Hell Notes: Vampires!

By | April 24th, 2013
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Logo by Tim Daniel

Mike Mignola has long had a fascination with vampires. On his website he even lists Dracula as one of his primary influences, and yet for a long time, vampires only really existed on the fringes of the Hellboy universe. Over the last few years this has been steadily changing, most notably with 1946, 1947, The Sleeping and the Dead, and of course this month’s Vampire. So I thought now would be the perfect time to shine a little light on these creatures and see what we can discover…

Please note, this column contains spoilers for those that have not yet read up to and including B.P.R.D.: Vampire #1.

Vladimir Giurescu

Vladimir Giurescu
Despite their infrequent appearances over the last twenty years, vampires played a major part of the second Hellboy miniseries Wake the Devil. Vladimir Giurescu, dressed in a Napoleonic uniform, was a vampire quite unlike any other. Despite being decapitated, impaled, and burned by Nazis in 1944, he is still capable of returning to life. This isn’t normal for a vampire either. In this same story we’re introduced to Vladimir’s father, and burning him does a pretty good job of finishing him off. (Vampire killing method #1: Fire)

Back in the late fifteenth century, Vladimir Giurescu was chosen by the goddess Hecate to be his son, and his veins run with her blood. Whenever he is mortally wounded, he can be taken to a secret temple built for the goddess beneath Castle Giurescu, laid out on an altar in the light of the full moon, and a few ritual sacrifices later he’s good as new again.

Giurescu turns into a giant bird
Fortunately Hellboy shows up mid-restoration, so Giurescu isn’t back to his full strength. Even so, he puts up quite a fight.

Giurescu probably would’ve been damn hard to kill if Hecate hadn’t decided to take back the life she had given him to restore herself. Of course, Hellboy still got the crap kicked out of him, it was just by a snake-goddess instead of a super-vampire.

Though dead by the end of Wake the Devil, this isn’t the last of Giurescu. His skeleton is later entombed in Italy with the shackled corpse of Hecate until the end of the world (see Hellboy: Darkness Calls). But it’s his past that’s really interesting. It’s mentioned in Wake the Devil that in 1882 he had a run-in with Sir Edward Grey and fled England shortly after. Perhaps he’ll show up in the pages of Witchfinder someday.

And then there were also those Nazis that killed him in 1944…

Project Vampir Sturm

Giurescu and Hitler talk Project Vampir Sturm
This was an attempt by the Nazis to create an army of vampires, however after Hitler met with Vladimir Giurescu, he became convinced they could never be adequately controlled. The next morning he issued warrants for Giurescu and his six wives (which led to the decapitation, impaling, and burning I mentioned earlier).

The youngest of Giurescu’s wives, Anna, was not killed immediately, however. Nazi scientists first drained her of blood, and with it they experimented on the mentally ill. As Hitler had thought, the vampire-like creatures they became could not be controlled, so they were frozen, half-formed, in liquid nitrogen.

In B.P.R.D.: 1946, a Nazi scientist, Professor Herman von Klempt, attempted to launch a rocket full of frozen vampires into the heart of America, releasing an epidemic of vampires as revenge for winning the war. This would be the proving grounds for the young Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and their success (Vampire killing method #2: Blow ’em up) cements them as a valuable organisation worth funding.

Hellboy, Vampire Hunter

1982 was a big vampire year for Hellboy. In The Vampire of Prague, Hellboy goes after a gambler that struck up game of cards with the dead and became a vampire. This guy was tough to kill, not because he was particularly strong, but because he’s a slippery bastard. Even after he’s decapitated, he still managed to turn himself into a serpent and then a bat to make his escape. He was not, however, immune to sunlight. (Vampire killing method #3: Sunlight)

Continued below

In The Vârcolac Hellboy finally finds Ilona Kákosy, a vampire he has been tracking since an encounter in Budapest. This vampire is capable of giving Hellboy a completely immersive vision to distract him. Hellboy eventually shakes out of it though and impales Kákosy with a wooden stake. (Vampire killing method #4: Wooden stake through the heart)

The Vârcolac
This story introduces the titular Vârcolac, “The King of all Vampir, living and dead, Moroii and Stigoi.” As this is a vision, it’s unclear as to whether the Vârcolac is real or not. Even in the Hellboy universe, some monsters are still fiction, and it is entirely possible Kákosy was trying to frighten Hellboy with a vision of an impossibly powerful vampire. Outside of this short story, the Vârcolac has never been mentioned again.

What is interesting here is Kákosy’s use of the words Moroii and Stigoi, and the phrase “living and dead”. What this means in the Hellboy universe I can only speculate, but in Romanian mythology “Moroi” are the mortal vampires, dead people that rise from their graves to feed on the living. In other variants they are demon-possessed corpses, or the children of immortal vampire parents. As for “Strigoi,” the immortal vampires, they can transform themselves into animals, or make themselves invisible, and other powers too beyond their immortality.

It is worth noting that Mignola does not use the common spelling of either words. His are Moroii instead of Moroi, and Stigoi instead of Strigoi. He has chosen to set his vampires apart. What defines these two kinds of vampires in Mignola’s work is unknown, but we do at least know there is more than one kind, and what hurts one does not necessarily hurt the other.

The Sleeping Dead

Tormented Mary
In the sixties there were two incidents involving vampires. One, in Romania 1969, was mentioned briefly in Hellboy: Almost Colossus. The other was in Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead, set in Suffolk, England 1966. Hellboy is investigating an inn where people had been checking in well, but checking out sick. This leads him to a family ruined by the arrival of a vampire pretending to be a relative. The elder sister is transformed into a vampire and kept as a companion (later killed by Hellboy, utilising vampire killing method #5: Shot by silver bullets), the brother, now an elderly man, was bound to servitude, and the youngest sister was tormented until she herself became a monster.

It’s not just the family that has fallen victim to this vampire. Over decades, he has been preying on the locals or those that pass through the town alone, turning them all slowly to vampires. He has an army of vampires sleeping in the grounds around the house and in the local churchyard, vampires that he can awaken at any time and command. The vampires he has created are linked to him though, and when he is killed (Vampire killing method #6: Decapitation), they too collapse, either dead or returned to sleep. Perhaps the master vampire is a Stigoi and his army is Moroii? Or are they something else?

Vampires in the churchyard

This story also introduces a key aspect of Mignola’s vampire mythology… Why aren’t there more vampires? In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries vampires were everywhere in Eastern Europe. Books were written about vampire hunting, the vampire epidemic was debated in universities, cemeteries were exhumed. Then in 1774, almost all vampires disappeared.

The heads of the great vampire families had met that year and agreed they should go into hiding. They would continue to swell their ranks, but very carefully and secretly. They believed that over time, they would fade into myth and the defences against vampires would be forgotten. The vampires wait for an agreed upon day when they will raise their vampire armies from the grave and make war on humankind.

This plan wasn’t just about over-running the humans though. It was an act of survival. By the late eighteenth century vampires had been driven from Africa and the temples of Southeast Asia. The American vampires were primitive, savage creatures. The Europeans were the last of the vampire civilisation left, and they were being slaughtered to the point that their future was in doubt.

Continued below

Baron Konig and the Brezina Sisters

In 1946, a vampire called Baron Konig learned of Project Vampir Sturm and the “perversions” the Nazis had created from vampire blood. In his fury, he revealed himself to humans, and declared that humankind would suffer for what they had done. Konig broke the agreement made by the vampire families, and began a campaign of massacres in Europe.

Baron Konig's ashes and rings
At the annual festival for Hecate in the Spring of 1947, the heads of the great vampire families learned of what Baron Konig had done. Konig attempted to rally them into war with humanity, but the five Heads were not convinced. Furious with Konig’s careless hubris, the Heads executed Konig (Vampire killing method #7: Slit throat/drained of blood). Konig’s body turned to ash, leaving behind the rings he always wore…

Witness to all this was Agent Simon Anders, brought to Hecate’s annual festival by the Brezina sisters, Annaliese and Katharina. These vampire sisters were later killed (#4: Stake) by a team of B.P.R.D. agents, but not before they had gotten their fangs into Anders. Their spirits had infested him, and would have eventually overtaken him had not an exorcist sealed them away. However this was only a temporary fix. The seal would weaken over time, and sooner or later it would break altogether. In B.P.R.D.: 1948, Anders was already showing signs of breaking, becoming a volatile person to be around, clearly a danger to himself and others.

Which brings us to B.P.R.D.: Vampire. In this miniseries Anders is hunting vampires, yet it seems the Brezina sisters may be manipulating him. In this week’s issue, he’s presented with Baron Konig’s rings, and immediately one of the Brezina sisters whispers in his ear, “He’ll want these. He’ll show himself if you bring them to him.” Could it be they are trying to resurrect the departed Baron?

It’s certainly possible (it’s even been hinted at in the afterword of the B.P.R.D.: 1947 trade paperback). Baron Konig was the one that turned the Brezina sisters into vampires back in 1701, and if you haven’t guessed from the opening sequence of issue one, the three of them got along really well. It makes me wonder if Simon Anders can even trust his own desires anymore…

A Present Danger

Vampires aren’t just a big deal in the forties. In Hell on Earth there have already been hints that the day of the vampires’ planned return is soon, and it’s not going to be pleasant for anyone involved… including the vampires.

In last year’s The Pickens County Horror, a curious fungus had gotten into a field full of buried vampires waiting to awaken, turning them into green sludge. Soon there was a strange green mist going about full of shadowy figures that can turn a person into a weird liquified-zombie. Oddly a hazmat suit offered very little in the way of protection from this mist, but a crucifix could keep it at bay, as could fire to a limited extent.

Not even vampire expert Professor Ethan Thomas knows what the mist is

But what was it? Some kind of vampire army mist? Your guess is as good as mine. Vaughn, the B.P.R.D. agent on the scene, has little interest in finding out. He saw what happened with the fungus in B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs, and so he torches everything before it spreads further. However, the B.P.R.D. is stretched pretty thin lately what with Ogdru Hem and monsters popping up all over the place.

In Abe Sapien: The Dark and Terrible, it seems that the clean up crew may have missed something. A hobo has an infection in his arm, which may or may not have come from vampires that had been turned into a poisonous fungus. By the end of that issue he was found by the B.P.R.D., so hopefully we’ll learn more about it real soon.

I think Abe Sapien is going to be where we’ll see the vampire story unfold in present day for now. Mike Mignola has mentioned in a few interviews that John Arcudi hates vampires, so it seems at least for now, Scott Allie will be handling the vampire stuff, and that vampire stuff will involve lots creepy fungus.

Continued below

Other Curious Gaps

There are some other periods of time that could also be explored further. In 1966, The Sleeping and the Dead, Hellboy encounters European vampires for the first time. Only three years later, he has another encounter in Romania. Some time before 1982 Hellboy encounters Ilona Kákosy in Budapest for the first time. In 1982 Hellboy kills the Vampire of Prague, and in the same year finally tracks down Ilona Kákosy and kills her too.

It’s almost as if after Hellboy learned of the vampires’ plan in 1966, he decided to hunt them down. Killing Ilona Kákosy is especially significant, as she was the head of one of the five vampire families, and was present when Baron Konig was executed.

The Heads of the Great Vampire Families

Curiously, in The Pickens County Horror, when Agent Vaughn is being lectured on the history of vampires he says, “…vampire history doesn’t come up that often… now.” The B.P.R.D. is not ignorant of the vampires’ plan. Agent Anders learned some of it in 1947, and Hellboy learned the rest in 1966. Why would they think that vampires were no longer an issue? Did Hellboy perhaps go on a crusade against vampires in the sixties, seventies, and eighties? Perhaps he hunted down the five heads of the vampire families. Surely there is a reason why the B.P.R.D. no longer thinks vampires are a pressing issue, or that they are an issue that’s already been dealt with.

Dead cold people
Then there is another curious gap, and this one goes way back. In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Abyss of Time the early humans are at war with “the cold people”. These creatures attack during the night, and after the battle the humans stake each of the corpses through the chest “so that the dead stay dead.” It’s possible the cold people may be the earliest vampires.

Where vampires came from is something that has never been explored, although the cold people describe themselves as “children of the old gods,” (the Ogdru Hem) and are seen to worship the Ogdru Jahad and their sister, Black Heccata…

I don’t think it’s a huge leap to say that “Black Heccata” is Hecate, the Black Goddess. The vampires of the present day worship her too. The annual festival they hold in her honour is the holiest day of their calendar. But why? Why is Hecate so important to the vampires? What is her connection to them?

In Hellboy: Wake the Devil, Giurescu’s father tells a story of how he came to find Hecate, who had been sleeping for a thousand years. He awakens her, and restores her. He builds a temple for her beneath his castle, and sacrifices animals and servants to her, and she turns him and his son into vampires. This all happened in Romania in the year 1492, the late fifteenth century. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, vampires had never been more prevalent in Eastern Europe. It was their golden age. It’s unlikely this is a coincidence. Hecate, like vampires, drinks blood. She cannot go out into daylight… Oh, and there is one more thing; the Brezina sisters refer to Hecate as “the source.”

Make of that what you will.

How to Kill a Vampire!
To quickly recap:

  1. Burn it.
  2. Blow it up.
  3. Give it some time in the sun.
  4. Put a wooden stake through its heart.
  5. Shoot it full of silver slugs. (And make sure the bullets stay imbedded in its flesh.)
  6. Decapitate it.
  7. Drain it of blood / Slit its throat. This one’s a bit iffy though. The knife that was used to do this could be a significant factor.

And remember, when in doubt, do all seven, because none of these methods are guaranteed to work.

Whew! That’s it for this installment of Hell Notes. As usual, I’d love to hear your theories, so if you have any, share ’em. And if I’ve missed something, let me know.

//TAGS | Hell Notes | Mignolaversity

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.


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