Sunday 28 March 2010

Vampire Lore -- The Power Of Invitation Into A Human's Home

The Black Count over at Convent of Blood had a very interesting discussion the other day:  why does a vampire need to be invited into a mortal's home (at least, according to certain myths -- Angel, Lost Boys, Fright Night, Let the Right One In)? What keeps him (or her!) from entering of his own free will?

Salem's Lot used this device, as the Black Count pointed out, and that was also my first memory of seeing it in action (though admittedly I am not a Hammer film expert!). Not only did the vampire have to be invited into a person's home, but the Master Vampire also had to be invited into the town itself -- a device used recently in Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain (though once a human was turned into a vampire, they didn't need an invitation into the home).

Thinking about this, I wondered if it had something to do with magical association of threshholds, and Taliesin reaffirmed my thoughts in his comment to the Black Count's post. So I did a bit of research into threshholds (mind you, on the internet, so there are bound to be gaps -- next time I'll do some good old-fashioned 'crack open the books at the library' research ;-)

I remember from watching HBO's Rome (what -- good research doesn't cite TV shows?! ;-) that thresholds had their own god, Janus, and one would pray to him when one was moving from one stage of life to another (like when Vorenus left the army to open up his own business).

Quite possibly this had to do with the fact that the threshold of a home, where one lived, slept, and raised a family, was considered the gateway between safety and the big, bad, scary world outside, where cold weather, disease, and pillagers were present. Thus, an idea grew, wherein blessing or making certain signs, planting rosemary, hanging horseshoes above or near the threshold of a house would ward off the big, bad evil that lay in wait in the outside world. As vampires were a big, bad evil, the threshold philosophy applied to them, and thus the idea that they were bound by magic to stay outside the home unless invited in came about. More about this idea is presented on this webpage here.

Of course, it also makes a great plot device in books, tv, and movies, and the mysterious, magical lore surrounding vampires is what makes them so popular and fun to write about/watch.

I can remember this bit of lore used strongly in The Lost Boys and Fright Night, but how about you readers out there? Do you agree with the threshold theory, or is there something more? We'd love to hear your thoughts, as would The Black Count over at his site here!


  1. Hey Nicole

    Thanks for the mention and I love your new blog :) I've rewatched two vampire films over the last few days, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Fright Night that go into the Power of Invitation.

    In Fright Night, Jerry Dandridge needs permission to enter any house, and it's alluded that when he asks Charlie's mother if he can visit whenever he likes, this is either to taunt Charlie, or he knows a loophole as he might need a seperate invite every time.

    As for Johnathan Harker, Dracula asks him to step over the Threshold of his own free will. In the commentary of the film, Coppola states that in doing so Harker willing steps from the mortal realm into the Realm of the Undead, and therefore willing puts himself in danger, and subjected to the Count's rules and mercy.

    In the Lost Boys, the Head Vampire asks Michael for permission to enter because he is one of the older males in the house (besides Grandpa). In this case it renders the humans powerless and also allows the Head Vampire protections against his normal weaknesses of garlic, holy water and lack of reflection etc.

    Clearly David and The Lost Boys don't ask for permission when they attack the house at the end of film, but in doing so make themselves vulnerable to the Frog Bros traps and weaponry.

    It's a fascinating subject isn't it? Perhaps we should take the time to discuss other vampire aspects such as lack of reflection, garlic and Faith among other things. Just like how in your novel RELEASE vampires abhor mirrors because they are portals to the demon realm.

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