I’m not a Dracula expert, but I am in the loop of a small group of scholarly vampire enthusiasts and as a PhD candidate in literature, I also know quite a bit about textual readings and the limits of interpretation. So the article that popped up on Slate a few days ago took me by surprise.
Stoker’s great-grand nephew (Dacre Stoker), a secondary school teacher and athletics coach from South Carolina, has partnered with Hans de Roos, an “Indonesian-born Dutch art researcher and artistic nude photographer” to produce a new Dracula guidebook, based on some Stoker margin notes that could be latitude and longitude that seem to indicate a “remote mountaintop the fictional Dracula may—or may not—have called home.”
The whole Slate piece is so bizarre and outlandish it reads like an article from the Onion (which often takes boring, non-spectacular events and turns them into banal news stories).
So what’s at stake?
Bram stoker had never visited Romania but pieced together a story placing a dark castle on a mountaintop. Hans and Dacre think the mountaintop he had in mind is the Izvorul Calimanului Mountain (about a four hour trek to the nearest road). So they are picturing inviting vampire tourists to hike up the mountain to see… what exactly? It’s a remote, isolated mountain. Nobody ever lived there.
There aren’t any ruins. It may have been the geographical setting for a castle that never existed; the castle’s description on the other hand was probably based on Bran Castle (which has marginal ties to Vlad the Impaler, a historical figure only very loosely connected to the Dracula legend). “We got in touch with some local mountain guides and asked them to train some people, because we’re going to tell the world about this mountaintop.”
Bram Stoker wrote Dracula to cash in on the already trending Gothic Horror/Vampire books, and chose to set his story in Transylvania, an area of the world he’d never been in.
He placed a castle, probably based on descriptions or sketches of Bran Castle, on a mountaintop.
Now his great-grand nephew, having never been to the mountaintop, is nevertheless co-authoring a guide book seeking to turn it into another vampire tourist destination.
There’s so much wrong with this picture it’s hard to get a clear grasp on it.
While I applaud the enthusiasm for Dracula and vampire history (and their entrepreneurial spirit) there are much more interesting and effective ways to bring in new tourists to Romania.