Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula was published on this day in 1897.
It was a significant cultural marker. Now, vampires had long been part of the cultural matrix. There were even other vampire novels in the nineteenth century before Stoker. But, it is Stoker’s Dracula who brought it into the culture’s livingroom, or possibly more accurately into the culture’s bedroom.
An unsigned Wikipedia article on vampires notes how Stoker’s “vampirism as a disease of contagious demonic possession, with its undertones of sex, blood and death, struck a chord in Victorian Europe… (merging) with and dominated folkloric tradition, eventually evolving into the modern fictional vampire.”
It just worked. And, in various ways it continues. There can be no doubt today the undead are alive and kicking.
Why, precisely, I’m not so sure. Of course, social historians, sexologists and various others all have opinions on why. Today vampires range from Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins of a couple of years ago to teen heart throbs featured in the Twilight series star-crossed hero Edward Cullen, to Blood Ties’ cartoonist/detective Henry Fitzroy. To, well, the list continues. Bad vampires and good, vampires for every taste…Me, this small reflection triggers recollections of my earliest Zen days studying with the late Roshi Jiyu Kennett. She was an avid fan of the camp television series Dark Shadows (not to be confused with the unfortunate movie remake featuring the above referenced Johnny Depp). We young unsui would pile around her bedroom sitting on the floor or even on her bed, sipping lapsing souchong (I can still smell the dirty gym socks odor of the Roshi’s favorite tea) and watching the tiny black and white television perched precariously atop an old dresser.
Thank you, Mr Stoker!