Bela Lugosi’s Not Dead

Halloween is right around the corner!

This is, by far, my favorite time of year. I love the change of season we’re afforded living in the Midwest, when the morbid humidity of summer fades into the crisp evenings of early autumn. You start the morning with a jacket, strip down to your t-shirt by noon, then relax in front of a backyard fire in the evening. The trees are a glorious combination of greens, golds, reds, and browns, making the weekend drive to the cabin all the more relaxing.

Of course, then there’s the All Hallow’s Eve festivities. Dracula and the Wolfman are once again relevant (you can keep your Power Rangers and Sponge Bob costumes—I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the most frightful of all unholy days). That said, I felt it was time to break out a few Halloween-inspired illustrations.

Vlad Vintage MugshotThe first is Vlad himself. I originally did this illustration as clipart for sale at iStockPhoto.com, where it’s still available for download for a mere 3 credits (up until the middle of September, this image would easily have been 20 credits, if not more. And while that doesn’t sound like something an iStock contributor like myself should be exited about, trust me, the cheaper my images, the more available they are to your average Joe. That makes me happy. But I digress…)

In honor of Vlad, I thought I’d include a condensed history of the most famous as well as infamous of all supernatural predators, Count Dracula.

He started as the lead antagonist in Bram Stoker’s vampire novel, where Stoker originally named the character Count Wampyr. But in the course of his research, Stoker stumbled upon the story of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, also known as Vlad Dracula, and the iconic vampiric namesake was born. The name translates to Son of the Dragon; Vlad II, Dracula’s father, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, earning him the name Vlad II Dracul (Vlad the Dragon). In present day, the name Dracul also translates to the more apt devil.

Vlad III Dracula’s penchant for impaling his victims earned him the nickname, Vlad Țepeș, or “Vlad the Impaler,” though the nickname was acquired well after his death. It’s widely understood that Stoker did very little research into the history of Vlad III; in fact, he was likely unaware of Vlad’s true bloodthirsty reputation. Stoker simply liked his name. There are a few accounts of the real-life Vlad dipping his bread into the blood of his enemies; how Stoker missed that, but managed to imbue the same yearning for blood into his title character is an amazing coincidence, to be certain.

But while Bram Stoker certainly gave birth to the fictional Dracula, it was Bela Lugosi who gave the elegant and feared vampire his pop-culture identity. When images of vampires appear in children’s cartoons or the seasonal paraphernalia at Target, chances are the characters are wearing a silky black cape, slicked-back hair with a widow’s peak, and a war medallion draped around his neck. Even Bela Lugosi’s accent has become the stereotype for vampires of both the theatrical and celluloid varieties. No matter how many vampires have come since (sorry Lestat and Edward), Bela Lugosi’s Dracula has retained the roll of most recognizable, even for those who have never seen the original film. My own clip art is a testament to this, if not a mere reflection.

In the coming days, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster will all make an appearance in county lock-up, so follow my blog, check back often, and be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you think!

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