Polidori’s Vampyre

October 29th, 2007 by Potato

We went to the Fanshawe Pioneer Village’s Haunted Hayride last night, which featured “Polidori’s Vampyre”, a short play put on as the hayride made its rounds. The setup and execution was kind of neat: to get a bunch of people run through simultaneously, the play was broken up into four different stations. The four trailers would all rotate between the station and park while the actors carried out each scene, then the trailers would move on. Each time we changed stations, a new group of actors played the same characters, which I found confusing at the 2nd station (right after our first change!) when a new character was introduced (they warned us about the setup at the beginning, and introduced us to the 4 main characters in the “prologue”, but this character wasn’t included in that group). The performances varied a fair bit from actor to actor, as one might expect in these situations, and the cast was rather female-heavy (only two male characters, and they still had a female cross-dress one at half the stations), but I suppose that’s to be expected in a student drama group. A lot of the kids had good screams, growls, and undead-rising abilities. There were some issues with the split, simultaneous station method: at one point, our station was a few seconds behind the others, and we could clearly hear the other actors screaming out the lines from down the way…

The plot, however, sucked.

To outline it in full (with spoilers, though no one should really care since tonight was the last performance so it’s not like you can go and see it yourself):

Our 19th century hero, John, has returned from England and brought along a strange travelling companion: Lord Ruthven (note: I can’t for the life of me remember what it actually was). John’s sister and mother are glad he’s back, and are hoping he can help because strange, evil things have been happening in the new world while he’s been abroad. Then, John’s sister somehow has a baby who’s going blind and needs help. She hears that Lord Ruthven is wealthy and gives out money to druggies and miscreants, and asks him to help pay for a doctor who might be able to restore her son’s sight. He refuses, saying her cause is too noble, and that he prefers a story with a fall from grace. Lord Ruthven leaves, and John enters to talk with his sister, who tells him that she thinks Lord Ruthven might have a dark side to him. John defends his travelling companion.

Later, we see John and his new girlfriend talking. He is haughty and condescending to her rural upbringing as she tries to warn him of an evil in the woods, and not to ride through there after twilight. He says that he has a fast horse and a sharp dagger, and will not indulge her superstitions. As John heads off for the woods, we see Lord Ruthven chasing after the girl with a mad, hungry look on his face. The next scene, of course, takes us to said woods, where it’s night time, John’s horse has run off, and he’s lost his dagger due to theft or negligence. All he has left is the cross his girlfriend gave him to help keep him safe. He meets up with Lord Ruthven, as they come upon the body of his dead girlfriend. Lord Ruthven tries to tell him to be a man, to not be afraid of the woods, and to stop being so sad over the loss of the farmgirl, when they run into two bandits. While John tries to hand over what he has left, Lord Ruthven starts a fight, and manages to run them off… but not before taking a dagger in the back. John’s struggle with the other bandit focuses around the theft of his cross, and from the acting it’s not clear whether that bandit was trying to take the cross as something valuable (as protection from the vampires?) or is reeling in pain from touching it and trying to throw it away. The bandit runs off quickly, either way, and John has it again in the next scene.

As Lord Ruthven he dies (“as a melancholy lad, I prepared words for just this occasion, but find that when the moment is finally upon me, I have nothing to say”) he makes one very strange request of John: not to tell anyone of his death for a year and a day. Then, presumably a year later, John has gone mad over the death of his girlfriend and travelling companion, and his sister and mother are making preparations for the former’s wedding, wondering if John will be fit to attend. John seems to be a little frazzled, but well enough to talk to his sister about the affair — and realizes that he’s never even met the groom (no mention is made of what happened to the baby and the baby’s father). Then his sister shows him a picture of her fiance: the very dead Lord Ruthven. John screams that her wedding will lead only to ruination, that he’s a monster, etc., but his family thinks he’s mad and troops off to the wedding.

Finally, in the only remotely creepy scene (right before this, a kid on our wagon asked “can we go on the haunted hayride after this?”) John finds that he’s the only human left in the village. Everyone gathers around him in the wake of the wedding, and they all close in on him until it turns into a vampire death pile. After which, Lord Ruthven addresses the audience, and the vampires get up from their feast on John and chase the wagons with snarls and growls and evil cackling laughs as the hayride makes a hasty getaway.

All-in-all, a pretty lame show without much in the way of suspense.

Right off the bat, the play got onto the wrong foot by trying to follow two pretty much mutually exclusive story lines. The first involved the evil happening out in the woods, the demonic rituals. These had apparently been happening for some time before John and Lord Ruthven arrived from England. In that case, it could have turned into a neat story about being trapped in the village, the fear of the woods and the dark, and been kind of spooky and scary that way. It’s a storyline that would have lent itself well to having people jump out of the woods and scream as we drove by. The second and beginning of the third scenes really seemed to be playing to this type of story.

The other storyline surrounded the mysterious Lord Ruthven, who was to the audience obviously “the” vampire. He was pale, dressed creepy, of the aristocracy, and had strange, evil, tastes. The end of the third scene and the “twist” in the fourth were definitely playing to this storyline, which would have been more thrilling and creepy than scary and nightmarish. However, this storyline was severely weakened by having evil things in the woods predate the pair’s arrival from Europe (it could have perhaps been fixed by having Lord Ruthven get lost in the woods first and “miraculously return” or somesuch).

It is a little tough to pull something like this off, since there’s only about 25 minutes or so of “stage” time to tell the tale. A narrator might have helped, to introduce new characters or to help mark the passing of time (there seemed to be a fair bit of time between the prologue and scene 1, scene 1 and scene 2, and a lot from 3 to 4. However, 3 seemed to take place on the same night as 2…).

So, I decided to write my own little story that might work with a similar set up (several stations for a hayride, with a short ~5 minute scene at each one).

Polidori’s Werewolf


John Polidori has just returned to his rural home town after his first year of university in the city. His high school sweetheart, Isabelle, is glad to see he has made it back safe. Quipping that the journey is not all that dangerous, and barely four days by horseback, he is informed that the woods have become treacherous lately, particularly at night. John says that there was nothing to worry about, his new friend Sam has some family money, and paid for a night in a proper inn for the both of them all the way in, so they never had to camp at night, but chastises his sweetheart for her simple ways. After all, he’s seen the maps and civilization is growing every decade, and now the woods are not so deep and not so distant as when they were children, surely they must be much safer now.

Isabelle continues though, insisting that the woods are dangerous of late. Dogs have been barking and run off into the woods, never to return. Just the other day, one was found dead by his owner, looking like it was half-eaten. This catches the attention of Sam, who is now properly introduced as a student of zoology. He would be most interested in seeing this, as he is not aware of any Canadian predators in the area that have a taste for dog. John’s sister Mary arrives just then to greet him with a warm hug, and is very interested to meet his friend Sam. When she learns of his interest in the goings-on in the woods, she immediately offers to take the pair out to investigate.

The woods:

Here we see the gory remains of a dog’s head and torso. Mary is both disgusted, and delighting in disgusting John. John is concerned with what could have done this to such a large dog. “Wolves, from the looks of it,” says Sam “the tracks in the mud look like two sets of dog prints, one much larger than the other, that could be our wolf and this poor thing here.” Mary starts to wander off then screams, and the other two run to her and move a bush, revealing the other half of the dog. “Interesting,” muses Sam “the best meat, here on the thighs, has been untouched, and the other half, aside from being torn apart, did not look like it served as a meal…” The others question what that could possibly mean. “It might mean that whatever animal did this was interrupted in its kill… or wasn’t killing for food at all.”

“Well,” suggests John “wolves can become territorial, can’t they?” Mary says, flatly, that the wolf must have been possessed by the devil to do that over a patch of forest. Dogs usually nip or fight until the other runs away… Sam suggests that they can be fiercely territorial, especially when mating, but that the violence of what happened to this dog suggests that the wolf may be sick or mad.

“We must get a hunting party together to stop this, before the madness spreads to all the animals of the farms. We’ve got to kill the wolf.”

Howling is then heard, quite loudly and far too close. They all suddenly notice that it’s getting dark out, and that this would be an excellent time to head back in. They run off, terrified, and behind them the bushes shake.

The honeymoon, cut short:

It has been several months, and despite sending out regular hunting parties, the village still hasn’t found the mad wolf. Sam believes that they will have a much better chance of finding it in the fall, when the leaves start to drop and the wolf has fewer places to hide.

John, meanwhile, has married Isabelle, and they are having a last conversation with Sam and Mary before heading off to their honeymoon. Those plans are cut short, however, when a horrible howling and growling sound is heard, followed by the piercing scream of a man. Thundering steps are heard crashing through the foliage, and then the dull thump of someone hitting the ground, and another agonizing scream. The foursome rushes to investigate, and finds one of the village’s hunters panicked and bleeding on the ground. He raves about the beast, the devil itself that is out there. It killed his friend, and it had him in his jaws until the four of them came running. He tries to get up and falls on his face, and asks for their help, and is amazed to find that he is missing an arm. He passes out from the shock, as another round of howling begins. John picks up the gun and herds the women behind him as they all try to make it back to the safety of the village.

A werewolf comes crashing out of the woods at them, snarling and growling. The girls scream and John raises the rifle, but he is attacked first, and it goes flying as the werewolf bites firmly down on his arm, then knocks him to the ground and attacks his leg. Sam grabs the rifle and quickly bashes the beast with the stock, then takes aim as it runs off into the woods. A shot cries out in the night, and a crash is heard in the woods. John calls out in pain, and the two girls start to drag him away to safety.

Months later:

John’s injuries never properly heal, and he cannot return to school. Sam, partly out of loyalty to his friend, and partly out of a desire for Mary, decides to stay in the town and help him out.

They are all shaken by their experience that night, months ago. The body of the wolf was never found, only three hunters. The wife of the one who died from bloodloss after losing his arm knows that one man set out with him, so it becomes unclear whether the third, found dead by a bullet through the heart, was out on his own and got caught in the crossfire, or whether he was the creature. Possessed, perhaps, or cursed, or even something worse. Rumours abound, and while Sam cannot possibly agree with Mary’s superstitious belief in demonic possession turning a man into a wolf creature, he admires the tenacity of her belief, and steals a kiss. Plus, the evidence suggests that the beast is still at large, as animals continue to go missing.

Meanwhile, we find out that Isabelle is pregnant. The pregnancy causes her to wake in the middle of the night though, and then she finds that most disturbingly, John is not there some times. She worries where he might be going, and what he might be doing, particularly since he’s not well enough to be out of bed.

News comes then, as a villager drops by to ask if anyone has seen her husband. He left to use the outhouse near the woods the night before, and never returned…

Months later still:

John is too sick to be out at night, his wounds will not fully close and they burn with the heat of brimstone. Mary and Sam are setting out to join a search party, as now the tenth person has disappeared into the woods. Howling can be heard in the distance almost every night lately, particularly when the full moon is up.

They discuss Isabelle’s recent birth to a baby boy, and how exciting it is and how much love there is between her and John, despite his injuries. “The boy is strange, though” remarks Sam.

“My perfect nephew?! Best watch what you say” retorts Mary.

“Well, he is a good looking boy, I’ll grant you that, but to be born with a full head of hair and teeth is strange. Most strange.”

“Yes, peculiar, but maybe it’s just every other infant in the world who has it wrong. Just think of all the nights Isabelle will get to sleep through since he won’t have to teethe!” Mary exclaims. They walk for a bit in silence. “I would like one of my own one day,” she sighs “it would be so beautiful.”

They stop and Sam touches her cheek “You look so pale and beautiful in the moonlight. And it is such a beautiful moon.” He deliberately points her chin to the sky.

“Yes,” she says “it’s so bright on nights like this, and the air is so crisp, and the sky so clear…”

He pulls a ring out of his pocket while she’s watching the sky, then gets down on one knee. “Mary, I love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?” Before she can respond there is another howl, much closer this time, and a werewolf leaps over the kneeling Sam and flattens Mary. Sam tries to grab the werewolf, but is kicked back to the ground. Mary’s throat is slashed by the beast’s fangs, and then it runs off into the woods, howling.

Sam screams at the moon himself.

Soon after:

Sam pounds on the door to the Polidori home. Isabelle answers, starts to chastise him for the lateness of the hour, and for waking the child, when she sees the redness in his eyes and the madness in his hair. He grabs her and starts to cry, saying that Mary is dead. “Where is John? I must tell him.”

“He should be in bed,” Isabelle begins, but then turns to see that he is not. “Oh no, he’s gone off on another of his sleepwalking adventures. Oh, I’m so sorry Sam, oh Mary! What happened?”

“The beast, Isabelle. The beast got her.” He sobs. “We were going to be married, and she was snatched away from me by its evil jaws…”

John returns, as in a trance, half changed into a werewolf, his clothes covered with blood. “No, no it can’t be…” Sam gasps in horror as John walks by him without seeing, going straight for the door to the bedroom.

Isabelle screams “No, John no, not you!”

“Mary said it was a man, a cursed man, and I didn’t believe her. I’ll make you pay for what you did, you murderer! You killer!” He grabs a rifle, and shoots John through the heart at point blank range. John falls to the ground, and never seems to notice, lost as he is in the transformation.

Isabelle starts to growl at Sam. “John! You killed him!” As Sam turns in surprise to her, the child howls and jumps out of his bed, and the two of them begin to tear Sam limb from limb.

4 Responses to “Polidori’s Vampyre”

  1. Wayfare Says:

    Polidori’s Vampyre becomes even more confusing when you add additional characters. There was no “Lord Scythe”, it was John’s travelling companion “Lord Ruthven” who killed John’s fiancé in the woods, told John not to be so darn sad about her death, and then who marries John’s sister.

    I did however like the fact that they stressed on more than one occasion that “Lord Ruthven” came from Switzerland. I had no idea that Switzerland was such a hotbed of vampiric activity.

  2. Potato Says:

    My bad — I couldn’t remember the name at first and put in “Lord Scythe” because I thought that was creepy enough. Then when I went searching to see if I could find the story this play was based on, I found the actual character’s name, and obviously missed a few replacements. It should be fixed now.

  3. Darcy Says:

    I was involved with this years Haunted Hayride, we didn’t have much to work with. The writer re-wrote the story poorly. He wrote it as if it were a full play, and we were required to cut it to shambles. We plan on setting up a narrator for next years production.

  4. Potato Says:

    Thanks for stopping by! You guys did have a lot going for you, it was just such a shame that the story was cut up that way and kind of brought the whole thing down. If you want to snatch anything from this post to use, by all means feel free to.

    I remember that the writer was there on the night we went through, did he have much feedback?

    If I can help in any other way, feel free to drop me a line.