The year 2005 was arguably the centennial of the portrayal of Mormons in the movies, basing the event on Thomas Edison’s A Trip to Salt Lake City (1905), the earliest extant nickelodeon short subject dealing with Mormons.1 This auspicious anniversary was marked at an art house theater in New York City by a week of screenings—dubbed “Mormonsploitation”—of early Mormon-themed motion pictures, including the 1922 British film Trapped by the Mormons and its 2005 shot-for-shot silent black-and-white remake that served, according to The Village Voice, as “the anchor of the series.”2 The remake, directed by ex-Mormon Ian Allen, stars “drag king” Johnny Kat as Mormon missionary Isoldi Keene, equipped, according to the Washington Post, with “hypnotic powers” with which he “lures young women [one young Nora Prescott in particular] away from their families so they can be sent to Utah, where terrible fates—including polygamy—await them.”3 A Salt Lake City film critic described Keene’s wives as “vampire brides” engaged in a “blood-drenched” battle with Nora’s rescuers that gives the film a more potent, sexually oriented twenty-first-century tone.4 Allen’s obvious connection of Keene’s powers to vampirism invites background research into the original Trapped by the Mormons and the sensational novel on which the film’s scenario was based.
The undead, the living dead, Nosferatu, Walpurgis Night. These and other terms now a familiar part of vampire lore have appeared in the mythology of various parts of the world for at least three thousand years. However, they were first brought together in modern times with the 1897 publication of Dracula.5 Abraham (Bram) Stoker brought to the changing turn-of-the-century world (especially Great Britain) a drama of superstition, vampires, spells, and potions from the old world and placed them in a modern-day setting. This essay will demonstrate that the extremely popular images created by the book found their way into aspects of England’s anti-Mormon crusades and into a book, The Love Story of a Mormon, written in 1911 by one of the movement’s most prolific literary crusaders, Winifred Graham. Such images were also successfully translated into a motion picture version of her novel, produced in England and released in 1922 with the title Trapped by the Mormons.6
Fifty years old when he published his atmospheric tale of a vampire preying on unsuspecting victims in London, Stoker had spent much of his life as the personal assistant of the great English actor Sir Henry Irving at Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London.7 Through his activities connected with the world of theater and travel, Stoker learned of, and became fascinated by, the age-old tales of vampires that originated in what is now Romania. Unknown to Stoker until after he was well into writing his novel, many of those legends were mixed with the real-life exploits of Vlad Tepes, the historical Dracula, who was in reality a fifteenth-century Romanian nobleman and general who, in order to discourage further invasions by the Turks, impaled his conquered enemies on wooden stakes.8 One account numbers his victims at twenty thousand. Vlad’s father garnered the sobriquet “Dracul” from a Catholic paramilitary organization to which he belonged. In Romanian, Dracul means “devil,” and a at the end signifies “son of.” Dracula was, by most accounts, aptly named.9 Combining this historical figure with folktales from the Transylvania region, Stoker named his king of the vampires Count Dracula.10
The cultural climate during the closing decade of the nineteenth century in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe was filled with popular references to vampires. The first stage melodrama, Le Vampire, by Charles Nodier, Achille Jouffroy, and Pierre Carmouche, had been presented in Paris in 1820 and imitations soon followed.11 James Malcolm Rymer’s mass-marketed novel Varney the Vampire: or, The Feast of Blood (1847) coincided with the birth year of Bram Stoker. In 1897, Phillip Burne-Jones’s painting The Vampyre was displayed to acclaim at the New Gallery in London, perhaps because his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, wrote a poem of the same name for the exhibit catalog about “a rag and a bone and a hank of hair.” A successful play, A Fool There Was, which takes its title from the first line of Kipling’s poem, written by Porter Emerson Browne in 1906, later became a novel as well. In the painting, the poem, the play, and the novel, references to a woman as a vampire were explicit. The 1915 film A Fool There Was established Theda Bara as a major movie star and assured the success of the new Fox Film Corporation, now Twentieth Century Fox. Theda Bara, from then on known as “The Vamp,” inspired an additional entry of the word—as both a noun and a verb—in Webster’s Dictionary.12
Stoker, however, was not content to rehash old legends that had been available for centuries. Rather, he wrote a modern tale of horror that begins with Jonathan Harker, an agent for a London real estate firm, on his way to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to discuss a piece of property Harker’s firm had purchased for the Count in London. In Transylvania, Harker is warned against the evil Count by the local peasants but nevertheless proceeds on his journey. At the castle, Harker is attacked by Dracula’s wives, and the Count crafts a plan whereby coffins full of his native earth are transported from Romania to the ruins of Carfax Abbey near London, from where he will lure England’s young virginal females into the ranks of the undead. In England, the Count is challenged by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, a Dutch physician wise in the vampire’s ways. Van Helsing, Harker, and Harker’s fiancée, Mina, who was herself bitten by the Count, discover the vampire’s hiding places of earth and chase Dracula to Transylvania where, in the novel’s climax, Harker severs Dracula’s head from his body, thus freeing himself and his betrothed from the curse of the undead.
Winifred Graham and The Love Story of a Mormon
Within fifteen years of the publication of Stoker’s book, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, active in Great Britain since 1837, experienced what Malcolm R. Thorp identifies as four anti-Mormon campaigns between 1911 and 1926 that met with varying degrees of success.13 The cultural image of a sinister, predatory vampire penetrated many of the cultural expressions connected with that crusade.
A key figure in all of these anti-Mormon campaigns was British authoress and anti-Mormon crusader Winifred Graham, also known as Mrs. Theodore Cory. Graham, who claimed to be the most published authoress in England with eighty-eight books, wrote six anti-Mormon suspense novels and a highly critical history of the Church.14 In 1924, Elder David O. McKay, president of the Church’s European Mission, expressed little use for Graham’s activities when he wrote to President Heber J. Grant, “The activity of the Saints in Britain in tracting is arousing the devil, who is manifesting his evil designs through his co-partner Winifred and her ilk.”15
The Love Story of a Mormon was published in 1911, at the height of an anti-Mormon movement that began in Liverpool. Capitalizing on a campaign marked by rallies, speeches, and newspaper stories against English girls being seduced and taken to Utah by lustful Mormon missionaries, Graham’s novel was set in Liverpool (called “Riverpool” in the book).
A young working-class girl, Jacinth Abbott, is approached by a Mormon missionary, Ziba Wayne, a “wonderful vision of all-conquering manhood.” She is instantly “magnetized by a pair of large brown eyes, set in a singularly attractive countenance.” Wayne gives her some tracts and Jacinth returns home to her parents, who become suspicious of their daughter’s desire to break off her engagement to an up-and-coming businessman in the area. Meanwhile, at Wayne’s encouraging, Jacinth convinces her girlfriends to listen to the elder’s strange new religion and tales of spiritual wifery in Utah. The missionary extends a hand of welcome to each separately, “the mesmeric hand which knew its own power.” They are all treated to a bogus demonstration of raising the dead when Wayne revives a young girl in a passing caravan of gypsies. Meanwhile, Jacinth’s parents find the Mormon pamphlets in their daughter’s room and, having listened to speeches against Mormonism and read the exposé articles in the newspapers, they conclude that the Mormons have designs on their young daughter.
Jacinth’s jilted fiancé hires a detective to monitor Jacinth’s mysterious behavior and travels since, he declares, “[the Mormon’s] chief prey appears to be women and girls.” Sensing danger, Elder Wayne devises a method to get Jacinth away from her suspicious parents. His sister, he tells Jacinth, will pose as an authoress offering her a job as a traveling companion to Germany. The ploy is successful for a time, but Jacinth’s fiancé eventually tracks the pair to Wayne’s lodgings in London. There Jacinth is prepared for baptism until Wayne’s “sister” reveals that she is not his sister at all, but his first wife. Jacinth confronts Wayne with her newfound information, and he condemns both Jacinth and his jealous first wife to death. Jacinth must now plan an escape. Fortunately a detective, who posed as a waiter at the restaurant where Jacinth and Wayne had dined the previous night, had given her a scarf to use as a sign of distress. She hangs it from her window, where it is visible to her fiancé and the detective lodged across the street. When Wayne and a confederate return from meetings that evening, expecting to find the condemned women dead from gas inhalation, the detective and Jacinth’s fiancé, together with a cadre of London bobbies, arrest the missionaries and quickly take them to jail. There Ziba Wayne commits suicide, and Jacinth and her reunited fiancé are happily wed in an orthodox Christian ceremony.
The preface to The Love Story of a Mormon was written by Graham’s friend Bishop J. E. C. Welldon, dean of Manchester. Welldon wrote passionately that the reader should not interpret the book as a work of pure fiction:
It is a novel with a purpose; but as being such it is all the more valuable, for it copes with a definite evil. Like Miss Graham I have been for some time past concerned with the Mormon propaganda in England. I have learnt something of its secrecy, its assiduity, and its success; I know how important it is to warn young emotional religious girls, living perhaps in more or less unhappy homes, against its seductiveness. But a novel is often a better mentor than a sermon or a speech, if only because it appeals to a larger circle of people.
The Mormonism which Miss Graham opposes is the Mormonism of the Salt Lake City. There polygamy has long flourished, and there it still exists. It is in fact the distinctive feature of Mormonism in Utah; for apart from polygamy that Mormonism is dull and unintelligible. Girls who emigrate from England to Utah find themselves members of an immorally constituted society.
There is no great need, I think, to invoke the arm of the law in England against Mormonism. If the light is once let in upon it, it will die of itself. The moral sense of English men and women will rise against it. It is my earnest hope that Miss Graham’s literary skill may prove efficacious in the crusade in which she has played so notable and so noble a part.16
In November 1919, Graham was invited to speak at the World Christian Citizenship Conference in Pittsburgh. Her keynote address at the World Conference on Mormonism session was so powerful that Elder James E. Talmage was booed from the rostrum when he attempted to reply to Graham’s impassioned speech. That same year, Great Britain denied the visas of all Latter-day Saint missionaries bound for England until Senator Reed Smoot was successful in persuading authorities to reissue them nearly one year later.17 Graham’s strident anti-Mormonism in 1917 sought a parallel to England’s struggle against Germany when she described Utah as “really a kind of Kaiser rule, and the Hohenzollern bully might well stand as a replica of the Mormon Church power, working its evil for personal gain, and using God’s name as a weapon and boast.” 18
Trapped by the Mormons
Church officials became highly sensitized to the power of popular film as a result of the 1911–12 release of A Victim of the Mormons, from the renowned Nordisk company, and the play Through Death Valley, or The Mormon Peril, both dealing with well-worn plots involving polygamy and sinister Mormons.19 The Master Film Company’s release of Trapped by the Mormons in 1922 coincided with the next major anti-Mormon crusade in England.20 Even as late as 1928, when it was reissued under the title The Mormon Peril, the film was publicized by lurid copy, warning “Girls Beware!” On its reissue, contemporary sources report that “its scenes are accompanied during projection by the running commentary of a lecturer.”21
Trapped by the Mormons closely follows the narrative of Graham’s novel, but what I wish to emphasize are the similarities between the visual images portrayed in the film and the verbal descriptions painted by Graham in her novel. The film begins by showing a wide-eyed Mormon missionary, here named Isoldi Keene, not Ziba Wayne as in Graham’s novel. The camera’s iris narrows to Keene’s main attraction, his transfixing eyes. Lest the viewer miss so obvious a visual clue, the intertitles inform us that this man is indeed one whose “mesmeric powers” allow him to be “one of the cleverest recruiters in the Mormon ranks.” Later in the film, Keene encounters a gypsy caravan and in full view of the girlfriends whom Nora Prescott (in the book named Jacinth Abbott) has gathered together, he performs the miracle of raising a woman from the dead. Suitably impressed, the girls depart with Keene’s admonition not to tell anyone of the so-called miracle. Keene’s charlatanesque performance is capped by the payoff of the woman whom he “raised from the dead” and her male accomplice. Keene congratulates the participants by saying that their “acting was superb!” The woman then states that she did not think that Keene would ever release her from his trance. While the act was contrived for Keene’s own purposes, the film makes clear that Keene’s mesmeric powers are real. The remainder of the seventy minutes of screen time follows the book faithfully, with the exception of Wayne’s suicide. In the film, Keene is simply hauled off to jail, leaving the reunited young lovers to embrace as the film fades out to the end.
Critically, Trapped by the Mormons was viewed according to the “standard set by present-day films” as “lamentably lacking in most of the essentials.”22 Even on its re-release in 1928, it was considered by a leading trade paper as “nothing more nor less than a propaganda picture, crudely produced.”23 The reaction of the LDS Church to the 2005 remake was one of little concern. “With something like this, it is over the top and we don’t take it seriously,” Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said. “Nobody can possibly take this seriously.”24 In 1922, however, it was a different story to then missionary and later Church President Ezra Taft Benson. His journal records his eviction from his lodgings in England due to the hostile atmosphere created by Graham’s books and the film.25 When Married to a Mormon—the sequel to Trapped by the Mormons—was released later the same year, the pluckiness of Mormon missionaries was evident in their proactive response. President of the Hull Conference G. Osmond Hyde seemed to see a bright spot amid what he called a “bad-rank” film:
We secured permission from the police and the manager of the hall to tract the people as they left the show. . . . We distributed a large number of pamphlets and tracts. Of course some of the people would not accept them, others tore them up in our faces, but others were anxious to get them and would not leave until they had secured one. That was the best stroke of advertising that we have put forth since coming over here. In three evenings we let more people know that we are here than we could have done in three months at ordinary tracting from door to door. It was a rare experience but one in which, I am sure, we did a great amount of good.26
While baptisms did decrease during the height of the anti-Mormon crusades, the 1924 campaign was, according to Malcolm Thorp, unsuccessful “largely because the public image of the Mormons was undergoing change. . . . The Church was seen as being transformed into just another of the multitudinous sects in America.”27
To be sure, when Trapped by the Mormons entered distribution in Canada in late 1924, Church officials took measures to prohibit its showing in the United States. Canadian Mission president Joseph Quinney wrote to Apostle and Utah Senator Reed Smoot about Quinney’s failed negotiation with Canadian censors to have the film edited before general release. Smoot had been in correspondence with President Heber J. Grant about contacting the film’s distributor in order to discourage distribution of Trapped by the Mormons in the United States. Only a few years earlier, Smoot was successful in having two feature films based on Zane Grey novels, Riders of the Purple Sage and The Rainbow Trail, taken out of European distribution by the Fox Film Corporation.28 There is no known documentation of how Senator Smoot negotiated with the distributor, but there is no indication that Trapped by the Mormons was shown anywhere in the United States.
The whereabouts of Winifred Graham’s papers are, at this writing, unknown. Similarly, the records of Master Film Company have not become available for research use. However, in the absence of such historical documentation, the similarities shared by Graham’s book and Trapped by the Mormons to the vampire imagery of Bram Stoker’s Dracula require serious attention. In this article, filmic similarities to Graham’s and Stoker’s descriptions will be limited to references to the already cited Dracula, directed by Tod Browning and featuring Bela Lugosi in the title role. The similarities imply an attempt by one author, and later by two filmmakers, to capitalize on recurring images of the vampire in popular culture at that time. A few of the many related images to be examined in this article are those that I will identify as stranger from a strange land, mesmeric powers, and the kiss of death.
Stranger from a Strange Land. In both Dracula and Trapped by the Mormons, the mystique of the Romanian Count, the Mormon missionary, and their areas of origin have much to do with how they were perceived by those around them. In writing Dracula, Stoker knew that Transylvania was a veritable mystery land to most Britons. George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, written in 1912, refers to the “prince from Transylvania,” connoting a powerful person from an imaginary land. As remote as the Romanian “land beyond the forest” was to English readers, Stoker, in contrast to Graham and her Mormon novels, exhaustively researched locales, topographical maps, and railroad timetables in order to make his story as real and as believable as possible.29
Except for her trip to Pittsburgh in 1919, Winifred Graham never visited the United States, let alone Utah. The accounts in her novels of life among the Mormons and her fictional descriptions of Salt Lake City came from secondhand and prejudicial sources. In The Love Story of a Mormon, Graham described, via Ziba Wayne’s utterances, “the great bridge, a masterpiece of architecture, which for twenty-four miles crosses the Salt Lake.”30 That marvel would have been quite a sight—had it ever been built. Her other Mormon-centered novels reveal additional glaring errors in Utah geography that, taken together, enhance the sense of imprisonment of the Mormons in their valley dominated by tyrannical leaders.31 This mystique, suggested by faraway locales, was echoed in Jacinth’s confession to Wayne, “I don’t know anything about your country or your faith.” He replied with a play on an oft-quoted scripture, “I astonish you because I am not of your country, so your ways are not my ways.”32
The physical remoteness of the Mormon elder’s land of origin is also, in Graham’s books, associated with a Machiavellian Mormon worldview. “All is fair when laboring for the gospel,” Wayne declared.33 “I speak with assurance, because we Mormons can beat the world at any game, since we represent the holy priesthood, and have been entrusted with the keys of the heavenly kingdom.”34 In another passage, Wayne justifies his subterfuge to Jacinth in this manner: “We are permitted to stray from the paths of truth if, by so doing, we are furthering the destiny of one about to be sealed to Mormonism.”35
Mesmeric Powers. A common trait in Victorian-era anti-Mormon literature was “the sexual magnetism of the Mormon male, and the hypnotized passivity of his innocent victim.”36 Count Dracula’s power over his victims was a hypnotic one, from his assault on Jonathan Harker in Transylvania to his seduction of Mina, Harker’s fiancée, in London. In the novel, Dr. Van Helsing, the all-wise vampire killer, describes a victim to Harker in this way: “She was bitten by the vampire when she was in a trance . . . and in trance could he [Dracula] best come to take more blood. In trance she died, and in trance she is Un-Dead, too.”37 Isoldi Keene’s “mesmeric powers” were established from the first moments in Trapped by the Mormons and reinforced by the bogus raising of the dead scene in the gypsy wagon.38
Trapped by the Mormons illustrates these powers with a scene directly from Graham’s book that has since become a stock portrayal of the Holly-wood movie vampire. The nighttime scene places Keene below Nora’s window gesturing with his hands and eyebrows, supposedly in a mesmeric throb, as he draws Nora to him in a hypnotic sleepwalk. Graham describes the scene in her book as follows:
For a moment Jacinth stood still, her heart beating fiercely. She knew she was not sleep-walking, yet could not explain why she had ventured forth to face the night alone. As she paused, wondering, a figure materialized from the shadows. This time it was no spirit form, but a tall, dark-coated man, with a slouch hat drawn over his eyes, and a muffler partially concealing his chin. “Angel, wife, love of my soul,” he whispered passionately, and the voice was that of Ziba Wayne. Turning quickly, Jacinth swayed forward, and was caught in his arms. “What does it mean?” she gasped; “oh! Ziba, what does it mean?” Holding the trembling form, he drew her away from the cottage, and answered in a soothing whisper—“My sweet one, I had need of you, I was sick with love. I wanted to prove my power, to summon you forth as the night summons the stars. I stood beneath your window, and, looking up, called upon Heaven to let my spirit enter your chamber and draw you down to the garden below. I worked the charm upon my knees.”39
There is a similar scene in Tod Browning’s Dracula where the Count draws his female victim from her second story bedroom to him waiting below in a mist-enshrouded garden. These almost identical incidents depicted by two different filmmakers nine years apart and from two separate literary sources produced, as they appeared on the screen, distinctly similar images—convincing evidence that Graham’s Mormon and Stoker’s vampire were cut from the same mold.
In a further application of Keene’s mesmeric powers, the mystic Mormon elder would also alter the perceptions of events in the minds of his victims. As Jacinth witnessed the temple rites with Ziba Wayne, Graham provided her readers with a description of its influence on the young girl: “In fancy she actually beheld the blasphemous antics of these people, Ziba’s power forcing them to appear sacred to the mind of the girl his love had bewitched.”40
The Kiss of Death. Along with his mesmeric powers, Dracula’s central modus operandi was sucking the literal life blood from his victims with a kiss. The transfer of blood from his virginal female victims also assumed a virtual transfer of identity and a change in personality.41 A vampire’s kiss also carried with it sexual connotations.42 In Stoker’s Dracula, Mina declares that after being seduced by the vampire and forced to drink of his blood as he did of hers, that she was as a result “tainted” and “polluted.”43 In another instance, Dr. Van Helsing reasons that the transfusion of another man’s blood (other than her fiancé) renders the female victim a bigamist! Dracula himself claimed Harker’s fiancée as his own bride, owing to her blood that flowed through his veins. In lines suggesting a marriage ceremony, the vampire declared, “And you, their best beloved one, are now to me, flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin; my bountiful wine-press for a while; and shall be later on my companion and my helper.”44
The contamination that Mina feels is also due to the sexual attraction and the associated Victorian guilt felt during a vampire’s seduction of a victim. When Jonathan Harker was first attacked by vampires, it was not by the Count himself, but by his three wives. As Harker described in his journal:
All three [of Dracula’s wives] had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me feel uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth.45
Good Victorian that he is, Jonathan is ashamed of the sensual feelings evoked by a vampire’s fatal attraction.
Graham infused much of this same sensual imagery in The Love Story of a Mormon. Jacinth’s “transformation,” as it were, from a young innocent girl to a disciple of Ziba Wayne’s Mormonism was no less dramatic. In the chapter entitled “The Kiss of a Saint,” Graham detailed the particulars of Jacinth’s initiation through Ziba Wayne’s words:
“Dear Sister, receive my blessing, and the spiritual baptism which I can give you in the kiss of a Saint.” He raised her face, and by some strange magnetism drew her lips to cling to his own, as the bee is fastened to the flower. . . . To the weak, nerveless girl those fantastic seconds appeared as a lifetime. Then she was conscious of release, he drew her arm through his own, and forced the trembling limbs to walk.46
Later, Graham emphasized Jacinth’s domination by the mesmeric Mormon elder: “No kiss from her lover had ever set upon her soul the burning seal of utter surrender. She knew this stranger had taken some immortal part of herself to imprison as his own property.”47
Elder Wayne later confided to a fellow missionary his ardor for Jacinth when he declared, “She is like a rose to crush,”48 a Victorian euphemism for sexual conquest.
Jacinth is described by her worried mother as a completely different person. “Jacinth moves about like one in a dream. She seems to be another person.”49 Another passage depicts Jacinth as “no longer a member of her home, save in bodily presence. Even her appearance had changed. Her eyes were wide and mystic, they appeared to gaze beyond with the light of vision. The color in her cheeks was brighter than of yore, like a hectic flush beautifying a consumptive patient.”50
Other Vampire Parallels. There are a number of similarities between the images of vampires and those of Mormons in the books and films under discussion: Dracula was polygamous, and polygamy, according to the popular press of Graham’s day, was the raison d’être for Mormonism. Eternal life, of sorts, was Dracula’s promise to his victims, and similar enticement was made by the Mormon elder in Graham’s book. To Graham and her loyal readers, the Mormon adherent’s fate of worldly bondage and eternal misery was little different from that destiny realized by those in the clutches of Stoker’s Count Dracula. To the English, the elder from Utah and the count from Transylvania evoked twin images of a fearful and dreaded predator.
A final similarity between Stoker’s vampire and Graham’s cardboard Mormon is in the antidote to each respective villain. The classical vampire repellent is the display of a cross or the opening of the vampire’s coffin in daylight, thus killing him or her. To the Mormon in Graham’s book, it is the “letting in the daylight” of knowledge and orthodox Christianity. Religion, the struggle between good and evil and God and the devil, is at the heart of both Graham’s and Stoker’s stories. When faced with the decision of whether to pursue Dracula and destroy him, Dr. Van Helsing spells out to Harker, Mina, and the others, in a religious context, the reasons for going forward in their search for the vampire:
But to fail here [in killing the vampire], is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him; that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him—without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best. To us for ever are the gates of heaven shut; for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all; a blot on the face of God’s sunshine; an arrow in the side of Him who died for man.51
Graham the Crusader
Winifred Graham was undoubtedly passionate about her anti-Mormon crusade. She even injected herself into The Love Story of a Mormon through the character of Hester, Ziba Wayne’s first wife. After Hester had “seen the light” and told Jacinth of Wayne’s scheming plans for her, Hester revealed her own plan: “My idea is to shake the dust of Mormonism from my feet and show up its villainies far and wide. If I can afford to do so, I shall go on a lecturing tour to warn all English-speaking people against this hideous monstrosity.”52
Graham’s active crusade against the Mormons ended in the mid to late 1920s, as it came to be seen as ineffective and out of step with the times. After her husband died in 1920, Graham gravitated to different kinds of Christian belief, including a fascination with mysticism. Graham also allied herself with the beliefs of the controversial Jesuit Montague Summers, who believed that there really were vampires about in the world.53 Summers was the author of one of the early benchmark works on the history of witchcraft entitled The Vampire: His Kith and Kin, published in 1929. It is of little surprise, then, that Graham, writing in her 1945 autobiography, chose to sum up her earlier anti-Mormon crusading in terminology that, by now, is familiar to us: “I found it thrilling to fight with voice and pen this mighty kingdom working for self-interest, a vampire in fact, sucking the blood of Europe with its wolf-like emissaries in sheep’s clothing hot on the heels of British womanhood.”54
Graham’s choice of words to assess the influence of the Mormons as she looked back on her life, just five years prior to her death, is significant. Her words reveal her inclination to recall events at a later time in the terminology and imagery that, as we have seen, were prevalent at the time in which such events took place. Literature, and especially motion pictures, have proven, in the historical backward glance, to be valuable time capsules of period expression, a virtual barometer of the social temper.
“The very nature of film as a supremely popular art guarantees that it is the carrier of deep if enigmatic truth,”55 wrote historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. about the evidentiary power of film to document the culture that produced it. Taken in isolation, Trapped by the Mormons might seem a pernicious anomaly, given to the hyperbole and sensationalism often associated with the cinema. However, when combined with the pervasive images fostered by the popular literature of the day, not to mention its source novel, Trapped by the Mormons is an astonishingly revealing cultural expression of an era as well as a movement. Stoker wrote an immensely popular book about a stranger who comes from a distant land to modern London, possessing unusual mesmeric powers, with a sinister plot to enslave his victims (primarily women) to an everlasting life that is in fact a death. Graham’s novel concerns another stranger, a Mormon, who comes from an equally puzzling land with beliefs foreign to the dominant English culture, whose plot is no less sinister than the king of the vampires, and whose female victims are likewise enslaved by the Mormon’s hypnotic powers. The film versions of both Stoker’s and Graham’s novels present virtually identical images of both the aggressors and the victims. Guilt by association rarely had it so good as when, in the England of the early twentieth century, the Mormons and vampires, to many, appeared to be one.