Meet Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead . . .
Five minutes with a fictional character.
After inheriting a highly specialised – and highly peculiar – medical practice, Dr Greta Helsing spends her days tending to London's supernatural community. We managed to grab five minutes with her between appointments at her Harley Street clinic to ask her some questions.
Hi Greta, thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to come and talk to us. Can you tell me what first made you want to be a doctor to the supernatural?
You’re very welcome! And it’s a family business, really. My dad was one of the only specialists in supernatural medicine in England back when he started. Now there are a few more of us, but it’s still a pretty narrow field, which means that everything I do actually has an impact. It’s very satisfying to be able to provide care to a traditionally underserved patient population.
Have you ever been tempted to switch to a more conventional medical role?
I actually did spend a year working at King’s College Hospital after I qualified. My official training was in ordinary human medicine; I studied the supernatural angle with my father. When he died, I took over the family practice.
When did your ancestors make the switch from hunting the undead to treating them?
Early twentieth century. A lot of what’s in Stoker isn’t actually all that accurate – in fact, a lot of what’s in most classic horror lit is pretty libelous.
What’s it like having such a famous name? Has it ever proven to be an obstacle to your patients?
You’d be surprised how much of a difference it made when we took the ‘van’ off. That was in ’32 when my grandfather came over from the Netherlands. Most people in the supernatural community know the name only as the family of physicians, not the famous vampire hunter.
Are there any supernatural creatures you have yet to treat? What would be on your wishlist of interesting cases?
There’s a lot! I haven’t travelled much, which means mostly the people I see are species native or common to this area. Even within that, there are subspecies I’ve never encountered, like the nosferatu – all the vampires I know are either classic draculines or lunar sensitives. I’ve never treated a zombie either, and that I would like to do. There’s a lot on the listservs about treatment modalities for tissue degeneration in Class A revenants, which translates into ‘how to stop bits falling off of zombies’, and which kind of embalming fluid works the best.
Which species tend to make the worst patients?
Barrow-wights. Absolutely. I love my wight patients, but they are the most incredibly stubborn creatures I’ve ever met, and it’s a challenge to get them to adhere to medication schedules or make lifestyle changes even when the benefit is clearly obvious.
What are your favourite parts of London?
I love so much of it, honestly. The Tower, and St Paul’s, and all the other touristy bits are a delight, but there’s more out-of-the-way places like Kensal Green Cemetery and the Abbey Mills pumping station that are just gorgeously Victorian. I love the layers of history: it’s difficult to wrap your head around just how old the city is.
Strange Practice: A Dr Greta Helsing Novel by Vivian Shaw