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Dracula may be Romania's lifeblood

Vlad
Prince Vlad's fearsome reputation may secure his birthplace's future  

SIGHISOARA, Romania -- Although the legend of Dracula is associated with vampires and the undead, it may help revive the struggling economy of the land of his birth.

Residents are hoping a conference held for Dracula experts could lead to a Dracula theme park.

The idea is endorsed and partly sponsored by the government, and could revitalise a community suffering from mass layoffs as unprofitable state industries close.

Academics from six countries gathered in Sighisoara, Romania, for historical discussion of the infamous prince, including topics such as "The Forensics of Impaling."

Sighisoara claims to be the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, a warring 15th century prince who was the basis for Bram Stoker's fictional character.

Many Romanians consider Prince Vlad -- who impaling captured Turks and other enemies on stakes for slow death -- as a national hero for his heroic battles against the Ottoman Empire and his intolerance of corruption.

But Vlad only gained world fame after Stoker published Dracula in 1897, changing the image of the Romanian nobleman from warrior prince to the bloodsucking count that inspired dozens of plays and movies.

Demir Dragnev, a historian from Moldova, said: "Dracula's image has been unfairly distorted in time by oral histories and legends."

Still, townsfolk in Sighisoara, some 180 miles northwest of Bucharest, are hoping to benefit from the legend.

Experts at this weekend's conference had lunch at the Prince Dracula Inn -- the restaurant now occupying the ancient house where the historical Dracula spent his early childhood years between 1431 and 1435.

"They ate the Prince Dracula entree -- pork goulash and polenta, the medieval salad of onion, tomatoes and peppers, washed down with vampire wine" -- red, of course, said inn owner Codruta Gherca.

The tourism ministry has made a theme park a top priority, and negotiations are underway with foreign companies and investors.

A Dracula theme park would have been impossible a little more than a decade ago under communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, himself nicknamed "Vampirescu" by Romanians for economic policies that sucked the country dry during 25 years of rule.

But these days, Dracula tourists visiting the country buy T-shirts, postcards, paintings and ceramic figures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.



RELATED STORY:
Connoisseurs sink their teeth into the Dracula myth
May 27, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Transylvanian Society of Dracula
The Real Prince Dracula - Vlad the Impaler
Hammer Films
Bram Stoker
Dracular (Text)

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