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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Carmilla" is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu. First published in 1872, it tells the story of a predatory love of a female vampire (the title character) for a young woman (the narrator).

"Carmilla" predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by over twenty years, had a strong influence on Stoker's famous novel and has been adapted many times for cinema.

The story is the basis of the lesbian vampire trope in 20th century exploitation film:

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, 'You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever'. (Carmilla, Chapter 4).

In essence, this was a way to hint/tittilate at the taboo idea of lesbianism in a fantasy context outside the heavily censored realm of social realism (Weiss 1993). Also, the conventions of the vampire genre--specifically, the mind control exhibited in many such films--allow for a kind of forced seduction of presumably straight women or girls by lesbian vampires.



"Carmilla" was first published in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1872, and then in the author's collection of short stories, In a Glass Darkly the same year. The story ran in The Dark Blue in three issues; January (1872), pp. 592-606; February (1872), pp. 701-714; and March (1872), pp. 59-78.

There were two original illustrators for the story, both of which appeared in the magazine but which do not appear in modern printings of the book. The two illustrators, D. H. Friston and M. Fitzgerald, show some inconsistencies in their depiction of the characters, and as such some confusion has arisen in identifying the pictures as part of a continuous plot.


As with Dracula, critics have looked for the sources used in the writing of the text. Matthew Gibson has shown that Le Fanu used Dom Augustin Calmet's Treatise on Vampires and Revenants, translated into English in 1850 as The Phantom World, the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould's The Book of Were-wolves (1863), and his account of Elizabeth Báthory, Coleridge's Christabel, and Captain Basil Hall's Schloss Hainfeld; or a Winter in Lower Styria (London and Edinburgh, 1836). Hall's account provides much of the Styrian background and in particular a model for both Carmilla and Laura in the figure of Jane Anne Cranstoun, Countess Purgstall.

Carmilla in culture


  • Danish Director Carl Dreyer loosely adapted "Carmilla" for his 1932 film Vampyr.
  • French director Roger Vadim's Et mourir de plaisir (literally And to die of pleasure, but actually shown in England as Blood and Roses, 1960) is based on Carmilla and is considered one of the greatest of the vampire genre. The Vadim film thoroughly explores the lesbian implications behind Carmilla's selection of victims, and boasts cinematography by Claude Renoir.
  • The British Hammer Film Productions also produced a fairly faithful adaptation of "Carmilla" entitled The Vampire Lovers (1970) with Ingrid Pitt in the title role and Madeline Smith as her victim/lover Laura. An explicit erotic lesbian theme was emphasised in this film which was the first of the Karnstein Trilogy, followed by:
    • Lust for a Vampire (1971): here Carmilla (played in this film by Yutte Stensgaard), develops heterosexual interests: despite landing the ideal job for a lesbian vampire as a student in a girls' finishing school. This change in her sexual orientation seems to have been at the behest of the chief film censor, John Trevelyan, who closely monitored the film in production.
    • Twins of Evil (1971): Carmilla (now played by Katja Wyeth) plays a very minor role in this story, whose main interest is the two titular characters.
  • The novella served as a very loose basis for the 1971 film Let's Scare Jessica to Death.
  • The novella was freely adapted in Spain in 1972 as The Blood Splattered Bride (La Novia Ensangrentada), directed by Vincent Aranda.
  • The theme of lesbian vampires was further explored in the erotic and bloody Vampyres (1974) by José Ramón Larraz.
  • Another more-or-less faithful adaptation starring Christopher Lee was produced in Spain in 1974 under the title Crypt of the Vampire.
  • In 1990, Gabrielle Beaumont created a film adaptation for a horror anthology television series "Nightmare Classics" titled Carmilla, which is one of the more faithful adaptations of the story, though the setting was transported to pre-Civil War Deep South of the United States.
  • In 1998 Carmilla was updated to present-day Long Island, New York in a film of the same name. The film is the brainchild of Jay Lind, the writer, director, and producer for the film. Starring Maria Pechukas, Heather Warr and Andy Gorkey, and co-produced by Jeff Schelenker, Carmilla is a horrific, gory, erotic counterpart to the Gothic novel. While the film is in no way Gothic or romantic, it shows a different side of the story presented in the book.
  • In 2001, Carmilla also makes an appearance in the anime film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Her backstory is that her bloodlust grew so out of control that D's father, the Lord of Vampires (presumably Dracula, though this is not explicitly stated), impaled her in her sleep, leaving her body to rot and her spirit confined to her haunted Castle of Chaythe. When Meier Link and his beloved Charlotte come to her for help, she tricks them to resurrect her body, but the plan is foiled and she is killed once and for all by D.
  • The story was very loosely adapted in the 2004 straight-to-video splatter movie Vampires vs. Zombies.
  • Carmilla appears as the bride of Dracula in the direct-to-DVD animated movie The Batman Vs. Dracula (2005).

References in other media

  • In 1991 Aircel Comics published a 6-issue miniseries of Carmilla. It was based on the story by Sheridan Le Fanu. The first issue was printed in February 1991.
  • The novel Carmilla: The Return, written in 1999 by Kyle Marffin, begins in 19th-century Austria but follows Carmilla's life into 1990s Michigan.
  • Cradle of Filth, a popular British Gothic Metal band, has produced an album called Dusk... And Her Embrace inspired by "Carmilla", with an instrumental track entitled "Carmilla's Masque".
  • In the video game Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, Carmilla is one of the Immortals, who appears either as a young girl in a red dress, or a huge half-human, half-snake creature.
  • In the video game Lunar Knights, a character named Sheridan has a maid named Carmilla. The banker in the game is also named Laura.
  • In three of the Castlevania games; Circle of the Moon, the japan-only Rondo of Blood, and it's PSP remake Dracula X Chronicles; there is a character named Camilla, described as being a longtime worshipper of Count Dracula. [1] The name of this worshipper has been spelled as both Carmilla and Camilla. The masked woman Vampira in Castlevania II is assumed to be the same Carmilla. In the Castlevania game Portrait of Ruin there is a minor vampire enemy named "Laura" who is described as "Carmilla's servant".
  • In episode 30 and beyond of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, a character named Camula is introduced as a soul-stealing vampiress trying to gain control of the three Sacred Beast cards. She is portrayed with a stereotypical Romanian accent in the English dub.
  • The Doctor Who serial State of Decay features a vampire named Camilla.
  • A vampire named Baron Karnstein appears in Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. Carmilla herself is mentioned several times as a former (until her death at the hands of vampire hunters) friend of the book's vampire heroine Geneviève. Some short stories set in the Anno Dracula universe have also included Carmilla.
  • Carmilla is also the main antagonist in the movie Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, as well as the videogame based upon this film.
  • Squaresoft's Seiken Densetsu III contains a type of monster called Carmilla and a higher level variant called Carmilla Queen.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Carmilla" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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