Every childhood lover of vampire movies will remember the chilling line, "I come from...Transylvania!" No other place is so easily identified with vampires as Transylvania. Bram Stoker made this area famous by making it the homeland of his fictional character Dracula. Vlad Tepes, a historical figure upon whom Dracula was loosely based, was from Transylvania.
Transylvania is territory in central Romania; in fact, it's the largest territory in the country. It's surrounded on three sides by the Carpathian mountains. Romania has strong Hungarian and German influences as well. One of the more famous cities in Transylvania is Sighisoara, a beautiful medieval town. Of particular interest in the town in the house where Prince Vlad Dracul, father of Vlad Tepes, was born.
Throughout history, Romania has enjoyed a rich folkloric belief in vampires, even up to one hundred years ago. Emily Gerard, a Scottish woman stationed with her husband in Transylvania, did extensive research into practices surrounding death. In her book, she says: "More decidedly evil is the nosferatu, or vampire, in which every Romanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in heaven or hell." (The Land Beyond The Forest, published 1888)
Although Transylvania is a integral part of Dracula, Bram Stoker never actually traveled there. He did, however, do extensive research before he chose it to be the site of Castle Dracula. The castle was a fictional addition to the countryside, thanks to Stoker. However, the attention it has garnered is very real. Today, millions of people journey to Romania, and many of them go on tours of the castles in the area. Tourism has become a big business in Transylvania, with lots of souvenirs available for those with money to spend.
Carfax was the home that Dracula purchased through Jonathan Harker near London, England. Again, Carfax was a fictional residence in an otherwise very real area. It was located near Purfleet. And it was here that Dracula would come to meet the lovely Mina Murray, and spread his vampiric reign of terror beyond Slavic soil.
Movie adaptations of the book combined the asylum Stoker had located next to Carfax with the residence itself, and it became known as Carfax Abbey. This provided a much richer environment in which to stalk the Count. The most obvious example of this is in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), where the vampire hunters, led by Van Helsing, enter the Abbey to destroy the crates of native soil that Dracula had brought over with him.
With the modern age of vampire tales, it seems only natural that the vampire lairs would move on to the new world. And so it is with New Orleans, home of The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. Although the series takes you all over the world, it is this place which seems to mean the most. Site of the first book, Interview With The Vampire, New Orleans was a perfect hiding place for vampires during the years when the United States was young. Immigrants were arriving by the thousands, and disease was rampant. A few more dead bodies here or there wouldn't make any difference...
New Orleans has some of the most fascinating cemeteries in the world, yet another reason why it is beloved by vampires and vampire fans alike. Because of the swampy nature of the New Orleans area, nearly all graves are above ground, in crypts. But it wasn't always so. In the early days of the city, the coffins were still buried underground (or underwater, to be more accurate); however, the water would cause the coffins to float on the surface. In order to get the coffins to sink without delay, large holes were made in the bottom of the coffins so that water could get in quickly and force the coffin to sink.
By the 18th century, this practice had been abandoned in favour of above ground crypts. Today, there are 42 cemeteries in the metropolitan area. Lafayette Cemetery is by far one of the most beautiful.
Author: Angie McKaig