Carmilla is a Gothic horror novella by the Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu. it was originally serialized in four parts in issues of the London-based literary magazine The Dark Blue that are dated between December 1871 and March 1872. It was published again in 1872 as the fifth and final story in Sheridan Le Fanu's anthology In a Glass Darkly.
The story's narrator and protagonist is a young woman named Laura who lives in a castle in a remote region of Austria with her English father. One evening, Laura and her father witness an accident in which a carriage comes off the road and overturns. A young woman, whose name is later revealed to be Carmilla, is thrown from the carriage. An older woman, who claims to be Carmilla's mother, emerges unharmed from the carriage. She says that it is not possible for her to stop the highly important journey that she is on long enough to tend to her injured daughter. She entrusts Carmilla to the care of Laura's father. Although Carmilla's habits and behavior are somewhat strange, she is adored by most of the members of Laura's household because of her beauty and charm. Carmilla is extremely affectionate towards Laura and appears to be very fond of her. Laura is fond of Carmilla too, for the most part, although she often finds herself both drawn towards Carmilla and repulsed by her at the same time. Shortly after Carmilla comes to stay at Laura's castle, a plague appears to hit the region because many peasants suddenly die. Victims of the plague typically complain of seeing ghostly visions and of feeling as if they have been stabbed in the throat a few days before they die.
There have been numerous adaptations of Carmilla to other media, among the best known of which are the Karnstein Trilogy of British-American horror films, made up of The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and the web series Carmilla that is made up primarily of a hundred and twenty-one videos that were posted on YouTube between August 2014 and October 2016.
The story is narrated by a young woman whose first name is eventually revealed to be Laura. She says that, although she has an English name, she has never been to England. Laura lives in Styria in Austria. Her father is an Englishman who used to work for the Austrian government in some capacity but is now retired. Her mother was an Austrian woman of Hungarian descent who was related to the once powerful but now extinct Karnstein family. Laura was very young when her mother died and does not remember her at all. Although Laura's father is not very wealthy, her home is a castle. Laura has no family apart from her father, although the castle is also home to a number of servants and to Laura's two French-speaking tutors whose names are Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine. It is seven miles from the castle to the nearest inhabited village. Three miles from the castle is a now uninhabited village that was built around the now ruined Castle Karnstein. The "moldering tombs of the proud family of Karnstein" can be found in the village's now ruined church. Twenty miles away from Laura's home is another castle where her father's friend General Spielsdorf lives.
When Laura is 6 years-old, she has a very frightening experience. She wakes up one night and finds herself alone in her bedroom. This is unusual because there is usually a servant in her room all night. Laura is about to cry but then stops when she sees the face of a young woman looking at her. Laura feels comforted by the presence of the young woman. The young woman lies down beside her in the bed. Laura goes back to sleep. She wakes up again in pain with the feeling that two needles have been stuck in her chest. Without taking her eyes off Laura, the young woman moves away from her, goes onto the floor and appears to hide under the bed. Several servants rush into the room in response to Laura's screams. They tell her that there are no needle marks on her chest. The servants search the room and find no one. They try to persuade Laura that she simply imagined the incident. They do not appear to believe their own words, however. One servant can tell from the indentation left behind that someone really did lie next to Laura on her bed. Laura remains troubled by this experience for some time. A doctor comes to see her every two days and gives her some foul tasting medicine. A priest also comes to see Laura and teaches her to recite a prayer. Until she is 14 years-old, a servant always remains in Laura's bedroom throughout the night.
In the summer of Laura's nineteenth year, General Spielsdorf is expected to stay for some time with Laura and her father. Laura is very much looking forward to the General's visit because he is going to bring his niece and ward Bertha Rheinfeldt with him. Bertha is the same age as Laura. Living in almost complete isolation, Laura will be very glad of the company of someone her own age. General Spielsdorf writes a letter to Laura's father. In his letter, the General says that he will not be coming to visit because Bertha Rheinfeldt has suddenly died. Laura and her father are somewhat confused by the General's rambling letter, in which he states, "The fiend who betrayed our infatuated hospitality has done it all. I thought I was receiving into my house innocence, gaiety, a charming companion for my lost Bertha", and, "I devote my remaining days to tracking and extinguishing a monster." General Spielsdof concludes his letter by saying that, if he lives, he will see Laura's father again in a few months before adding, "Pray for me, dear friend."
Laura and her father take a walk at twilight. As night falls, they are joined by Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine. A short distance from the castle, a carriage approaches. The carriage appears to belong to someone of wealth and importance. It is pulled by four horses, some footmen stand at the back of it and two more men riding on horseback accompany it. One of the horses at the front of the carriage suddenly seems to get frightened by something. The carriage leaves the road. One of the horses appears to become more frightened by the sight of an ancient stone cross in front of the castle. One of the carriage's wheels gets caught in the protruding root of a large old tree. The carriage overturns and a young woman is flung out of it. She lies on the ground, apparently lifeless.
An older woman, who is dressed in black velvet and who has the air of being someone very important, emerges unscathed from the carriage. She says she is the young woman's mother. Laura's father checks the young woman's pulse and declares that she is still alive. The woman in black velvet begins to declare, somewhat theatrically, that she is on a "journey of life and death" and that losing any time could have dire consequences. She goes on to say that she cannot wait for her daughter, who was already somewhat of an invalid before the accident, to recover and that she will have to leave her behind and return for her in three months. She asks where the nearest inn can be found. At Laura's urging, Laura's father says that the young woman can stay with them. Although Laura's father does not appear to notice it, the woman in black velvet then becomes considerably less emotional. She takes Laura's father aside and says something to him in private. She then whispers something to her still unconscious daughter and kisses her. By this time, the footmen and the horsemen have righted the carriage. The woman in black velvet gets into it and it quickly disappears.
The young woman comes to. Madame Perrodon, who is beside her, tries to comfort her and answers her questions as well as she can. Laura wants to go up to the young woman too. Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, however, stops her and says that the young woman would not be able to cope with the presence of more than one person in her current condition. Madame Perrodon leads the young woman into the castle and she is put to bed.
Madame Perrodon, Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, Laura and her father talk about their guest. The two tutors both agree that the young woman is beautiful and charming. Mademoiselle De Lafontaine says that she thinks she also saw a turbaned black woman in the carriage who never got out of it. Nobody else, however, saw that woman. Everyone agrees that all the male servants accompanying the carriage looked ugly and evil. Laura's father, however, praises them for being clever enough to right the carriage very quickly.
Laura asks her father what the young woman's mother said to him in private. He does not hesitate to tell her. He says that the woman told him she was making a long journey. She emphasized that it was of vital importance and especially emphasized that it was secret. She said that while her daughter was staying with them, she could not say anything about her family, including where they came from and the place to which they were traveling. Laura's father cannot resist saying that he hopes he has not made a mistake by allowing the young woman into his home. Laura, however, is delighted to finally have the company of another young woman.
The doctor is unable to come to the castle until after one o'clock in the morning. After he has examined the young woman, he allows Laura to introduce herself to her. Laura gets a good look at the young woman's face for the first time. She cannot help recoiling a little in horror because it is the face of the mysterious nighttime intruder that Laura saw when she was 6-years old. The young woman has a similar reaction. She goes on to explain that twelve years earlier, she had a dream in which she suddenly found herself in a strange bedroom and saw Laura as she looks now. Laura tells the young woman about her own childhood experience. They agree that there is a special bond between them. Laura soon finds herself strangely attracted to the young woman but also strangely repulsed by her.
The young woman turns down Laura's offer of arranging to have a servant watch over her all night. She says that she can never sleep if someone else is in the room with her. She adds that she always locks her bedroom door because she is afraid of robbers. Before Laura leaves, the young woman says to her, "Good night, darling, it is very hard to part with you but goodnight; tomorrow, but not early, I shall see you again."
In the days that follow, Laura finds out that the young woman's first name is Carmilla, her family is an old and aristocratic one and she comes from somewhere to the west of where she is now. Carmilla refuses to provide any further information. She will not even say what her surname is. Carmilla makes some comments about customs that are familiar to her but which are completely unknown to Laura. This suggests to Laura that Carmilla's home is very far away. Carmilla does not show many obvious signs of being an invalid. She does, however, move very slowly. She claims to be exhausted after walking for a very short distance and says that she needs to sit down and rest. Although her body is slow, Carmilla's mind is very quick. She talks constantly, animatedly and with great intelligence. Carmilla gets up late, Laura usually does not see her until one o'clock in the afternoon.
Although there seems to be something unusually cold and melancholy about her, Carmilla usually behaves extremely affectionately towards Laura. She embraces her, kisses her, calls her "dearest' and "darling" and constantly talks excitedly about how much she likes her. Laura even wonders if Carmilla is really a boy in disguise who has come up with an elaborate ruse in order to get into Laura's house and pursue a romantic relationship with her. Laura continues to simultaneously feel drawn towards Carmilla and also repulsed by her.
One afternoon, Laura and Carmilla are sitting outside together when a funeral procession approaches. It is the funeral of a peasant girl who fell sick and died within two weeks of saying that she had seen a ghost. It is the second such death in the area. A swineherd's young wife had died a few days after she got the feeling that someone had grabbed her throat and tried to strangle her in her bed. Laura is touched by the sight of the funeral procession and by the hymns that the peasants sing. Carmilla shows nothing but disdain for the peasants. She says that their singing sounds terrible and puts her fingers in her ears. She says that she hates funerals and claims to be unable to understand why people make such a fuss about death. Carmilla appears to be physically sick and in great distress until after the funeral procession has passed.
On another occasion, a hunchback stops outside the castle where Laura lives. He is a peddler, showman and quack doctor whom Laura has seen many times before. He calls up to the window at which Laura and Carmilla are standing. He offers them amulets which he says will protect them from the plague, which he calls the oupire, that has now killed many people in the region. Laura and Carmilla buy an amulet each. The hunchback then notices that Carmilla has one unusually long and sharp tooth. The hunchback says that he is a skilled dentist and that he would be pleased to make the young lady's tooth round and blunt for her. Carmilla takes great offense at this. She describes in detail how her father would have the hunchback flogged to death for saying such a thing. Shortly afterwards, however, Carmilla appears to have forgotten the incident entirely.
Laura's father refers to the plague that has struck the area. He says that another peasant woman has fallen ill after having had the sensation of being attacked. Laura's father thinks that there is a natural explanation for the disease and that the terrible supernatural images that have become associated with it are just the result of superstitious rumors. He says that he would like to discuss the matter with the doctor. Carmilla remarks that doctors have never done her any good. In response to Laura's question, she makes vague references to having been very ill a long time ago before changing the subject.
Later that day, Laura catches the end of a conversation between her father and the doctor. Laura's father expresses some good-natured surprise at the doctor's apparent belief in mythical creatures.
A man comes to the castle to return some paintings that have been cleaned. They are mostly old portraits of people from Laura's mother's side of the family. One of the paintings is a small portrait that Laura had never been able to see properly before because it had become so blackened with age. Some writing at the top of the portrait appeared to say "Marcia Karnstein 1698". Laura is amazed when she sees the restored portrait for the first time because the person in it looks exactly like Carmilla. Laura asks her father for permission to hang the beautiful painting in her bedroom. Her father agrees to this request. He admits that the person in the painting looks very similar to Carmilla, although he does not appear to be as amazed by the likeness as his daughter is. Laura then notices for the first time that the name on the portrait is not Marcia Karnstein but Mircalla, Countess Karnstein. Carmilla pays no attention to what Laura says about the portrait. When Laura says that she is descended from the Karnsteins, however, Carmilla says that she believes she is distantly related to them too.
In answer to Laura's father's questions, Carmilla says that she has not heard from her mother since she arrived in the castle and that she does not know precisely where her mother is at present. Nevertheless, Carmilla says that she may leave the castle the following day and go off in search of her mother. Laura's father does not want Carmilla to leave until her mother returns for her, considering it to be too dangerous to travel while the area is suffering from a plague. Laura is pleased that their guest will not be leaving them yet.
Laura accompanies Carmilla to her bedroom. She again tries, without any success, to get Carmilla to reveal more personal information. When Laura persists, Carmilla says, "The time is very near when you shall know everything... You must come with me loving me to death; or else hate me and still come with me." When Laura criticizes her for talking nonsense, Carmilla says that she will try to talk sensibly. She says that many years ago, she attended a ball and then nearly died afterwards when she was wounded in the chest while lying in bed. Carmilla goes on to say that she has never been the same since that night because of a strange cruel love that could have taken her life. She adds, "Love will have its sacrifice. No sacrifice without blood."
Laura goes to her own bedroom. She has taken up Carmilla's habit of making sure that her bedroom door is locked before going to sleep. Laura has a dream in which an enormous black cat climbs onto her bed and bites her in the chest. The cat's teeth feel like two sharp needles. Laura wakes up. She sees a woman standing perfectly still at the foot of her bed. The woman then suddenly appears to be standing by the door. The door opens by itself and the woman leaves. Laura then goes to check the door and finds it is still locked.
The following morning, Laura decides not to tell her father about her terrible nighttime experience. She fears that he would not take it seriously and laugh at her. She also fears that he would take it too seriously and assume that she had become infected with the plague that has blighted the region. Laura does, however, tell Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine all about her horrible night. The story makes Mademoiselle De Lafontaine laugh and reminds her how a servant named Martin as said that the tree-lined avenue behind Carmilla's bedroom window is haunted. Martin claims to have seen a female figure there several times before sunrise.
Later that day, Carmilla says that she was frightened in the night but felt that the amulet that she bought from the hunchback protected her. She says that she thought she saw a dark figure by the fireplace. When she touched the amulet, however, the figure disappeared. Laura then tells Carmilla about what happened to her at night. She decides to follow Carmilla's example and sleep with the amulet under her pillow. Laura sleeps soundly that night. Afterwards, however, she has a not entirely unpleasant feeling of being slower in her movements than she used to be. Carmilla goes on to tell Laura that she now sleeps with the amulet pinned to her nightdress. She adds that the good that the amulet does must be entirely due to it having been treated with some kind of medication that stops the spread of the plague, rather than anything magical.
Laura is aware that she is changing and even believes that she is dying. This thought, however, does not bother her very much and she says nothing about it to her father. When Laura sleeps, she feels a not unpleasant chill on her chest. She feels a sensation like that of someone stroking her cheek and neck. She also feels a sensation like lips kissing the length of her body before stopping at her throat. She remembers little of her dreams but vaguely remembers dreaming of being in a dark place and speaking to people she cannot see. She remembers dreaming about one distant-sounding female voice which sounds like that of someone to be obeyed and feared. Carmilla tells Laura that she is suffering from bad dreams also.
As Laura becomes weaker, Carmilla becomes increasingly affectionate towards her. Laura comes to believe that whatever illness she is suffering from cannot be the same one that has been killing the local peasants. That is because Laura is still alive after three weeks whereas most of the peasants died within days of having seen horrible visions. By this time, Laura's slowness of movement has become quite visible. She also looks pale and has dark circles around her eyes. She continues to insist to her father, however, that she is fine.
One night, Laura dreams that she hears a different female voice say, "Your mother warns you to beware of the assassin." She then sees Carmilla standing at the foot of her bed with an enormous bloodstain that starts on her chin and runs all the way down the front of her nightdress to her feet. Laura wakes up and is convinced that Carmilla is being murdered. She leaves her bedroom and cries for help. Laura's father does not respond because his bedroom is in another part of the castle. Madame Perrodon and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, however, come to Laura's aid. They knock on Carmilla's bedroom door but there is no answer. More servants are called for and Carmilla's bedroom door is eventually forced open. Laura enters the room. There is no sign of any disturbance in the bedroom but Carmilla has completely vanished.
The bedroom is thoroughly searched but no sign of Carmilla can be found. The room's windows are firmly shut and the door to the dressing room that adjoins it is locked. That room is searched also and Carmilla is not there. The following morning, the entire castle and its grounds are searched but no trace of Carmilla can be found.
At one o'clock that afternoon, Laura goes up to Carmilla's bedroom and sees Carmilla standing there. Laura is overjoyed to see her friend again and also wastes no time in summoning the servants and her father. Carmilla is repeatedly asked what happened to her. Each time, she says that somebody must have carried her in her sleep to the dressing room that adjoins her bedroom because she woke up on the sofa there. Laura's father asks Carmilla if she has ever walked in her sleep. Carmilla says that she has not done that for many years but admits that she used to walk in her sleep when she was very young. Laura's father says that the mystery can be explained by Carmilla having walked in her sleep. Laura points out that she and her tutors searched the dressing room. Laura's father says that Carmilla must have gone into that room after they had searched it.
Since Carmilla will not allow anyone else to stay in her bedroom overnight, a servant is posted outside her bedroom door to stop her from sleepwalking again.
Having seen how sick Laura looks in comparison to Carmilla, Laura's father decides to get the doctor to come and see her. Laura tells the doctor about everything that happened to her since the night that she had the bad dream in which she was bitten by the large black cat. The doctor is obviously worried by everything that Laura says. He shares his concerns with Laura's father. The doctor asks Laura to show him and her father the place on her throat where she dreamed that the cat bit her. Laura does so. Her father is horrified by what he sees. Laura asks the two men what they can see. The doctor replies that there is a small blue spot on Laura's throat about the size of the tip of her finger. The doctor and Laura's father also discuss Laura's problem at length in private. Laura's father flatly refuses to tell her anything about that discussion. Laura's father also wants the doctor to examine Carmilla because he feels that she is demonstrating some of the same symptoms as Laura but at a less advanced stage. The doctor is told that he will have to return in the evening because Carmilla is a late riser.
As soon as the doctor leaves, a delayed letter arrives from General Spielsdorf. According to the letter, the General may be arriving for a visit as early as that day. Laura's father seems strangely troubled by the news of his good friend's visit. He says that he wishes that Laura could be in better health to receive their guest.
Shortly afterwards, Laura's father tells her that they are going to the ruins of Castle Karnstein for a picnic. He adds that Madame Perrodon and Carmilla will join them later. On the way to Castle Karnstein, Laura and her father see the approaching General Spielsdorf. The General is invited to join the party and takes an empty seat in the carriage. It has been ten months since Laura last saw General Spielsdorf but he looks years older. The change in his appearance is obviously not only due to his grief at the loss of his niece but is also a result of anger.
The General soon begins to talk about the "hellish arts" that he says were responsible for his niece's death. Laura's father asks him to explain. The General says that Laura's father would not believe him. Laura's father says that he is not as closed-minded as the General supposes and that he knows the General to be someone who requires strong evidence for his beliefs. The General asks Laura's father if they are going to Castle Karnstein. Laura's father replies that they are. The General is pleased to hear that because he hopes to dig up the bodies of some of the people who are buried there. He says that he wants to do that in order to, "relieve our earth of certain monsters and enable honest people to sleep in their beds without being assailed by murderers." At Laura's father's urging, the General agrees to tell his whole story from the beginning.
General Spielsdorf says that he and his niece Bertha were invited to a splendid ball at the castle of Count Carlsfeld. They were approached by a woman "with a stately air, like a person of rank" and her daughter Millarca. Both Millarca and her mother wore masks. Millarca and Bertha soon appeared to have become good friends. Millarca said to Bertha that her mother was an old friend of the General. Millarca's mother seemed to know a great deal about the General's life, although he had no idea who she was. The General admitted that he did not know who Millarca's mother was but she refused to tell him her name. Millarca eventually removed her mask and struck both the General and Bertha with her beauty. Her mother, however, insisted on keeping her mask on. She said that the General probably would not recognize her if she did take her mask off because the years have changed her.
An elegant gentleman with the palest face that the General had ever seen on a living man approached Millarca's mother. Speaking in French, he called her Countess. The Countess left with the man for a short while. When the Countess returned, she said to the General that she had suddenly been called away on some extremely important business that would keep her away for at least three weeks and would mean that she would have to travel very fast non-stop. She went on to say that Millarca was not well, she had recently fallen from a horse and her nerves had suffered as a result. Millarca's poor health meant that she could only travel if she went slowly and made frequent stops. The Countess asked the General if he would agree to let Millarca stay with him. At the same time, Bertha begged her uncle to let Millarca stay with them. The General consented. The Countess told the General that he could not ask Millarca any questions about her family. She hinted that it was not safe for her to reveal her true identity in her current location and that was the reason why she had not removed her mask.
After the Countess left, the General, Bertha and Millarca continued to enjoy the festivities together. Around dawn, the General and Bertha noticed that Millarca was missing. They searched for her for several hours but eventually gave up. At two o'clock the following afternoon, a servant told the General that a young lady was looking for him. Millarca said that she got lost and eventually made her way to a housekeeper's bedroom where she fell into a deep sleep. She, the General and Bertha left together.
The General soon found Millarca's habits to be somewhat odd. She moved slowly, which she said was the result of her recent accident. Although she wanted it to appear that she did not get out of bed until the afternoon, through windows, she was often seen walking around the castle's grounds very early in the morning. On those occasions, Millarca looked as if she was in a trance. How she left her bedroom, the door of which was still locked on the inside, was a mystery.
Bertha began to grow sick. She complained at first of terrible dreams. She dreamed of seeing a ghost that sometimes looked like Millarca and sometimes looked like a wild animal that prowled around her bed. In her sleep, Bertha began to feel a not unpleasant chill on her chest, then the sensation of being stabbed in the throat by two sharp needles. She later felt as if she was being strangled before falling unconscious.
The General's story is interrupted when he, Laura and her father arrive at Castle Karnstein. A woodsman can be heard chopping down trees with an ax. The General wonders if the woodsman might be able to tell him where the grave of Mircalla, Countess of Karnstein is located since peasants often remember things about old noble families that the nobles themselves have forgotten. Laura's father says that they have a portrait of the Countess Mircalla at home and asks the General if he would like to see it. The General is clearly not interested in seeing the portrait, saying that he has already seen Mircalla herself. Laura's father points out that Mircalla has been dead for over a hundred years. The General replies, "Not as dead as you fancy, I am told." He goes on to say that he wants to get his revenge on the monster that is the Countess Mircalla by cutting off her head.
The woodsman is called over. He says that he can tell the party nothing about Castle Karnstein, although he can fetch an old man who is currently staying with the priest who can tell them everything about it.
The General asks the woodsman how the village came to be deserted. The woodsman replies that the village was troubled by vampires. The villagers destroyed as many vampires as they could by cutting their heads off, driving stakes into them and burning them but still the trouble continued. A Moravian nobleman, who was visiting the area, said that he could put an end to the problem once and for all. At night, he climbed to the top of the tower of the castle's chapel. From there, he saw a vampire leave his grave and take off his shroud before leaving the cemetery. The Moravian took the vampire's shroud and carried it with him as he went back up to the top of the chapel's tower. The vampire returned and saw that his shroud was gone. The Moravian told him to come and get it. The vampire began to climb up to the top of the tower. The Moravian took the vampire by surprise and cut deep into his skull with a sword. The startled vampire fell to the ground. The Moravian cut off the vampire's head. The villagers later drove a stake into the vampire's body and burned it. The Moravian also had the tomb of Countess Mircalla removed and its former location was soon forgotten. The woodsman says that he does not know where Mircalla's tomb once stood and neither do any other living people. The woodsman does not know if Mircalla's body was left behind when her monument was removed.
The woodsman goes to fetch the old man he spoke about earlier. He leaves his ax behind. The General continues with his story.
The General says that the doctor who was treating Bertha asked an older and more experienced doctor from Gratz for help. The doctor from Gratz told the General that medical science could save Bertha, whom he said was certain to die very soon. Before leaving, the doctor told the General that he could put him in touch with a man who was an expert in what was causing Bertha's suffering. He also gave the General a letter and told him that he should ideally only open it in the presence of a priest. The General found that the priest was not at home and opened the letter anyway. He read that Bertha had been attacked by a vampire. The remainder of the letter gave instructions on how the vampire could be defeated.
Following the instructions in the letter, the General sat up that night in the dressing room that adjoined Bertha's bedroom. He kept his sword on the table in front of him. He saw a dark shape crawl over Bertha's bed towards her throat. The General came out of hiding. He saw the shape take on the form of Millarca. He struck at her with his sword but she got away. Millarca disappeared from the castle that night and did not return. Bertha died the following morning.
Having just heard a sad story while sitting in gloomy surroundings, Laura is happy to hear the voices of Madame Perrodon and Carmilla. When the General sees Carmilla, he picks up the woodsman's ax and runs towards her. Carmilla grabs the General's wrist, forcing him to drop the ax. With difficulty, the General gets free of Carmilla's grasp and staggers away in pain. Madame Perrodon then notices that Carmilla has gone. She and Laura call out Carmilla's name. The General says, "She called herself Carmilla?... that is Millarca. That is the same person who long ago was called Mircalla, Countess Karnstein."
Before the woodsman returns, an old man, whose name is later revealed to be Baron Vordenburg appears. The General greets the Baron as an old friend. The Baron examines some documents that he has brought with him. Having consulted the documents, he, the General, Laura's father and the woodsman find the long hidden place where Mircalla Karnstein is buried. The General says that they will return the following day with state and religious officials.
Laura returns home. She is sad to find no trace of Carmilla. A priest performs a ceremony. The priest and Laura spend all night in the dressing room that adjoins Laura's bedroom. Madame Perrodon and two servants spend all night in Laura's bedroom. Laura is not troubled by her usual bad dreams and accompanying sufferings that night and never is again.
The following morning, Countess Mircalla Karnstein's grave is opened. Carmilla is there. Her eyes are open and she is floating in seven inches of blood. Although she has been in the grave for a hundred and fifty years, she is still breathing softly and has a faint heartbeat. A stake is driven through her heart. Her head is cut off. Her head and body are burned to ashes and the ashes are thrown into a river. The region is never again troubled by vampires.
Laura fully recovers. She later finds out more about vampires from books that her father borrows from Baron Vordenburg. She learns that it is a popular misconception that vampires look deathly pale. When they go about in human society, vampires look just like healthy people. As well as needing to feed on blood, vampires have to return to their graves for a few hours each day in order to survive. How they enter and leave their graves without disturbing the soil is a mystery. Although vampires usually directly and violently attack their victims on only one fatal occasion, they sometimes take pleasure in slowly attracting other victims to them in order to slowly draw the life out of them. On those occasions, vampires seem to genuinely want the friendship of their victims and their victims' approval for their actions. A weakness of some vampires is that they have difficulty adopting false names and can only take on other names if they have all of the same letters as their real names. Hence Mircalla went by the names Millarca and Carmilla.
Laura's father asks Baron Vordenburg how he was able to find the long-hidden grave of Mircalla Karnstein. Baron Vordenburg says that the story of the Moravian nobleman who had previously rid the area of vampires has become somewhat distorted over time. Although the man had moved to Moravia, he was really an Austrian nobleman, one of Baron Vordenburg's ancestors, who had been in love with Mircalla. He had correctly ascertained that the vampire problem began in the region of Castle Karnstein, an area that had never been troubled by vampires before, after a man who committed suicide became a vampire. Victims of the vampire then became vampires themselves. The nobleman was afraid that Mircalla, having died young, would be suspected of being a victim of the vampire and a possible vampire herself. He could not bear the thought of her remains being dug up and mutilated. He therefore pretended to have her body removed along with her tomb. In reality, he had her monument destroyed but left her body where it was. Shortly before his death, he came to regret having probably left one vampire alive. He therefore left documents detailing where Mircalla's body could be found.
Even though she knows that she was a vampire who was slowly killing her, Laura continues to have mixed feelings towards Carmilla. She still sometimes remembers her as her playful and beautiful young friend.
The true identities of the woman who claimed to be Carmilla's mother and her attendants are never revealed.
The first screen adaptation of Carmilla is the 1932 French-German film Vampyr, directed by the Danish director Carl Dreyer. The film is credited as an adaptation of In a Glass Darkly and makes use of elements from other stories in the anthology.
The 1960 French-Italian film Blood and Roses (French: Et mourir de plaisir), directed by Roger Vadim, gives the story a present-day Italian setting. It centers around a woman named Carmilla Karnstein (played by Vadim's then wife Annette Stroyberg) who believes that she is becoming possessed by the spirit of her famous vampire ancestor namesake.
The 1963 Italian-Spanish horror film La cripta e l'incubo (released in the United Kingdom as Crypt of Horror and in the United States as Crypt of the Vampire and Terror in the Crypt) is a loose adaptation of Carmilla. The film appears to take place in Central Europe in the early 19th century. It centers around a young woman named Laura Karnstein (played by Adriana Ambesi). When members of the Karnstein family suddenly begin dying at alarming rates, both Laura and her father Count Ludwig Karnstein (played by Christopher Lee) believe that she is becoming possessed by the spirit of her notoriously wicked ancestor Mircalla. Mircalla was put to death as a witch by members of her own family. She vowed to take her revenge by draining the family of its blood.
The 1970 horror movie The Vampire Lovers, co-produced by American International Pictures and Hammer Productions of Britain, is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Carmilla. It stars the Polish-born actress Ingrid Pitt as the vampire Mircalla Karnstein, who takes on the aliases Marcilla and Carmilla. and Peter Cushing as General Spielsdorf. In The Vampire Lovers, Laura (played by Pippa Steele) is the General's niece who falls victim to the vampire and dies. The vampire's next intended victim is a young Englishwoman named Emma Morton (played by Madeline Smith) who is in Austria with her father (played by George Cole). Kate O'Mara plays Mademoiselle Perrodot, Emma's tutor who becomes Carmilla's willing accomplice. The film was unusual for its time due to its emphasis on lesbian sexuality.
Two sequels to The Vampire Lovers followed. The three films are collectively known as The Karnstein Trilogy. The first of the sequels is the 1971 film Lust for a Vampire (also known as Love for a Vampire and To Love a Vampire). In the film, the vampire Carmilla Karnstein (played by the Danish-born actress Yutte Sternsgard) takes on the alias Mircalla Herritzen and infiltrates a finishing school for predominantly British young ladies in Austria. The third film in the series, the 1971 movie Twins of Evil, bears the least resemblance to Carmilla. The vampire Mircalla Karnstein (played by the German-born actress Katya Wyeth) appears only briefly. The film centers on a wicked descendant of hers Count Karnstein (played by Damien Thomas) who becomes a vampire. The titular twins, Frieda and Maria Gelhorn (played by the Maltese actresses, real life twins and former Playboy models Madeline and Mary Collinson), are orphans who move from Venice to the town of Karnstein to live with their uncle Gustav Weil. Gustav Weil (played by Peter Cushing) is a strict Puritan and witch-hunter. Frieda is seduced by Count Karnstein and becomes evil. Maria remains good. Twins of Evil is sometimes considered to be a prequel to The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire because, whereas the two previous films appear to be set in the early 19th century, Twins of Evil appears to be set in the 17th century.
The 1972 Spanish horror film The Blood Spattered Bride (Spanish: La novia ensangretada), directed by Vicente Aranda, is a loose adaptation of Carmilla. The film concerns a woman named Susan (played by Maribel Martín) who marries a man (played by Simón Andreu) who is a descendant of Mircalla Karnstein. Two hundred years earlier, Mircalla Karnstein had murdered her husband on her wedding night. Susan begins to dream of Mircalla. Her husband rescues a woman he finds buried on the beach. The woman (played by Alexandra Bastedo) introduces herself as Carmilla. She is, of course, really Mircalla Karnstein who has returned as a lesbian vampire. Carmilla seduces and vampirizes Susan. The two vampires go on a killing spree. Susan's husband eventually defeats them. The film ends with the suggestion that he has been arrested for murdering his wife and her lesbian lover.
Carmilla was loosely adapted as the 2014 American thriller movie The Unwanted. In the film, a woman named Carmilla (played by Christen Orr) comes to a small town in present-day South Carolina in search of information about the mother she never knew whose name was Mircalla. Carmilla meets a young woman named Laura (played by Hannah Fierman) and her father Troy (played by William Katt). It is eventually revealed that Troy murdered Mircalla and his wife because he disapproved of the lesbian affair that they were having and he suspected Mircalla of being a vampire.
The 2014 Hungarian-American film Angel of Darkness (also known as Styria and The Curse of Styria) is a modernized adaptation of Carmilla. It stars the Polish actress Julia Pietrucha as Carmilla, the English actress Eleanor Tomlinson as Lara (equivalent to Laura in the novella) and the Northern Irish actor Stephen Rea as Lara's father Dr. Hill.
The 2019 British film Carmilla, written and directed by Emily Harris, stars Devrim Lingnau as Carmilla, Hannah Rae as a 15-year-old-girl named Lara and Jessica Raine as Miss Fontaine, Lara's strict governess who mistrusts Carmilla due to her obvious differences from other people.
Carmilla has been adapted several times for American radio. It was adapted as an episode of The Columbia Workshop, starring Jeanette Nolan and Joan Tetzel, that first aired on July 28, 1940. t was adapted as an episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater, starring Mercedes McCambridge and Maria Seldes, that first aired on July 31, 1975. It was adapted as an episode of Sears Radio Theater, starring Antoinette Bower and Anne Gibson with narration by Vincent Price, that first aired on March 7, 1979. An episode of the Canadian radio series Nightfall based on Carmilla was first broadcast by CBC Radio on November 20, 1981. A British radio play based on Carmilla, starring Anne-Marie Duff as Laura and the Bosnian-born actress Brana Bajic as Carmilla, was first broadcast as the Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4 on June 5, 2003.
An adaptation of Carmilla was shown as an episode of the British TV series Mystery and Imagination. The episode, which stars Jane Merrow as the vampire and Natasha Pyne as her victim, was first broadcast on the ITV network on November 12, 1966. Carmilla is one of four horror stories that were adapted as episodes of the short-lived American TV series Nightmare Classics. The episode first aired on the Showtime channel on September 10, 1989. It stars Meg Tilly as Carmilla and Ione Skye as her victim, who is given the name Marie. The adaptation is a rather loose one in which the action is moved from Austria to the southern United States shortly before the start of the American Civil War.
Carmilla was loosely adapted as the Canadian-produced web series of the same name. The series is composed primarily of a hundred and twenty-one videos that were posted on YouTube between August 19, 2014 and October 13, 2016. Additional material was provided via Twitter. The series' action takes place in the present-day at the fictional Silas University. Laura Hollis (played by Elise Bauman) is a first year journalism student who decides to start keeping a vlog. Shortly afterwards, her roommate Betty Spielsdorf goes missing. This is not the first such disappearance to occur on campus. Another young woman (played by Natasha Negovanlis) suddenly arrives. She says that her name is Carmilla and tells Laura that she is her new roommate. Laura, who had already come out as a lesbian before she met Carmilla, initially dislikes her new roommate but a romantic relationship gradually develops between them. It is revealed that Carmilla is a vampire who had been born in Austria in 1680 as Mircalla Karnstein. She is part of a powerful adoptive family of vampires. Carmilla's vampire mother Lilita Morgan is the Dean of Silas University, a cult leader and is eventually revealed to be the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Lilita Morgan requires Carmilla to bring her certain young women who have been selected to be offered up as human sacrifices. Laura has been selected as one such victim. Carmilla rebels against her mother and fights against the vampires. At the end of the series, she becomes human. The Carmilla web series won a Canadian Screen Award in 2015.
The Carmilla Movie, a feature film based on the web series, was released in Canada on October 26, 2017 and has been made available online. The story begins five years after the events of the web series. The human Carmilla finds that she is becoming a vampire again and also has to confront ghosts of her past victims.
The one-act rock opera Carmilla: A Vampire Tale, with music by Ben Johnston and libretto by Wilford Leach, was first performed in New York City in 1970.
- Sound files of public domain audiobook of Carmilla from LibriVox: Prologue and Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, Chapter VII, Chapter VIII, Chapter IX, Chapter X, Chapter XI, Chapter XII, Chapter XIII, Chapter XIV, Chapter XV, Chapter XVI
- "Green Tea"
- "Schalken the Painter"
- "The Vampyre"
- "Dracula's Guest"
- The narrator's first name is not revealed to be Laura until the eighth of the novella's sixteen chapters. Her surname is not given.
- The name of the Austrian city is now written as "Graz". It was written as "Gratz" in Sheridan Le Fanu's time.
- The other episodes of Nightmare Classics are based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and the short story "The Eyes of the Panther" by Ambrose Bierce.
- The name of the university is a clear reference to another famous work by Sheridan Le Fanu, the 1864 novel Uncle Silas.