Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Alternate meaning: Dracula (orchid genus)
Dracula is a fictional character, arguably the most famous vampire in fiction. He was created by the Irish writer Bram Stoker in his 1897 horror novel of the same name. It is an epistolary novel, that is, told mostly in diaries and letters from the characters, although Stoker also fabricates newspaper clippings, and even uses transcriptions from a dictation machine, then a very new device.
The story begins when Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, is invited to the Count's crumbling, remote castle (situated in the Carpathian Mountains, on the border of Transylvania and Bukovina), to hammer out a real estate deal; while there, he becomes a de facto prisoner, discovers disquieting facets of the Count's daily life, and is seduced by three female vampires. He eventually escapes the castle on foot.
Not long afterward, a Russian ship runs aground in Whitby, a coastal town in England. All passengers and crew are dead. A huge dog or wolf is seen running from the ship, which contains nothing but boxes of dirt from Transylvania: Count Dracula, in his animal form, has arrived.
Soon the Count is menacing Harker's devoted fiancée, Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray, and her vivacious friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy receives three marriage proposals in one day, from Arthur, Lord Godalming; an American called Quincy Morris who always carries a bowie knife; and an asylum psychiatrist, John Seward. There is a notable encounter between Dracula and Seward's patient Renfield, an insane man who means to consume insects, spiders, and birds, and other creatures — in ascending order of size — in order to absorb their "life force". Renfield acts as a kind of motion sensor, detecting the proximity of Dracula and releasing clues accordingly.
Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously. All her suitors fret; Seward calls in his old teacher, Professor Abraham Van Helsing from Amsterdam. Van Helsing immediately determines the cause of Lucy's condition, but refuses to disclose it, knowing that Seward's faith in him will be shaken if he starts spouting off about vampires. Van Helsing tries multiple blood transfusions, but they are clearly losing ground. On a night when Van Helsing must return to Amsterdam (and his message to Seward asking him to watch the Westenra household is accidentally sent to the wrong address), Lucy and her mother are attacked in the night by a strange wolf. Mrs Westenra, who has a heart condition, dies of fright, and Lucy herself apparently dies soon after.
Lucy is buried, but soon afterward the newspapers report a "bloofer lady" stalking children in the night. Van Helsing, knowing that this means Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Godalming, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down, and after a disturbing confrontation between her vampire self and Arthur, they stake her and behead her. Around the same time, Jonathan Harker arrives home from Transylvania (Mina joined him there after his escape from the castle); he and Mina also join the coalition, who now turn their attentions to dealing with Dracula himself.
Then begins the longer drama of tracking Dracula's movements in London and dealing with his intensifying seduction of Mina Harker. Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania, followed by Van Helsing's gang, who re-kill him and his three vampire women. Mina is freed, Quincy Morris is killed in the final battle, and the survivors return to England.
The novel is narrated very effectively by multiple voices — Jonathan's journal of his trip to Transylvania, Mina's diary, and Seward's recorded journal, as well as letters and newspaper items. Although somewhat crude and certainly sensational, the novel also does have psychological power, and the sexual longings underlying the vampire attacks are manifest. The pace is relaxed and atmospheric and the characters richer than one might expect.
Despite its important contributions to the vampire myth, several popular tropes are absent: for instance, Count Dracula is killed by knives, not a wooden stake; the destruction of the vampire Lucy is a three-part process (staking, decapitation, and garlic in the mouth) not the simple stake-only procedure often found in later vampire stories. Dracula also has the ability to travel as a mist and to scale the external walls of his castle. One thing Stoker definitely added to a vampire's qualities is the inability to be seen in mirrors, not something accounted for in traditional Eastern European folklore.
It is also notable in the novel that Dracula can walk about in the daylight, in bright sunshine, though apparently without the ability to use most of his powers, like turning into mist or a bat. He is still strong and fast enough to struggle with and escape from most of his male pursuers, in a scene in the book. Traditional vampire folklore does not usually hold that sunlight is fatal to vampires though they are nocturnal. It is only with the film Nosferatu that the daylight is depicted as deadly to vampires.
Following the publication of In Search of Dracula by Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972 the connection between Vlad III Dracula and the fictional Dracula have attracted much popular attention. Following them many authors have claimed that Stoker has based his character loosely on the historic Wallachian ruler Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Ţepeş in Romanian). In his six year reign (1456–1462) he is estimated to have killed 100,000 people, mainly by using his favourite method of impaling them on a sharp pole. However, it should be noted that the history of Romania at this time was mainly recorded by German immigrants, a group with which Vlad is known to have clashed several times. Indeed, Vlad is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off invading Turks with his brutal tactics; his impaled victims included thousands of Turkish Muslims.
The name Dracula is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by King Sigismund of Hungary (who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410) to uphold Christianity and defend the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad III, was admitted to the Order around 1431 because of his bravery in fighting the Turks. From 1431 onward Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and later, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the dragon symbol. The word for "dragon" in Romanian is drac (from Latin draco) and ul is the definite article. Vlad III's father thus came to be known as Vlad Dracul (Vlad "the Dragon"). In Romanian the ending ulea meant "the son of". Under this interpretation, Vlad III thus became Vlad Draculea, or "The Son of the Dragon." (The word drac also means "devil" in Romanian, giving a double meaning to the name for enemies of Vlad III and his father.)
Certainly Stoker did find the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history. This became a replacement for the name Count Wampyr, which he had intended to use for his villain. However recently many Dracula scholars led by Elizabeth Miller have questioned the connection's depth. It now seems likely that Stoker knew little of Vlad himself, other than the name Dracula by which he called himself. Certainly the sections of the novel in which Dracula recounts his history are garbled rephrasings of the one work Stoker's notes show he did consult on Romanian history, which gives few details on Vlad's reign, and does not mention his use of impalement. Most importantly given Stoker's meticulous use of historical background to make it more horrific it seems unlikely he would have failed to mention that his villain Dracula had impaled thousands of people if he had actually known much of Vlad's background, nor is Dracula ever called Vlad in the novel. Furthermore in the novel Dracula claims to be a Szekler (Székely in Hungarian) - "We Szekelys have a right to be proud..." - whereas Vlad is clearly an ethnic Vlach.
In writing Dracula, Stoker may also have drawn upon stories about the Sídhe — blood-drinking ghouls from his native Ireland — and the Dracula myth as he created it and as it has been portrayed in films and television shows ever since may be a compound of various influences; many of Stoker's biographers and literary critics have found strong similarities to an earlier Irish writer, Sheridan le Fanu's, classic of the vampire genre, Carmilla.
Some have claimed the castle of Count Dracula was inspired by Slains Castle, at which Bram Stoker was a guest of the 19th Earl of Erroll. However, as Stoker visited the castle in 1895, five years after work on Dracula had started there is unlikely to be much connection. Many of the scenes in Whitby and London are based on real places.
It has been suggested that Stoker received much historical information from Arminus Vambery, a Hungarian professor he met at least twice. Miller argues that "there is nothing to indicate that the conversation included Vlad, vampires, or even Transylvania" and that "Furthermore, there is no record of any other correspondence between Stoker and Vambery, nor is Vambery mentioned in Stoker's notes for Dracula." 
Dracula in Romania
While Dracula became the most popular Romanian icon abroad, isolation due to underdevelopment and, later, communism blocked the work of Stoker from becoming known in Romania.
After the death of Nicolae Ceauşescu, Romanians found out about it, and a touristic industry sprung up in Transylvania (and, to a lesser extent, in Wallachia). However, Romanians have mixed feelings about linking one of their national heroes and the vampire monster.
Historical places connected to Vlad Ţepeş are publicised under a Dracula theme catering largely, but not entirely, to foreign markets. Bran Castle, which has only a very tangential connection with the historical Vlad Ţepeş, now exaggerates that connection and promotes itself as "Dracula's Castle".  A dungeon-themed disco, catering to a mostly Romanian crowd and located in the basement of a former inn immediately adjacent to the Curtea Veche ("Old Court") -- onetime site of Vlad Ţepeş's castle in Bucharest -- calls itself by the English-language name "Impaler". The well-preserved medieval town of Sighişoara , Vlad Ţepeş's birthplace, seriously considered building a Dracula theme park on the edge of town, but apparently thought better of the idea: the park is going ahead, but in a different location. 
See also: List of vampire movies
The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, and an many movies have used the character as a villain, while others have referenced him in movie titles such as Daughters of Dracula, Lady Dracula, and The Hound of Dracula. An estimated 160 films (as of 2004) feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes. The total number of films that include a reference to Dracula may reach as high as 649 movies, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Most tellings of the Dracula story include not only the Count, but the rest of the "cast": Jonathan and Mina Harker, Van Helsing, and Renfield. (Notably, the novel roles of characters Jonathan Harker and Renfield are more than occasionally reversed or combined, as are the roles of Mina and Lucy. Quincy Morris is usually omitted entirely.)
One of the first movie adaptations of Stoker's story actually caused Stoker's estate to sue for copyright infringement. In 1922, silent film director F.W. Murnau made a horror film called Nosferatu the Vampire, which took the story of Dracula and set it in Germany. In the story, Dracula's role was changed to that of Count Orlok, one of the most hideous versions of the vampire ever to be created for a movie, played by Max Schreck.
The Stoker estate won its lawsuit and all existing prints of Nosferatu were ordered to be destroyed. However, a number of pirated copies of the movie survived to the present era, where they entered the public domain. Nosferatu was also remade in 1979 by Werner Herzog.
The 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning is one of the more famous versions of the story and is commonly considered a horror classic. In 2000 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
During the era of the 1930s and 1940s, the Universal Studios horror films made Dracula a household name by starring him as a villain in a number of movies, including several where he met other monsters (the most famous of which is the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in which Lugosi played Dracula on film for only the second and final time.) In these films he somehow gained control over the Frankenstein monster, and in a number of movies the monster acted as Dracula's servant, usually referring to the vampire Count as "Master."
The original Universal Studios films in which Dracula (or a relative) appeared (and the actor portraying the character) were:
- Dracula (1931 - Bela Lugosi. A second version was filmed simultaneously in Spanish, with Carlos Villar as Dracula)
- Dracula's Daughter (1936 - Gloria Holden )
- Son of Dracula (1943 - Lon Chaney, Jr.)
- House of Frankenstein (1944 - John Carradine)
- House of Dracula (1945 - Carradine)
- Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948 - Lugosi. This film is usually known as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, however the title given here is the official on-screen title according to the Internet Movie Database.)
In 1958, Hammer Films produced a newer, more Gothic version of the story, starring Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. It is widely considered to be one of the best versions of the story to be adapted to film, and in 2004 was named by the magazine Total Film as the 30th greatest British film of all time. Although it takes many liberties with the novel's plot, the creepy atmosphere and charismatic performance of Lee make it memorable and favored. It was released in the United States as Horror of Dracula to avoid confusion with the earlier Lugosi version. This was followed by a long series of Dracula films, usually featuring Cushing as Van Helsing.
In 1973, a major television movie version starring Jack Palance was produced by Dan Curtis, best known for producing the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Filmed in Yugoslavia and England, it was a fairly faithful and moody piece.
In 1979, Frank Langella starred opposite Laurence Olivier as a sexually charged version of the Count in a new film version. It is considered of uneven quality, though the John Williams score is superb.
In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola produced and directed a new version of the movie, called Bram Stoker's Dracula starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder. Coppola's story includes a subplot in which Mina Harker was revealed to be the reincarnation of Dracula's greatest love. This story is not part of Stoker's original. The soundtrack includes 'Lovesong for a Vampire' by Annie Lennox.
In 1995, Mel Brooks did a comedic parody, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which parodied all of the standard Dracula themes, but especially noteworthy was the scene where Dracula's reflection was noticeably absent in a mirror as he danced at a ball, to the horror of those watching. Mel Brooks played Van Helsing as an aged Professor.
The film Shadow of the Vampire (2000) was about the filming of Nosferatu, with the twist that Max Schreck, the rarely-seen actor playing the vampire, actually was a vampire. John Malkovich plays Murnau, Willem Dafoe plays Schreck and cult icon Udo Kier plays Murnau's cinematographer, a return to the legend he was a part of in 1974.
Patrick Lussier took a stab at the legend with his modern day Dracula 2000 (promoted as Wes Craven Presents Dracula 2000, Wes Craven was an executive producer; released in the UK as Dracula 2001). To discover how to destroy Dracula, Van Helsing (portrayed by Christopher Plummer) keeps himself alive with injections of Dracula's blood. When thieves steal the vampire and crash near New Orleans, Van Helsing and his ward must track down the vampire and save Van Helsing's daughter Mary.
The most recent major motion picture featuring Count Dracula is Van Helsing, a film based on the vampire-hunter Van Helsing from the book, only reinvented as an immortal action hero assigned by the Vatican to kill monsters. Richard Roxburgh portrays Dracula in this reinvigoration of the 1930s and 1940s Universal Horror monsters which also featured new versions of the Frankenstein Monster and The Wolf Man. In this movie, Dracula is somewhat of a super vampire and cannot be killed by the normal methods that can kill a vampire. He could only be killed by the bite of a werewolf. This is ironic, however, because he has the ability to control werewolves after their first full moon. He can also transform into a giant bat with a 15-foot wingspan.
Dracula has been a recurring character in many comic books, most notably, the Marvel comic Tomb of Dracula written by Marv Wolfman and primarily drawn by Gene Colan for Marvel Comics in the 1970s. In recent years he has even appeared as a villain on the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In the anime series Hellsing, the vampire Alucard (note: Dracula spelled backwards) may actually be Dracula himself, having been magically bound into servitude by the Hellsing family rather than being destroyed outright.
Like Frankenstein, Dracula has inspired many literary tributes or parodies, including Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, Wendy Swanscombe's erotic parody Vamp, and Dan Simmons's Children of the Night. Mina Harker is a member of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a pastiche comic book and movie featuring numerous Victorian characters.
Dracula has even been adapted for children's literature and entertainment, serving as the basis for several vampire cartoon characters over the years. Dracula (or at least his portrayal by Bela Lugosi) is the basis for the Muppet character named Count Von Count on Sesame Street. Cartoon vampires based upon the Count also include Count Duckula and even Count Chocula, the animated mascot of the breakfast cereal of the same name. On the comedy "TV channel" SCTV, Count Floyd, played by the station's newscaster with a cape and a ludicrous painted widow's peak, hosted horror movies.
- Dracula - HTML version of this classic book
- Dracula in Atom format
- Elizabeth Miller's Dracula Page - details on her Dracula theories
- Dracula's Gallery - Images from the various film and stage adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel
- Pilot guides: The real Count Dracula
- Vlad Dracul (1390? - 1447)
- The Straight Dope: Did Dracula really exist?
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