1932 began with Lugosi as a contract star for Universal, and ended with him declaring bankruptcy. His interviews span a wide range as well. In January he shares with John Sinclair as he ever would about his wife in Hungary. Another interviewer sees him with his dogs, and another meets him at The Brown Derby. Most of the verbiage is studio publicity fodder, telling much more about the writers’ fantasies than about Lugosi.
Silver Screen, January 1932
MASTER OF HORRORS!
Has Bela Lugosi Inherited the Mantle of Lon Chaney?
By John Sinclair
Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian actor, has a home of modest and simple exterior on a quiet street in Hollywood.
And to pass him on the street you would think: “A calm man, with military bearing. Fine physique. A little sadness in the face. Clothes not at all outstanding.” For such is Bela (pronounced Bee-la.)
But the real character of the actor’s home lies on the other side of the heavy paneled door. A long living room with walls that rise 20 feet to the ceiling. A concert grand piano close beside the huge studio window that looks up to the hills of Hollywood. Fine paintings. Rare books well read. Monterey furniture with deep leather cushions. A sense of vast space.
Of himself, Lugosi says he does not want people to see his clothes first and himself afterward. He thinks the personality should outshine all the details of dress. That is the reason you will find him in ready-made suits for every day. It is only on the occasion of studio calls, social festivities, and very special days that his valet can persuade him to get into his exquisitely tailored clothes.
Three years on the stage in the title role of Dracula, followed by the same role in the film version, and other picture characterizations of eerie nature, apparently have permanently identified the name of Bela Lugosi with the weird and unusual.
Fan letters come to him from all over the world and they are all written in the same vein. They from people who sense in him the supernatural, and who wish to ask him questions about life and themselves which he cannot possibly answer. They come from movie fans who have heard strange tales about his childhood in the Hungarian town of Lugos, and believe it is his early association with vampires and medieval ghosts that enables him to play his vivid characterizations.
A letter on the latter type always makes Bela smile.
Born in the country town that had been named for one of his ancestors when he founded it as a hamlet. Bela’s childhood was the usual husky, absorbing life of the country boy. He had his donkey to ride over the town and into the country. The fact that his family, well fixed financially, were already planning a distinguished career for him as a statesman or a banker did not trouble him during this happy period of his life.
A childhood memory that stands out sharply in Lugosi’s mind concerns the circumstances of earning his first money—a sum equal to about 10¢.
“A girl in the village park offered me the money if I would hold her dog while she sat on a bench and kissed her sweetheart.
Bela says he remembers that he certainly earned the money, because the kisses became quite lengthy affairs, and the dog pulled hard on his leash, and he himself was only 7 and was soon tired out.
Other letters that come to Lugosi remark about his extremely long and fascinating hands; and his eyes which are like no eyes of living man.
“Make-up, only make-up,” said Lugosi. “But some of these people who write me could never believe that. Possibly they would not care to know that I like to keep my nails short. That I haven’t a double joint in my body. That my eyes without make-up are no more mysterious than theirs. That I do not use sugar nor butter and that I have a schedule of exercises that I practice absolutely every day of the year.”
“Circumstances made me the theatrical personality I am, which many people believe is also a part of my personal life. My next picture, Murders in the Rue Morgue, will continue to establish me as a weird, gruesome creature. As for my own feelings on the subject, I have always felt that I would rather play—say Percy Marmont roles than Lon Chaney types of things.”
During his early teen years Bela was deeply attracted to the theatre. He had read Romeo & Juliet so many times he knew the whole thing by heart. When the leading man of the traveling show which was to present the Shakespearean play in the Hungarian town took sick, Bela went to the manager and asked to be put on as a substitute.
Lugosi made good in this first venture and the experience forever spoiled for him the old proverb about the prophet in his home town.
The one big love of Lugosi’s life came to him in his native country. She was 16, the daughter of a very wealthy couple who held high social hopes for the girl. Bela was past 30. His income as an actor, even though he was a very popular young leading man, was considered small by his prospective in-laws. In addition, Bela and the girl’s father belonged to opposing political parties.
But it was a love match and the girl and the man over-rode all objections and, were married. What happened brought lines of unhappiness to Lugosi’s face which two subsequent marriages could not obliterate.
“In all his life a man finds only one mate. Other women may bring happiness close to him, but there is just one mate. The girl was mine. Possibly, she was too young and fragile and lacked the necessary stalwartness of character to right her way through.”
“As a result of my political affiliations I was forced to leave Hungarian. My wife remained in Budapest. There was an opening for me in the Berlin theater. When I had enough laid aside to keep us for a year I would send for her. I wrote my wife. Every second day I posted letters to her. I never got an answer.”
Afterward, Lugosi learned that his letters never reached the girl-wife. Her parents had reasons for having it so, When Bela did finally get in touch with the girl, he found she had married a man of her parents’ choice the day after her divorce from him.
“An explanation,” said Lugosi, “Yes, there was an explanation. Her father had filled her with the dread that I would be executed as a political enemy unless the father used his influence. This he would not do, he told her, unless she divorced me and married someone else.”
“That was years ago. We have thought of re-marriage. But she has children. One can forget many things but not when children are there as reminders of old, deep wounds. They would always come between.”
Two other marriages of Lugosi’s have ended in divorce. He does not say he will not marry again; the person who makes statements of finality in such matters shows lack of wisdom, he says.
He holds no bitterness. An example of his attitude toward events in his life is shown in the fact that he calls upon an ex-wife who lives in San Francisco whenever he is in the Bay City. When he appeared in a play there the two were seen constantly in each other’s company.
“And why not?” Lugosi wants to know. “Two people who failed at marriage may still find each other enjoyable and entertaining persons.”
A few weeks ago the Hungarian passed his citizenship examinations and is now an American citizen. Bela of Lugos has become Lugosi of America—with knowledge of American history and laws that would quite surprise the average native.
Legendary superstitions of that corner of the world that produced him have no hold on Lugosi. But—
If, after seeing a monk, a nun or a black cat you spit quickly, you can’t help but live in the shadow of good luck. Take Lugosi’s word for it.
Bela as Dr. Mirakle in Murders in the Rue Morgue
Press Book for Murders in the Rue Morgue, circa 1932
WOMEN LOVE HORROR
Bela Lugosi Tells Why Dracula Moved Them and Why Murders in the Rue Morgue Will Appeal to Women
“Strange creatures—women. They love horror.”
This is the contention of Bela Lugosi, who is generally conceded to stand in a class by himself as a delineator of terrible characters on the screen.
Before his debut on the screen, Lugosi starred for three years in the stage production ofDracula, and it was then he discovered that feminine theatergoers were the most avid pursuers of gruesome thrills.
“There is something in the a makeup of a woman,” said Lugosi recently, “which glories in association with horror. She gloats over repulsive things which cause the average man to turn away. She is constantly seeking the morbid and the unwholesome, feeding the subconscious appetite which demands horror in gruesome detail.”
“When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women. The came again and again, thrilling to the shocking story. True, many men were in the audience, but most of them had been brought by women, who craved the subtle sexual intimacy brought about when both sat watching the terrifying incidents of the play. In the same way, women were most thrilled and intrigued by the screen version of Dracula. The blood-sucking monster of the story excited strange thoughts and strange feelings.”
“Women are the ones who constantly visit cemeteries. Ostensibly to grieve for departed ones, but subconsciously to gloat over death. A woman will repeatedly detail the circumstances of a husband’s death, deriving a certain savage satisfaction from her recital of the circumstances which might better be forgotten. Woman are in the majority as spectators at murder trials, and the more gruesome the killing, the more breathless will be their attention to the horrible details revealed by witnesses.”
“Women put forth every possible effort in their frantic desire to get to the front line trenches during the World War. Granted that their great wish was to give aid and comfort to the wounded. But subconsciously they sought the savage thrill that came from being in the midst of suffering and horrible mutilation. It was not that they entered the service from any unworthy motives; they were simply being guided by a feeling which has from time immemorial been an attribute to the feminine sex.”
“it is women who flock to spiritual séances. They feel that, in a sense, they are coming in contact with death, and thus is fed the morbid longing of the sex.”
Unknown Source, circa 1932
EXPOSING OUR SCREEN VILLAINS
The Cinema’s Fiendish Ones Are Hollywood’s Model Citizens
By Hal Howe
Fiendish villain on the screen become charming friends when shorn of their professional scowls. For instance, there’s that fellow, Bela Lugosi.
We follow winding roads around the hills of Hollywood to reach Castle Dracula. And when we have gone as high as anyone would want to go we make a right turn around a bend and a drop of several hundred feet greets our dizzy eyes. After a sharp left turn away from this disconcerting view, Castle Dracula rears up in front.
As I parked my car one could have cut the atmosphere with a knife, so deadly quiet was everything. But I was sent to beard the VAMPIRE in his den and meant to go through with it.
Just as I gave the knocker a fling, a long eerie wail reached my ears. It was prolonged—weird, coming to a final crescendo with a demonical howl. I knew that Dracula assuming the form of a wolf was on the other side of the door waiting for me—a new and choice morsel for his blood lust.
Before I could retreat the door opened and he was upon me. His fangs reached for my throat.
“Dracula, silly do, down—down—down—do you hear me. Sorry but the pup loves visitors.”
As pretty a huskie dog as I have ever seen nearly swept me off my feet with his waggin tail, as he turned to face his master, Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula.
Lugosi’s home reflects the fine mind of this great Hungarian actor. Every piece of furniture has been made under his own eye and from his own design.
His living room is illuminated by windows reaching from floor to ceiling and reveals a gorgeous view on either side of hills and valleys undulating with nothing to obstruct the perfect view. The walls are lined with paintings—the works of well known foreign artists. A concert grand piano dominates a corner.
Bela Lugosi, inhuman villain of the screen, has none of that ghoulish menace in real life. He looks the cultivated scholar and thinker he is.
He lives in his beautiful hill home happily reflecting on the sheer joy of living. His dogs and his pipe—his fine collection of masters, books and paintings—his music occupy his off-screen moments.
His disposition is kindly—yet he is one of our best heavies. If his Dracula is fear compelling to you, his Murders in the Rue Morgue will bring you a session of shivers. Lugosi of the screen is a fiend.
The following interview is transcribed from the Talking Pictures Epics, Inc. seven-minute short film Intimate Interviews, in which Dorothy West conducted staged interview with Bela Lugosi in the garden of his house.
Lugosi: Yes, we completed the picture yesterday.
West: Do you start another immediately?
Lugosi: I think the next week.
West: You’re Hungarian, aren’t you Mr. Lugosi?
Lugosi: Yes, I am. What I mean, I am Hungarian by birth. I’m an American now.
West: Why did you leave Hungary?
Lugosi: Political reasons. After the war I participated in the revolution; and later, I found myself on the wrong side.
West: Oh! That’s very unfortunate. What are you studying now?
Lugosi: I am studying now American slang. I know how to say “okay,” and “cat’s whiskers,” and “baloney,” and “and how!” Come on, let’s sit down
West: Okay. Is that your pool?
Lugosi: Yes, and I can’t change the water because all the fish will die. I clean it myself every morning.
West: Oh, you do. It’s rather warm today. But, you did become a citizen, did you not?
Lugosi: Some time ago, and I am very glad and happy about it. I can stay here for good. It is very nice to live in a country where people know how to mind their own business. There’s something else. It’s wonderful how, how the American people display their sportsmanship.
West: Mr. Lugosi, did you play any mystery parts in Europe?
Lugosi: No, I didn’t, by accident I didn’t.
West: What type of roles did you play?
Lugosi: Oh, different type of roles. Character, dramatic, romantic. All kinds.
West: Have you ever been interested in anything outside your profession?
Lugosi: Oh, yes, very much. I like modern sculpture. In my spare time, I like to put my surplus energy into molding the clay.
West: Do you believe in vampires?
Lugosi: Yes, and three of them, I married.
West: What was your first mystery play?
Lugosi: It was “Dracula.”
West: Well, did the role attract you?
Lugosi: Very much. It haunted me. I often dreamed of the dead. In the morning when I woke up I was tired, restless. Did you see the play?
West: No, I didn’t. I’m awfully sorry. But, what kind of makeup did you use?
Lugosi: Oh, I can show it to you on the picture that I promised you.
West: Oh, I’d love to see it.
Lugosi: Here it is.
West: Oooo, how frightfully weird.
Lugosi: It isn’t so much the makeup, it’s rather expression.
West: I’m afraid I’ll dream about this myself tonight.
Lugosi: You flatter me.
West: Were you satisfied with your work in pictures?
Lugosi: No. When an actor gets satisfied with his work, he’s done, he’s through. You see in the National Theatre of Hungary in Budapest, all the great character parts are played by four or five different players. Each competes with the others. Each plays the part in accordance with their own conceptions. And the audience is just as much interested in the actor’s conception of the role than it’s interested in the play itself.
West: Well, would you like to play in anymore mystery parts in the future?
Lugosi: Yes, why not? I think they are very interesting. But I would rather have it combined with some romance. It would have much greater appeal to the audience, and in the box office of the producers would gain more. Romance is very important.
West: Speaking of romance, do you ever go to any Hollywood parties?
Lugosi: No, life is too short for that. I wouldn’t waste my time. There are so many interesting, wonderful things in the world that a man could achieve and experience. Besides, I don’t even know how to play that, what do you call it, a ukulele.
West: But you have so many friends, Mr. Lugosi.
Lugosi: Well, I guess that I am pretty much of a lone wolf. I don’t say that I don’t like people at all, but to tell you the truth I only like them if I have a chance to see into their hearts and their minds. If I find there is something, something worthwhile, some human kindness, some sympathy.
West: Mr.Lugosi, are you interested in…
Lugosi: Pardon me. (looks to the distance) I’m coming!
West: Why, I didn’t hear anyone calling.
Lugosi: I’m sorry.
West: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I understand (runs away)
The Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 29, 1932
BELA LUGOSI WEARS A BAT RING
By Robert Grandon
Transcriber’s Note: The below is an extract syndicated news column that appeared in many newspapers on or about June 29, 1932.
Down at the Brown Derby the other noon, whom should I meet but Bela (Scares Little Children) Lugosi…and Bela was wearing a bat ring…green gold, it was, with two flaming rubies for eyes…but something to look at.
“I thought you’d seen it, Bob,” he volunteered as he handed it over to me. “I’ve had it ever since Dracula…the road show. I mean…my fellow players gave it to me when we ended the New York run…I rarely take it off…so feel complimented.”
Which I did…
Weird Tales, October 1932
DEMONS OF THE FILM COLONY
By Ted Leberthon
Was a gigantic hoax perpetrated on the author by “Dracula” Lugosi and “Frankenstein” Karloff,” aided and abetted by the photographer.
For ten years I have been writing about the activities of the motion picture colony for what are known as the “fan” magazines; and, in strict justice to the movie people in and about Hollywood, I never before had an experience such as the one that befell me recently—for there is nothing weird, preternatural or otherwise affrighting about most motion picture people, for the child Jackie Cooper to the more elderly Marie Dressler. There have been, it is true, curious legends about Greta Garbo, but she stays away from interviewers. Whatever her secret, she keeps it.
Obviously, I could not relate the experience I had in the pages of a “fan” magazine. The readers of these magazines are too accustomed to sunshine to relish shadows. So, I decided to submit to the readers of Weird Tales the ghastly details of a gigantic hoax perpetrated on me by Bela Lugosi, star of the films Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Boris Karloff, who played the monster in the film Frankenstein.
Candidly, for reasons which the reader may surmise before he finished reading, I have hesitated considerably about writing of just what happened, but now I feel I should make what happened public.
I was just leaving Universal City one rainy, dreary morning when John LeRoy Johnstone, Universal publicity director, called to me.
“Ted, don’t go away. I just happened to think that our two demons, ‘Dracula’ Lugosi and ‘Frankenstein’ Karloff, are coming here in a few minutes. A demons’ rendezvous ought to interest you. I might add that they’re hastening here from opposite directions, to meet for the first time. They actually have never met. You see, Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which Lugosi starred, were made here at different times than Frankenstein, in which Karloff played the ghastly, man-made monster. and that’s why they’ve never met professionally. Nor have they ever met socially, although both have been in Hollywood, on and off, for several years. But you know the film colony. All split up into little groups and circles.”
I didn’t mind sticking around. For one thing, a murky drizzle had begun to fall outside. The mammoth Universal stages, seen through a window seemed in the grayness, to be enormous squat tombs, unadorned sarcophagi in which giants five hundred feet tall, stretched in death could be laid. It might not be a bad idea, I concluded, to wait around a little, if only to give the rain a chance to stop.
“Doggoned if it isn’t just the kind of a morning for a couple of monsters to meet,” laughed Johnstone. “And do you know something: I’ve a queer hunch something funny’ll happen when they meet. Not that there’s any professional rivalry between them in the demon field, as far as I know; but there’s been a lot of banter going around the studio about the weird possibilities, you know, the things that could happen when Dracula meets the Frankenstein monster! Candidly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to frame each other.”
“What do you mean?” I chuckled nervously.
“Well,” he countered, “it’s natural that this meeting should strike them both as funny. And you now what actors are for pulling gags on each other.”
The rain, increasing, muttered against the ground outside.
Boris Karloff was first to arrive—and, fantastically enough in evening clothes, worn under a rain flecked overcoat which he tossed off with a mischievous, almost boyish fling.
We were introduced. And I learned, from his accent, then from his admission, that he name is not Karloff, but that he is an Englishman with a most unfortunate name. But we won’t go into that.
He is slender, debonair, graceful with powerful shoulders and large strong hands, smooth iron-gray hair, darkly tanned skin and lucent deep-set brown eyes. A witty, casual, well-bred fellow, with one of those strong-boned, hallow-cheeked countenances that seems carved out of hickory, and is characteristic of so many well-travelled, weather-beaten, distinguished-appearing Britishers.
He joked waggishly, this Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff, about his coming meeting with Bela Lugosi.
As he was talking, and Johnstone and I were absorbed in his high spirits, the door leading to the studio outside evidently opened. No one saw it open. In fact, we did not see anything until Karloff, who faced the door as he chatted with us, suddenly looked up and asseverated startlingly, “Oh, my God!”
Johnstone and I looked around and I don’t know what he thought or felt. I do know I became visibly disconnected, to put it lightly.
There stood Lugosi, filling the doorway, quiet as death, and smiling in his curiously knowing way. It is the smile of a tall, weary, haunted aristocrat, a person of perhaps fallen greatness, a secretive Lucifer who sees too clearly and knows too much, and perhaps wishes it were not so, and would like to be a gracious chap. He, too, was in evening clothes—on a rainy morning! He advanced with a soft springy tread.
Karloff stood up as if galvanized by some sudden irrevocable plan of action. The he turned on the advancing Lugosi a cold, unbelieving stare that would have riveted another man in his tracks. But the tall, taper-fingered Hungarian drawing himself erect, continued to smile with unmistakably ghastly knowingness.
It was Lugosi’s hand which was thrust forward first. As they shook hands they seemed to lock horns with their eyes. Only for a moment, however, for both broke into ear-to-ear grins.
“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” Lugosi smiled, narrowing his eyes, and seeming to look right through the quondam monster.
“I hope I didn’t scare you to death,” parried Karloff mirthfully.
I could not be certain; but I thought Lugosi bristled, as if his demonical prowess had been challenged by a tyro in demonism.
Finally he said slowly.
“I think I could scare you to death.”
Karloff struck a match, lit a cigarette, puffed a couple of times, and retorted with an air of whimsical scorn;
“I not only think I can scare your ears right off, Mr. Dracula, I’ll bet you that I can.”
Within the next few minutes a wager of a hundred dollars had been made. They would go into a deserted set within one of the vast, empty, tomb-like stages squatting in the rain outside. No lights would be turned on. They would tell each other stories—such stories of darkness, terror and madness that one or the other would either faint or cry out for the other to stop. The other would then be pronounced victor.
Publicist Johnstone, grinning a bit unconvincingly, as if he were somehow ill, protested:
“There should be a referee. You go along, Le Berthon, and decide which one out-scares the other. And I’ll tell you what. Take Ray Jones, the photographer, along. He can get incontrovertible evidence.”
“I don’t want to oppose your wishes,” put in Lugosi, his eyes widening like wrathful alarm signals, “but I would rather be alone with Mr. Karloff. You won’t need any evidence. All you may need is a doctor, a nerve and heart specialist. You see only one of us will walk off that stage. The other will be…er…carried off.”
He said this with some heat, yet a growing twinkle in his eyes which gradually narrowed again. But Johnstone was obdurate.
And so, two tall actors in evening clothes, a photographer and a writer walked with bowed heads and hunched shoulders in the rain to reach the stage building with its unfortunate resemblance, for me, to a colossal sepulcher.
We entered a small door in the side, nearly tripping over cables that coiled like lifeless serpents about the floor in the dank, dusky atmosphere. Photographer Jones lit a match. We found our way to a set where, among other articles of furniture, there was a davenport. It was then agreed that Jones could take photographs if he and I would stand 25 feet away in a dark corner, and if he would use only noiseless flash powder.
The tall actors in evening clothes sat on the davenport. In the obscure gloom we scaraclet could discern their figures. But soon we were to hear a mournful voice, Lugosi’s.
“Boris,” he began in a gloating sonority,” what would you say if this set, this stage, tis studio, suddenly vanished, and you found that in reality you and I were sitting at the bottom of a pit. Ha! That would be inconvenient for you, wouldn’t it? But of course I might provide some charming company—I might drag down into this pit an exquisite young woman. And I should indulge in a curious experiment that would cause your hair to turn white—and your stomach to turn inside out.
“Boris,” he went on in a ghoulish, sickeningly exultant tone, “women are thrilled by Dracula, the suave one. Women love the horrible, the creepy, more than men. Why does a woman always tell the story of her husband’s death so often and with such relish? Why does she go to cemeteries? Tenderness? Grief? Bah! It’s because she likes to be hurt, tortured, terrified! Yes, Boris! Ah, Boris, to win a woman, take her with you to see Dracula, the movie. As she sees me, the bat-like vampire, swoop through an open casement into some girl’s boudoir, there to sink teeth into neck and drink blood, she will thrill through every nerve and fiber. That is your cue to draw close to her, Boris. When she is limp as a rag, take her where you will, do with her what you will. Ah, especially, Boris, bite her on the neck!
“The love-bite, it is the beginning. In the end, you, too, Boris will become a vampire. You will live five hundred years. You will sleep in moldy raves by day and make fiendish love to beauties at night. You will see generations live and die. You will see a girl baby born to some woman and wait a mere 16 to 18 years for her to grow up, so that you can sink fangs into a soft, white neck and drink a scarlet stream. You will be irresistible, for you will have in your powerful body the very heat of hell, the virility of Satan. And someday, of course, you will be discovered—a knife, after long centuries, will be plunged into you, you will drop like a plummet into the bottomless sulfurous pit. Yes, Boris, that’s the end—for you! For lone at me, Boris….”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! You fool, Bela,” came Karloff’s scornful pealing laugh in the darkness. “Why try that kindergarten stuff on me? You ask me to look at you, Bela. Well, look at me! Look….look….look….and take an occasional glance upward, Bela. These two hand of mine, clenched together above my head, could descend at any moment, in a second, ay, even before I finish this sentence, if I wanted them to, and they’d bash your distinguished head in as if it were an egg. Your brains would run out like the yolk of an egg and spatter your pretty tuxedo.”
“Bela, a monster created by Frankenstein is not worried by your stories of seeking blood from beauties necks. But did you see the movie, Frankenstein, Bela? Did you see me take an innocent like girl, a child playing among flowers, and drown her? Some sentimentalists said I did it unknowingly. Bosh! I have done it a thousand times and will do it a thousand times again. Bela, it’s dark in here, but you know me. You know it was no accident or chance, but significant, that I—the Englishman from God knows where whose name is not Karloff—was called upon to play that monstrous role! You know me, Bela, you know me. Why that bosh about 500 hundred years old? You know that both of us are nearly 6,000 years old! And that we’ve met many times before, the last time not more than 200 years old…And you shouldn’t have made that foolish wager. Admit it, Bela!” Karloff’s voice shook with deep agitation.
“I wonder,” came Lugosi’s reply, dreary as a fog-horn in the semi-darkness. In the meantime, photographer Jones in his scarce-visible corner kept snapping pictures. The noiseless powder recurrently rose in puffs, so that—spookily enough—the scene resembled the laboratory of a medieval alchemist.
“Come, Bela—let’s go. Er—Jones, LeBerthon,” Karloff shouted hoarsely, “are you ready to go? Bela and I have found we’re members of the same—well, suppose, we say, lodge. We’re therefore quite unable to scare each other to death, for reasons you might not understand, even to oblige you. You’ll just have to call it a draw.”
“All right, we’re ready to go,” responded Jones, nervously enough for that matter. “And—say—I’ve used up my last match. Will one of you fellows strike one?”
I shall never know whether it was Lugosi or Karloff who struck the match. All I do know is that when the match was struck it apparently revealed not Lugosi and Karloff on that davenport, but two slimy, scaly monsters, dragon-like serpents with blood-red venomous eyes. The apparitional things flashed before me so suddenly that I became sick to my stomach and made a rush, on buckling legs, for the exit—and the cool air.
Just as I reached it and noted fleetingly that the rain had stopped, and that my heart was pouding to the bursting-point, and that I was strongly weak and giddy, Jones and the two tall actors in evening clothes came through the door. Jones was rather sober and unconcerned, but Lugosi and Karloff were laughing heartily over something or other.
“Will you have lunch with us?” Lugosi asked me, still grinning but with something of a physician’s tender concern.
“No, thank you,” I replied, scarcely looking either at him or Karloff,” I have to hurry away.”
And I did hurry away.
I am, of course, now convinced that what happened was their idea of a practical joke, that the slimy, scaly things I had seen, the things which had so frightened and sickened me in that fleeting moment were either the imaginings of my over-wrought nerves—or some mechanically contrived illusions in which Jones had some share.
There are, of course, some who will wonder if I do not merely prefer this simple, comforting explanation to one that might cause Hollywood hostesses to fear to invite Lugosi and Karloff to social functions—and fear not to invite them!
Many people, deep down, still are superstitious. And there are many things in life we do not fully understand, such as why it is the destiny of certain human beings to portray certain roles—whether in real or “reel” life.