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(Dracula 2000)

Conference Report

[N.B. This is a personal account only, and is not intended as an official report on behalf of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.]

The Second World Dracula Congress ("Dracula 2000") was held in the town of Poiana Brasov, Transylvania, Romania, from May 25-28, 2000. The event was sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (Romania) under the leadership of Nicolae Paduraru of Bucharest. The setting was ideal: not only is Poiana Brasov located in Transylvania, but it is in one of Romania's most scenic areas - the Alpine range that forms the southern part of the Carpathian Mountains.

My first reactions to the Congress come in the form of the inevitable comparison to the First World Dracula Congress, held in Romania in May 1995. For me, at least, this one was more satisfying, though some of the "magic" of the first event was missing. To begin with, those who attended the first Congress (and maybe some of those who just heard of it) will recall the confusion and logistical nightmare that was a consequence of the decision of the organizers to combine the conference with a tour. As a result, sessions of conference papers were given along the route, in Bucharest, in Poiana Brasov, in Bistritz and at the Castle Dracula Hotel in the Borgo Pass. In the best of circumstances, this would have been difficult to pull off successfully. In Romania, with the poor condition of the roads and the logistics of transporting over 200 people from point to point, the first victim was the schedule. Even though just about all he papers were delivered eventually (except for one, which was read on the bus returning to Bucharest), the confusion was for many a bit distressing (though for others it was undoubtedly part of the charm of living under "Carpathian time"). The second Congress was smaller (just over 25 papers and a total of about 50 participants), therefore much more manageable. Things kept pretty much to schedule and the tour was a totally separate entity. This time each paper was followed by ample opportunity for discussion. This, for me, is often the most beneficial aspect of a conference. That the Congress brought together scholars and aficionados from across the spectrum of interest in Dracula ensured invigorating and enlightened debate.

Another major difference was the presence of the media. While we did have a number of reporters, journalists and film crews with us for both the conference and the tour, we were spared the mass confusion of the more unique and newsworthy first Congress. Notably absent were the Romanian media, who seemed to have chosen to ignore this one. By contrast, in 1995 they were swarming around, filling local papers with mostly negative coverage, rooted for the most part in their inability (or unwillingness) to accept that we were not there to denigrate their historical hero, Vlad the Impaler. (The Romanian organizers' decision to exclude Vlad as a topic this time, leaving him as sole possession of a symposium in 2001) was a wise one.

As for the papers themselves, I would divide them into three categories:

1. Papers based on or related to Stoker's novel Dracula. These included "The Two Draculas" [the two 1931 films] (Victoria Amador, Western New Mexico University); "Hunters of Wild Beasts" (Katie Harse, Indiana University); "Bram Stoker and his Mythic Eastern Europe" (Carol Senf, Georgia Institute of Technology); "Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Representation of Dracula" (Sharon Russell, Indiana State University); "Dracula, the Gothic, and War" (Bryan Alexander, Centenary College of L.A.); "Dracula and the Blair Witch Project" (Stephanie Moss, U of South Florida); "Revamping of Dracula in Contemporary Fiction" (Margaret Carter, read in absentia); and my own paper, "Dracula: Sense & Nonsense".

2. Papers based on vampires (non-Dracula) in literature, history, folklore and contemporary society: "DVD: The Female Vampire and the Next Generation of Technology" (Paul Wiffen, Digital Media, London); "The Vampire in Contemporary Society" (Jeanne Youngson, Count Dracuila Fan Club - read in absentia); "The Positive Aspects of Psychic Vampirism" (Xenia Novi, University of Jerusalem); "Daughters of Darkness: Dracula's Diabolical Descendants" (Flora Zbar, U of South Florida); "Children of the Noir: Neo-Romantic Vampirism and Bloodletting Existentialism in Elitist Agathodaimon's Cerements" (Julio Angel Olivares Merino, University of Jaen, Spain); "The New York City Vampire Sub-culture" (Mark Benecke, writer, Germany); "Vampire Studies as an Academic Discipline & the Origins of the Vampire Myth" (Massimo Introvigne, CESNUR, Italy); "Francisco Nieva's Play, Nosferatu" (Robert Lima, Penn State University).

3. Papers on the nature of evil, satanism, etc.: "The Image of Evil in Post-industrial Society" (Sabina Ispas, Institute of Ethnography & Folklore, Romania); "Satan Super-Star" (Jean Marigny, University of Grenoble, France); "Diabolical Presence in America: Satanic Panics" (Gordon Melton, read in absentia); "Role of the Devil in Petrovic's Siege of the Holy Saviour Church" (Zoja Karanovic, Novi Sad Yugoslavia); "Evil in Contemporary Visual Rhetoric" (Silvia Chitimia, Institute of Ethnography & Folklore, Romania); "Satanic Murders in Colombia, 1998-99" (Alan Murdie, Ghost Club, London); "The Genesis of Evil in Religious Tradition" (Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici, Fellow of the Romanian Academy, Romania); "Traps of the Devil" (Elizabeth Pasquie, journalist, France).

A number of other events highlighted the 4-day Congress. One was a guest lecture by British film star Ingrid Pitt, best known to vampire fans for her roles in "The Vampire Lovers" and "Countess Dracula". Ingrid gave a talk about her experiences both as a child and an actress, followed by a special screening of "The Vampire Lovers". She was also available to autograph copies of her books, and accompanied those of us who took the post-Congress tour.

Other events included the launching of Elizabeth Miller's new (and controversial) book Dracula: Sense & Nonsense and the unveiling of British artist Roman Vasseur's project: a large wooden box of Transylvanian soil which is to be transported to London and displayed at the Austrian Cultural Institute. There were ample supplies of merchandise from Count Dracula Treasures, including t-shirts, jewelry, Romanian plum brandy (tuica) and beautiful Swiss watches featuring the logo of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula.

The Congress was a great success. No doubt a third will be held five years from now. In the meantime, smaller symposia are held each year in May by the Romanian TSD. In 2001, the theme will be the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.

Elizabeth Miller

June, 2000

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