From the Introduction to FIELD GUIDE TO MONSTERS by Dave Elliott.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing was always a man of action. He had discovered over the course of his life that it was unwise to rely on or confide in others unless out of absolute necessity. Born in the Netherlands and educated at the University of Rotterdam, he had set his eyes on becoming a medical doctor, but during his final semester, his close friend was stricken with a previously unknown blood disorder. Reported stories at the time say that Peter Hopkins had died but then come back to life. While it is likely that Hopkins merely had lapsed into a coma for three days, this does not explain the extreme allergic reactions to sunlight that he suffered thereafter. Van Helsing worked hard with the university physicians to help his friend, but they had no success. A record of Hopkins’ subsequent death can be found in the archives of the local newspaper, which published an all-too-brief account of his death. It was at the time of his friend’s death that Van Helsing decided to forego his career as a general practitioner in order to specialize in obscure diseases of the blood.
The Professor traveled much over the next forty years, studying blood disorders around the world. However, it was one adventure in particular, taking him from England to the heart of Transylvania, that moved the Professor to put down his findings on paper.
In 1890, the Professor met Bram Stoker, Irish horror writer, who at the time was the manager of the Lyceum Theatre. Stoker became obsessed with Van Helsing's stories and started to write down accounts of his adventures. It was then that Van Helsing asked Stoker to help him on a nonfiction work—a field guide to the monsters he had come across on his travels, specifically focusing on the vampire. Stoker agreed but also continued to transcribe Van Helsing's adventures for his own future prosperity.
One day, three years later, Van Helsing was urgently called to London. There had been a sighting of a vampire. But not just any vampire…this was Dracula, king of the blood-drinking beasts. Van Helsing hoped that if Dracula were destroyed, then all his subordinates would also cease to be. This proved to be mere wishful thinking on Van Helsing’s part.
The Professor’s epic battles with Dracula fascinated Stoker and he transcribed the entire story with the advantage of being able to interview any relevant witnesses—survivors, family members, and any of Dracula’s living victims who may have narrowly escaped eternal blood thirst. Stoker even had access to the Professor’s journals and diaries.
Van Helsing had assumed that all this effort was going into his field guide. By the time he realized the cruel truth—that Stoker was writing for personal fame, and not for the salvation of mankind—it was too late. Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula sold out like wildfire. Translated into multiple languages, it spread around the globe immediately. Van Helsing never spoke to Stoker again and tore up every royalty check that the writer sent him.
In private, Van Helsing condemned Stoker for dooming mankind, for he foresaw that once vampires were trivialized as a work of fiction, the incredible threat that they posed on humanity would never be taken seriously. He was proved right when a year after the publication of Dracula, Van Helsing published his own Field Guide to Monsters in 1898. The book sold well, but was treated as a work of parody and his book tour appearances were always drowned out by laughter from the audience. Dracula had done its damage.
The tour came to an abrupt end in Germany during the spring of 1899: reports from a small town outside of Bonn revealed that several young women, who had died of unexplained causes, had been seen alive again, but only at night. Van Helsing, welcoming the distraction, left his tour to investigate. Except for one trip to Hong Kong in 1905, he made no further public appearances.
With the Professor unwilling to trust anyone to document his stories again, the rest of his history is unclear. Details of his adventures in the twentieth century are sketchy at best. No recorded sighting or mention of him was made after World War I, but his body was never found nor was any evidence discovered that would allude to his passing.
The following is Professor Van Helsing’s original introduction to his Field Guide to Monsters. A gentleman to the end, Van Helsing refrained from speaking ill of Bram Stoker or his novel, but his pain is evident throughout.
This book that you hold in your hands could very well save your life.
The previous sentence sounds very dramatic, does it not, but this is no work of fiction. I wish it were. It is, however, truly meant to frighten you and I make no apologies for that. I cannot, for Monsters are real, they walk among us right now, and they threaten our very existence. I have made their eradication my life’s work.
It was only four hundred years ago that Europe was decimated, almost completely wiped out by the Plague, a disease that began in China and carried by rats across the continents—beasts so tiny and insignificant but with enough poison to kill over a third of the population in Europe. There is now a new disease sweeping across Eastern Europe that has reached even the shores of Great Britain. However, this disease is carried by something far deadlier than rats, and it will take more than another Great Fire to stop it.
This disease is carried by the Living Dead—men and women, once as alive and well as you or I, who have had their very souls ripped from their bodies. Despite having been laid to rest in sacred ground, in a Christian ceremony, these creatures of Hell blaspheme the holy name of God, and rise up to do the Devil’s work.
Originated in Transylvania, the disease was reported to have affected the Eastern European dictator Vlad Tepes, the son of Vlad Dracul, a Wallachian. His thirst for human blood was an immortal curse and after he was struck down mortally, dying in a fierce battle, he rose three days later from the dead. Vlad assumed his father’s name, and from then on, was known only as Dracula. He had been spreading the disease of blood thirst ever since.
And I pause at this juncture to warn you most strenuously—this is not some fickle work of romance and horror. This is not some dime novel bit of poppycock, designed to frighten young women and entertain their swains. This is the unrelenting, unforgiving truth. Dracula has spread his disease of blood thirst across Europe. He has infiltrated entire populations. And, unless we act now, we are all doomed to become enslaved by the same monstrous thirst for human blood. Imagine for one moment, never again being able to walk in the sun. Imagine a life without feeling, without emotion or warmth, without kin, without the light of your immortal soul, or the warmth of the Savior’s love within your breast.
While I myself saw Dracula’s vile form purged from this world, this victory proved to be a small battle won in an ever-growing war. Much to my horror, Dracula’s death did not stop or even hinder the spread of vampires in the world. And, there are other monsters walking the secluded wildernesses of the world, such as werewolves—men, who on the night of the full moon, shed their skins for fur and prey upon mankind for blood and mayhem. While I suspect that there may be some correlation between the werewolf and the vampire to explain their thirst for blood and the importance of the night by which to do these heinous acts, I have only begun to understand these dark mysteries.
But there are far more. There are harpies, witches, demonic lizards, and all manner of things of the air, land, and sea that live to hunt man. It also behooves me to warn all about the “Monster” created by a mad doctor, by the name of Victor Von Frankenstein. I have only made its acquaintance twice and knowing its story, related to me by the late widow of Percy Shelley, I took pity on it. But it is an irrational creature at best and is capable of causing great harm.
Please, I urge you to use this book wisely and do not permit yourself to be deceived by those wishing to terrify you for the sake of entertainment. All our lives depend on it.
We must awake the living before this vile disease awakes all the dead.
Abraham Van Helsing
Nearly 200 pages of everything you wanted to know about MONSTERS. From the biggest to the smallest. All in glorious color (except for the bits that are in black and white).
This is a fun book for everyone.
FIELD GUIDE TO MONSTERS © Dave Elliott