Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

10 Blood-Curdling Facts About Dracula

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Dracula needs no introduction, but we’ll give him one anyway: Bram Stoker’s vampire, a Transylvanian count who turns into a bat, sleeps in coffins, and drinks the blood of the living, is the quintessential horror villain. And in true undead style, he holds up well—he’s as creepy today as he was when Stoker invented him in 1897.


Carl savich // Wikimedia Commons

As was apparently common among Victorian gothic fiction, Dracula supposedly came from a nightmare ... one possibly caused by bad seafood. According to biographer Harry Ludlam, Stoker said he was compelled to pen the tale after dreaming of “a vampire king rising from the tomb”—following a "helping of dressed crab at supper.” While the fare might not have actually had anything to do with what he dreamt that night, Stoker’s private working notes show him revisiting the frightening vision. In March 1890, he wrote, “young man goes out—sees girls. One tries to kiss him not on the lips but throat. Old Count interferes—rage and fury diabolical. ‘This man belongs to me. I want him.’” Whether this is the actual nightmare or the beginning of Jonathan Harker’s story is unclear, but Stoker returned to the dream repeatedly while writing the book.


Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Google books), Wikimedia Commons

In 1816, on a gloomy day in Lake Geneva, Lord Byron proposed a ghost story contest that led to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. It was also the birth of The Vampyre by John Polidori, he first-ever vampire story written in English. Polidori was Byron’s personal physician and he may have based his aristocratic bloodsucker on his patient—which would make Lord Byron the basis for the bulk of vampire depictions that followed. (Other accounts say that Polidori stole a fragment of fiction that Byron wrote and used it in his story.) In any case, The Vampyre influenced Varney the Vampire, a popular penny dreadful from the 1840s, and Carmilla, a novella about a lesbian vampire from the 1870s, and, of course, Stoker.


Getty Images

Stoker began Dracula in 1890, two years after Jack the Ripper terrorized London. The lurid atmosphere these crimes produced made their way into Stoker’s novel, which was confirmed in the 1901 preface to the Icelandic edition of Dracula. Stoker's reference links the two frightening figures in such a way that raises more questions than provides answers, but no doubt confirms the terrifying real-life influence on his fictional world. 


Reginald Grenville Eves, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Stoker’s boss of almost 30 years was Henry Irving, a renown Shakespearean actor and owner of the Lyceum Theatre in London. Stoker was Irving’s business manager, press agent, and secretary. Like the Hollywood assistant of today, his job started early and ended late, with a lot of ego boosting in between. Some critics have suggested that the charismatic Irving was the basis for Dracula. In a review of A Biography of the Author of Dracula by Barbara Belford in the Chicago TribunePenelope Mesic wrote: 

Here, Belford suggests, was the aristocratic, tall, flamboyant, mesmerizing figure with the smoldering eyes and elegant long hands whose egotism and allure were transplanted by Stoker into the sexually ambiguous figure who could drain the life out of those around him and yet exert a fascination that made the soul-destroying experience pleasurable.

Whether or not it was inspired by him, Irving didn’t like Dracula. After seeing a performance of the story, Stoker asked Irving what he thought. Irving would only reply, “Dreadful!


Daniel R. Blume, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 

It’s believed that Stoker based Dracula in part on a Romanian prince named Vlad Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, who was known for skewering his enemies. Scholars disagree about how much Stoker knew about Vlad, with some insisting that there’s no proof he based Dracula on the vengeful prince. What we do know from Stoker’s working notes is that he read a book titled An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia by William Wilkinson. The book mentions several leaders named “Dracula,” including Vlad the Impaler, and how one of them attacked Turkish troops. While reading this book, Stoker changed the vampire’s name from Count Wampyr to Dracula, copying from a footnote: “DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL.”


Lenard denes, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Although Stoker set his book in Transylvania, he never visited the country. Instead, he researched the setting as best he could and imagined the rest. Most of his Victorian readers didn’t know the difference, especially since he added details from travel books, including train timetables, hotel names, and a chicken dish called paprika hendl.


Colin Smith, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Many critics believe that Stoker used Slains Castle in Scotland as the model for Dracula’s home. Stoker spent many summers in nearby Cruden Bay and was familiar with the surrounding sites, including these castle ruins on a hill. He was even staying in the area when he wrote the description of “a vast ruined castle, from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky.”


Dracula (1992), Columbia

In Dracula, vampire Lucy is killed by her suitor when he opens her coffin and stakes her in the heart. Stoker may have borrowed this from the experience of his neighbor, poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who, incidentally, was the nephew of John Polidori). When Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth Siddal died in 1862, Rossetti put a journal of love poems in her coffin, winding it romantically in her red hair. Then in 1869, he changed his mind and the coffin was raised in the middle of the night so he could retrieve the book. The grisly exhumation (some of Siddal’s hair came away in Rossetti’s hands) may have been on Stoker’s mind when he wrote Lucy’s final end.


Amandajm, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The working title of the novel was The Dead Un-Dead, which was later shortened to The Undead. Then, right before it was published, Stoker changed the title once more to Dracula. What's in a name? Well, it's tough to say. Upon release, Dracula got good reviews, but it was slow to sell, and by the end of his life, Stoker was so poor that he had to ask for a compassionate grant from the Royal Literary Fund. The Gothic tale didn't become the legend it is today until film adaptations began popping up during the 20th century.


F.W. Murnau, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain 

While Dracula wasn’t an instant hit, Stoker held onto the theatrical copyright. After his death in 1922, a German film company made the now classic Nosferatu, for which they changed the names of the characters, but still didn’t get permission to use the story. Stoker’s widow sued and a German court ordered that every copy of the film be destroyed. Luckily for us, one survived. Eventually, it made its way to the United States and developed a cult following. Today, it’s thought of as one of the definitive pieces of horror cinema.

The movies are what really made Dracula a star. He has appeared in more films than any other horror character—over 200 and counting—and that number doesn’t even include comedies and cartoons.

Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sylvia Plath's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Is Up for Auction
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

A Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that was awarded posthumously to Sylvia Plath in 1982 for her book The Collected Poems will be auctioned on June 28. The Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions says bidding for the literary document will start at $40,000.

The complete book of Plath’s poetry was published in 1981—18 years after her death—and was edited by her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. The Pulitzer Prize was presented to Hughes on Plath’s behalf, and one of two telegrams sent by Pulitzer President Michael Sovern to Hughes read, “We’ve just heard that the Collected Plath has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations to you for making it possible.” The telegrams will also be included in the lot, in addition to an official congratulatory letter from Sovern.

The Pultizer’s jury report from 1982 called The Collected Poems an “extraordinary literary event.” It went on to write, “Plath won no major prizes in her lifetime, and most of her work has been posthumously published … The combination of metaphorical brilliance with an effortless formal structure makes this a striking volume.”

Ted Hughes penned an introduction to the poetry collection describing how Plath had “never scrapped any of her poetic efforts,” even if they weren’t all masterpieces. He wrote:

“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.”

Also up for auction is Plath’s Massachusetts driver’s license from 1958, at which time she went by the name Sylvia P. Hughes. Bidding for the license will begin at $8000.

Plath's driver's license
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]


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