There's something about monsters and horror stories that has a particular appeal to LGBTQ+ audiences — there's a reason we tend to call Halloween "gay Christmas," after all. Trick or treat yourself to this superbly spooky collection of out monsters, witches, and vampires (oh, so many vampires) from centuries of literature, movies and television.
Predating Dracula by a good quarter century, this lesbian vampire first appeared in a serialized story in The Dark Blue in the early 1870s. The story is told from the viewpoint of Laura, who believes she has found a friend in young Carmilla. But as the tale unfolds, Carmilla makes advances toward Laura, who eventually discovers Carmilla is the multicentenarian Mircalla, Countess Karnstein, and is responsible for the deaths of a number of girls around town.
The 20th century’s sexiest vampire, Lestat was arguably the most central and vital character in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The bisexual antihero’s male lovers included the French artist Nicolas de Lenfent (The Vampire Lestat), Tarquin Blackwood (Blackwood Farm), and most notably Louis de Pointe de Lac, the protagonist of Interview With the Vampire with whom he has an on-again, off-again relationship traversing centuries.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show offered a glimpse into a world of sexual freedom for a generation while giving movie theaters a reason to stay open after midnight. No greater ambassador to liberation existed than Dr. Frank-N-Furter, originated on stage and film by Tim Curry. This "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania" fits every horror villain archetype — mad scientist, evil alien, cannibal, rapist — and somehow still becomes the most alluring character in the tale. The pansexual seduces (to be generous) protagonists Brad and Janet in separate encounters, and the namesake Rocky Horror gets presented as the doctor’s homemade dream date.
While not the scariest witch in the world, Buffy the Vampire Slayer pal Willow broke ground as a prominent lesbian character in a popular prime-time show — one aimed at teens no less. She and girlfriend Tara (oh, Tara, we miss you so) helped turn the Buffy-verse into progressive geek paradise. It’s witchcraft that draws the two characters together, and a friendship-turned-attraction eventually prompts Willow to part ways with werewolf boyfriend Oz in favor of this sapphic sorceress. The lesbian couple together would cast a spell on all of Sunnydale, made all the more important as Willow was an established part of the show and already beloved as the friendliest supernatural BFF since Wendy met Casper.
Following on Carmilla’s heels, the tradition of lesbian overtones in vampire tales first made it to screen with 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter. Rare in that the subject matter even got showcased in advertising (“Save the Women of London From Dracula’s Daughter” reads one tagline), the film also followed in the footsteps of Bram Stoker in presenting vampires as predatory monsters luring victims to same-sex temptations. In one notable scene, Countess Zaleska, played by Gloria Holden, seduces model Lili. Censors at the time gave instruction to avoid “suggestion of perverse sexual desire on the part of Marya,” but plenty of critics at the time saw what was at play.
Many expected the big vampire baddie in The Hunger to be John, played by the late David Bowie at the peak of his star power. But in truth, his wife, Miriam, portrayed by Catherine Deneuve, turns out to be the chief vamp of the 1983 film. The bisexual bloodsucker over the course of the film works with John to lure couples into their home as prey and seduces Susan Sarandon in one of the most chilling and titillating lesbian love scenes depicted in mainstream cinema up to that point.
One of the vignettes in the 1995 comic anthology Four Rooms involves a coven of witches, led by Madonna’s Elspeth, who is immediately revealed to be sleeping with fellow witch (and possible daughter?) Kiva, played by Alicia Witt.
The love story of sapphic spellcasters Sloan and Taylor, members of a dark witch coven called the Blood Born, drives the plot of web series Last Life, in which they seek each other out after many lifetimes of same-sex love. Twisted, sexy, and rich in LGBT plotting, the first episode posted in 2015 and has nearly 8 million views.
These lesbian lovers, both witches of the Heretic sect and now vampires, lived through decades of intolerance while remaining out and proud about their romance. The story was told through season 7 of the CW series The Vampire Diaries, which revealed how the pair lived and died together (twice) over a 133-year romance.
The top witch in WGN’s Salem, Mary Sibley may be married to the most important man in town, but she derives her magical power in part through a sexual coven with the slave Tituba. Loosely based on true-life events around the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts circa 1690, the TV series explored sexuality and sorcery over three seasons.
Perhaps the most alluring villain in the HBO series True Blood’s entire run, Denis O’Hare’s Russell Edgington was nothing if not also a romantic. Once a vampire king of Mississippi, Russell suffers a mental breakdown after the death of his lover Talbot, which sends him on a quest for revenge against the Authority and the American Vampire League.
Steve Newlin is especially interesting character, as he started out on True Blood as a straight vampire-phobe. After his transformation into a vampire, he also came out of the closet as gay.
The 1983 horror Sleepaway Camp wanders from LGBT-friendly to exploitative over the course of the film. The movie tells the story of a summer camp terrorized by a serial killer. Angela, whose father, John, and brother, Peter, were supposedly killed in a boating accident while out with the dad’s boyfriend Lenny, seems one of the main protagonists for much of the movie before (spoiler alert) it gets revealed that she is actually Peter, who adopted his sister’s identify when she was killed in the accident and was raised as a girl. Now, she terrorizes the camp as a transgender homicidal maniac. While so monstrously wrong in so many ways, the film enjoys a cult-classic reputation and spawned four sequels.
What motivates the Creeper, the monster in the Jeepers Creepers films, to be so homicidal? Who knows. But as he “separates” couples, he certainly shows a preference toward males. Come Jeepers Creepers 2, he can be found salaciously leering at teenage boys who wear no shirts while passing up opportunities to do the same with packs of ladies. Speculation exists online, but why not just call it? The Creeper is gay.
The motivation of The Silence of the Lambs' true antagonist revealed levels of mania and sexual confusion. In the Thomas Harris novel, we learn Jame Gumb was a gay man who once flayed an ex-boyfriend’s new lover. Somehow, the violent tendencies and general mental imbalance led doctors to deem Gumb psychiatrically unfit for gender reassignment surgery, so he decides to start kidnapping women to skin them and stitch together a woman suit for himself. Was Gumb truly transsexual? Scenes in both the book and film call that into question, but the fiction still drew plenty of criticism for its depiction of the genderqueer.