Stephen King’s Vampires: ‘Jerusalem’s Lot’

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When you put the idea of Stephen King and vampires together, usually it’s ‘Salem’s Lot, his 1975 novel, that comes to mind. But what many don’t realize is that there’s actually a prequel to that novel in the form of Jerusalem’s Lot, a short story publication in the the 1978 collection Night Shift and currently the inspiration for the Epix television series Chapelwaite.

Opening the door to the nightmarish idea of vampires, it’s set in the fictional town of Preacher’s Corners, Maine (naturally) in the year 1850. The story is told through a series of letters and journal entries from both an aristocrat and his servant. The former, Charles, inherits a family mansion, which seems like pretty good news, right? But they arrive to discover that the town believes both his family and the mansion are cursed, which results in their immediate shunning — though this doesn’t scare them away.

Once settled in, they start to hear sounds in the walls and assume it must be rats. Charles and Calvin, his servant and friend, decide to explore the dusty mansion together. In the library they find a hidden map behind some books, which shows how to get to a deserted village called Jerusalem’s Lot. A potential adventure too intriguing to ignore, the two hike to the village and arrive to find the town is in decay and literally has a stench to it. Doing their best not to gag, they come across the only structure that doesn’t look like the victim of an apocalypse, a church. Upon entry, they notice a gold cross hung upside down and a book written in Latin. At that moment, things begin to rumble and shake, and they suddenly realize they have awakened an ancient evil.

CHAPELWAITE, Adrien Brody ‘Blood Cals Blood’, (Season 1, ep. 101, aired Aug. 22, 2021). photo: Chris Reardon / ©Epix / courtesy Everett Collection

They flee the church and run from Jerusalem’s Lot absolutely terrified. There’s little solace at the mansion as the noises in the walls have begun to intensify. Curiosity getting the best of them, they descend into the cellar. Once there, they see an alcove and then, to their horror, a decayed face peering out of the darkness with terrifying hollow eyes and a frightening grin. Each of them fear they’re losing their minds until they realize that they saw the same thing. Charles concludes there is a curse hanging over his family that refuses to be buried. The only solution he can think of is to destroy the book they left behind in the Jerusalem’s Lot church. They return there only to discover that the church is now in violent disarray: pews flipped upside down, broken oil lamps and the gold cross is now on the floor. The pulpit is the only thing that remains untouched by this seeming violence. 

CHAPELWAITE, front: Emily Hampshire, Allegra Fulton, ‘Blood Cals Blood’, (Season 1, ep. 101, aired Aug. 22, 2021). photo: Chris Reardon / ©Epix / courtesy Everett Collection

Seeing the book, Charles snatches it up, puts a match to it and as it goes up in flames, the pulpit explodes, unleashing a creature of darkness from the flames. Charles sees half a skull and, even with beetles crawling all over it, recognizes that the monster has a family resemblance. He races out of there so abruptly, that he fails to notice that he’s left Calvin behind.  Charles believes, since he is the last living member of his family, he must die in order to break this family curse and drowns himself in the sea. Sometime later, after this whole ordeal is history, his letters and Calvin’s journal are found by a distant relative who Charles was unaware of. This relative is the last living kinsman of the family, not Charles. The letters and journal entries are read, but they are simply written off to insanity and paranoid delusions. After further examination of the writings, it’s decided that the church’s destruction was probably caused by vandals. It would seem the case was closed, but the distant relative does come to believe that the mansion is in need of rat poison due to the constant noise behind the walls. And a lot of it, too, because these rats sound big.

PET SEMATARY, Stephen King, 1989. ph: Abigayle Tarsches / ©Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

In this series of articles, Bridget will explore every story that Stephen King has written involving those creatures of darkness, vampires, from his tales touching on their presence to his horrific adventures surrounding them. All of King’s vampiric writings will be covered, as well as the unnerving adaptions based on his works. You are invited to discover, or relive, these scary stories of the undead with us. Warning: there will be spoilers… and blood! Thirsty anyone?

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