Today’s instalment of the Royal Occultist Compendium takes a look at the Styrian monster-hunter, Baron Palman Vordenburg.
Baron Palman Vordenburg is the last in a line of Styrian noblemen, formerly of Graz, Upper Styria, and later of Piccadilly, London. Vordenburg comes from a long line of vampire hunters, stretching back through the centuries, and carries on his family legacy with a single-minded aplomb.
Prior to WWI, he held a position similar to that of the Royal Occultist, albeit acting on behalf of the Hapsburg Monarchy. In this capacity, he hunted and dispatched any number of continental horrors, including vampires, werewolves and ghouls. During the war, he continued this service, dealing with the horrors which haunted the battlefields of Europe.
In the years following the war, Vordenburg was captured by British forces in Istanbul and remanded to the custody of the nascent Ministry of Esoteric Observation. The Ministry is known to have employed him for a limited period before suddenly giving him his parole in return for his silence regarding the particulars of an unrecorded incident.
St. Cyprian and Gallowglass first met Vordenburg during the events of the so-called ‘Coventry Street Terror’ in April of 1922, where his assistance in eliminating the undead monstrosity known as the ‘Wolf of Styria’ proved invaluable. Following this incident, Vordenburg became something of a consulting monster-hunter, offering his services to clients both in England and abroad.
As a freelance monster-hunter, Vordenburg encountered creatures as varied as winged horrors in the Aegean Sea, an alchemical homunculus in Venice, and even a cannibalistic wendigo near Thunder Bay. During this period, he fought alongside the Royal Occultist several more times, and even consulted with the vampire-hunters of the Westenra Fund on at least one occasion.
Originally intended to be a spin-off character for a publication that has since ceased to be, Baron Vordenburg is based loosely on the actor Horst Janson, of Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974) fame, as well as Captain Kronos himself.
He took his name from the aristocratic vampire hunter who appeared in Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel, Carmilla. Is there a link between the three characters? I like to think so, if only because I’m an inveterate Wold Newtonian, and I enjoy dropping hints like that in even the most innocuous stories.
The Baron is also one of the first examples of the Royal Occultist’s international peers to appear in the stories. The British Empire isn’t alone in needing regular occult consultation. France, Russia, even the United States, all have their version of the office. Other characters like the Baron have appeared here and there throughout the series, both as allies and as enemies, including Andre du Nord and the enigmatic Indrid Cold.
“The Coventry Street Terror”, the novella in which the Baron makes his first appearance, was to be a backdoor pilot of sorts, appearing in the first issue of the aforementioned publication. Ideally, the story would have introduced the character to existing fans of the Royal Occultist and new readers alike. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be and I wound up serialising the story on the old Royal Occultist site a few years back.
But, I like the good baron too much to let him vanish into obscurity. Vordenburg offers the chance to write a different sort of story. He’s a more forthright character than St. Cyprian, less inclined to investigation and more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the monster of the week. Only fitting, given that he’s a monster-hunter, rather than an occult detective.
Vordenburg also isn’t saddled with the same self-imposed geographical limitations as the Royal Occultist stories (i.e. they can only happen in Great Britain or the territories thereof). He can be in Italy for one story, Canada for the next, and Australia for a third. He can fight yetis, harpies and kelpies with nary an issue, story-wise.
Since his first appearance in “The Coventry Street Terror”, Vordenburg has gone on to appear in a handful of short stories of his own. I have plans to write many more, time and inspiration willing.
If you’re interested in reading “The Coventry Street Terror” or any of the other Baron Vordenburg stories, head over to my Curious Fictions page, where you can also read a number of Royal Occultist stories for free. For more general updates on the Royal Occultist and Baron Vordenburg, be sure to check the Royal Occultist Facebook page.