The 1954 novel “I am Legend,” sixteen episodes of the original “Twilight Zone,” (1959-1964), the screenplay for Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s (Saving Private Ryan), 1971 television film “Duel,” and the 1958 book “A Stir of Echoes,” which was subsequently made into the 1999 movie directed by David Koepp (Spider-Man), which starred Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon (Taking Chance). The foregoing is a small sample of the prolific output from author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson. During his lifetime, he wrote a wide array of excellent short stories, one of which was “No Such Thing as a Vampire.” (As an aside: Richard Matheson won the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2013, from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. Sadly, he died before he was able to receive the award, so the ceremony was dedicated to him. For those of you who are reading this that are fans of the original “Star Trek” series (1966-1969), Matheson wrote the episode “The Enemy Within,” which aired on October 6, 1966. The episode was the first time that Mr. Spock ever used the Vulcan nerve pinch).
Upon waking, Madame Alexis Gheria is understandably disturbed. Her nightgown has been lowered from her body and blood has been smeared across her chest. The only clue as to how the blood got there comes from two small puncture marks on her neck. Alexis believes her wound is the direct result of being bitten by a vampire. Dr. Petre Gheria, her husband, does not believe in the existence of such a creature, and assures his wife, that there has to be another explanation for what has taken place. Alexis is not alone in her feelings. The citizens of Solta, where the couple reside, also believe in the validity of vampires. They take to barricading their homes at night, and strewing garlic about to ward off entry by the undead. Furthermore, the Gheria’s household staff, all with the exception of Karel, the butler, have fled, in fear of becoming a victim of the vampire.
In an effort to prove to his wife that there is no such thing as a vampire, the following evening Dr. Gheria sits vigil at her bedside. He is keeping himself awake by drinking coffee, and has checked to make sure that all of the doors and windows have been bolted shut. In an effort to appease Alexis, he’s even made sure that garlic has been placed at every conceivable entrance into the house. Alexis is also wearing a crucifix. Much to the horror of Dr. Gheria and Alexis, at some point during the evening, when he drifted off, she was once again attacked, as evidenced by more blood on her body. Dr. Gheria is at wits end. He has done everything he can conceivably think of to find out the answer to the mystery as to who or what is draining blood from his wife. He feels his only recourse is to call upon a family friend, Dr. Michael Vares.
Who or what is attacking Alexis at night? Is it a vampire? Could there be another explanation? Will the arrival of Dr. Vares help any? If it is a vampire, does Alexis fall victim to the creature, despite everyone’s efforts to save her? Matheson doesn’t leave anything to the reader’s imagination, in the end, everything will be revealed.
“No Such Thing as a Vampire” was first published in the October 1959 edition of Playboy Magazine. Since then, it has been subsequently published in various magazines and anthology collections, including, but not limited to: “Christopher Lee’s New Chambers of Horror” published in 1974; “Stories That Go Bump in the Night,” a collection of short stories published by Random House, in 1977, that was edited by Alfred Hitchcock; and “The Box: Uncanny Stories,” a collection of some of Richard Matheson’s short stories published in April of 2010. “No Such Thing as a Vampire” was also featured as one of three segments, in the made for television movie “Dead of Night,” which premiered on television on March 29, 1977. The movie was directed by Emmy winner Dan Curtis (War and Remembrance). The first segment “Second Chance” was written by Jack Finney (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) (1978). The second segment “No Such Thing as a Vampire,” starred: Patrick Macnee (The Howling) as Dr. Gheria; Emmy nominee Anjanette Comer (Arrest & Trial) as Alexis; Elisha Cook Jr., a versatile character actor who appeared in over two hundred productions during his career, as Karel; and Horst Buchholz (The Magnificent Seven) as Dr. Vares. “Bobby” the third segment in the movie was also written by Matheson. Emmy nominee Bob Cobert (War and Remembrance) composed the music for the movie, and Emmy winner Ric Waite (Captain and the Kings) did a competent job in regard to the cinematography. Parts horror, mystery, thriller, and Sci-Fi, it has a runtime of 76 minutes.
“No Such Thing as a Vampire,” is a cleverly written story, that should keep most readers guessing until the end. For those seeking a vampire story that has its roots in tradition, but are also interested in something that hasn’t been done many times before, this should make for an enjoyable, quick read.