This is an article I wrote for the
July 2017 SSQQ Newsletter. It goes a long way to
explaining why Marla and l love to travel. It also
helps explain why I find Marla's upcoming 2018 'Dracula
on the Danube' river cruise and preceding land tour so
Loch Ness Monster and the Blarney Stone
I doubt seriously anyone has ever written an article that
includes Dracula, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Blarney
Stone. I wish to be the first, so I decided to undertake
this pioneering effort. No doubt a Pulitzer beckons.
Once in a while, a trip comes along that catches my fancy.
On Halloween 2018, Marla and I will be visiting Dracula's
Castle in Transylvania.
No, I am not pulling your leg. This is really going to
happen. Believe it or not, we already have
18 people going
on this trip.
Every now and then, an idea crosses my path that is so
unusual, I say to myself, "I am not going to get a chance
like this again!!"
The Dracula event will be part of a Danube River Cruise on a
Viking ship. Marla and I intend to go all
out. I will dye my hair black, sharpen my teeth, and don
the most fearsome Dracula outfit I can find.
Marla has an even better idea. Ordinarily a very modest
woman, for this event Marla has promised to put Elvira to
shame. And you know what? She has the figure to do it.
To me, Dracula on the Danube is a
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who agree
with me. Even though this particular river cruise event is
18 months away, it is nearly sold out.
PS - I am not kidding!
THE BLARNEY STONE
2017, Marla and I took a lovely three-week cruise around the
honest, I think I enjoy river cruises a bit more than ocean
cruises. While the ocean cruises have far more ways to
entertain their passengers, my preference is to get a feel
for the culture of the area I have visited. As a rule, a
river cruise is far superior to an ocean cruise in this
regard. A river cruise gets you inside the country and lets
you see how the people live. You typically get the whole
day to explore a town or an area of interest.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a river cruise in
England. Can anyone guess why?
isn't that complicated... there simply are not any long
rivers in England nor are they big enough to sustain a river
cruise boat. The River Thames and the Severn River are
both 200 miles long. By comparison, the Rhine River is 800
miles long and the Danube 1,800 miles.
solution, of course, is not to take an inland trip, but
rather use a mid-sized cruise ship to make a circle around
the British Isles. Considering we saw a new location
virtually every day, this worked out just fine.
spot on the trip turned out to be Blarney Castle in southern
Ireland. I enjoyed this visit thoroughly for all the wrong
reasons. The highlight of the day was supposed to be the
opportunity to kiss the famous Blarney Stone.
Theoretically, kissing the Blarney Stone is said to bestow
the gift of gab upon the smoocher. My enthusiasm was
dampened a bit when Marla said I didn't need any further
help. Undeterred, I climbed the steep castle steps anyway.
A writer like me can use all the gab he can get in pursuit
of that Pulitzer.
“blarney,” meaning skillful flattery or nonsense, supposedly
came into use following an incident involving the head of
the McCarthy family and the famous Queen Elizabeth I, ruler
of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603.
It seems the
queen sent the Earl of Leicester to seize Blarney Castle but
the talkative McCarthy managed to keep stalling him. The
queen grew exasperated by the earl’s reports about the lack
of progress in the matter and uttered something to the
effect that these reports were all “Blarney.”
This is just
one of several explanations for the legend. The whole thing
sounds sketchy, so I am going to invoke another word,
“blasphemy,” and suggest this Blarney Stone idea is
ridiculous. For one thing, the particular rock that one
kisses is identical to one thousand other rocks in the
castle wall. There are no distinguishing features to the
Blarney Stone. It is just a stupid rock like all the rest.
Even weirder, people are supposed to kiss the stone upside
down. If you don't believe me, a quick Google image search
will turn up the necessary photographic evidence.
kissing the Blarney Stone is something of an ordeal. First
you lay on your back and hit the back of your head on stone
for the effort. Then you grip parallel metal bars with both
hands. Then some impatient Irish supervisor grabs your head
and smashes your face against this rock and screams at you
to kiss the d.mn thing. Thanks to his shove, my face hit
that rock so hard I thought my nose was broken. It was the
most painful kiss since Helen Stewart cut my lips with her
braces in the Eighth Grade.
So here is
my act of Blarney Blasphemy... I think the whole thing is a
ridiculous tourist racket. There, I said it. No doubt my
punishment will be swift; however it could hardly be any
more painful than kissing that rock.
But you know
what? The Blarney Stone is one of the best tourist rackets
I have ever visited. There were tourist buses upon tourist
buses upon tourist buses. I think there were anywhere from
300 to 900 tourists wandering around the Castle grounds
looking for a rock to kiss.
And you know
what? I totally endorse a visit to Blarney Castle, but with
one caveat. I suggest you skip trying to kiss the Blarney
Stone. Marla and I discovered an incredible Forest/Garden
right beside the castle. This well-groomed forest had
trails aplenty. In addition to 'Powerscourt Estate'
near Dublin, this forest was one of our two favorite spots
on the trip. It was the most enchanting place to walk
paths touring the forest with signs pointing out the various
attractions such as several natural rock formations with
fanciful names such as Druid's Circle, Witch's Cave and the
Wishing Steps. There was a tunnel where your wish was
granted if you walked the steps backwards with your eyes
closed. Trust me, that was a lot more fun than kissing the
Blarney Stone. This garden was pure magic.
Now let me
tell you the sad thing about kissing the Blarney Stone.
Marla and I both complained about the early start time for
our tour that day. However, this turned out to be a hidden
blessing because our tour bus was the first one there. We
kissed the Blarney Stone without any wait. When we
descended the castle steps, we were greeted by a line of
tourists that stretched three hundred yards long. The
problem is that it takes each tourist half a minute to a
minute to get into position to kiss the rock. This slow
process creates an endless line.
those people would stand in that line for two hours in order
to kiss the Blarney Stone, then leave immediately without
seeing anything else. Consequently they would never know
that the true magic of Blarney Castle was that Magic
Forest. Oh well. I consider myself fortunate to have been
spared this misfortune. Word to the Wise... skip the
Blarney Stone, enjoy the Forest.
LOCH NESS MONSTER
As tourist attractions go, another
source of mythological nonsense is the Loch Ness Monster.
I actually researched the Loch Ness Monster once. It is a
very interesting story. Feel free to read my review of how
the tale began and how the hoax was eventually unraveled.
History of the Loch Ness Monster
I have to
tell you, that Loch Ness story was the best thing to ever
happen to this area. In a manner similar to the Blarney
Stone, countless people visit this lake as a sort of
pilgrimage. Marla and I did it back in 2010. I recall just
sitting on the grass for an hour waiting for that stupid
monster to appear.
so silly. Count me as one of them. I love the Loch Ness
Monster story! Until the Dracula legend came along, I
assumed the Loch Ness Monster hoax was the greatest tourist
racket in history. Don't worry, we will get to Dracula
curious about the Loch Ness Monster is that people continue
to try to out-do the crazy tale even to this day. Here is a
terrific Loch Ness story that you probably have never run
across before. It took place back in 1972.
By the way,
no, I did not make this story up. Do you think I am clever
enough to write a story about how to catch a monster using
'hormone sex bait'? Even I have my limits. Yes, indeed,
long-time readers of the Travel Newsletter will quickly
conclude I am far too dull-witted to come up with a story
this clever... unless, of course, kissing the Blarney Stone
has magically amplified my powers.
The Body of
Nessie Found!! (April Fool's Day - 1972)
On the morning of Friday March 31, 1972, an eight-member team
of scientists from Yorkshire's Flamingo Park Zoo was having
breakfast in the dining room of the Foyers House hotel, on
the shore of Loch Ness. They were there on a joint mission
with the Loch Ness Phenomena Bureau to prove the existence
of a monster in the loch. They had developed a new form of
"hormone sex bait" that they hoped would lure Nessie out of
As they dug into their bacon and eggs, the manager of the
hotel approached them. Someone had just called, she said, to
report seeing a "large hump" floating in the loch near the
hotel. Intrigued, the team put down their knives and forks
and walked outside. Sure enough, a large, dark object was
bobbing up and down in the waves about 300-yards offshore.
Terence O'Brien, the leader of the team, immediately swung
into action. He directed the team into their boat, and they
headed out to investigate. Twenty minutes later, at around 9
a.m., they returned, dragging behind them a bizarre object.
It appeared to be the dead body of the Loch Ness Monster.
Within hours, news of the discovery had reached the rest of
the world. Television news anchors solemnly informed their
audiences that the Loch Ness Monster had been found, but was
dead. The frenzy was on. Reporters rushed to the loch to
get more details.
Local residents confirmed that something weird had been
dragged out of the water. Robert MacKenzie, a 23-year-old
Inverness musician, said, "I touched it and put my hand in
its mouth. It's real, all right. I thought it looked
half-bear and half-seal... green in color... with a horrific
head like a bear with flat ears. I was shocked."
Other witnesses told reporters the creature had been between
12 and 18 feet in length and must have weighed up to 1½
tons. They said it had a green body without scales and
seemed like a cross between a walrus and a seal. What was
curious was the strange appearance. No one had ever seen an
aquatic animal quite like this before.
Eventually reporters contacted Don Robinson, Director of the
Flamingo Park Zoo, who was stunned. Based on the reports
given to him by his team, this sounded like the Real Thing.
Robinson said, "I've always been skeptical about the Loch
Ness Monster, but this is definitely a monster, no doubt
about that. From the reports I've had, no one has ever seen
anything like it before... a fishy, scaly body with a
massive head and big protruding teeth."
The British press had a field day. They dubbed the creature
"Son of Nessie." The next morning, April 1, the discovery
made front-page headlines around the world.
The April 1, 1972 headline in the Los Angeles Times proclaimed
'Green and Scaly Monster Hauled out of Loch Ness'.
Meanwhile, the creature itself was no longer at the Loch.
After dragging the carcass back to the shore, the scientists
from the Flamingo Park Zoo had sent a telegram to their
boss, Don Robinson, and had then quickly loaded the body
into their truck and taken off. They intended to transport
the monster back to the zoo for study.
Mrs. Margrete Good, manager of the hotel, later told the
press, "The zoologists were thrilled to bits. They said
this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to
But when the local Inverness police heard that the scientists
had hightailed it with the Loch Ness Monster, they were
infuriated. These were English scientists, after all,
removing Scotland's most famous lake monster — upon which
depended a vast, lucrative tourist trade. The value of this
monster was virtually incalculable.
Immediately the police radioed their colleagues in the
Fifeshire County police department, explained the situation,
and asked them to chase down the fleeing truck and apprehend
the monster-nappers. They cited a 1933 Act of Parliament
that prohibited the removal of "unidentified creatures" from
Sirens wailing, five police cars sped off. They soon caught
up with the team of scientists. The terrified zoologists
readily cooperated with the angry police determined to
rescue a national treasure. They pulled over to the side
of the road. Then they opened the back of the truck to show
the officers what they were carrying. Sure enough,
according to the subsequent police report, lying inside the
truck was a large "green and scaly" creature. The monster
had been recovered.
The police officers, not quite sure what to do next, radioed
back to the station for advice. They were told to take the
monster to the nearest town, Dunfermline, where it could be
examined by Scottish scientists.
In Dunfermline, the police searched around for an appropriate
scientist to examine the creature. They eventually
persuaded Michael Rushton, general curator of the Edinburgh
Zoo, to make a 20 mile drive and have a look at it.
When Rushton arrived, he walked slowly around the carcass a
few times, poked it once or twice, and then announced his
verdict. It was indeed a strange creature, but it was no
lake monster. Instead, it was a bull elephant seal, whose
natural home was the South Atlantic Ocean, thousands of
miles away from Scotland. Furthermore, the body showed
signs of having been frozen for an extended period of time.
Rushton told the press, "It is a typical member of its
species. It's about 3 to 4 years old... I have never known
them to come near Great Britain. Their natural habitat is
the South Atlantic, Falkland Islands or South Georgia. I
don't know how long it's been kept in a deep freeze but this
has obviously been done by some human hand."
How a bull elephant seal came to be floating in Loch Ness
remained a mystery until the next day, when a hoaxer stepped
forward to confess. John Shields, the Flamingo Park Zoo's
education officer, admitted it was his doing.
Shields explained that an expedition to the Falkland Islands
had recently brought the seal back to the UK. It had lived
briefly at the Dudley Zoo, but died soon after arrival.
When he learned of this, Shields realized it offered a
golden opportunity to prank his colleagues, who he knew were
about to go up to Loch Ness to search for the monster.
Shields gained possession of the elephant seal, shaved off its
whiskers, padded its cheeks with stones, and kept it frozen
for a week. Then he dumped it in the Loch and phoned in a
tip to make sure his colleagues found it. He timed the
prank so that news of the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster
would make headlines on April 1 — April Fool's Day, which
happened to also be his 23rd birthday (and possibly his last
Shields admitted sheepishly the joke got out of hand when his
colleagues decided to remove the dead animal from Loch Ness
and were chased down by the police.
He also noted that the creature wasn't quite as impressive as
initial press reports had claimed. It was only nine-feet
long and weighed 350-pounds. Still, it had been a very
strange thing to find floating in the Loch.
Police Superintendent Inas McKay of Inverness gave the press
the final, official verdict on the incident: "The case has
been closed. It's just an April Fool's Day joke."
Having determined that the dead animal was not the Loch Ness
Monster, the police had no further interest in it. So they
returned the carcass to the team from the Flamingo Park Zoo.
The team brought the seal back to the zoo, where they put it
back on ice and displayed it to crowds for a few days before
properly disposing of it.
But this wasn't quite the end of the story. The prank turned
out to have unintended consequences for other visitors to
the loch. Two weeks later, 28-year-old Norman Slater, a
school teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin, went on a fishing
trip on the Loch. While floating along, he dipped his hand
into the water. He later said that, as soon as he did so, he
detected, by means of his extrasensory perception, the
presence of six large creatures in the water — a family of
Loch Ness Monsters.
Slater said that he saw a particularly vivid image of a
creature 70-90 feet in length, with a large neck and a slim,
worm-like body. Its bottom portion was white while its top
was dark brown and scaly. He said the creatures "seemed to
be just lying around on the bottom." Slater also claimed to
see images of underground passageways connecting the Loch to
However, alas, Slater was a victim of bad timing. He
complained that, despite the obvious scientific importance
of his vision, because of the recent April 1st prank he
couldn't find any reporters willing to take him seriously.
Slater could barely contain his disappointment.
you glad I shared that story? Can you imagine those poor
well-meaning scientists fearing for their lives when five
police cars with sirens wailing tracked them down? And to
think their own colleague set them up for this terror and
subsequent humiliation! That is just too funny for words.
It sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit. Or
better yet, another scene in 'A Fish Called Wanda', my
favorite funny movie. Let's call it
'A Fish Called Nessie'.
Okay, now it
is time for the Main Event. First the
Blarney Stone... myth and travel racket. Then the Loch Ness
monster... myth and travel racket.
So now it is
time for Dracula. You know what? I am going to let you in
a little secret. Dracula is a myth too. But as for travel
racket, hmm, there's a good story there. And that unusual
story is the reason for this Pulitzer-nominated article.
all, perhaps I should reveal my motives. I would like lots
of people to come with Marla and me to Transylvania on this
weird 'Dracula on the Danube' river cruise
over Halloween 2018. This promises to be a very
So I thought
that if I shared a little background information, I might
tweak your interest and persuade a few people to join us.
people know, Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror
novel written by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced
the legend of Count Dracula, and established many
conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy.... stakes through
the heart, invisible in mirrors, must be invited into a
room, garlic repels, etc.
tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from
Transylvania (Northern Romania near the Black Sea) to
England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead
curse. The book contains exciting details of the battle
between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by
Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The beautiful Mina is the
target of Dracula's desire. Her fiancé Jonathan Harker and
Professor Van Helsing are desperate to save her.
Dracula is a
very persuasive monster. He has no need for hormone sex
bait. Just his irresistible stare alone is enough to make
any woman vulnerable to his approach.
has ever read Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' will
agree this is the creepiest, most terrifying horror story
ever written. This eerie tale had me biting off every
single finger nail on both hands. I was so nervous I almost
started on my toe nails. I absolutely could not put this
So what do
you suppose Dracula has in common with the Blarney Stone and
the Loch Ness Monster? This isn't that tough a question, so
think about it for a moment.
answer is not that it is a myth like the Blarney Stone and
the Loch Ness Monster; I already told you that.
you guessed that Dracula is Romania's Numero Uno Tourist
Attraction, ta da, go to the head of the class!
easily rules at the top of the European monster food chain.
He easily beats out Frankenstein, the werewolves, the
banshees, and the ghosts that haunt every castle. Sexy,
dark, mysterious, deadly, sinister... more than 200 films
have been made and 1,000 novels have been written about
Dracula and vampires in general. Writers such as Stephen
King, Stephanie Meyer and Anne Rice have helped the vampire
enough, as famous as Dracula is in the West, Dracula was
unknown in Romania until 1990. Blame it on Joseph Stalin
and the oppressive rule of communism. Let us never forget
how fortunate we are to live in America. Paradoxically,
Stoker's classic was virtually unknown in Romania since the
communist regime would not allow a translated copy within in
the fall of the Iron Curtain, 'Dracula Tourism'
presented Romania with a dilemma. Transylvania was
identified in the book as the homeland of Dracula. Every
gypsy on the European continent felt compelled to make a
pilgrimage. On one hand, Dracula was Romania's unique
selling point. The notion of Dracula had considerable
potential to be exploited for economic gain.
On the other
hand, the whole notion of vampires, dark medieval forests,
and the supernatural was starkly at odds with Romania's
self-image as a modern, un-superstitious European state.
years, the communist regime advocated a Godless Material
World that left little tolerance for supernatural nonsense
such as vampires. Therefore, during the communist period
(up to 1989) the Romanian state did almost nothing to
encourage such tourism. On the other hand, the State
reluctantly tolerated it.
nose, some discrete local initiatives were developed to
cater to the teeming Dracula enthusiasts. Certain men
connived to build hotels in key locations and conduct tours
through the rugged Transylvanian landscape. These
underground figures were almost as shadowy as Dracula
himself. Risking long stays in ice cold prisons, these
entrepreneurs operated at the margins of legality in an
unforgiving communist state.
post-communist period after 1989, the attempts to censor
Dracula disappeared. Since then, the private sector in
Romania rose swiftly to exploit the commercial possibilities
of the Count. However, even to this day, the Romanian state
remains ambivalent about Dracula and continues to be
reluctant to encourage or promote 'Dracula tourism'
on a large scale. Proposed Dracula-themed amusement parks
on a Disneyland scale have been nixed on several occasions.
Can you even imagine the Haunted Houses? Or the castle for
that matter. For every Cinderella-style castle at
Disneyland, how cool would an imaginary Dracula castle be?
As such, Romania's dilemma with Dracula remains unresolved.
Hmm. They might want to reconsider. I for one would enjoy
visiting that Haunted House.
presents Romania with a unique dilemma. On the one hand,
it has the potential to generate much needed foreign
currency through tourism, but on the other hand it
fundamentally collides with Romania's sense of its own
political and cultural identity.
that seems to be changing. Ever since the fall of the Iron
Curtain, knowledge of the classic Bram Stoker novel has
circulated among the Romanian people. They take pride in
their mythical hero... as well they should! Slowly but
surely Dracula's status as a folklore figure has become just
as popular as say Robin Hood and Davy Crockett in other
enough, after doing a little Internet poking around, I
discovered that Bram Stoker never actually visited Romania.
By relying on traveler's accounts, Stoker produced a vivid
portrayal of a sinister, backwards region where the forces
of evil ran wild.
Harker, the main character, narrates, "Before my arrival,
I read that every known superstition in the world is
gathered into the uncharted regions of the Carpathians. I
dare to enter the blackness."
words, Harker's journey to spooky Transylvania was akin to a
trip to Skull Island, home of King Kong. Only the brave
would dare such a trip into the heart of darkness.
Stoker was a
proud participant in an unusual English literary tradition.
During the 1880s and 1890s, authors such as H. Rider
Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur
Conan Doyle, and H. G. Wells wrote adventure tales in which
fantastic creatures threatened the British Empire. Invasion
literature such as the creepy H.G. Wells tale 'War of the
Worlds' was a perfect example of this curious literary
was the business manager for a popular theater in London.
Stoker wrote sensational stories in his spare time.
was his tour de force. Stoker spend considerable time
researching his book. Before writing 'Dracula',
Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and
stories of vampires, being most influenced by Emily Gerard's
1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which
included content about a vampire myth.
So how Did
Bram Stoker come with the name 'Dracula'?
As we shall
see, this is a very hotly debated subject. Due to the lack
of documentation, many historians assumed that a larger than
life historic figure from Romania known as 'Vlad III
Dracula', aka Vlad the Impaler, was the model for
This man was
the second son of Vlad Dracul, hence the name 'Vlad III'.
To make a
long story short, Vlad III became ruler of an area that
adjoined Turkey. Powerful Turkish Ottoman ruler Mehmed
decided to attack. When Mehmed entered the town of
Targoviste at the end of June 1462, the Ottomans were
horrified to discover a "forest of the impaled"
(thousands of stakes with the carcasses of executed people).
army viewed large stakes upon which twenty thousand men,
women, and children had been spitted. The Turks were
dumbfounded when they saw the multitude of men on the
stakes. There were infants too affixed to their mothers on
the stakes, and birds had made their nests in their
entrails. Horrified, the sultan's army was more than happy
to retreat back to the safety of Turkey.
it... 20,000 victims impaled on stakes? Unbelievable!!
Vlad's reputation was well-known in certain European
circles. Indeed, books describing Vlad's cruel acts were
among the first bestsellers in the German-speaking
territories. It stands to reason that Vlad's reputation for
cruelty and his family's unusual name may have given rise to
the name of the vampire Count Dracula. Since 'Dracula' is a
very unusual name, surely there was a link.
only recently has this theory been discounted.
The truth is
that there is no evidence that Bram Stoker was even aware of
the name Vlad III. Don't worry, we will get back to Vlad
the Bad soon enough. But for now, let's concentrate on how
Stoker came up with the name.
The key year
was 1890. Stoker was the business manager at London's
Lyceum Theater. The theater was owned by Henry Irving, a
talented actor who starred in many of the plays. Henry
Irving was an intense man. It was Irving's unusual
personality as well as his interest in the macabre that
likely made him the eventual role model for the character of
become acquainted with Arminius Vambery, a Hungarian
professor who took an interest in a horror play known as
"The Dead Heart." In April 1890, Stoker wrote about the
night he and his friend Henry Irving dined with Vambery
after a performance. Transylvania had once been a part of
Hungary. During this dinner, the Hungarian-born Vambery
regaled Stoker and Irving with tales of Transylvania
folklore. Perhaps Vambery's tales included Vlad Tepes (Vlad
the Impaler) and his atrocities. If so, these tales surely
set Stoker's imagination aflame. However, later research
would cast doubt on this likelihood.
clear is that Arminius Vambery got Stoker very
interested in Transylvania.
after his fascinating dinner with Vambery, Stoker vacationed
in Whitby, England, in the summer of 1890. While at
Whitby, Stoker came across a copy of William Wilkinson's
book 'An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia
and Moldavia', territories which were part of
Transylvania. Stoker copied several sections of the book
into his notes. Wilkinson's book contains references to
multiple warlords named Dracula, and some of the sparse
details on one such Dracula make it into Stoker's text -
that he crossed the Danube to attack Turkish troops and had
some success. However, that is the extent of it. There is
no reference to a "Vlad," no mention of a nickname Tepes or
"the Impaler," nor any detailing of the Impaler's legendary
Stoker borrowed "scraps of miscellaneous information",
according to one expert, about this bloodthirsty tyrant of
Wallachia. Nor does there exist a single comment about Vlad
in Stoker's working notes. 'Dracula' scholar
Elizabeth Miller remarked that aside from the identical name
and some brief mention of Romanian history in the novel, the
background of Stoker's Count bears no resemblance to that of
Vlad III Dracula.
Miller warned that we can't assume that Stoker's notes are
the end-all, be-all of the creation of Dracula, but they do
provide the only factual information we currently have about
Stoker's research. Best of all, Stoker's personal notes
offer strong hints exactly where Stoker got the name
So why did
Stoker choose the curious name of Dracula?
Well, we can
infer that from his own notes. He copied information from a
footnote from Wilkinson's book that read in his own notes,
"DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL," using those
capital letters. In addition, 'Dracula' meant 'Son
of the Dragon. The footnote explained that Wallachians gave
the name "Dracula" to people who were
especially courageous, cruel, or cunning. Stoker chose the
name, it appears, because of its devilish associations, not
because of the history and legends attached to its owner.
directly contradict the Urban Legend. Think about it. You
know that Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula was loosely
based on Romania's Vlad the Impaler. For that matter,
EVERYONE knows that Vlad and Count Dracula are linked.
That's what I thought and I bet my Readers thought the same
thing as well. We all believe that.
But it isn't
disappoints me terribly to say this, but it is doubtful that
the Impaler was the basis for the famous vampire. Boo hoo!
This hurts as bad as finding out there is no Santa Claus.
Maybe even more. Admit it... Dracula and Vlad the Impaler
were meant for each other!!
exactly did the bogus Urban Legend come from? Who turned
Vlad III into the supposed inspiration for Count Dracula?
There is no
dark conspiracy here. It happened for two reasons. One,
many of Stoker's notes were more or less misplaced in the
attic of Stoker's great-grandson and not discovered until
2011. Two, in the absence of Stoker's notes, the
connection between Vlad Dracula and Count Dracula made
It stands to
reason that scholars have connected Count Dracula with the
Wallachian warlord Vlad III, nicknamed "Vlad Tepes" or, in
English, "Vlad the Impaler." After all, Vlad III was a
member of the House of Dracula, and is one of
a handful of historical figures whose title is rendered as "Voivode
(Warlord) Dracula" in English-language texts. Plus they
both had that curious obsession with stakes.
Impaler's official name was 'Dracula'. Wouldn't a figure
known as "the Impaler" make a perfect vampire? The number
of movies that treat the life of Vlad Tepes as Dracula's
backstory are an indication of just how neatly the
historical warlord and the fictional vampire fit together in
some people's minds.
Hollywood helped one bit to clear up the confusion. In
2014, the movie 'Dracula Untold' was
released. Here's the synopsis:
"As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince
Vlad Tepes must become a monster feared by his
own people in order to obtain the power needed to protect
his own family, and the families of his kingdom."
As we know,
if Hollywood says it's so, then it must be true.
something else that is interesting. After visiting websites
that debunk the connection between Bad Vlad and the Dark
Count, I found comments below that argue with the experts.
In other words, The People want the connection
And there is
more dissent. Some scholars have argued, quite bizarrely,
that the absence of pertinent details from Vlad Tepes' life
and legends in the text of 'Dracula' is somehow evidence of
Stoker's knowledge of the tales and his desire to explicitly
fictionalize them. This is another example of the
deep-seated desire to keep the two figures linked.
Ask any guy
on the street. "Maybe they weren't linked, but they
doubt, the power of this yearning can be traced to a 1972
bestseller that gave rise to the Urban Legend. The book
that popularized the Vlad-Dracula link was 'In Search
of Dracula', written by Raymond McNally and Radu
became a boffo bestseller that caught the public mood in
America at a moment when popular interest in Vampires was on
the increase. 'In Search of Dracula' lit a
bonfire. Shortly thereafter, one Seventies vampire movie
after another hit the silver screen.
Twins of Evil
(excellent remake with Frank Langella)
(remake of the popular 60's TV show)
Love at First
Vault of Horror
(1985, my absolute favorite vampire movie!)
Search of Dracula' was one heck of a hot book for a
while. The book assured us all that it was telling
'the true story' behind the legend of Dracula - a
biography of Prince Vlad of Transylvania, better known as
Vlad the Impaler.
was a fantastic exploration of the figure the vampire legend
was supposedly built upon. If you thought Caligula was a
sicko, well, this book make about Vlad the Impaler made
Caligula seem tame. Vlad the Impaler repelled the invasion
of the King of the Ottoman Turks by placing the heads of
20,000 Turkish prisoners on stakes.
Bad Vlad was
Very Bloody... you know there was something seriously
evil, sinister and twisted about this dude... and the
book promised us it was all true.
Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu liked the 1972 book so
much he attempted to make Vlad a national hero. Don't
laugh. If the national hero of Sicily can be the
blood-soaked Marlon Brando Godfather, making Vlad the
national hero of Romania made perfect twisted sense as
well. However, Ceausescu was not at all pleased when his
own people began to refer to him as 'Dracula'. Now the joke
wasn't so funny anymore.
inconvenient facts began to leak out, years later both
McNally and Florescu eventually stepped back from their
claim that Vlad and his atrocities had actually inspired the
story of the wicked Count Dracula.
damage had been done!!
and Count Dracula had permanently become fused and confused
in the public mind.
way, Vlad's Castle, i.e. Bran Castle in Transylvania's
Carpathian Mountains, was incorrectly identified as the
inspiration for Count Dracula's Transylvanian castle.
Sure, why not? Why not just keep adding to the myth?
perfect! Now we had a real-life Transylvanian castle at the
center of this brooding fantasy. Transylvania, the
mysterious Land of Evil! Transylvania was perfect
since no one in the world had actually ever been there.
What you don't know becomes perfect fodder for the
region could surpass the mystical visions of shrouded, misty
forests with shadowy demons and vicious wolves hiding behind
every tree? Or driverless coaches pounding up the
treacherous trail towards the foreboding castle perched high
upon a cliff? And what about that ominous black-coated
figure stalking across moonlit cemeteries with wolves
howling in the dark?
Castle was associated with the mythology, well, now we were
getting somewhere. A tourist attraction was born!
Never mind that Bran Castle had NOTHING to do with Count
Dracula. How inconvenient. Soon every tour brochure on the
planet had permanently linked this innocent castle with the
dark Vampire legend. Tsk Tsk.
But you know
what, I'm with Hollywood. I say why let the truth get in
the way of a great yarn? I mean, since everyone wants to
pretend that Vlad the Bad and Count Dracula are one and the
same, what is stopping us from nominating Vlad's ancient
Castle as the Shrine to the Vampire Empire! Who would
pretty cool in a way. One hundred years had passed since
the publication of 'Dracula'. In shocking
fashion, suddenly the Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989.
years after its publication, Bram Stoker’s novel was able to
become a major blessing for Romania. Starting in the 1990s,
the vampire legend attracted tourists from around the world
in much the same way Salem Village became a wiccan shrine in
the real story about Transylvania? Over the years,
Transylvania, an obscure mountainous region in north central
Romania that has changed little since the days of Bram
Stoker, has become synonymous with the name Dracula.
hundred years, Bram Stoker’s novel has fed everyone's
imagination with the tales of a predatory vampire who lived
in a ruined castle up high in the Carpathian mountains. The
vampire's castle was said to be surrounded by lonely, spooky
forests. Although most of the action unfolds in Victorian
London, it is the description of Transylvania...dark,
wild, untouched by science and modernity... that is the
novel’s most evocative achievement. After Stoker got
through describing Transylvania, it was not at all difficult
to imagine demons and werewolves baying at the moon
throughout the region. Stoker's depiction of this
frightening, misunderstood region was awakened our fears.
Here was the land that God had offered to the Devil. It was
hidden in a remote, unexplored recess of Europe that no one
gave rise to a thriving vampire subculture. At its center
stands Transylvania, the natural home for the supernatural.
And through the circuitous process known as modern
myth-making, today we have Bran Castle which serves as the
symbolic link between the natural and the supernatural.
As I have pointed out,
2018, Marla and I are taking a river cruise on the Danube
River that originates in Bucharest, Romania. Marla and I
have signed up for a three-day tour that takes us to visit
the horrors of Bran Castle on Halloween.
have some straight talk about that
excursion. Now you know
the truth that Bran Castle and Bram Stoker are not related.
However, on the other hand, every person and their uncle
could care less. We all like pretending that Vlad and the
Count are one and the same. It makes the legend more fun.
Since it is all mythology to begin with, there seems to be a
worldwide movement to expand the mythology.
So, yes, I
openly admit that Bran Castle is Romania's answer to the
Blarney Stone myth and the Loch Ness Monster myth. But just
because Bran Castle is the newest European tourist racket
doesn't keep it from being fascinating.
You see, I
believe that Bran Castle has magnetic properties. In my
mind, Bran Castle is the lighthouse that calls unusual
people from every corner to come celebrate Halloween in
Romania, the birthplace of the greatest monster myth in
literary history. Let's all experience the creepiness of
anticipate every person on the planet who loves Halloween
will feel the magnetic tractor beam emanating from Bran
Castle on Halloween. By silent acclaim, Bran Castle has
been granted celebrity status by the masses of people who
love the Bram Stoker novel. It may not be the true shrine,
but it is the designated shrine. Like Bethlehem on
Christmas, people are drawn to Bran Castle on Halloween. It
is the place to be.
I am talking
about 'interesting people', you know, the kind of
people who stay hidden most of the time, but show up for
strange events like this.
guys don't know us very well. Our two favorite shows are
'Game of Thrones' and 'Walking Dead'.
This trip is right up Mystery Alley for us.
I of course
will dress as Dracula. I can't wait!! I have already begun
to file down my incisors and work on my Transylvanian
accent. Marla will come as the dark-haired Elvira clad in
dark robes that will both reveal the glory of her ample
curves and her macabre personality as well. If you haven't
guessed by now, Marla and I intend to be just as weird as
everyone else. It should be a very interesting trip.
thing. Marla and I are not alone in our oddity. Since I
first announced this trip, in the space of a two weeks, 10
people have signed up to join us on this adventure. That
speaks to the unusual nature of this trip.
that 'Dracula on the Danube' is over a year away, but you
have to realize that this trip is turning into a cult
phenomenon. The space on this riverboat is 75% gone. So if
you have a secret weird streak of your own and you would
like some company, then by all means contact Marla and plan
to explore the Dark Side with us.