No vampire is worth his or her blood without a great adversary, and that’s why through the years vampires have done battle against stalwart vampire hunters. From the venerable Abraham Van Helsing and Peter Vincent to Jack Crow and Harry Keogh, these vampire hunters have stood toe-to-toe against some of the most evil and bloodthirsty vampires ever put to paper or celluloid.
Although many vampire hunters lack supernatural abilities, more and more of them have started to acquire their own “superpowered” capabilities. For example, Harry Keogh (of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series of books) can communicate with the dead and also possesses other psychic abilities.
Even vampires can become vampire hunters. One classic example is Hannibal King, who first appeared in Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula. King is turned into a vampire, but he is horrified by this and vows never to pass on his “disease” to another soul. Thus, he drinks blood from blood banks or feeds on corpses or animals. As a private detective, he tracked down and slayed fellow vampires and other evil supernatural creatures.
Although there are many vampire hunters in fiction, movies, video games, and even real life, there are several that come to mind right away. The following list chronicles the top 5 vampire hunters ever.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing
Arguably the most famous of the vampire hunters, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (M.D., D.Ph., D.Litt., and so on) came to life in Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror extravaganza Dracula. In Stoker’s novel, it is Van Helsing’s former student, Dr. John Seward, who summons the venerable doctor to help with the strange ailment suffered by one Lucy Westenra. Of course, Van Helsing discerns that Lucy is suffering from vampirism, a “disease” contracted by none other than Dracula.
Dr. Seward describes Van Helsing as a man with an absolutely open mind. He is both a philosopher and a metaphysician. Seward goes on, “This, with an iron nerve, a temper of the ice-brook, and indomitable resolution, self-command, and toleration exalted from virtues to blessings, and the kindliest and truest heart that beats, these form his equipment for the noble work that he is doing for mankind, work both in theory and practice, for his views are as wide as his all-embracing sympathy.”
Actors who have played the role of Van Helsing include Edward Van Sloan (vs. Bela Lugosi), Peter Cushing (vs. Christopher Lee), Laurence Olivier (vs. Frank Langella), and Anthony Hopkins (vs. Gary Oldman).
The character of Carl Kolchak (played to the hilt by the great Darren McGavin) made his television debut in the made-for-television movie The Night Stalker, which originally aired in 1972. The movie was based on a then-unpublished novel by Jeff Rice titled The Kolchak Papers. Screenplay honors went to the mighty Richard Matheson, with Dan Curtis producing and John Llewllyn Moxey taking on the directing chores.
In the original movie, Carl Kolchak is an investigative reporter working out of Las Vegas. Kolchak once tasted the big time as a reporter in New York and he hungers to return to that action again. All he needs is a good, lurid story. Sadly, such a story falls right into his lap, but it turns out that the serial killer that Kolchak is pursuing is really a vampire.
The Night Stalker was followed by 1973’s The Night Strangler (with Kolchak facing off against Jack the Ripper) and then by the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, where Carl encountered all types of creatures, from headless motorcycle riders and werewolves to witches and of course vampires.
The character of Blade made his first appearance in Marvel’s comic book The Tomb of Dracula, which introduced new vampire hunters who fought against Count Dracula and other supernatural creatures. Fans of the comic remember fondly vampire hunters such as Quincy Harker (the leader of the hunters), Rachael Van Helsing, Hannibal King, Frank Drake, and Taj Nital. However, perhaps the most famous of the hunters is Blade, who as introduced in issue #10 as a supporting character.
The son of a woman bitten by a vampire (Deacon Frost) during childbirth, Blade is a quasi-vampire, a “daywalker” who has many of the vampire’s supernatural abilities but none of their weaknesses. Originally known as Eric Brooks, he earned the nickname “blade” as a young man because of his formidable expertise with knives and swords. Blade is an Olympic-level athlete and highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat.
Blade’s enduring popularity has been significantly bolstered by 1998’s Blade movie and its subsequent sequels. In these movies, Blade was played by Wesley Snipes.
The character of Buffy Summers made her debut in 1993’s comedy-horror flick Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that movie, Kristy Swanson played a valley girl cheerleader who discovers that it is her fate to become a supreme vampire slayer. The task to train a reluctant Buffy falls on Merrick Jamison-Smythe (Donald Sutherland), who tells her that she is “The Slayer” and the he is a Watcher whose role is to guide and train her.
Creator and writer Joss Whedon was not fully satisfied with the direction the movie took, feeling that he wanted the story to remain much darker. Thus, Whedon would go on to create the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which would run from 1997 to 2003. In the television series, Buffy was essayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Created by Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane is a Puritan living in the late 16th century and early 17th century. Kane’s goal is quite simple: vanquish evil. Kane’s weapons include a rapier, a dirk, several flintlock pistols, and a musket. In later stories, he acquires a juju staff that protects him against evil.
Howard wrote nine full-length tales featuring Solomon Kane. In some of these stories, Kane battles vampires. For example, in the tale “The Moon of Skulls,” Kane squares off against Nakari, the vampire queen from the hidden city of Negari. In “Hills of the Dead,” Kane comes face-to-face with a city of vampires.