Outwit the Undead With This One Weird Trick
Escaping Vampires With Seeds, Salt, and Sand
Happy Weird Wednesday! Today we’re making a vampire self-defense kit out of items you can find in your own kitchen!
No, we’re not talking garlic. All you need is seeds: poppy, flax, or mustard. You could also use jar of millet or oats— or in a pinch (pun intended) some salt.
There’s a trope of vampire stories about the undead compulsion to count tiny objects. So if you’ve got a recently dead dude that you suspect may creep from his casket, you’ll want to fill his coffin with sand. Failing that, spread seeds around the gravesite. As a last line of defense, you can surround your house with salt or— if you happen to live by the sea— a fishing net hung over the door will do the trick. (The vampire will be compelled to count the holes in the netting.) And while he is distracted, you can make your getaway. If you’re lucky, he’ll still be counting at sunrise, which will take care of your problem permanently.
I love this rather bizarre trope, and it reminds me of a similar element in some fairy tales, where people are ordered to complete an impossible task: sorting a mess of tiny things into neat piles. Psyche, for example, sorts seeds with the help of insects, and doves come to aid Cinderella in picking lentils from the cinders. Aren’t we lucky that vampires don’t get magical help?
And now some writing prompts you can count on!
- Count me in. So why would Count Dracula be compelled to— well, count? (Just like on Sesame Street!) In your story, there could be a curse on the undead that forces them to do it, or a religious component, where they’re trying to make up for innumerable sins. You could also see the compulsive counting as a sort of insanity or an attempt by a chaotic creature to cling to the simple logic of math.
- A living defense. Each and every seed contains the possibility of new life, so there’s an interesting contrast there in having some form of life triumph over a walking embodiment of death. Perhaps in your story, only living objects would work, which would exclude salt or sand, but include pretty much anything else in your kitchen: breakfast cereal, spaghetti noodles, coffee beans. What about cooked stuff, like bread crumbs? Would jelly beans trap a vampire?
- Bring in the troops. What if vampires did have help? Some stories have Dracula possessing power over creepy creatures, so we could easily have vampires getting help from flies or bats who could eat and/or carry off most of the objects to be counted. Alternatively, scattered oats could attract hungry birds in a serious stroke of bad luck for a human who’s trying to make it through the night alive.
- Dead reckoning. What if you could not only delay, but destroy a vampire by making him count? You could try scattering blessed objects or garlic salt. You could leave a trail of poppyseeds that leads your vampire to a nice sandy beach, and then he’d be stuck until sunrise for sure. Or you could put a pile of seeds in an unsafe place: a church or perhaps a werewolf den. (Actually, that might make a fun meet-cute for a werewolf/vampire romance.)
- Spring cleaning. There’s also the fairy tale route. Your vampire might be compelled to sort instead of count. Dump all your different boxes of breakfast cereal into a pile or have the whole neighborhood fill a basket of mismatched socks. Perhaps having a task to do will calm your vampire and make him less vicious. Maybe he could even branch out and try jigsaw puzzles.
Thanks for spending your Weird Wednesday here. I hope we can count on you to come back!
Vampire & fairy tales with counting and sorting:
Sources & further reading:
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. Checkmark Books, 2004.