“That tree gives me the creeps!”: Tales of Vampiric Plants

Readers of Gothic literature will quickly recognize that Irene is suffering from a vampire bite. She is not the victim of Dracula, Carmilla, or Lord Ruthven, though. Rather, it is a vampiric sumach tree that has attacked her during her sleep. Ulric Daubeny’s “The Sumach,” published in his collection The Elemental: Tales of the Supernormal and the Inexplicable (1919), is a fascinating killer-plant story. It tells of a tree that has grown from a stake plunged into the heart of a buried vampire. The tree possesses hypnotic powers that seduce young women to its branches to feed upon them.

Read more

‘A Vision of Animal Existences’: Popular Responses to Darwin

In the refreshment room of London’s Zoological Gardens, the protagonist of Edmund Saul Dixon’s short story, ‘A Vision of Animal Existences’ (1862), spots a woman reading a ‘thick volume’ that he recognizes. He pulls out reading material of his own—a newspaper—and, perusing its contents, finds a discussion appropriate to his surroundings: extinction, artificial selection, and species are amongst its topics. Prompted to refocus on the ‘volume’ of his nearby reader, however, he forges a further connection: ‘the blue-robed lady’s green-covered

Read more