

Let’s just move on, shall we?

Buried Alive

Alan’s mother is an immigrant from Bulgaria. She never talks about Bulgaria and never visits, but one day she announces that she’s going back to the Old Country for her father’s funeral. Alan has to go with her, because his own father is away on a business trip. Yes, once again it seems like every damn story in this book will be set in a different country. They attend the funeral, and Alan meets his Bulgarian cousin Sojit. She says they should “thank God” his grandfather was the last of their family line. That’s pretty rude, even if Grandpa is a vampire. Alan tries to ask her what she means, but she won’t say.

That night, Alan has a nightmare of being buried alive in a coffin. He’s awoken by the sound of knocking, and realises it is coming from the graveyard. He looks out of the window and sees Sojit heading down the street towards the graveyard. Alan follows her. The noise grows louder and louder, and he wonders why no one else can hear it. He runs through the graveyard and finally finds Sojit, who’s draped over a grave. Her face is bleeding and he feels a strange urge to drink her blood. Sojit tells him they need to get out of there, but the knocking starts again. Alan is compelled to follow it.

He goes into the mausoleum. Alan’s grandfather pops up out of his coffin (yes), and then the other coffins open and more vampires come out. Grandpa announces Alan is a vampire: it runs in the family. They want to drink from Sojit, and Alan lies that she went home. Unfortunately Sojit chooses this moment to show up looking for Alan. She tells him to come back to the house with her. Alan says to go ahead without him, he really is in no rush …

This is the second time a story in this series has been set in Bulgaria. I guess the lure of the “Eastern Europe Hammer Horror” stereotype was too much for the author to resist. At least he didn’t pick Romania.

The Sitter

Joanna and Zak live in New England. They are demon children who torment all their babysitters, so it’s hard to find anyone willing to put up with them. Finally, their dad hires Carrie. She dresses like an old-fashioned Puritan and threatens to “lambaste” Joanna and Zak if they misbehave. I don’t think that word means what Carrie thinks it means, or what the author thought it means. It’s also mentioned that she comes from Salem … sure, let’s go with that.

Inside No.9 series 2

Are you now, or have you ever been, a vampire?

She won’t let the kids watch TV, and brings out some religious tracts for them to read. The books come from the “Society of Love”, which is “a group of friends and believers” who value purity above all else. So basically she’s abstinence-only. Carrie talks about how the Society of Love meets in the woods, where they drink from a cup and pledge themselves to purity. They like drinking from children because children are so pure. Zak asks exactly what they drink from the cup, and Carrie says “the stuff of life.” This is a family-friendly blog, so we won’t speculate about what that “stuff” might be. Carrie sends the kids up to bed.

Zak wants to prank Carrie, so he goes off to set up a practical joke. Carrie comes in to read a bedtime story. It’s mentioned that she hates men, and especially little boys like Zak. Joanna suddenly feels very tired and falls asleep. She wakes up to find her neck hurting and her throat covered in blood. She falls for Carrie’s bullshit excuses – that Joanna’s comb was in the bed and cut into her throat, and that the mysterious red stain on the carpet is perfume. Joanna is an abject fool and I’m embarrassed to share a name with her.

A loud, booming voice comes from the garden where Zak has set up his speakers. Carrie realises he’s playing a trick on her. She decides he is “corrupt” and must be punished. Joanna notices that Carrie’s teeth are looking a bit pointy. Carrie chases Zak out into the woods, and Joanna tries to follow but loses them. She starts to panic because she can’t help Zak and is convinced Carrie will kill him. Suddenly she hears him running through the undergrowth, with Carrie in hot pursuit. The noise stops, and Carrie again says that Zak will be punished. Everything goes quiet.

Joanna eventually finds Zak safe and sound. He asks about the wounds on her neck, and doesn’t believe Carrie’s story about the comb. He says that Carrie chased him, but then she ran away – when they came across some wild garlic plants.

The author’s thought process is difficult to follow. He wanted Carrie to be a twisted stereotype of a Christian fundamentalist … so he set the story in New England, one of the most secular parts of the US. Maybe because it has a lot of forests (New England’s vegetation is described at the start of the story), and/or because he wanted her to come from Salem. He thought kids would associate Salem with Puritans and horror stories, but didn’t think they’d know that it’s famous for the trials of witches – not vampires. Let’s just be grateful he apparently did not get around to writing “Witch Stories to Tell in the Dark”.

Matron’s Madness

Jud and Alex attend an all-boys’ boarding school. One day, a beautiful woman named Jane Dixon is hired as matron. Everyone loves Jane because she is the only woman at the school, and because she’s hot, and because the school has a high staff turnover of matrons. I have no idea why that could be.

The headmaster, Mr A A Kimber (always referred to by full name) has an amazing wine cellar. Alex already drinks wine, even though he’s like twelve years old, because his dad is a big-time wine lover. So he and Jud start breaking into the cellar and stealing booze. They find a crate with bottles full of a mysterious red substance that is not wine. The boys think it’s tomato juice. They figure it must be there for governor’s board meetings, since one of the governors is a bishop who thinks alcohol is sinful.

A large number of boys start showing up at Jane’s office looking pale and tired. Jane has to keep giving them iron tablets. Kimber is always in there “supervising.” Finally he invites her to a private dinner in his flat. Oooohhhhh! Jud sees Kimber’s assistant fetching bottles of “tomato juice” from the cellar, and thinks that’s strange, but figures maybe Jane doesn’t drink. I guess the boys’ precocious knowledge of alcohol doesn’t extend to cocktails. Jud and Alex decide to go over to Kimber’s private rooms and spy on his date with Jane from the window. There’s no way this could go wrong.

Jane comes over for dinner and tells Kimber that she’s worried about the high rate of anaemia at the school. She wants him to investigate, but he brushes her off and mixes her a literal Bloody Mary OH DEAR DID I SPOIL IT. He goes to the window to fix the curtain, and the boys have to scramble for it before he sees them. They wait up for Jane to get back, and are puzzled to see that she looks happy. They can’t believe she could possibly get along well with Kimber. Well, this book was published before internet porn was widely available so, yeah, I can see why something like this would go over their heads. Jane tells them off for being up past their bedtime.

Alex wakes in the night and finds his classmate Jimmy crying. Jimmy is suspiciously pale and nervous. He says that he, and all the other students who have blood type B, are regularly drained of their blood by Kimber and the teachers. He warns that “they” are coming and tells Alex to get back to bed quick. Alex wakes Jud but then Kimber shows up, along with a newly-vampirised Jane, some teachers, and a few of the older students. Kimber and Jane advance on Jimmy, fangs bared. Alex and Jud escape out of a window and apparently run away from school forever.

Well, there you have it, readers. If your blood type is not B, you are safe. If it is B, please invest in a neck brace and crucifix.

The Mounds

Sarah and her parents are on holiday in the Loire. They’re staying in a house that has two grave mounds in the back garden, apparently because someone buried their dogs there. The house belonged to a couple called the Benoits, but when Sarah and her family try to ask about them in the village, the locals change the subject. Sarah notices she’s not getting a warm welcome: she’s barred from a shop, then someone makes the sign of the cross at her. That night, the family’s relaxing in the back garden when they smell something disgusting coming from the ground. Sarah is sure it’s the burial mounds, but doesn’t see how that’s possible when the “dogs” have been buried for so long.

Sarah is woken in the middle of the night and looks out the window to see that the burial mounds have been opened. She goes down to check, and she’s right. The smell has gone, but then she hears what sounds like the garden gate opening, and the smell comes back. She runs indoors and hides in her room. In the morning, she tries to tell her parents what happened – but the mounds are back to normal. Her father says that the whole town is in uproar about some graves in the local churchyard being desecrated. He mentions that the local priest asked him if the family had been “disturbed.” Sarah goes to the church to see for herself. The priest mentions a terrible smell in the mausoleum, and asks if she’s noticed it anywhere. She tells him about the burial mounds. The priest is all “Right, time for an exorcism, let’s go.” You can’t just drop that kind of news on somebody!

He tells her about the Benoits, the previous owners of the house where Sarah is staying. He says that “they drank blood” and “the community dealt with them.” By which he means “they were vampires” and “the locals murdered them.” They were buried in unconsecrated ground – their own back garden in fact. Now they want to be allowed into the churchyard so they can rest in peace. The priest can’t let them do that, and he wants to get rid of them once and for all. Sarah’s father is also a minister, and the priest hopes that the force of two holy men will be enough to see off the vampires. DOUBLE PRIEST COMBO!

Keep calm and banish demonic forces.

Keep calm and banish demonic forces.

Sarah’s father and the priest hold a ritual over the graves. Nothing happens at first, but she’s later woken by the priest’s voice outside. He is holding another ritual over the grave. This time, the Benoits rise and apparently kill him. They make their way towards the churchyard. The local people are waiting, all armed with stakes and crucifixes; and the problem is finally solved.

Up next: Vampires in laboratories, fishing boats, toy shops, and probably some other places.


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