Late October brings many strange creatures to the library, just in time for Halloween. Popular culture is once again infatuated — smitten, even — with dark characters suffering from vampiric curses, terribly monstrous afflictions and other ghastly conditions. Currently at the Newport Beach Central Library, we have an interesting cast of characters fighting it out on display: ghosts, vampires, werewolves and zombies!
In one corner, we have the traditional ghost featured in haunted house stories. If you like things that go bump in the night, what better example to read than Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House?" Contained in Jackson's "Novels and Stories," "The Haunting of Hill House" remains one of the best literary ghost stories of the 20th century. Adapted as a motion picture twice, check out "The Haunting" (1963) from the library's DVD collection. A similar ghost story is the 1973 film "The Legend of Hell House," starring Roddy McDowall. Well-acted and eerily shot, this film features of team of psychics trying to solve the mystery of the ill-rumored Hell House.
Facing off against ghosts, we have the traditional vampire story. Editor Michael Sims has compiled 22 Victorian vampire stories titled "Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories ." With stories originating from England, America, France, Germany, Transylvania, and even Japan, this unique collection puts the vampire in a setting that meshes well with that of our collective imagination.
In film, the figure of Dracula has been immortalized many times. Relive some classic portrayals with Universal's 1931 "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi, the 1958 Hammer production of "Horror of Dracula" starring Christopher Lee, or the 1992 Francis Ford Coppula version, "Bram Stoker's Dracula" starring Gary Oldman.
What better enemy for the vampire than the fearsome werewolf? Long considered the foremost writer of vampire stories, author Anne Rice has turned her attention to werewolves in her new book "The Wolf Gift." Set in the preset day, a familiar story unfolds of an unwitting character being stricken with an affliction they never thought possible, but Rice weaves the tale with a new and interesting voice. In the world of film, a novel glimpse of the werewolf can be found in the 1984 production of "The Company of Wolves," which mixes fantasy, horror and the Little Red Ridinghood fairy tale!
And what collection would be complete without the modern-day creature of choice, the zombie? From the slow and lumbering awakened dead from George Romero's 1968 classic "The Night of the Living Dead" to the fast-paced biologically inflicted zombies in "28 Weeks Later" to the dramatic reflection of a decaying society as featured in the television series "The Walking Dead," zombies are a popular fixture in fiction and film. Try the new series "As the World Dies" by Rhiannon Frater for a taste of modern-day zombie storytelling, featuring zombies as more of a backdrop for human interaction in the midst of a societal collapse. In film, check out the 2010 motion picture "The Dead" for a film ripe with zombies against a lush African landscape, once again featuring serious drama rather than the camp that the genre is best known for.
For these and many other titles that will help you get into the mood for Halloween, come visit the Newport Beach Public Library, online at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org.
CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.