Five Great Vampire Guests on TV Shows That Aren’t About Vampires
Written by David Busboom
From Dark Shadows to The Strain, there have been quite a few vampire-focused television series in the last half-century. Even popular shows like The Munsters and Penny Dreadful, while not all about vampires, prominently feature the beings as part of the main or regular supporting cast. But what about the vampires whose invitations were rescinded after only one or two brief appearances? Here are three of the best to welcome into your living room.
The Salt Vampire
After the last of several guest appearances on the legal drama Perry Mason, actress Jeanne Bal (1928-1996) accepted the role she is most known for today: a “salt vampire” copying the form of Dr. McCoy’s old flame, Nancy Crater, in the first broadcast episode of the original Star Trek. “The Man Trap”—written by the late great George Clayton Johnson of The Twilight Zone, Ocean’s 11, and Logan’s Run fame—aired in September 1966, and introduced viewers to the Enterprise crew on a visit to a research outpost, where they are attacked by the shapeshifting alien creature seeking to extract salt from their bodies for sustenance. It is one of the most violent and overtly horrific episodes of the entire original series, and also coined the now-iconic McCoy catchphrase, “He’s dead, Jim.”
Night Gallery, Rod Serling’s follow-up series to The Twilight Zone, had more than half a dozen vampire stories over its three-season run. Most of these were brief vignettes in multi-story episodes and featured some variation of Dracula as a main character, often in a darkly humorous vein. It seems the only full-length, non-comedic vampire episode was Season Three’s “Death on a Barge” (March 1973), based on the short story “The Canal” by Everil Worrell. “Death on a Barge” stars a pre-Oscar-nom Lesly Ann Warren (b. 1946) as Hyacinth, a lonely vampire who lives marooned on a barge anchored in a canal, unable to leave due to the vampiric fear of running water. She falls in love with a local fishmonger, and things get complicated fast. Tying in to the previous entry, this episode was the directorial debut of Leonard Nimoy, and actor Lou Antonio (who plays Hyacinth’s victim Jake) had previously worked with Nimoy in the Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”
In the fourth episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, simply titled “The Vampire,” Suzanne Charny (b. 1944)—best known today for guest appearances on The Rockford Files and Emergency!—plays call-girl-turned-vampire Catherine Rawlins. This episode is a sequel to the original Night Stalker TV movie that spawned the series, as Rawlins is an overlooked victim of that story’s vanquished Vegas vampire. Unknowingly unearthed by a road crew, she makes her way to L.A. and begins what seems to this millennial like a particularly vicious killing spree for 1974 American television—along with one brief moment of hilariously awkward pre-murder kissing. Of course, Chicago reporter Carl Kolchak happens to be back in town on assignment, and he’s on the case before you can say Nosferatu!
Returning to another underrated anthology series, “The Man Upstairs” was the fifth episode of the second season of The Ray Bradbury Theatre, airing in March 1988. In this episode, French actor Féodor Atkine (b. 1948)—best known for supporting roles in Love and Death, Ronin, and Alexander—plays a strange traveler named Mr. Koberman, who takes up temporary lodging with an old woman in Paris. The woman’s young grandson is immediately suspicious of Mr. Koberman’s weird habits and aversion to silver, and quickly sets about investigating whether or not his grandmother’s guest is actually a vampire. Like all sixty-five episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theatre, “The Man Upstairs” was written by Ray Bradbury himself, based on his short story of the same name. Like most child actors in this series, the kid gets annoying, but the rest of the episode is vintage Bradbury at his macabre best. Think Fright Night pared down to half an hour.
Now we’re heading into the uncharted territories for a vampire from the best science fiction show of the late ‘90s/early Aughts. That’s right, it’s Farscape! Chris Haywood (b. 1948)—best known to non-‘Scaper audiences for minor roles in Quigley Down Under and Muriel’s Wedding—plays the sorcerer/psychic vampire Maldis in not one but two turns as villain-of-the-week in Season One’s “That Old Black Magic” (June 1999) and Season Two’s “Picture If You Will” (April 2000).
In his first appearance, Maldis captures the spirits of protagonist John Crichton and initial antagonist Captain Bialar Crais—leaving their unconscious physical bodies in the care of their respective friends and subordinates—and makes them battle each other so he can feed on their mutual hatred and fear. Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, a former priestess and the show’s resident spiritualist, is able to defeat Maldis, but only by first tapping into her own repressed darkness. In his second-season return, Maldis uses a unique picture acquired at the space opera equivalent of the shop from Needful Things to trick his way onto Moya—the living alien ship that is both a main character and the show’s primary setting—and terrorize the crew in an attempt at revenge against Crichton and Zhaan. If you couldn’t tell by the accompanying picture, you should now be certain that I saved the zaniest vampire guest for last.
HorrorTalk would like to thank David Busboom for sharing this list with us! Make sure to order David's novel, Nightbird, by the link below.
David Busboom is a writer and editor from Central Illinois. In 2017 he co-wrote and co-produced the short vampire film “I Was a Teenage Nosferatu” for Cellar Dweller Films & Entertainment, which has been screened at several festivals and been picked up for distribution as part of an upcoming silent horror anthology. His first book, Nightbird, is forthcoming from Unnerving, and tells the story of a young man’s relationship with a vampiric demon. Look for it on Valentine’s Day!
“Busboom has a way with words. Nightbird exhumes the Lilith myth and animates it in a timeless present day where folklore and isolation drive a dysfunctional couple to the brink, and beyond. The language is confident, the people feel real, and the menace manages to be potently sexy and utterly creepy in the same short book. Nice to see such a promising writer stretching out into longer, and more personal territory.” –Nathan Carson author of Starr Creek
Sixteen-year-old Isaac just wanted to see a midnight movie. He didn't expect to meet the woman of his dreams: more beautiful, mature, and intelligent than any of Isaac's high-school crushes, and (best of all) willing to fulfill his fantasies! So what if she didn't have a computer, a phone, a car, or a job? So what if she shares an isolated farmhouse with a half-dozen insatiable, love-crazed people, all aching for her attention? She was ready and willing.