Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
The moon is full and from the other side of the valley I hear a lone wolf howl. Before me is a castle that honestly has seen better days. It is old and worn down, large parts of the roof are missing. The only light that can be seen is from torches and kerosene lamps. Showdowns seem to move with a will of their own.
A scrawny rat faced man opens the door for me. “The master will see you now.” He says in a thick eastern European voice.
As we walk down the corridors past paintings of long dead royals, I complain. “I sure waited out there long enough.”
The man laughs as if he had told himself an immensely funny joke. “The master is very patient, if you want to speak with him you to must be patient too. Besides what else have you to do?’
“I am meeting some friends, in a bit.” I explain. But then I begin to get faint. I feel light headed. I turn around not even realizing that I am doing it. I hear singing, women sinning, it is beautiful they are calling me. At the end of the corridor there are three women, two brunettes and a blonde. They wear white tattered dresses, and are shoeless. They are pale with elongated canines and thin cadaverous fingers with sharp pointy fingernails. They are the most beautiful women I have ever seen. We are separated by a door made of metal bars, it’s as if it was ripped out from some medieval prison.
Blissfully I walk to them. They are reaching out to me lustfully. I long for their embrace, but before I reach the ravishing sirens. The rat faced man jumps in between us. He slaps at them with one hand as they hiss at him. With the other one e grabs my wrist snapping me out of my dazed fugue like state. “He is for the master!” the man screams and drags me away. I look longingly over my shoulder but I do not resist. The women vacillate from begging me to join them and hiss and cursing the man. “For give the brides…they are lonely…and hungry.”
I want to go back but my survival instincts kick in and I do not resist the man. “See the master woos them and then turns them…Once they are his undead brides they are no more a challenge to him…He loses his desires for them…They bore him…He still cares for them…But a man like the Count, he is always looking for new challenges…new things to keep his interest…new toys.” And he laughs a fiendish laugh that makes me think I would have been safer with the vampire women.
He opens a heavy wooden door, and bids me to enter. Inside the walls are covered with shelves of books, stuffed hunting trophies, paintings of more long dead aristocrats, shields and coats of arms. The furniture is all vintage Victorian and expensive. The man in the huge stuffed chair is not what I expect. He wears a velvet smoking jacket. He has long white hair in the back and balding upfront. A thin white mustache hovers above his lips. His arms are long with hands and palms all covered with hair that reminds me of an ape’s fur. When he speaks his breath stinks of a combination of mildewed soil and dead bodies. “Allow me to introduce myself I am Count Dracula.”
I take a seat and thank him for his time. He waves an acknowledgment in a very aristocratic style and I begin. “To start off, how come after over a hundred and twenty years are you still so popular?”
He laughs a much more civilized laugh than the man who walked me to the study. “I suppose much has to do the writing style of Bram Stoker. Much like women, readers like a bad boy. Someone who they know is no good…No good for them…But they can’t resist…Also the book is a frolicking adventure tale that strikes a primal cord in the reader.”
“In that Buffy episode that you co-stared in, there was a theme that fame leads to eternal life, any comment on that?” I ask.
“Well just as I feed on blood to live forever, a factious character needs readers, viewers, fans and followers, or he dies in the pit of storytelling hell. So Yes Joss Weadon did bring out a very valid point. Fame is what has allowed me to live since 1890. Fame is what gave me the character, immortality. It is ironic that I am also an immortal in stories.” He replies.
“I have heard a theory that you came about as a result of Bram Stoker’s closeted homosexual tendencies. How do you feel about that?” I ask
“Anyone who tells you that they know for sure that Stoker was gay, is just stating their opinion either that or they have evidence that they are hiding form the academic world. Is it possible?” He shrugs “Maybe, I am not saying he wasn’t. I am just saying we don’t know for sure. A lot of people make a big issue about me saving Harker from the Brides and saying he is mine.” He shrugs again. “We do know this. At the time of the writing the book Stoker was in a loveless and sexless marriage. He was good friends with Oscar Wilde and it undoubtedly Wilde’s sodomy case affected him. Made him rethink the way he thought about Victorian society and how it treated people. Did he have homosexual tendencies or not? If he did he never let on. But it is possible that the way his gay friend was treated might have had an effect on his mindset when he was started writing. Stoker was an extremely private man. Even his own diary gives us no clue into his psyche.”
He leaned back. “Now obviously other writers before and afterwards used homosexuality as allusion to the unnaturalness of vampirism. LeFanu’s Carmella, which surely Stoker had read in his research for Dracula use lesbianism as an analogy for a vampire’s hunger. The motif would be continued with later writers like Anne Rice. And Stoker isn’t beyond using sexual analogies, take the Brides. Polygamy would be just as foreign and scandalous to a Victorian reader as homosexuality. But no one has ever brought forth conclusive evidence that Stoker himself was gay.”
“OK.” I say taking notes. “As a race, human equate vampires with sex…Uh why do we think you guys are so darn sexy?”
He throws back his head and laughs. “Well a lot of it is way we feed. Up-close with bodily contact. A sharp pointy fang piercing flesh, sharing of bodily fluids. I suppose it would be impossible for a human not to draw this conclusion.” He thinks about it a bit more. “Also seduction is part of the hunt. A victim loses their innocence and in the end becomes someone else. No matter how much they want to resist, they eventually give in to the passion of the vampire. A vampire feeding is much more analogous to human sex than to you eating a ham sandwich.”
I look for just the right words to say what I am about to say next. “But look at you…” I point at his aged frame, his pale body and hairy hands. “No offense but you’re not quite People Magazines sexiest man alive… or rather sexist man undead material.”
He smiles and leans forward menacingly. “And that was Stoker’s genius. If I was one of your how do you say it in American…Young studs…Then sure it would be easy to woo the fair maiden…Since I have women throwing themselves about me, looking like this, it has to be something unnatural. My powers of seduction are unearthly. It makes it all the more menacing. Now with movies being what they are of course they usually find a handsome actor to play me. I mean who wants to see a lead actor that looks like an elderly orangutan for two hours. They one cinema show that got it right was Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula where Gary Oldman, goes from a repulsive husk to a suave libertine, the more blood he drinks.”
I steeple my hands and think for a moment. “Other than your general appearance what are some other conceptions people have about you, that differ from the way you are portrayed in the original book.”
“Well…” he says leaning forward. “That whole bursting in to flames with sunlight. That was first introduced in the movie Nosferatu. I am weakened by the sun, and if I take an animal guise and the sun comes out I am stuck in that form until nightfall, but not incinerated. Also the whole wooden stake thing. In the book I am stabbed in the heart and beheaded by knives, not a wooden stake.”
I note that last part in case I have to fight my way out. “The other week I was talking to James Bond, and he said his writer, Ian Fleming would use real life events as inspiration, did Stoker do that too?’
“Oh defiantly.” The Count replies. “One of the most riveting parts of the book is my arrival in England. Where I kill the crew of the Russian Sailing ship Demeter, and it crashes ashore. In reality not far from where Stoker was staying once, the Russian schooner Dimitri was abandoned at sea during a storm and made land fall without its crew. It left a rather lasting impression on him.”
“Probably the most famous part of the book taken form real life if the name Dracula. Who was the real Vlad the Impaler and how does he differ from you?” I ask.
The Count leans back. “The real Vlad was a viovode, or regional king in what is now called Romania. His father was the leader of a band of Christian knights called the Order of the Dragon, as their leader he was called the Dragon or the Dracu. His son was therefore known as the ‘son of the dragon’ or the Dracula. He was called Tepes or the Impaler because he impaled people on large poles. This is probably the origin of the wooden stake killing a vampire. He was a blood thirsty ruthless man who killed his own people to maintain his power and ran a savage and bloody guerrilla war against the Turks.” He places his hands in his lap. “Vlad was a prince and a king, and I was a count, the only thing that ties us together in the book, is Van Helsing’s speculation, we are the same since we have the same name. Though Stoker was aware of the Impaler’s dark reputation and attempted to use it to make me seem more evil in the book.”
“Other than Stoker and Vlad Tepes the next real person you are most closely associated with is Bela Lugosi, can you shed any light on that?” I ask.
The Count rolls his eyes “What a terrible pun. Well Lugosi made his initial fame playing me on stage. Since the move was based on the stage adaptation he was the natural choice to play the part.” Before I can object he waves his hand. “Now…Now…I know there was a rumor that the studio wanted Lon Chaney before he died. But I seriously doubt that would ever have happened. Chaney was in the middle of a long term agreement with Metro-Golden Myer at the time, and studio politicking and infighting being what it was back then, I seriously doubt they would have let him make a major picture for Universal. Lugosi’s fame however turned into a curse. He was type casted after portraying me that and his thick Hungarian accent caused him to be stuck in Vampire and mad scientist roles and he ended up making ridiculously low budget movies for schlockmyster extraordinaire Ed Wood at the time of his death, because no one else would have him.”
“The last A list movie Lugosi made was Abbot and Castillo Meet Frankenstein. In it he reprised his role as you. Though a hit movie was a parody and was pretty much the death knell for The Universal monster franchise, how do you feel about parodies?” I ask.
He lets out a little stunted cough. “Well it all depends on their attitude even if they are parodies they can be done in a manner of respect and affection. The same with Bond movies. The Austin Powers movies are satire, yes, but they are also done as a loving tribute. So if there is respect I am fine with it.”
“And if they are not?” I ask.
“Then I hunt down the producer, director, actors, writers and crew and rip out their lungs.” He replies with a deranged smile.
“OK, next question.” I say hastily. “Your female victims, Mina and Lucy. You basically chose them to get back at the men they loved…”
“…And still it is a better love story than Twilight.” He interjects and throws back his head in a deep laugh. “Oh that one never gets old.”
“Yes.” I say suppressing a smirk. “But tell me about the girls in the story?”
The count smiles as he speaks I can see the elongated canines. “Lucy Westenra, is promiscuous in a chaste Victorian kind of way. She is letting three suitors compete for her hand. For the time that makes her a floosy. She is simpleminded in a way only naive people can be. In the book she is the only one that I kill. Or more precisely I make her undead van Helsingr and his ilk actually kill her…”
He seems to be a bit more serious as he continues “Now Wilhelmina is a different story. She is a modern thinking woman but sees the new woman’s liberation movement as somewhat silly. She makes her on way in Victorian society but still has respect for the old guard. She is seen as an expert typist. But remember this is a time when the job of a secretary is predominately a man’s calling so, she is unique and a head of her time. Her psychic bond with me is my ultimate undoing…”
He thinks for a moment. “In ways they are the Victorian forerunners of the tropes of the slut and the finial girl. The slut is the sexually promiscuous girl who dies early on in the story. Now Lucy is a virgin, but she does toy with three different men’s affections at the same time, so the trope does apply. The finial girl is the androgynous virgin who survives to at least to the final battle. Now Mina is not a virgin but she waits until marriage, so that counts. Also she is very feminine, but she is intellectually a man’s equal. In fact I tell her in a very complementary way she has a ‘man’s mind.’ It is possible that Stoker created that trope.”
“In many stories you are effected by crosses and holy water, how does that fit in to the meta-myth of the vampire?” I ask.
“Well, you see if you are going to write about great evil you need to address great good too.” The Count explains. “You basically have three options. So you can either write from the stand point that there is no God, and crosses are just top heavy plus signs to vampires. Or you can say that there is some kind of positive power and that it is the persons own faith that is being harness and used to repel the vampire. Or that there is a God, and somehow vampires fall in to his master plan. And that he provided weapons to his children to fight them, but they must chose to use them against us. But you can’t have evil without acknowledging or explain away good.”
“What about this new wave of sparkly vampires?” I ask.
His face is clouded with anger and he spits blood on the floor. “Why if those quisling disgraces to vampires everywhere show their fangs around me I would reach down their throat and pull out their spleen and feed it to my Rottweiler.”
I immediately stand up. “With that I have to go.’
The count shakes his finger at me. “Not so quickly Dave. You see I am thirsty and you have so much blood.’
I…I… was told I…I… would have safe passage.” I stammer.
He throws back his head again and laughs. “I am a vampire, I lie Dave that is what we do.”
“Good thing I have an insurance policy.” I reply.
“Insurance policy?” He ask confused. There is pounding at the door.
I smile a canary eating grin. “Yeah see I told a few friends where I would be.’
The door explodes inward to the study. Out of the smoke come Abraham Van Helsing. Flanked by Buffy Summers and Blade. Taking of the rear is Jack Crowe from Vampire$ Inc. with a cross bow with the bolt the size of a baseball bat.
“Well played my friend, until next time.” The count hisses as he turns into a bat and flies out the window.