Dracula and Me: My Long-Term Love Affair with the Universal Monsters

give-you-a-handI spent my tween-age years totally obsessed with horror movies. Not the gruesome splatter flicks we have today, but the Universal classics – Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man and the Mummy. I had classic movie posters on my walls and I spent my free time alternately building Aurora classic monster models and reading every book I could find on the subject. Eventually I expanded out to the dark, rich and sexy Hammer Horror films and thanks to Dr. Shock, the mutated monster movies of the 50’s like Deadly Mantis, Tarantula and Them.

This photo was taken in my bedroom back in 1976. Did the rounded edges and you can’t tell but the photo stock has texture to it. Very hip. Don’t know where that rubber hand came from but I found that awesome chunk ring at the mall and thought it was very Barnabas Collins. (So Beast with Five Fingers!) On the far right you can see two of the Aurora models I built; The Witch and (I think) The Phantom of the Opera. Behind that is a glimpse of a Dracula movie poster. On the other side is a mug with a skull head that tilts when you drink and a vampire Valentine’s Day card. The photo on my bulletin board was one of my penpals. (If you recognize him, tell him I said hi!)

When I was in the 8th grade, I decided to write a book about the history of horror movies as an independent study project for school. My teacher Larry Rubin, taught me how to conduct research, organize and write a book. Now, I use those same skills to make my living. . . so thank you, Mr. R.

To write the book, I read hundreds of books on the subject. I carefully wrote out index cards for every movie and I wanted to cover. At one point, I could tell you the release year, the director, the star and some bit of trivia about 100’s of early horror flicks. But I soon realized that covering the entire history of horror movies was an insane concept. I still wrote my book but sadly, I don’t have a copy.

dracula-returnsBefore long, my horror obsession became vampire specific. Dracula was my main man, but I also loved Dark Shadows and Vampirella. But for many, many years, Dracula was my main man. I amassed a collection of vampire statues, jewelry, clothing and enough books to star my own undead library. I still have some of these books including a full series of Robert Lory “Dracula Returns” novels — my favorites.

The two things I cherished most was a tiny chunk of the Fulton Theater where Bela Lugosi first appeared as Dracula (if its not real, don’t tell me) and my floor-length, hooded, Countess Dracula cape. My mother, god bless her, let me wear that cape to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I’m sure she wanted to pretend she don’t know me, but at least she didn’t make me leave the cape at home.

My love of vampires continued for many years. My collection of vampire-related grew and grew. More books, more statues, more models, and toys. My family got in the habit of buying every greeting card with a vampire on it. I was flooded on Halloween, but they also found ones for birthdays and Valentine’s Day.

The biggest thrill was when I got to see the Broadway revival of Dracula with sets by Edward Gorey. So beautiful and inspiring.

dracula-braceletFast forward twenty years and my love of vampires and horror led me to the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There I was, using all the reporting skills Mr. R had taught me, to gather information for a series of articles about the show. I didn’t get the connection at the time, but now, it’s easy to see how my early love for the Universal Monsters led me to a director’s chair on the set of an amazing TV show and a job as a full-time writer.

Thanks Drac! I couldn’t have done it without you.

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