Kurt Barlow is a fictional character in Stephen King's 1975 horror novel, 'Salem's Lot. The character is a master vampire, who terrorizes the small Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot. Although his true age is unknown, he claims to be ancient, so old that he predates the founding of Christianity by centuries.
In the original novel, Barlow comes to the town of Jerusalem's Lot in a box shipped overseas by his assistant, Richard Straker. The two then take residence in the Marsten house, an abandoned house considered haunted by the townsfolk. Posing as antique dealers, Barlow and Straker slowly begin to turn the townsfolk into vampires, with Straker keeping up their alibi as furniture salesmen and Barlow doing the dirty work. Barlow hypnotizes and turns the dump custodian Dud Rogers into a vampire, with the promise of giving to him Larry Crocket's daughter Ruthie if he will serve Barlow. Later, he does much the same thing to Corey Bryant, after Reggie Sawyer threatens him with an (unbeknown to Corey) unloaded shotgun.
One of Barlow's first victims, a young boy named Danny Glick, later pays a nighttime visit to one of his schoolmates, Mark Petrie. However, Mark, an extremely intelligent and resourceful child, easily identifies Glick as a vampire and drives him off with a plastic cross. Deducing that Glick was bitten by Barlow--who arrived in 'Salem's Lot shortly before the townspeople began dying and disappearing--Mark sneaks into the Marsten house the next day with a young woman named Susan Norton, intending to kill Barlow. However, they are both captured by Straker; Susan is bitten by Barlow and becomes a vampire, but Mark manages to escape, mortally wounding Straker in the process. Caught up in rage and bloodlust, Barlow kills Straker himself. Mark later informs Susan's boyfriend, writer Ben Mears, of Susan's fate, and becomes part of the effort to kill the town's vampires, together with Ben, the Catholic priest Father Callahan, doctor Jimmy Cody and the Lot's high school English teacher, Matt Burke.
When Father Callahan and Mark head over to the Petries to explain the danger the family is in, the power is suddenly cut (presumably by Barlow.) Barlow breaks into the Petries' house and kills Mark's parents by smashing their heads together. Barlow then takes Mark as a hostage. Callahan pulls out his cross in an attempt to drive him off, and for a time it works, until Barlow challenges him to throw away the cross. Callahan, not having faith enough to do so, is soon overwhelmed by Barlow, who takes the now useless cross and snaps it in two, and Callahan is forced by Barlow to drink the vampire's blood.
By now Mark has escaped, part of Barlow's deal with Callahan, and has fled to warn the others. The last we see of Barlow is till the end of the book, when he is killed by Ben Mears and Mark Petrie in the basement of Eva Miller's Boarding house.
In the Dark Tower series, it is revealed that Barlow is a type one vampire, capable of hibernating for centuries and is highly intelligent, and cunning.
In Salem's Lot (1979), Barlow was significantly different from his novel counterpart; while Kurt Barlow in the novel resembles an ordinary human being, in the 1979's mini-series, he is depicted with a monstrous (Nosferatu-like) appearance. Interestingly enough, in The Dark Tower, it is mentioned in the beginning that type one vampires (the type that Barlow is) are horribly disfigured mutant-like creatures that have teeth growing wildly, making them unable to close their mouths. Additionally, Barlow seemed to possess limited mental faculties, as he growled and grunted, and with Straker actually talking for him. Although, considering his seemingly hypnotic control over others, this Barlow is most likely an incredibly potent psychic, who has no need for speech.
This version of Barlow displayed a variety of supernatural powers, such as telekinesis; he opened a locked cell door with a wave of his hand, moved his own coffin along with the crate (which was unnaturally, freezingly cold) that it was inside, and caused the Petrie's entire house to shake before entering. Barlow also performed shapeshifting; when he came through Mark's house and was just a cape on the floor before rising up to kill his parents. Unlike other vampires, he was able to enter a person's house without an invitation. Similar to Dracula, Barlow appeared to have the ability to be active during daytime; Barlow turned Susan Norton into a vampire after Straker had brought her to him during his daily sleep, though this occurred in the house's shadowed basement. As such, it is not revealed if this version of Barlow could have withstood sunlight.
1995 radio dramaEdit
In 'Salem's Lot (2004), Barlow is portrayed as a looking rather more like a typical 'human' - a sophisticated, well dressed older gentleman. At first glance, his only difference from the rest of the community is his mildly anachronistic appearance. His dress and behaviour seem to come from an earlier time.
Richard Throckett Straker was Barlow's 'familiar' or human thrall. All of Barlow's business concerns are enacted by him. He bought the Marsten house and prepared the way for his master. Straker was killed by Barlow himself for allowing Mark Petrie to escape, and was hung upside down from the roof of the Marsten house.
In Salem's Lot (1979), Straker was a more prominent villain than Barlow, unlike the novel, and was alive till the climax of the miniseries. Though seemingly human, this version of Straker turns out to be something of a ghoul; lifting Dr. Bill Norton above the ground by himself with no apparent effort, and taking several bullets to the abdomen and continuing to move until finally succumbing to his wounds. His name was also, according to Constable Gillespie, actually Richard "K." Straker; it remained unknown what it stood for.
In 'Salem's Lot (2004), Straker's name is once again changed, this time into Richard Thomas Straker. His behaviour was again sinister and unusual as in the original miniseries whereas his is described as a rather colorless person in the novel.