Here’s a fun one from one of Hannibal’s Mark Twain heirs apparent about an upcoming summer blockbuster’s possible nod to Twain and Hannibal.
Jim Waddell, a prolific Twain portrayer in Hannibal, emailed me over the weekend to tell me he’d been thumbing through a copy of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” the 2010 novel by literary revisionist Seth Grahame-Smith that imagines our 16th president as a slayer of the undead. A film adaptation is set to be released later this month.
Waddell, who has done some interesting research into Twain’s Hannibal childhood, soon found that a figure who fascinated the young Samuel Clemens — and inspired no small share of Mark Twain Cave’s spooky vibe — figures prominently in the book. From his email (emphasis mine):
Imagine my surprise when I read in chapter eight that Lincoln sends his cohorts to kill the dreaded vampire Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell. This is the same man who stored the corpse of his daughter in the Mark Twain Cave. Her likeness is visible on the ceiling of the submarine room, traced on the limestone with the carbon produced from the flame of a torch. B.F.M. Farthing wrote an acount(sic) of how he, young Sam, and several other boys snuck out of school to view the corpse and got lost in the cave. The chapter in AL:VH that addresses McDowell is exciting and graphic. It will be interesting to see how its(sic) represented in the movie.
Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” briefly touched on McDowell’s gruesome medical experimentations. However, I’m willing to bet Twain never imagined McDowell as a vampire. Maybe this re-imagining of McDowell will inspire a new interest in his real-life fascination with the macabre and how it touched one of Hannibal’s best-known landmarks.
Speaking of Twain and medicine, a recent Flavorwire post about the notebooks of famous authors included Twain’s thoughts on a comedy about a physician-turned-playwright.