Return to WhenItWasCool.com Home Page

Dracula - Icon of Horror and Halloween

By:  Karl Stern (@wiwcool, @dragonkingkarl, karl@whenitwascool.com)

 the iconic bela lugosi as count dracula from universal.

the iconic bela lugosi as count dracula from universal.

Today, our loyal Patreon supporters got a trio of terror novels in celebration of Halloween- Frankenstein, Jekyell & Hyde, and one of my favorite of all the iconic monsters- Dracula.

As a kid growing up in the 1970's (I was born in 1971), Dracula was one of the most popular Halloween costumes.  Probably because it was simple yet iconic, recognizable, and downright scary.  The pale face, jet black hair, and a trickle of fake blood touched just enough on the uncanny valley to be unsettling. 

Even on a budget, a kid could put on some nice clothes, a cape, a little fake blood, and some cheap wax teeth and become one of the most frightening monsters of all- Count Dracula.

 Dracula halloween mask circa mid-1970's but a little make-up and some wax teeth worked better.

Dracula halloween mask circa mid-1970's but a little make-up and some wax teeth worked better.

 

By the time of my childhood, the classic Universal Bela Lugosi Dracula was already forty years old.  It was Lugosi's version that seemed to be the iconic Dracula image of the 1970's.  Marvel Comics was publishing the macabre Tomb of Dracula comic book series and based a lot of the look of it's Dracula on the Lugosi model.  Of course, every Saturday night creature feature late night monster movie on television was hosted by some Count Dracula knock off, often doing a campy, silly, rendition.  Count Floyd comes to mind.

 Count Floyd

Count Floyd

It was only in adulthood that I actually read the Bram Stoker novel and upon first reading it became my favorite horror novel.  None of the movies, not the 1932 Bela Lugosi classic nor the multiple modern Dracula re-imaginings, have captured the feel of the novel to me.  I suppose the Marvel Comics Tomb of Dracula series came close at times (and gave us Blade the Vampire Hunter) but few horror novels have set the atmosphere of the carriage ride to Dracula's Castle in the hills of Transylvania.

 marvel comic's 1970's Tomb of Dracula series.

marvel comic's 1970's Tomb of Dracula series.

Most of the Dracula and vampire lore comes from Bram Stoker's novel although additions have been made over the years through other movies, comics, and books.  By now, most people know that portions of the Dracula mythos originates in a real world ruler from the 1400's- Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) but more has been made of the connection than really exists.  Stoker borrowed certain names, locations, and imagery from the story of Vlad Tepes but Count Dracula as depicted in the novel and original horror movies have little else to do with historic Prince of Wallachia.

 a 1990's re-imagining of dracula.

a 1990's re-imagining of dracula.

Dracula (as we know him) touches on the creepy and macabre line between life and death.  The vampiric "undead" plays upon our fear of death and life after death.  There is lots of religious symbolism and iconography in the Dracula lore where man flirts with the arena reserved for God.  A lot of the horror movies and novels of the 1800's played upon that theme.  In a world where electric lights didn't yet exist and religion was more a part of the community than it is today, these themes were unsettling to most.

By the time of Bela Lugosi and the Universal monster movies, Dracula was already well entrenched in the horror culture and remains to this day one of the most iconic and feared symbols of Halloween.

Our Patreon Supporters get the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, as well as, Frankenstein and Jekyell & Hyde as part of their membership today.  Support us at Patreon and get these free gifts.  Higher level supporters get even more!