Reprint: The Real Dracula’s Castle — Stop 2 of the World’s Greatest Horror Locales

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula 1931

Bela Lugosi
as Count Dracula
1931

Bună dimineața!

I published this on my website a few years ago, but this morning I thought I would re-post just for my followers in Romania. Enjoy.  If you live in Romania or are from there originally, I would like to see your comments on this article. Tell me if I am on the spot or if I am off base.

The first thing you learn about the historical Castle Dracula is that it is a fictional location from Bram Stoker’s imagination.  The Wikipedia article does a nice job of summarizing the history of the fictional abode and of analyzing the novel for clues to its supposed locale.   The most precise it comes to identifying the spot of Dracula’s Castle is:

“The site of the Vampire’s home has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the novel. The route descriptions hardly mention any recognisable landmarks, but focus on evocations of a wild and snow-covered landscape, haunted by howling wolves and lit by supernatural blue flames at night. Because of this conspicuous vagueness, the annotated Dracula editions by Leonard Wolf,[6] Clive Leatherdale[7] and Leslie Klinger[8] simply assume Bram Stoker had no specific location in mind and place the Castle in or immediately next to the Borgo Pass. As a consequence, these editions take for granted that the Count’s men, pursued by Harker, Holmwood, Morris and Seward, follow the Bistrița River all the way up to Vatra Dornei and then travel the route through the Borgo Pass already taken by Van Helsing and Mina. The same view is adopted by Andrew Connell in his Google Map mark-ups.[9] These theories ignore or misinterpret Stoker’s hint that around the 47th Parallel, the Count’s men are supposed to leave the river and cross-over to Transylvanian territory:

We took it, that somewhere about the 47th degree, north latitude, would be the place chosen for crossing the country between the river and the Carpathians. (Chapter 26, Jonathan Harker’s Journal, Entry for 30 October)[10]

“Only recently, the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos discovered the site the Irish novelist really had in mind while shaping his narrative: an empty mountain top in the Transylvanian Kelemen Alps near the former border with Moldavia, ca. 20 miles south-east of the Borgo Pass.[11] De Roos also explains why Stoker chose to obscure this location in his novel and compares the vampire’s fortress to the Grail Castle as its anti-Christian antipole: It cannot be found on purpose, only by guidance. Harker is brought there by the Count himself, while Van Helsing and Mina – equally nodding off – rely on the instinct of their horses and the mounted men arrive there by following the Gypsies.”

If you have read the book and have seen at least the original film version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi, you know at least one place they have in common is Borgo Pass.   This is where Jonathan Harker disembarks from a coach to wait in an inn for the Count’s own carriage to come and fetch him and the village people try unsuccessfully to warn him away.

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

What you will learn from a few places on the Internet is that a hotel has been built on the spot in the Borgo Pass where Harker is supposed to have changed rides.  Romanian Tourism describes it so:

 

Borgo Pass

(Pasul Tihuta) 
Where: 277 miles northwest of Bucharest / 12 miles northeast of Bistrita

Note: Access by car only

 Borgo Pass (Bargau in Romanian), made famous in the opening chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is an oft-trod passageway through the Carpathian Mountains in northern Transylvania. Located near the small township of Tihuta, the pass peaks at 3,840 feet.

The Bargau Valley encompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore.

Here, you will step into a realm that the fictional Mina Harker described in her diary as “a lovely county; full of beauties of all imaginable kinds, and the people are brave, and strong, and simple, and seem full of nice qualities.”

If you travel via Google Earth, if you search for “Borgo Pass”, you will find the location, but the name for it on Google Earth is “Pasul Tihuta”, the Romanian name, not the Hungarian “Borgo Pass” that Bram Stoker used.  Once in Pasul Tihuta, search for Hotel Castel Dracula.  That’s the spot where Harker is supposed to have changed carriages.   Don’t be surprised that the modern hotel looks nothing like the quaint hamlet of the movie.  The Wikipedia article on Tihuta Pass states:

Tihuţa Pass (Romanian: Pasul Tihuţa; Hungarian: Borgo or Burgo) is a high mountain pass in the Romanian Bârgău Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) connecting Bistriţa (Transylvania) with Vatra Dornei (Bukovina, Moldavia).

The pass was made famous by Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula, where, termed as “the Borgo Pass”, it was the gateway to the realm of Count Dracula. Stoker most likely found the name on a contemporary map. He never actually visited the area.

Today the pass is home to Hotel “Castel Dracula”. The hotel was built in 1974 and is located at an altitude of

Hotel Castel Dracula Borgo Pass, Romania

Hotel Castel Dracula
Borgo Pass, Romania

1,116 m (3,661 ft). The hotel has become quite an attraction due to its architectural style of a medieval villa, as well as the sheer beauty of the location.

That being said, the next question that arises is if there is no Castle Dracula, but there was a historical figure on which was based, where did the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, actually live?

 

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

If you read any summary of his life, you will find that Vlad the Impaler was constantly on the move, either attacking his enemies or running from them.  Pinning down his abode to a single spot is difficult.  A good, brief summary of the most famous can be found at Romania Tourism.  You will note that most of the popular tourist sites have at best a tenuous connection to Vlad Tepes.   This is probably similar to the number of places along the US east coast that claim to be where George Washington slept during his campaigns in the American Revolution.

From what I have found during my Internet searches one of the best and probably most reliable articles on the places associated with Vlad Tepes is this one entitled “Dracula’s Homepage” written by a man who has apparently conducted extensive research into Vlad Tepes and the places associated with him.   The author describes for us which spots were locations where Vlad Tepes actually lived as opposed to ones that the tourism industry identifies with him, but which in fact may have little, if anything at all, to do with the bloodthirsty ruler.     The two locations described in this article as where Vlad Tepes spent a significant amount of time are Tirgoviste Palace and Cetatea Poenari.

The Tirgoviste palace is actually called “Curtea Palace”, where Vlad Tepes built the Chindia Tower.  If you search for “Chindia Tower” on Google Earth, you can hover just over Vlad Tepes’s Tirgoviste Palace and even go to street level to view the tower as if you were walking past it.

Tirgoviste Palace today (from Google Earth)

Tirgoviste Palace today
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chindia Tower from the street (from Google Earth)

Chindia Tower from the street
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search Google Earth for “Cetatea Poenari” and you will be taken to a secluded mountaintop over a narrow pass.   This place probably captures the eerie spirit of the novel more than any other place you will find.  If you have the Google Earth 3D buildings feature on (as I do in the photo below), you will see a 3D virtual representation of the castle, though the best views of it are from the dozens of photos tourists have attached to the location via Panaramio.

Cetatea Poenari (from Google Earth)

Cetatea Poenari
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The website “Dracula’s Homepage” mentioned previously has a beautiful description of what it must be like to travel to the castle along with some of its historically horrific background:

“If there is an edifice that can be labelled Vlad Dracula’s castle, it is the ruins of Poenari. Actually, this is a fortress (“cetate” in Romanian) rather than a castle, located at the entrance to the gorge of the Arges River, north of the town of Curtea de Arges. As you leave Curtea de Arges (itself an interesting town with fortifications dating back to the 13th century and Basarab 1), you drive over a secondary road through several little villages, proceeding up the Arges valley towards the base of the Carpathian range.The road reaches the base of a group of high, heavily wooded mountains and there on the rocky top of one of them is Cetatea Poenari – Dracula’s Castle. Even from the road below it is a forbidding sight. What strikes one is its inaccessibility, high on a mountain top and the entrance to the gorges of the river (the river, by the way, has been diverted by a hydro-electric project). Poenari was the castle fortification that Vlad Tepes forced the nobles of Tirgoviste to build. The nobles were forced to walk the distance from Tirgoviste to the Arges (quite considerable by road – probably about 60 km overland) and then drag the material up that mountain to build the castle.

Foot BridgeTo get to the top, one has to walk up almost 1500 steps. But the effort is certainly worth it. As you approach the magnificent ruin (last 50 steps or so) the scene is totally Gothic. There is the outline of the castle perched on the top of this rock, seeming to grow out of the very mountain itself. It covers the full space at the top, has a sheer drop on three sides, and is barely accessible by a small bridge near the top of the steps.

“I have returned to this site three times, as it is one of my favorite places in Romania: not only because of the sense of history but the magnificent scenery. One particular view (looking northwest) is spectacular – just the way you might picture the landscape around Dracula’s Castle in Stoker’s novel (though Stoker knew nothing about this place).

“This is the route that, according to local legend, Vlad took in order to escape into Transylvania from the Turks in 1462. He was assisted in his efforts by the villagers of nearby Arefu, where many narratives about Vlad still live in their oral culture.
Pass

“Then there is the southern wall of the castle – a sheer drop!

Southern Wall

“This is where, according to another local legend, Vlad Tepes’ first wife flung herself, committing suicide rather than being taken captive by the advancing Turks. This castle is where Vlad would go for refuge in the face of advancing enemies. And from its towers he had a commanding view of anyone approaching from any direction. It was practically impenetrable.”

If you like horror, I highly recommend reading up on the historical Vlad Tepes and his reign.  You will find actual terrors that would make any of the ficitional Draculas look like TV’s Mr. Rogers in comparison.

If, during your virtual journeys through the worlds of the fictional Count Dracula and his historical counterpart, Vlad Tepes, encounter any fascinating places or adventures, please feel free to share them via the comments section below.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Horror at Project Gutenberg

100_1736

The blogger on the banks of the San Juan River, Farmington, New Mexico, 2013

If you are an avid reader (of anything) and are not familiar with Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page), you are doing yourself a great disservice. As they state on their homepage:

Project Gutenberg offers over 46,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.

We carry high quality ebooks: All our ebooks were previously published by bona fide publishers. We digitized and diligently proofread them with the help of thousands of volunteers.

No fee or registration is required, but if you find Project Gutenberg useful, we kindly ask you to donate a small amount so we can buy and digitize more books. Other ways to help include digitizing more books,recording audio books, or reporting errors.

Over 100,000 free ebooks are available through our Partners, Affiliates and ResourcesOur ebooks may be freely used in the United States because most are not protected by U.S. copyright law, usually because their copyrights have expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright laws of their countries before downloading or redistributing our ebooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.”

As they state, most of these books are available because their copyrights have expired, making them usually quite dated.  However, for anyone with a bent for the historical, Project Gutenberg is a gold mine.  I did a quick search for “horror” on their website and received 169 titles in response.  For a few, the only relation to the horror genre was the word “horror” in the title (such as “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases–which is a horrible subject, but is non-fiction vs. horror fiction).  However, many are the classics or founding works of the horror genre, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Vampyre: a Tale by John William Polidori, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Fantome de’l Opera (Phantom of the Opera) by Gaston Leroux, many works by Edgar Allan Poe,  The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, and many others.

Please take the time to visit this treasure trove of literature and of the horror genre, and if you are so inclined, please consider making a donation (via their website) to support their worthy cause.

Thoughts?  Comments?

The Real Dracula’s Castle — Stop 2 of the World’s Greatest Horror Locales

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula 1931

Bela Lugosi
as Count Dracula
1931

The first thing you learn about the historical Castle Dracula is that it is a fictional location from Bram Stoker’s imagination.  The Wikipedia article does a nice job of summarizing the history of the fictional abode and of analyzing the novel for clues to its supposed locale.   The most precise it comes to identifying the spot of Dracula’s Castle is:

“The site of the Vampire’s home has always been one of the greatest mysteries of the novel. The route descriptions hardly mention any recognisable landmarks, but focus on evocations of a wild and snow-covered landscape, haunted by howling wolves and lit by supernatural blue flames at night. Because of this conspicuous vagueness, the annotated Dracula editions by Leonard Wolf,[6] Clive Leatherdale[7] and Leslie Klinger[8] simply assume Bram Stoker had no specific location in mind and place the Castle in or immediately next to the Borgo Pass. As a consequence, these editions take for granted that the Count’s men, pursued by Harker, Holmwood, Morris and Seward, follow the Bistrița River all the way up to Vatra Dornei and then travel the route through the Borgo Pass already taken by Van Helsing and Mina. The same view is adopted by Andrew Connell in his Google Map mark-ups.[9] These theories ignore or misinterpret Stoker’s hint that around the 47th Parallel, the Count’s men are supposed to leave the river and cross-over to Transylvanian territory:

We took it, that somewhere about the 47th degree, north latitude, would be the place chosen for crossing the country between the river and the Carpathians. (Chapter 26, Jonathan Harker’s Journal, Entry for 30 October)[10]

“Only recently, the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos discovered the site the Irish novelist really had in mind while shaping his narrative: an empty mountain top in the Transylvanian Kelemen Alps near the former border with Moldavia, ca. 20 miles south-east of the Borgo Pass.[11] De Roos also explains why Stoker chose to obscure this location in his novel and compares the vampire’s fortress to the Grail Castle as its anti-Christian antipole: It cannot be found on purpose, only by guidance. Harker is brought there by the Count himself, while Van Helsing and Mina – equally nodding off – rely on the instinct of their horses and the mounted men arrive there by following the Gypsies.”

If you have read the book and have seen at least the original film version of Dracula with Bela Lugosi, you know at least one place they have in common is Borgo Pass.   This is where Jonathan Harker disembarks from a coach to wait in an inn for the Count’s own carriage to come and fetch him and the village people try unsuccessfully to warn him away.

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

Aerial view of the Hotel Castel Dracula in the Borgo Pass from Google Earth

What you will learn from a few places on the Internet is that a hotel has been built on the spot in the Borgo Pass where Harker is supposed to have changed rides.  Romanian Tourism describes it so:

 

 

 

 

Borgo Pass

(Pasul Tihuta) 
Where: 277 miles northwest of Bucharest / 12 miles northeast of Bistrita

Note: Access by car only

 Borgo Pass (Bargau in Romanian), made famous in the opening chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is an oft-trod passageway through the Carpathian Mountains in northern Transylvania. Located near the small township of Tihuta, the pass peaks at 3,840 feet.

The Bargau Valley encompasses some of the most beautiful unspoiled mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides, ideal bases for hiking, riding or discovering their vivid tapestry of old customs, handicrafts and folklore.

Here, you will step into a realm that the fictional Mina Harker described in her diary as “a lovely county; full of beauties of all imaginable kinds, and the people are brave, and strong, and simple, and seem full of nice qualities.”

If you travel via Google Earth, if you search for “Borgo Pass”, you will find the location, but the name for it on Google Earth is “Pasul Tihuta”, the Romanian name, not the Hungarian “Borgo Pass” that Bram Stoker used.  Once in Pasul Tihuta, search for Hotel Castel Dracula.  That’s the spot where Harker is supposed to have changed carriages.   Don’t be surprised that the modern hotel looks nothing like the quaint hamlet of the movie.  The Wikipedia article on Tihuta Pass states:

Tihuţa Pass (Romanian: Pasul Tihuţa; Hungarian: Borgo or Burgo) is a high mountain pass in the Romanian Bârgău Mountains (Eastern Carpathian Mountains) connecting Bistriţa (Transylvania) with Vatra Dornei (Bukovina, Moldavia).

The pass was made famous by Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula, where, termed as “the Borgo Pass”, it was the gateway to the realm of Count Dracula. Stoker most likely found the name on a contemporary map. He never actually visited the area.

Today the pass is home to Hotel “Castel Dracula”. The hotel was built in 1974 and is located at an altitude of

Hotel Castel Dracula Borgo Pass, Romania

Hotel Castel Dracula
Borgo Pass, Romania

1,116 m (3,661 ft). The hotel has become quite an attraction due to its architectural style of a medieval villa, as well as the sheer beauty of the location.

 

That being said, the next question that arises is if there is no Castle Dracula, but there was a historical figure on which was based, where did the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, actually live?

 

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

A woodcut of the historical Vlad Tepes from about the sixteenth century

If you read any summary of his life, you will find that Vlad the Impaler was constantly on the move, either attacking his enemies or running from them.  Pinning down his abode to a single spot is difficult.  A good, brief summary of the most famous can be found at Romania Tourism.  You will note that most of the popular tourist sites have at best a tenuous connection to Vlad Tepes.   This is probably similar to the number of places along the US east coast that claim to be where George Washington slept during his campaigns in the American Revolution.

From what I have found during my Internet searches one of the best and probably most reliable articles on the places associated with Vlad Tepes is this one entitled “Dracula’s Homepage” written by a man who has apparently conducted extensive research into Vlad Tepes and the places associated with him.   The author describes for us which spots were locations where Vlad Tepes actually lived as opposed to ones that the tourism industry identifies with him, but which in fact may have little, if anything at all, to do with the bloodthirsty ruler.     The two locations described in this article as where Vlad Tepes spent a significant amount of time are Tirgoviste Palace and Cetatea Poenari.  

The Tirgoviste palace is actually called “Curtea Palace”, where Vlad Tepes built the Chindia Tower.  If you search for “Chindia Tower” on Google Earth, you can hover just over Vlad Tepes’s Tirgoviste Palace and even go to street level to view the tower as if you were walking past it.

Tirgoviste Palace today  (from Google Earth)

Tirgoviste Palace today
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chindia Tower from the street  (from Google Earth)

Chindia Tower from the street
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search Google Earth for “Cetatea Poenari” and you will be taken to a secluded mountaintop over a narrow pass.   This place probably captures the eerie spirit of the novel more than any other place you will find.  If you have the Google Earth 3D buildings feature on (as I do in the photo below), you will see a 3D virtual representation of the castle, though the best views of it are from the dozens of photos tourists have attached to the location via Panaramio.

Cetatea Poenari (from Google Earth)

Cetatea Poenari
(from Google Earth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The website “Dracula’s Homepage” mentioned previously has a beautiful description of what it must be like to travel to the castle along with some of its historically horrific background: 

“If there is an edifice that can be labelled Vlad Dracula’s castle, it is the ruins of Poenari. Actually, this is a fortress (“cetate” in Romanian) rather than a castle, located at the entrance to the gorge of the Arges River, north of the town of Curtea de Arges. As you leave Curtea de Arges (itself an interesting town with fortifications dating back to the 13th century and Basarab 1), you drive over a secondary road through several little villages, proceeding up the Arges valley towards the base of the Carpathian range.The road reaches the base of a group of high, heavily wooded mountains and there on the rocky top of one of them is Cetatea Poenari – Dracula’s Castle. Even from the road below it is a forbidding sight. What strikes one is its inaccessibility, high on a mountain top and the entrance to the gorges of the river (the river, by the way, has been diverted by a hydro-electric project). Poenari was the castle fortification that Vlad Tepes forced the nobles of Tirgoviste to build. The nobles were forced to walk the distance from Tirgoviste to the Arges (quite considerable by road – probably about 60 km overland) and then drag the material up that mountain to build the castle.

Foot BridgeTo get to the top, one has to walk up almost 1500 steps. But the effort is certainly worth it. As you approach the magnificent ruin (last 50 steps or so) the scene is totally Gothic. There is the outline of the castle perched on the top of this rock, seeming to grow out of the very mountain itself. It covers the full space at the top, has a sheer drop on three sides, and is barely accessible by a small bridge near the top of the steps.

“I have returned to this site three times, as it is one of my favorite places in Romania: not only because of the sense of history but the magnificent scenery. One particular view (looking northwest) is spectacular – just the way you might picture the landscape around Dracula’s Castle in Stoker’s novel (though Stoker knew nothing about this place).

“This is the route that, according to local legend, Vlad took in order to escape into Transylvania from the Turks in 1462. He was assisted in his efforts by the villagers of nearby Arefu, where many narratives about Vlad still live in their oral culture.
Pass

“Then there is the southern wall of the castle – a sheer drop!

Southern Wall

“This is where, according to another local legend, Vlad Tepes’ first wife flung herself, committing suicide rather than being taken captive by the advancing Turks. This castle is where Vlad would go for refuge in the face of advancing enemies. And from its towers he had a commanding view of anyone approaching from any direction. It was practically impenetrable.”

If you like horror, I highly recommend reading up on the historical Vlad Tepes and his reign.  You will find actual terrors that would make any of the ficitional Draculas look like TV’s Mr. Rogers in comparison. 

If, during your virtual journeys through the worlds of the fictional Count Dracula and his historical counterpart, Vlad Tepes, encounter any fascinating places or adventures, please feel free to share them via the comments section below.

Thoughts?  Comments?

Guest Blog: Voivode vs. Vampire – Dracula in Modern Literature | Interesting Literature

Portrait of Vlad Tepes  (Vlad the Impaler)  from Ambras Castle, Austria, 16th century Believed to have been copied from a lost original. Source:  Wikimedia

Portrait of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler)
from Ambras Castle, Austria, 16th century
Probably copied from a lost original.
Source: Wikimedia

 

If you would like a look at the influence of the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, upon modern literature as well as upon Bram Stoker’s novel, here is your article.  The author is Gemma Norman, a first-year PhD student in Ottoman studies at the University of Birmingham.

Guest Blog: Voivode vs. Vampire – Dracula in Modern Literature | Interesting Literature.

The Best Literary Facts from the Twitterverse

http://interestingliterature.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/the-best-literary-facts-from-the-twitterverse/

Follow the link above for some fascinating literary tidbits.   If you don’t have the time to wade through all for the horror triva, here they are:

Bram Stoker’s wife, Florence Balcombe, was previously suitored by Oscar Wilde. (@l0lhey)

In 1862, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton was offered the chance to be King of Greece. (@LeighaMcR)

Dickens & Poe were friends. 3 letters between them survive (alas, letters don’t mention of the death of Dickens’ pet raven). (@LauraShovan)

 Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for those of you not into horror esoterica, was a well-known writer of the nineteenth century who dabbled in a variety of genres.  H.P. Lovecraft thought highly of his story “The House and the Brain”, which is included in the collection The World’s Greatest Horror Stories (2004, edited by Stephen Jones and Dave Carson).   According to Wikipedia, Bulwer-Lytton was the originator of some very famous and very frequently coined phrases that are still around:   “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “the great unwashed”, and “the almighty dollar”.  Bulwer-Lytton also invented that well-known line with which Snoopy invariably starts his novel in “Peanuts”:  “it was a dark and stormy night…”

Thoughts?  Comments?

Dr. Polidori and “The Vampyre”

Title Page of Vampyre 1819 (Note handwritten attribution to Lord Byron)

Title Page of Vampyre
1819
(Note handwritten attribution to Lord Byron)

On June 22, I was continuing my reading of Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” when I encountered an interesting tidbit.   When Mary Shelley was writing Frankenstein in the famous competition with her husband, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, another competitor was Dr. John William Polidori, whose story story from that competition, “The Vampyre”, went on to be the only other work of that competition that went on to achieve any sort of renown (according to Lovecraft).

Wikipedia has an interesting explanation for the title page above:

“The Vampyre” was first published on 1 April 1819 by Henry Colburn in the New Monthly Magazine with the false attribution “A Tale by Lord Byron“. The name of the work’s protagonist, “Lord Ruthven“, added to this assumption, for that name was originally used in Lady Caroline Lamb‘s novel Glenarvon (from the same publisher), in which a thinly-disguised Byron figure was also named Lord Ruthven. Despite repeated denials by Byron and Polidori, the authorship often went unclarified…Later printings removed Byron’s name and added Polidori’s name to the title page.

Go to this link for the Project Gutenberg etext of “Vampyre”.  Modern printings can be found at the Open Library.

John William Polidori 1795-1821 (from Wikimedia)

John William Polidori
1795-1821
(from Wikimedia)

Another couple of interesting notes from the Wikipedia article on The Vampyre:

“The story was an immediate popular success, partly because of the Byron attribution and partly because it exploited the gothic horror predilections of the public. Polidori transformed the vampire from a character in folklore into the form that is recognized today—an aristocratic fiend who preys among high society.[1]

“Polidori’s work had an immense impact on contemporary sensibilities and ran through numerous editions and translations. An adaptation appeared in 1820 with Cyprien Bérard’s novel, Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires, falsely attributed to Charles Nodier, who himself then wrote his own version, Le Vampire, a play which had enormous success and sparked a “vampire craze” across Europe. This includes operatic adaptations by Heinrich Marschner (see Der Vampyr) and Peter Josef von Lindpaintner (see Der Vampyr), both published in the same year and called “The Vampire”. Nikolai Gogol, Alexandre Dumas, and Alexis Tolstoy all produced vampire tales, and themes in Polidori’s tale would continue to influence Bram Stoker‘s Dracula and eventually the whole vampire genre. Dumas makes explicit reference to Lord Ruthwen in The Count of Monte Cristo, going so far as to state that his character “The Comtesse G…” had been personally acquainted with Lord Ruthwen.[10]

I find it fascinating that possibly the two greatest motifs in the history of horror literature (Frankenstein and vampires) were started at the same friendly competition between four friends.

Unfortunately,  Dr. Polidori did not live to see the success of the literary phenomenon he created.   The article goes on to note:

“He [Polidori] died in London on 24 August 1821, weighed down by depression and gambling debts. Despite strong evidence that he committed suicide by means of prussic acid (cyanide), the coroner gave a verdict of death by natural causes.[3]

Continue reading

The “Dracula” Conversation

 

 

I am a member of GoodReads.com as are several of my friends.  One, a gentleman named Tim Stamps, whom I have known since my college days at Eastern Kentucky University, recently posted a review of Dracula, on which I commented.  Thus began a brief conversation which I think you may find interesting for several reasons.   I have quoted it below, editing out any non-relevant personal matters (after having obtained Tim’s permission to post it).

 

Tim Stamps’s Reviews > Dracula

16399814

Tim Stamps‘s review

Apr 06, 13
I could only read this during the Winter months, when the weather is cloudy, dark and gloomy. When I read fiction I prefer the classics, to learn how people thought in earlier times. The actual character of Dracula was the most un-interesting of the characters in the book. It turns out that Stoker only knew Vlad’s Dracula name but knew nothing of his past, and the character is actually based more on Jack the Ripper.  Also it was interesting to read a book made up of supposed diary entries and newspaper articles – although most actual diaries and articles written by everyday people are nowhere near as long and detailed, especially back then when paper was scarce. I understand Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in the same format, and other books of that time did the same.  If you can find a copy, listen to the first half hour of this Coast to Coast show: http://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/20…
 message 1:      by      Phil          –            rated it 4 stars
Phil Slattery      Tim, if you like reading classic horror tales like Dracula, then you should definitely read Frankenstein. Others you may want to check out are The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the works of Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.  I have been writing horror lately and have established a blog on it that often discusses past writers of the horror genre. You may want to check it out at www.philslattery.wordpress.com.  You may find some of the authors I discuss of interest. One who is known more as a writer of science fiction than of horror (though the boundary is often indistinct at best) is H.G. Wells who wrote The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and others.
Tim Stamps      True, I definitely plan to read Frankenstein. Also have been planning on getting into Wuthering Heights and the Brönte sisters books. I’ve always been a fan of H.G. Wells, also Orwell’s dystopian works – still trying to get around to reading Huxley’s Brave New World (when I find my copy) – I can also add ebooks to a kindle, but the kindle doesn’t exactly replace paper.   I’ve depended on the movies too much – finding lots of extra details in the books that the films leave out. (I don’t really spend much time reading actually.) I’ll explore your site.. thanks! By the way, are there any horror films you really like?  Or gothic tales.  There don’t seem to be many recent ones that play into fears as well as the older ones. Some of the classics: “The Innocents” (version of Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”), George Romero’s “Martin”, “The Exorcist”, even “The Shining” and the early “Halloween” pictures.  Recent films like “The Ring” and “the Sixth Sense” have potential.   I read in your blog that to be a great horror writer you need to understand the psychology and emotions of fear. Perhaps horror screenplay writers nowadays need to go back to the basics – just slashing people up and showing gruesome killings isn’t enough to heighten the sense of fear.  They seem to have forgotten Hitchcock and his methods of manipulating people’s emotions, although that was a time when people actually paid attention to dialog. I don’t know what it’s going to take to make a great horror movie today. Is it even possible?
Phil SlatteryTim wrote: “True, I definitely plan to read Frankenstein. Also have been planning on getting into Wuthering Heights and the Brönte sisters books. I’ve always been a fan of H.G. Wells, also Orwell’s dystopian w…”
Yes, you are right in all accounts, except that modern screenplay writers need to go back to the basics.  They cannot go back to someplace they have never been.   They need to learn the basics first. Stephen King identifies three types of horror:  horror, the gross-out, and terror (the exact lengthy quote can be found on GoodReads).  Modern, popular, mass-market screenplay writers use the gross-out form to excess. The great horror writers of the past (such as Lovecraft, Poe, Blackwood, etc.) never described anything gross.  Yet their tales are terrifying.   There is an art to horror, and Hitchcock’s concept of suspense (i.e. terror lies not in seeing something happen, but in knowing that something is about to happen) is one of the best means of achieving horror.
There are great horror movies today, but one has to veer away from the mass-market and Hollywood to find them.  Independent films and small companies are your best shot:  someone who cares about the art.  Netflix and Hulu TV are good for finding these (and finding them cheaply at that).  The series American Horror Story is quite entertaining, though it can be bloody at times. Foreign films can be an excellent source with Japan, Korea, England, Australia, and Spain coming immediately to mind. I noted that your profile says you are in the Seattle area now.  Lion’s Gate Films in Vancouver, BC makes some good films (outside of the horrifyingly gross-out Saw series).
I have seen some good horror films lately, but am having a hard time recalling their names, therefore I am reviewing some lists of top horror films on line, but of course that isn’t helping much as the lists are mass-market oriented.  One that pops out now is the original Swedish version of “Let the Right One In”.  “Dagon”, a Spanish film based somewhat loosely on a Lovecraft story (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”) is not bad. The New Zealand film “The Devil’s Island” has some interesting ideas behind it, though it is quite bloody.  That’s all I can think of on the spur of the moment.
Tim Stamps      hi Phil, Sorry about “Seattle” – don’t know how that happened (I must’ve not filled it in – the site just guessed or something.) Anyway, actually I am (still) in… I love watching foreign horror… for 70s-era foreign horror, Dario Argento comes to mind, although he leans toward the gross-out variety.  Lovecraft-written films are always great. I’ll check out these you mention (and any others you run across) – if you come up with a list of interesting foreign horror for the last 3 decades or so let me know. I have one plug: watch for “Nobody in Particular”, a crime-drama I helped out on, being re-edited – should be out sometime this year.
Thoughts?  Comments?

Bram Stoker

528px-Bram_Stocker_1847-1912

For those of you, who, like I, have never seen a photo of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, here he is.    The photo is from Wikimedia Commons and is listed as being in the public domain.