The Mormon as Vampire

A Comparative Study of Winifred Graham's The Love Story of a Mormon, the Film Trapped by the Mormons, and Bram Stoker's Dracula



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.

About the author(s)

James V. D’Arc is Curator of Arts and Communications Archive, the BYU Film Music Archive, and the BYU Motion Picture Archive in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library. Dr. D’Arc also teaches in the American Studies program at BYU. An abbreviated version of this paper was presented at the Mormon History Association in 1987 at Oxford University. The author acknowledges with thanks helpful suggestions made by Brian Cannon and assistance by Norm Gillespie in the preparation of this article.


1. A Trip to Salt Lake City was released by the American Mutoscope-Biograph Co. in 1905. Just under two minutes in length, this silent film portrays a polygamous father with his wives and children crammed into a Pullman-type sleeping car trying to give his thirsty children a drink. The BYU Motion Picture Archive Film Series also noted the centennial of Mormonism in cinema in the fall of 2005 by screening the following films: A Trip to Salt Lake City, Trapped by the Mormons (1922), Brigham Young (1940), Wagon Master (1950), and two films made by the BYU Motion Picture Studio, Man’s Search for Happiness (1964), and The Three Witnesses (1968).

2. Joshua Land, “Mormonsploitation!” Village Voice, December 14–20, 2005, C58. The 2005 remake of Trapped by the Mormons was produced by Cherry Red Productions and Jeff Goode Entertainment. It was adapted and directed by Ian Allen. The DVD was released in 2006 by Cherry Red Productions, 40 Lincoln Road, 1B, Brooklyn, New York 11225. The DVD contains a feature-length audio commentary by Allen and cinematographer Christopher McKenzie, a selection of production photographs and its theatrical trailer.

3. Jonathan Padget, “From Cherry Red: A Latter-Day Silent Film Premiere,” Washington Post, April 14, 2005, C5.

4. Sean P. Means, “‘Trapped by the Mormons’: Campy Satire Probes Anti-LDS Paranoia,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 17, 2005, A6. The film’s producer, Jeff Goode, writes on his website, “It is our sincerest wish that Trapped by the Mormons will portray the Mormon as the evil vile perverted vampire which, in the unblinking light of day, he truly is.” Cherry Red Productions, “Trapped by the Mormons,”, hardcopy in author’s possession. This provocative statement seems to be tongue-in-cheek, according to director Allen, who later asked Utah readers to consider the film “all in fun. . . . It’s a satire of bigotry against Mormons, plain and simple.” Quoted in Means, “‘Trapped by the Mormons,’” A6.

5. A concise summary of vampire legend and lore extending back to ancient Greece is James B. Twitchell, The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1981), 3–38; and James B. Twitchell, Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 105–59. For essays delving into the thematic cultural associations to vampires, see Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger, eds., Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997); William Hughes, Beyond Dracula: Bram Stoker’s Fiction and Its Cultural Context (New York: St. Martin’s, 2000); David Glover, Vampires, Mummies, and Liberals (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996).

6. Trapped by the Mormons, directed by H. B. Parkinson (United Kingdom: Master Films, 1922). A DVD release of Trapped by the Mormons appeared in 2006 (Grapevine Video, 1021 W. San Juan Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85019,, with a feature-length commentary by James V. D’Arc.

7. Daniel Farson, The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker (London: Michael Joseph, 1975); Harry Ludlam, A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker (London: W. Foulsham, 1962); and Barbara Belford, Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula (New York: Knopf, 1996).

8. Stoker’s original name for his vampire character was “Count Wampyr,” from “Styria.” Only after he began writing the novel did he find out about Vlad Tepes, the historical Count Dracula (TLS, David J. Skal to James V. D’Arc, September 30, 1994, in possession of the author). See David J. Skal, Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen, rev. ed. (New York: Faber and Faber, 2004), 9–75, comprising the chapter “Mr. Stoker’s Book of Blood,” that succinctly chronicles the elements in popular lore, literature, and culture on which Stoker drew for Dracula.

9. Twitchell, Living Dead, 16.

10. See Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally, Dracula: A Biography of Vlad the Impaler, 1431–1476 (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973) for a wealth of detail on what is known about this historical figure.

11. For a description of the many early novels and plays on vampires, see Skal, Hollywood Gothic, 15–24.

12. Referring to the phenomenal success of A Fool There Was, as well as Theda Bara, William Fox biographer Glendon Allvine writes, “Her subtitled ‘Kiss me, my fool’ became the rallying cry that united the amateur sheiks of the world. She also enriched the English language with a new meaning for the noun and verb ‘vamp,’ defined by Webster as ‘one who uses her charm or wiles to gain admiration and attention from the opposite sex.’” Glendon Allvine, The Greatest Fox of Them All (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1969), 56. Theda Bara was really Theodosia Goodman (1885–1955), daughter of a Cincinnati tailor. Her screen name resulted from efforts by Fox Film Corporation to create a star entirely by the publicity department. Bara is “Arab” spelled backwards and Theda unscrambled is “death.” She was described by the publicity department as having been “born in the shadow of the Sphinx” in Egypt; other details of her life were also fabrications. For the story of her “creation,” see Upton Sinclair, Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox (Los Angeles: Upton Sinclair, 1933), 56–57; Terry Ramsaye, A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926), 701–4; Ronald Genini, Theda Bara: A Biography of the Silent Screen Vamp, with a Filmography (Jefferson, N.C.: MacFarland, 1996), 13–26; and Eve Golden, Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara (Vestal, N.Y.: Emprise Publishing, 1996). The first stanza of Kipling’s six-stanza poem is as follows:

A Fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We call her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her is lady fair—
(Even as you and I!)

13. Malcolm R. Thorp, “‘The Mormon Peril’: The Crusade against the Saints in Britain, 1910–1914,” Journal of Mormon History 2 (1975): 69–88; Malcolm R. Thorp, “The British Government and the Mormon Question, 1910–22,” Journal of Church and State 21 (Spring 1979): 305–22. The four crusades were in the years 1911, 1919, 1922, and, briefly, in 1926.

14. Malcolm R. Thorp, “Winifred Graham and the Mormon Image in En-gland,” Journal of Mormon History 6 (1979): 107–21. Her anti-Mormon novels were Ezra the Mormon (London: Everett, 1908), The Love Story of a Mormon (London: Mills and Boon, 1911), The Sin of Utah (London: Everett, 1912), Judas of Salt Lake (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1916), Sealed Women (London: Hutchinson, 1922) and Eve and the Elders (London: Hutchinson, 1924). Her attempt at a historical work was The Mormons: A Popular History from Earliest Times to the Present Day (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1913). For discussions of Mormon images in popular fiction, see Neal Lambert, “Saints, Sinners and Scribes: A Look at the Mormons in Fiction,” Utah Historical Quarterly 36 (Winter 1968): 63–76; Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, “Through Gentile Eyes: A Hundred Years of the Mormon in Fiction,” New Era 2 (March 1972): 14–19; Leonard J. Arrington and Jon Haupt, “Intolerable Zion: The Image of Mormonism in Nineteenth Century American Literature,” Western Humanities Review 22 (Summer 1968): 243–60; and see Hugh Nibley, Sounding Brass: Informal Studies of the Lucrative Art of Telling Stories about Brigham Young and the Mormons (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963), for a survey of techniques used by writers of anti-Mormon literature. Also Michael Austin, “Troped by the Mormons: The Persistence of 19th-Century Mormon Stereotypes in Contemporary Detective Fiction,” Sunstone 21 (August 1998): 51–71 and “Mormon Stereotypes in Popular Fiction: 1979–1998,” presentation at Sunstone Symposium, July 1998, Salt Lake City, available at

15. David O. McKay to President Heber J. Grant and counselors, February 27, 1924, David O. McKay Scrapbook, vol. 132, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City. While this letter is currently unavailable for inspection, the quotation and source is as cited in Thorp, “Winifred Graham and the Mormon Image,” 107. An inveterate moviegoer in later years, McKay, during this difficult time for the Church in 1920s Europe and as editor of the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, wrote about those who indiscriminately attend movies as “picture show prodigals.” McKay praised movies in his editorial as “one of the greatest of educational forces, if not the greatest educational force in the world. . . . Second only to travel, or seeing life itself, is the cinema!” Nevertheless, perhaps due to the release of Trapped by the Mormons and films from 1911–12, he countered that it “may also be a potent force for evil” and advised readers to “attend only the best. If none be good, attend none. Picture-show prodigality is incompatible with true spiritual uplift.” See David O. McKay, “Editorial: ‘Picture Show’ Prodigals,” Millennial Star 85 (October 11, 1923): 648–49.

16. Winifred Graham, The Love Story of a Mormon (London: Mills and Boon, 1911), v–vi. According to Graham, Welldon, whom she described as “one of the cleverest men in England,” asked her to speak at one of his anti-Mormon rallies in Holborn Hall in London. Meeting with him a short time later in Manchester, Welldon gave Graham and her husband, Theodore Cory, a tour of the city. Then, she says, “I screwed up my courage to beard him in his study and ask a favour which I did not think for a moment he would grant. I had just finished a most hectic novel called The Love Story of a Mormon, a sensational exposure of lust and so-called love, which was filmed later and had a great success. I told the Bishop about this book and suggested if he were kind enough to write a preface for it, naturally it would carry great weight with the public. He said he must read the manuscript first and then if it were suitable he would connect himself with it and put his name to a foreword. To my surprise he was delighted with the story and gave it a splendid ‘send-off’” (Winifred Graham, That Reminds Me [London: Skeffington and Son, 1945], 59, 60).

17. Thorp, “Winifred Graham and the Mormon Image,” 112.

18. Winifred Graham, “The Crusade against Mormonism: Mormons in Khaki,” Christian Statesman 51, no. 6 (June 1919): 236–38. Graham asserted that American Mormon soldiers, taking advantage of the war situation, came to England to marry vulnerable British women and return with them to Utah. Furthermore, “the proselytising elder is keenly alive to opportunity. He knows husbands will be scarce, and that this is the moment to replenish the harems of Utah with girls who will walk blindly into the net, believing the old story that polygamy no longer exists” (236). “The Mormon Propaganda in Great Britain,” Christian Statesman 51, no. 2 (February 1917): 84–86, contains an “enlightening special cable dispatch from London, England” that appeared in the New York World covering Graham’s claim that Mormons were taking advantage of the war situation to win mostly female converts. “To obtain an influence over some English girls, Mrs. [Winifred Graham] Cory said, the Mormons say that many of their faith have died for the allies. The authoress, however, says that in the official Mormon organ in Great Britain—the Millennial Star—the names of a number of Mormons who had died on the battlefield were printed, and every one was a German and born there and was fighting for the Fatherland” (36).

19. See Brian Q. Cannon and Jacob W. Olmstead, “‘Scandalous Film’: The Campaign to Suppress Anti-Mormon Motion Pictures, 1911–12,” Journal of Mormon History 29 (Fall 2003): 42–76, esp. 44–50. The authors conclude that “the most enduring legacy from this brush with anti-Mormon films in 1911–12 was Church leaders’ heightened sensitivity to the potential of film for reaching, educating, and influencing vast audiences” (76). See also Richard Alan Nelson, “A History of Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals in the Anti-Mormon Film Era, 1905–1936” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1975), 19–95. This is the earliest and most detailed history of Mormon content in commercially released films.

20. See Nelson, “Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals,” 145–64, for production details of the film as well as reactions to the film by Mormons and non-Mormons in England. See also Richard Alan Nelson, “Mormons as Silent Cinema Villains: Propaganda and Entertainment,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 14, no. 1 (1984): 3–14; Richard Alan Nelson, “From Antagonism to Acceptance: Mormons and the Silver Screen,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 10 (Spring 1977): 58–69; James V. D’Arc, “The Way We Were,” This People 6 (August/September 1985): 43–48; James V. D’Arc, “Mormons, Images of: Film,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:947–48.

21. Lionel Collier, “Reviews of the Week,” Kinematograph Weekly (September 27, 1928), 47.

22. A 1922 review excerpt from Kine, quoted in Collier, “Reviews of the Week,” 47, on the re-release of the film under the title The Mormon Peril.

23. Collier, “Reviews of the Week,” 47.

24. Quoted in Padget, “From Cherry Red,” C5.

25. As noted by Elder M. Russell Ballard, quoting from Ezra Taft Benson’s 1922 journal, in “Unlocking the Doors,” in Brigham Young University 1989–90 Devotional and Fireside Speeches (Provo, Utah: University Publications, 1990), 54–55.

26. G. Osmond Hyde, “Movie Campaign against ‘Mormons’ Leads Many to Investigate Message,” Deseret News, June 3, 1922, 6, as cited in Nelson, “Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals,” 157. As of 2006, Married to a Mormon is considered a lost film. No copies are known to exist.

27. Thorp, “Winifred Graham and the Mormon Image,” 113. Thorp also reported that baptisms began a steady decline from 963 in 1910; 482 baptisms in 1911; and 363 in 1912 (cited in Thorp, “‘The Mormon Peril,’” 88, and taken from statistics recorded in Rudger Clawson, “Memoirs of the Life of Rudger Clawson, Written by Himself” [1926], photocopy of typescript, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah, 448).

28. At Smoot’s urging, both films, released domestically in 1918, were withdrawn from European distribution in 1921. In 1925, Smoot was invited to the Fox studio to view the remake of Riders of the Purple Sage that, on orders from studio owner William Fox, eliminated any references to Mormons. See Harvard S. Heath, ed., In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), 477, 587; Nelson, “Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals,” 121–44.

29. See Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu, The Essential Dracula (New York: Mayflower Books, 1979), 17–28, for a discussion of Stoker’s sources derived from his own notes for the novel. This definitive volume also contains a photomechanical facsimile of the first edition of Dracula with annotations by the authors. Quotations from Stoker’s novel cited in this essay are taken from this edition. Also see Skal, Hollywood Gothic, 30–31.

30. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 119.

31. Thorp, “Winifred Graham and the Mormon Image,” 115–16. Also see Arrington and Haupt, 252–54, for the impact of foreign locales on anti-Mormon characterizations in American anti-Mormon novels.

32. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 4. The scriptural allusion is to the passage in Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” In phrasing his response to her in this way, it cannot be missed that Wayne is positioning himself in a godlike relationship to Jacinth.

33. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 51.

34. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 81.

35. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 98.

36. Craig L. Foster, “Victorian Pornographic Imagery in Anti-Mormon Literature,” Journal of Mormon History 19 (Spring 1993): 121. Foster also concluded that authors of Victorian pornographic novels “often portrayed them [Mormon males] as being in league with Satan and using evil arts to mesmerize and deceive helpless virgins” (128). Winifred Graham’s anti-Mormon novels contained these imageries well within the bounds of contemporary expression.

37. McNally and Florescu, Essential Dracula, 169.

38. Wayne’s powers were credited to his being “a past master in the art of hypnotism.” As Hester, Wayne’s first wife, told Jacinth in a chapter of The Love Story of a Mormon entitled “The Worst Kind of Bad Character”: “He [Ziba Wayne] has been playing at that game ever since he discovered he was a past master in the art of hypnotism. A New York scientist taught him how to develop and use the gift of which he has been conscious since childhood” (199). Ziba Wayne also confessed to his actors in the “raising of the dead” scene in the gypsy wagon incident that Joseph Smith was also a hypnotizer like himself: “He was fortunately a hypnotizer like myself, and by the same ruse raised a young woman from the dead, and cured the lame, rheumatic, deaf and short-sighted” (51).

39. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 131–32.

40. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 179.

41. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church utilized vampire myths, with the transfer of blood from one person to another and the change of identity, to buttress its argument concerning transubstantiation to the peasants. For a discussion of the influence of Christianity on vampire lore, see Twitchell, Living Dead, 13–16.

42. The sexual undertones in Dracula were, according to James Twitchell in The Living Dead, not intentional in its writing by Stoker. “There is no mention [in Dracula] of this sexual potency, no mention of his incredible erotic power, but in every instance we are aware it is there. Dracula is evil, yes, but he knows how the world is put together and he knows how to get what he wants. What he wants is exactly what the ‘boys’ [the males depicted in the novel] want as well—women” (134). See also Farson, Man Who Wrote Dracula, 203–24; C. F. Bentley, “The Monster in the Bedroom: Sexual Symbolism in Bram Stoker’s Dracula,Literature and Psychology 22, no. 1 (1972): 27–34; Phyllis R. Roth, “Suddenly Sexual Women in Bram Stoker’s Dracula,Literature and Psychology 27, no. 3 (1977): 113–21; and Carrol L. Fry, “Fictional Conventions and Sexuality in Dracula,Victorian Newsletter 42 (Fall 1972): 20–22.

43. McNally and Florescu, Essential Dracula, 223.

44. McNally and Florescu, Essential Dracula, 222–23.

45. McNally and Florescu, Essential Dracula, 72.

46. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 26.

47. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 29, emphasis added.

48. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 37.

49. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 64.

50. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 91.

51. McNally and Florescu, Essential Dracula, 191.

52. Graham, Love Story of a Mormon, 204.

53. . Twitchell, Living Dead, 4.

54. Graham, That Reminds Me, 59, emphasis added.

55. Foreword in John E. O’Connor and Martin A. Jackson, eds., American History/American Film: Interpreting the Hollywood Image (New York: Ungar, 1979), ix.

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