A history of vampires
Yes, there really is a placed called Transylvania: The storied region is a 39,000-square-mile chunk of Romania surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, the Transylvanian Alps, and the Bihor Mountains.
Vlad the Impaler — the real-life nobleman who would later inspire Bram Stoker’s fictional Dracula — earns his nickname by skewering enemies on long wooden staves and leaving them on public display. In 1464, Vlad impales 40,000 men, women, and children from one Romanian city after residents refuse to submit to his rule. Vlad even looks like Stoker’s vampire: He has a hatchet face, cold eyes, a long nose, and a flowing mustache. However, the real Dracula never drinks anyone’s blood: Mr. Nice Guy is captured and beheaded by the Turks in 1476.
Stoker’s Dracula, the story of the Transylvanian Count on the Mount and his plasma plagued palate, is published, becoming and immediate success. The Count’s creator was born in Dublin in 1817 and died in 1912.
Bela Lugosi, a 6-foot-tall, blue eyed Hungarian, begins a long line of heavily accented bloodsuckers on celluloid in Dracula, Universal’s biggest moneymaker of the year. When Lugosi dies in 1956, he is buried in his Dracula cape.
Christopher Lee dons cape and fangs for The Horror of Dracula, beginning a string of Lee vampire roles like Count Dracula (1971), In Search of Dracula (1975), Dracula Père et Fils (1976), and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1978).
”Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring: Seems he was troubled by just one thing. He opened the lid and shook his fist, and said ‘Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?”’ sing Bobby ”Boris” Picket and the Crypt-Kickers in their No. 1 hit ”Monster Mash.”
Al Lewis makes the Count look cudly as the family vampire in the popular CBS sitcom The Munsters. As Grandpa Munster, he never nips anybody’s neck (at least on camera) but he does change himself into a bat when the situation warrants. Today Lewis runs an Italian restaurant — Grampa’s — in New York City. They do serve garlic.
The original version of Dark Shadows (starring Jonathan Frid) airs weekday afternoons on ABC, spawning an occult following and a merchandising blitz that includes paperback novels, bubblegum cards, posters, board games, puzzles, Viewmaster reels, postcards, records, and a cookbook.
The Count, Jim Henson’s number-crunching Muppet, is introduced on PBS’ Sesame Street to teach children the magic of mathematics.
Vampirella, the full-figure vixen with a taste for AB negative, makes her debut in the pages of an eponymous comic book. Also in the archive: Marvel Comics’ Vampire Tales, Tomb of Dracula, and Chamber of Chills, as well as D.C. Comics’ I…Vampire.
General Mills introduces Count Chocula — an ”artificial chocolate flavor frosted cereal with chocolate flavor marshmallows” — in tandem with the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry and the blueberry-flavored Boo Berry.
In Daughters of Darkness, a lesbian vampire seduces vacationing honeymooners, and a mini-cultural trend is born. Others in the genre include The Hunger (1983), in which Catherine Deneuve bites more than Susan Sarandon’s neck, and the off-Broadway farce Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (1985), whose female leads are played by a man.
A black vampire, played by William Marshall, stalks the streets of Los Angeles in the low-budget chiller Blacula. The 1973 sequel: Scream, Blacula, Scream.
Two titans of monsterdom meet mano-a-mano in Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, in which Lon Chaney Jr. makes his last film appearance.
In Salem’s Lot, Stephen King’s second novel (following Carrie), a vampire terrorizes a small Maine town, giving his victims something diagnosed as ”pernicious anemia.” In 1979, the book would be made into a TV miniseries starting James Mason.
Anne Rice’s first novel, Interview With the Vampire, tells the story of a vampire named Louis and his 5-year-old vampette companion, Claudia, who suffers from a severe case of undead existentialism.
Bat’s entertainment: Frank Langella plays the 500-year-old Count in a Broadway version of Dracula highlighted by Edward Gorey’s spooky sets. Langella would reprise the role on film in 1979.
As host of SCTV’s Monster Horror Chiller Theater, the tongue-tied Count Floyd (played by Joe Flaherty) introduces faux films like 3-D House of Pancakes and 3-D House of Representatives. ”Ooooooo! Scaaaaaarrrry, boys and girls!”
The cheesy B-movie Dracula’s Dog (originally titled Zoltan, Hound of Dracula) arrives, starring a four-legged villain with a bite much worse than his bark.
The squeaky-clean teen detectives encounter the Count in the Putnam kids’ book Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Meet Dracula.
Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, the Vampyre casts a bald, bold-dribbling Klaus Kinski as the Count.
The British rock group Bauhaus rises to cult fame with the single ”Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
John Carradine stars with a bevy of bloodsucking babes in the jiggle-packed B-grade thriller Vampire Hookers.
Dracula (played by perma-tanned George Hamilton) learns to shake his booty at a New york disco in the career-resuscitating movie comedy Love at First Bite.
Sweet-toothed vampire fans snack on Count Crunch and Vampbite, vampire-themed chocolate candy bars introduced by the R.M. Palmer Company of Pennsylvania.
Vampire Geena Davis steals Ed Begley Jr.’s heart onscreen and costar Jeff Goldblum’s off in the horror spoof Transylvania 6-5000.
Grace Jones plays the first black female vampire in the kinky Vamp, set in a strip joint full of heavy drinkers.
An entire division of the brat pack (Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman) goes bloodthirsty in The Lost Boys, a thriller in which teenage Valley vamps set their sights on the new kid in town.
Count Duckula, TV’s first and only vampire duck, makes his debut on cable’s Nickelodeon. Duckula turns vegetarian after his nanny accidentally transfuses him with catsup, causing him to suffer ”uncontrollable urges for broccoli.”