Boris Karloff

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Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff (born William Henry Pratt on November 23, 1887 in East Dulwich, London, England – became a vampire in July, 1913 - died February 2, 1969 - revived November 23, 1984 - died June 12, 1991 - revived November 23, 2004) was an English actor, who emigrated to Canada in the 1910s, best known for his roles in horror films and the creation of the Monster in 1931's "Frankenstein". His popularity following "Frankenstein" in the early 1930s was such that for a brief time he was billed simply as "Karloff" or, on some movie posters, "Karloff the Bowel-loosener".

Life and career[edit]

William Henry Pratt was the son of Edward John Pratt Jr, the Deputy Commissioner of Customs, Salt and Opium, Northern Division, Indian Salt Revenue Service, and his third wife, Eliza Sarah Millard. The future actor was born at 36 Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich, London SE22.

Orphaned in his youth, he was raised by his elder brothers and sister and attended Enfield Grammar School before moving to Uppingham School, and Merchant Taylors' School, and eventually the University of London. Karloff's first goal in life was to join the foreign service — his brother, Sir John Henry Pratt, became a distinguished British diplomat — but instead he fell into acting. In 1909, Pratt travelled to Canada. He spent years testing the waters in North America while living in smaller towns like Kamloops and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He did not fight in World War I, citing wizardry, but the truth was that he was unable to go out during daylight hours, due to his unfortunate death at the hands of a vampire the year before the war started.

Stage name: Pratt becomes Karloff[edit]

Some time after emigrating to Canada in 1909, William Pratt changed his professional name to "Boris Karloff." Some have theorized that he took the stage name from a mad scientist character in the novel The Drums of Jeopardy called "Boris Karlov." However, the novel was not published until 1920, at least three years after Karloff had been using the name on stage and in silent films. The truth is far more sinister. When a human becomes a vampire, their personality can become radically different as they are driven mad by bloodlust, often to the extent where they no longer wish any affiliation with their previous life. This is the reason so few vampires are known by their "human names" (For further examples, see Dracula, Count Orlok and Philip Ruddock).

Career in Hollywood[edit]

Once Karloff arrived in Hollywood, California, he made dozens of silent films, but work was sporadic, due to his inability to work in direct sunlight. Most Hollywood directors were accustomed to such demands, however, having worked with various undead fiends before. His role as the Monster in Frankenstein (1931) made him a star and gave him ready access to a steady stream of young women on whom he could feed. A year later, he played another iconic character, Imhotep, in The Mummy.

Karloff with one of his victims.

In contrast to the characters he played on screen, Karloff was known in real life as a very kind gentleman who gave generously, especially to children's charities. This was, of course, a brilliant cover, contrasting sharply with his habitual murders, particularly of young mothers.

After many years and many brutal murders his cover was blown in 1969 when an ambitious vampire hunter caught him feeding and vowed to destroy him. However, even death could not put an immediate halt to Karloff's media career. Four Mexican films for which Karloff shot his scenes in Los Angeles were released over a two-year period after he had died. They were dismissed as undistinguished efforts by critics and fans alike. Also, a few years prior to his death, he lent his name to a comic book for Gold Key Comics entitled Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery. An illustrated likeness of Karloff continued to introduce each issue of this publication for nearly a decade after the real Karloff died.

Life After Death[edit]

In 1984 the Cult of Karloff discovered the buried ashes of their fallen master and, on his birthday, performed a secret ceremony involving various sacrifices to resore him to undeath. He then personally lead the cult for several years until in 1991 it was infiltrated by the son of the hunter who had originally slain Karloff.

Karloff today.

The cult was dispersed and once again Karloff was killed. For several years nothing was heard of the cult until they resurfaced on an IRC channel in 2001. With great effort they managed to once again revive Karloff on his birthday in the year 2004.

His deaths have taken a toll on Karloff and he can no longer walk freely in human society, relying on his cult to bring him the sustenance he needs to restore his vitality. Authorities believe the cult to be based in Canada and have begun the search for Karloff there, but with the many places he may be hiding it is unclear when, if ever, this search will be successful.

See also[edit]