At the turn of the century, New York was the destination of a large number of European immigrants. On February 12, 1897, a steamship of the company White-Star landed among its passengers a native of Transylvania. William Barret, who was among the crowd of onlookers who crowded on the dock, immediately identified this exotic origin because the man wore the typical costume of the region and Barret collected paper figures to cut out with regional costumes from around the world. In fact, since he was a child, he had been interested in that region of Eastern Europe in which so many horror stories were set. His father was very fond of this literary genre and used to read passages to his son before going to bed. No wonder then that little Barret fell asleep in Maths class. Unlike his own bedroom, where he couldn’t sleep a wink, Maths were safe, Maths weren’t scary. From that time, he suffered from a nervous tic consisting in looking continuously at all sides in view of a possible danger. Paradoxically, he had also retained an unhealthy taste for horror stories. And he had just read a recently published novel that had made his skin crawl. It was called “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, set precisely in Transylvania.
He could not help but wonder if that man would be a vampire. “At least”, he thought, “he will have first-hand information about them”. So, without a second thought, he approached the man and invited him to the headquarters of the American Society for Psychical Research, where he could stay until he found a more suitable place. But the thing was not so simple because the man didn’t speak a word of English and Barret came to doubt if he spoke his own language. It took him more than an hour of mime to make himself understood by the Transylvanian!
When Barret and his folkloric protegé arrived that evening at the old house that was the headquarters of the ASPR, he gave the opportune explanations to his colleagues, who began to curse the horror literature. Didn’t Barret realize that, if it was not possible to communicate with him, it did not matter what first-hand knowledge the Transylvanian might have about vampires? “Shoot!” Barret exclaimed. Indeed, he didn’t realize it. But then, to the astonishment of his colleagues, he began to make a vivid demonstration of his skills as a mime. The Transylvanian stared at him leaning forward in an effort to understand what the hell his benefactor was trying to tell him, but his perplexed face showed that he didn’t understand a single gesture. In a desperate attempt to make himself understood, Barret pounced on the immigrant and bit him in the neck. The man let out a shriek and his perplexity turned to horror. He began to cross himself and utter lamentations and unintelligible phrases. In view of his sudden agitation, the members of the ASPR rushed to accompany the stranger to his room and provided him with a chamber pot and a gas lamp, and then judged it prudent to stay at the headquarters that night as well. However, nobody slept a wink. The reading of Bram Stoker’s novel was too recent for them to forget that under the same roof there was a man from Transylvania, the homeland of Dracula. Then, towards midnight, a horrifying scream made them jump up from the bed and run out into the corridor. The screams came from Barret’s room and they headed there hurriedly, but not without first providing themselves with some firearms. When they burst into Barret’s room, they witnessed a frightening scene: Stretched out in bed, Barret shouted for help as he struggled hard to keep the stranger from sticking a stake through his heart.
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