Sherlock Holmes investigates strange and tragic happenings in a village that appear linked to a man who seems to be like a vampire.
Sherlock Holmes agrees to investigate suspected murders in a village whose ancestors had killed a prominent family a century ago that they thought were vampires. These deaths appear to be linked to a descendant of that family, a man who seems to have something malevolently supernatural about him, much like a vampire itself.
The Reverend Merridew entreats Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to come and bring reason to his simple village. A century earlier the inhabitants killed a prominent family thought to be vampires. John Stockton, a descendant of that family, has recently returned, and the people fear supernatural retribution. When a blacksmith dies while under an intense gaze from the man, followed shortly by the death of an infant whom he merely touched the night before, Holmes heeds the call - not to solve a murder but to prevent one before unreasoning fear takes hold and the town becomes a lynch mob once again.
Sherlock Holmes is recruited by the Reverend Augustus Merridew to investigate the recent death of a young child. Merridew is concerned that with rumors going about his village, violence may erupt at any time. The dead child, a mere baby, belonged to an old school mate of Dr. Watson, Rob Ferguson and his new wife, the South American born Carlotta. The problem lies with a recent arrival in the village, Mr. John Sinclair Stockton, whose family had been run out of the village over a hundred years ago. The rumor sweeping the village is that Stockton, like his ancestors, is a vampire and that it was he who caused the baby's death. Holmes and Watson travel to the village and search for a more rational explanation to a series of bizarre events that is haunting everyone.
- In 1782, in the small Sussex village of Lamberley, the St Claire
family was deemed vampires. So certain were the villagers that they burned
the home of the St Claires and buried them outside of the church cemetery.
It is now one hundred years later, in Victorian England. Sherlock Holmes [Jeremy Brett] and Dr Watson [Edward Hardwicke] have been requested by the Reverend Augustus Merridew [Maurice Denham] to come to Lamberley to investigate newcomer John Stockton [Roy Marsden], a descendent of the St Claires. His presence is upsetting the villagers, who think of him as a vampire returned to exact revenge, and he has been blamed for a number of incidents, including the death of the infant son of Bob Ferguson [Keith Barron], an old rugby buddy of Watson's.
Ferguson became involved with Stockton when he invited Stockton, who has traveled extensively in Peru and is somewhat of an authority on religious cults and customs among the South American Indians (having written several books on the subject) to share dinner with his family-- his wife Carlotta [Yolanda Vasquez] (also from Peru), his crippled son Jack [Richard Dempsey] (from a previous marriage), and baby Ricardo (his son with Carlotta). Stockton had but touched the baby's hand, and the next morning the infant was found dead. The reverend tells of other suspicious events, such as the fact that Stockton stays up all night, walks through the church cemetery in the dead of night, has never set foot inside the church, and is held responsible by the villagers for an outbreak of influenza and for killing the blacksmith with just a look. Holmes is unconvinced that Stockton has committed any crime, but he agrees to come to Lamberley, if only to find a rational explanation.
Holmes and Watson arrive the next day, just in time to witness baby Ricardo's funeral. As the grieving family surrounds the grave, Holmes notices Jack Ferguson leaving the group and going into the bushes where he meets with Stockton. When Jack doesn't return home after the funeral, his father is concerned. Even more disconcerting to Ferguson is when he takes dinner to his grieving wife, and she rebukes him and sends him away, but he becomes truly alarmed the next morning when he learns that Carlotta and Dolores [Juliet Aubrey] (Carlotta's maid and friend from Peru) have gone riding with Stockton. Fortunately, they all return in good health, yet Ferguson is sinking rapidly. He has taken to drinking, and he blames Stockton for the loss of his wife's affection and the fact that Jack seems to spend every afternoon visiting at Stockton's cottage, studying the violin and reading Stockton's books.
That evening, Holmes pays a visit to Stockton, and the two of them go for a carriage ride. They stop at the burnt ruins of his ancestral home. While there, an odd thing happens. Stockton disappears, and Holmes finds him some minutes later crying and screaming at a shimmering light as though it was a ghost after him. Later, when Holmes recounts his experience to Ferguson and Watson, he admits to seeing the ghost and even admits that there are such things as living "sponges" who suck up the energy of others. He thinks that Stockton might be one of them. He suggests that Stockton's hold over people may be due to something he has learned from the South American Indians, perhaps mind control or hypnosis.
The flu outbreak is keeping Watson busy in Lamberley, as his doctoring skills are needed. Holmes needs some answers, so he goes back to the St Claire ruins. While there, he happens to witness the sun reflecting from a broken mirror, causing a shimmering effect. He also notices Jack there. This sets him to thinking about the shimmering light that he took for a ghost and why Jack might be there.
When Jack and Stockton finally come back that evening, Ferguson is livid. He accuses Stockton of preying on his family as part of his vendetta, of turning his family into vampires, and he attacks Stockton with a poker. However, Stockton uses whatever mind-controlling power he has to stop the attack, then hightails it out of there. It has begun to rain and, on the way back home, Stockton's carriage loses a wheel. Stockton is thrown, and killed.
The entire village is in good spirits the next morning, thinking that all their problems are over now that Stockton is dead. Holmes and Watson plan to return to London, but they stay long enough to attend Stockton's funeral, along with the Fergusons. The villagers remain outside, gawking and frowning, incensed that Stockton is being given a Christian burial. During the service, Jack becomes ill and leaves the church. Watson chalks it up to claustrophobia and grief over Stockton's death, as Jack and Stockton had become quite close.
Stockton having no survivors, Holmes agrees to look into Stockton's cottage to determine what to do with his possessions, not to mention snoop. What he finds are potions and books about religion, witchcraft, and sorcery, and a diary in which Stockton admits to drawing strength from Carlotta and Dolores. Watson finds a book about vampires in which he reads about a type of vampire that will bring a victim to the point of death, then nurse the victim back to health with all the outward appearances of love, only to devour her again, whereby he is forever nourished.
Meanwhile, Dolores and Michael [Jason Hetherington], who have had a little hankypanky going on all along (much to Jack's dismay) are walking in the woods. Dolores disappears for a few moments, then Michael hears her scream. He finds her in a faint with two puncture wounds in her neck. Describing the incident the next morning to Holmes, Michael is adamant that it was Stockton who did it, even though Stockton is dead and buried. Of course, Holmes doesn't believe it, but the villagers do. That's all it takes for them to burn Stockton's possessions, dig up his body, and take it back to the St Claire ruins.
When Holmes goes round to the Fergusons to check on Dolores, he finds that there is another injury in the Ferguson household. It seems that the family dog suddenly became paralyzed the previous evening. While Ferguson cares for the dog, Jack hovers over Dolores, holding her hand. When Carlotta pops in unexpectantly to check on Dolores, she slaps Jack, apparently for no reason, and he runs off. When Ferguson pops in to check on Carlotta and Dolores, he finds Carlotta, with blood on her lips, rising from Dolores' neck. Believing his wife to be a vampire just like Stockton, Ferguson races to the woodshop to make a stake.
Fortunately, Carlotta had figured it out. So has Holmes. What Jack had been attempting to hide was a vial of curare and a two-pronged arrow. The arrow, dipped in curare, was used to make the "bite marks" in Dolores' neck after first testing it on the family dog. Carlotta was attempting to suck out the curare when Ferguson found her. Holmes figures Jack as a disturbed adolescent who admired Stockton's effect upon people and control over women. Jack probably wanted that same power, that same respect, and maybe Dolores' love, so he either stole or was given the curare in order to make it so.
Meanwhile, Ferguson has gone to the ruins to stake Stockton's body into his coffin. Just before he hammers in the stake, however, he is hit from behind and knocked out by his son, Jack. Holmes and Watson catch up with Ferguson, just as Jack, believing himself to be a vampire, jumps off the roof in an attempt to fly and so falls to his death.
In the epilogue, Stockton's body is sent to another church and buried there (may he rest in peace), and the Fergusons decide to go back to Peru. [Original Synopsis by bj_kuehl.]