Odds and Dead Ends : New Slains Castle / Dracula’s Scottish Home

You always find stuff that you didn’t know when preparing these articles, and this little nugget it happens is my find of the week. It’s been well reported that Stoker got part of his inspiration for Count Dracula from Vlad Dracula III (Vlad the Impaler), though retro-actively working the figure into his idea, rather than being originally inspired by him. I was also aware that one of Stoker’s colleagues, actor Henry Irving, who worked at the Stoker-owned Lyceum Theatre, was widely considered another inspiration for the character. However, I was not aware that one of the largest inspirations may have come from New Slains Castle, up in Aberdeenshire, in Scotland.

Admittedly, my Stoker knowledge is, depressingly, severely lacking. The extent of it goes to lots of Dracula and its various adaptations, my undying devotion to The Jewel of Seven Stars (which people who read my section here a lot will know I bang on about constantly, but damn you, it’s an incredibly bleak and unnerving novel), and Lair of the White Worm on my phone which I’ve sadly never gotten around to. So it surprised me to discover that this castle, which is mentioned in The Watters’ Mou and The Mystery of the Sea (more well-read readers can confirm this for me), may not only have inspired the castle in Seven Stars, but also Dracula’s castle, particularly a specific octagonal room mentioned in the novel. It turns out that Stoker frequently went on trips to the area on holiday, and so would not only have known the area very well, but most likely been very familiar with the castle, both its location and grounds, and its interiors.

A brief history lesson first. The old castle was built in the early 14th century by John Comyn, part of the Comyns family who held it for many years. In 1594, it was attacked by King James VI of Scotland (who was also James I of England, successor of Elizabeth I, final ruler of the Tudor family) as the then-owner, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, was leading a rebellion against him. The old castle was mostly destroyed with gunpowder and cannon-fire, though remnants of it remain to this day. It remains a ‘scheduled monument’, a title given to architecturally important monuments in the UK and as such protected against change and modification.

The new Slains Castle (The one we’re interested in) was built by Hay upon his return from exile (the uprising hadn’t gone too well) a little ways up the coast. Originally a tower house and courtyard, it was expanded and changed over the years, with wings and towers built up as the centuries went past. In the mid 1800s, a complete redesign was ordered, turning what was there into a more contemporary, Baronial-style castle, giving it granite facing update. Large gardens were designed and laid out only a few years before Stoker visited for the first time. The whole thing was eventually unroofed not long after WWI, and has remained derelict ever since.

The history lesson over, this brings us back to Dracula, and the octagonal room in question. The novel has a small passage which reads as follows: ‘The Count halted, putting down my bags, closed the door, and crossing the room, opened another door, which led into a small octagonal room lit by a single lamp, and seemingly without a window of any sort.’ (my copy, p 21). It turns out that New Slains Castle has a similar room, specifically octagonal in design, and considering Stoker knew the castle well, the very unusual design seems to be a big red flag alerting us to the fact that New Slains is indeed where he got it from. Coupled with the fact that Stoker is rumoured to have been staying in, or near, the castle at the time he was beginning to plan, or even write, Dracula, it’s not too far a stretch to say that, even if parts of the castle weren’t intentionally lifted and transported to the rugged hills of Transylvania, there was more than likely a subconscious application.

Obviously, the location in the novel is nothing like the coastal views of the Scottish ruins, and there doesn’t seem to be any reports or rumours of ghouls, ghosts, or sunlight-fearing vampires lurking in Slains Castle. I would assume it’s now in the ownership of the National Trust, or some other organisation, so I’m not sure if you could just rock up and have a look around, but if you are ever in the area, might be a fun time to go and check out the real Castle Dracula.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Twitter: @KJudgeMental

Postscript: People interested in following up on this topic might want to check out When Brave Men Shudder: The Scottish Origins of Dracula, by Mike Shepherd. I haven’t read it, but it’s got an introduction by Dacre Stoker, great-grand-nephew of Bram, and plenty of 5 star reviews on Amazon. Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Brave-Men-Shudder-Scottish/dp/1907954694

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: All Things Dracula Video Review

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz compares and contrasts Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and then some more Draculas, Nosferatus, and television to Bram Stoker’s original 1897 novel. Penny Dreadful, Hammer Horror, Gerard Butler, Francis Ford Coppola and Netflix’s recent Dracula series all have a moment here alongside Dracula: Dead and Loving It because why the heck not?

 

 

Read all the reviews mentioned in our Dracula conversation including:

Penny Dreadful Season 3

Dracula (2013)

Dracula 2000

Dracula 1931

Dracula (Spanish Version)

Nosferatu

Horror of Dracula

Brides of Dracula

Dracula Has Rise from the Grave

Dracula A.D. 1972

Count Dracula (1977)

Dracula (1979)

Dan Curtis’ Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula: Dead and Loving It

 

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FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Dracula (2020)

Netflix’s New Dracula is Downright Frustrating to Watch.

by Kristin Battestella

Initially, I was excited for the BBC/Netlfix 2020 co-production of Dracula featuring Claes Bang (The Square) as the infamous Transylvania count terrorizing lawyer Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) before sailing to England on the subsequently cursed Demeter. Unorthodox nun Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) tests all the legendary vampire elements in a cat and mouse battle against Dracula. His survival into the twenty-first century spells doom for fun-loving Lucy Westerna (Lydia West), and unfortunately, the poorly paced, uneven back and forth between the Bram Stoker source and intrusive contemporary changes make for some terribly torturous viewing.

The Rules of the Beast” opens with annoying extras already calling attention to themselves as nuns surprisingly blunt about faith or the lack thereof try to make sense of this Mr. Harker and his monstrous experience. Beginning with the convent rescued is an interesting place to recap the preceding horror, so there’s no need for weird questions on whether Harker had sex with Dracula. Such sensationalism underestimates vampire fans familiar with the tale and lures new audiences with the wrong notes. After the opening credits, snowy Carpathian prayers, crosses, and howling wolves restart the story with the more recognizable coachmen creepy and ominous castle. The full moon, booming door knocker, and fluttering bats build toward famous introductory quotes as Carfax Abbey paperwork and tutoring in English etiquette force Harker to stay with Dracula. Sadly, the actors don’t have much room thanks to the orchestrated frame – the convent interrogation intrudes on the castle tension while extra zooms or hisses over blood and broken mirrors point out the obvious. Rather than letting the audience enjoy the eerie for themselves, the harping voiceover undercuts any ominous with “So it struck you as strange? And so your search continued. Tell us.” minutia. The womanly phantoms and gothic explorations take a backseat as we’re told how Dracula gets younger and Harker grows gruesome – ruining the sinister irony by giving away gory discoveries, bodily contortions, and spinning heads. Viewers anticipate the funhouse horror shocks and laugh as the undead leap out at the screaming Harker before another monologue ruins the quiet reveal of Dracula’s crypt. Spinning panoramas and intercut, fast-talking plans over-edit Dracula in that British heist movie or clever case closed Sherlock tone. Dollies into the mouth of the biting vampire are special effects for the audience instead of painful for the victim, and everything stalls for “You were about to explain how you escaped from the castle.” redundancy. It takes ten minutes to explain how sunlight reflected from a cross burns the vampire as if it’s some shocking revelation, but at least the nuns are ready with stakes when Dracula begs for entry at their gate with severed heads and convent slaughter tacked on in the final fifteen minutes.

Crawling hands, ship-bound nightmares, and onscreen notations introduce the captain, crew, and passengers of the Demeter in “Blood Vessel” alongside ominous cargo boxes, buried alive scratches, and dead deckhands. However onscreen chess parallels, unfortunately, fall prey to typical attractions between Dracula and our female Van Helsing. Characters wax on how books must immediately engage the audience and today’s horror loves a frame narrative, yet editors would ditch the prologues, bookends, and flashbacks. Once again, the episode restarts with one and all coming aboard – including Dracula and a Goodfellas freeze-frame to point everything out for the audience. Despite the Demeter disturbia, the back and forth setting is ambiguous, and flashbacks again disrupt the point of view. Humorous questions about going to the dining room when one doesn’t eat food fall flat, and intriguing passenger opportunities go unexplored in favor of baiting homosexual mixed signals. Dracula roughly attacks men from behind before wiping the blood from his mouth with the closeted newlywed’s napkin. Bram Stoker already wrote of the bite as sex metaphor, so treating the vampire suckling, flirtatious nods, and knee squeezes as a disease to demonize gay men comes off wrong. If this Dracula was going to address more sexual topics, it should have done so properly instead of toying with both characters and viewers. The turbulent ship is a superb locale, yet there’s no sense of space. Is Dracula attacking people and oozing blood in the crowded dining room or leaving bodies above deck in front of everybody? The disjointed editing doesn’t disguise the muddled scene, for key pieces of action that should be shown in real-time are withheld for later spooky flashes. Lackadaisical live-tweeting style voiceovers with a lot of “I don’t understand” and “but I assumed” interfere with the locked cabins, unseen travelers, and tantalizing murder mystery. Searching the ship, suspect evidence, and pointing fingers on who can’t be trusted are delayed for mind games and let downs from the first episode nonsensically tossed in here. Dracula toys with the crimes so he can solve the case with winks on what a great detective he is, detracting from Van Helsing’s book quotes and passenger tensions. At first, it seems so cool to see Dracula up to no good aboard the Demeter, but once the episode backs itself into a corner, one almost wishes we had just seen the passengers on the vampire deduction themselves.

Contrived answers as to how Dracula got out of his watery grave in “The Dark Compass” aren’t shrewd, just gimmicky – pulling the rug out from under viewers with chopped up, non-linear storytelling. After Dracula labors for over two hours on adapting the beginning of the novel – albeit with new intrusions – the series up and decides to move into the present, restarting again with trailer park terrors and in world inexplicable. The vignette style disarray encourages audiences to half pay attention to fast-moving scares with no time to ask questions as the beach raid seriously gives way to Dracula laughing at technology and playing with cameras. Underwater preservation, diving teams, accidental fresh blood revivals, and science briefings studying Dracula are treated as less important than his being down with the lingo or telling doctors his blood connections are like downloading memories. Dracula has a grotesque reflection showing his age, police bulldoze a house so he won’t have a roof over his head during the day, and seeing inside the bite reveals a unique abstract limbo. Poisoned blood makes him vomit and this vampire research foundation was founded by Mina Murray in Jonathan Harker’s name, but any intriguing background or choice horror gets dropped for deadpans like Dracula wondering why his jailers gave him a toilet and “Who gave him the wi-fi password?!” Phones, photos, and raves introduce viewers to a whole new set of characters, and where Dracula painfully dragged out earlier episodes, now the cemeteries, supernatural, and undead move at lightning speed. Problematic cancerous blood, suspect scientific organizations, and ill characters drinking the vampire samples stall thanks to sassy emails from Dracula read as a voiceover – avoiding one one one confrontations for glossed over montages skipping to three months later where there’s no longer any pretense at this being a gothic novel adaptation. Existential wordy on flavor, being in love with death, and suggestions that Dracula has lived so long simply because he is a coward afraid to die are thrown at the screen in the final fifteen minutes alongside Hammer knock offs and a stake through the heart dusting ripped right from Buffy. The “Children of the night…” quote finally comes in a fascinating sequence about hearing the still conscious dead knocking in their tombs, but the lack of paranormal follow through, forgotten up to no good foundation, and barely-there medical crisis are infuriating when this science meets occult agency versus new to the millennium Dracula could have been a series in itself.

It’s a lot to ask for the audience to like an unlikable protagonist with no redeeming qualities thanks to glowing eyes, gross nails, and tasty babies in bags. Claes Bang’s Count is white-haired before being re-invigorated as a well-spoken Englishman – he has the gravitas in serious moments inspired by the novel, but the jolly good clever retorts replace any menace. Dracula need not explain anything, yet our mustache twisting, almost camp villain wastes time mansplaining into the new century even as sad crescendos suggest we should be sympathetic to his crocodile tears. His powers are more cinematic convenience than supernatural, and the glib gets old fast as Dracula complains about exercise while he swipes left for his latest food delivery hook-up. Bang deserved to have a faithful adaptation to sink his teeth into, but the script has the character patting himself on the back before giving up just because the page says so. It’s also obvious Dolly Wells (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) is our Van Helsing when we see her. Using the Stoker text as she explains the undead and waxes on having plans not faith when dealing with those denied salvation are strong enough characterizations, yet Dracula sacrifices her action with too much reflective talking. Agatha doesn’t believe in God but stays in their loveless marriage for the roof over her head, but her serious study is hampered by super sassy bordering on ridiculous. She stands face to face goading Dracula over his invitation status when she isn’t sure of the no vampire entry rules, and their debates are played for temptation. Agatha admires and encourages Dracula, but her lack of undead information leads to deadly consequences. How can she be both bungling sardonic and grandstanding with not today, Satan speeches? It’s not seeing the actors acting per se, but the scene-chewing intrusions are too apparent as Agatha tells Dracula to a suckle boy before her great-great-grand niece Zoe swaps hemoglobin with him for some cryptic ancestral conversations – which could have been awesome if they weren’t tacked on in the last twenty minutes. Despite spending the first episode with John Heffernan’s (Dickensian) pasty, deformed, and desperate Jonathan Harker in an unnecessarily drawn out account, we never really know the character because so much of his development is given to others. His outcome is also significantly different than in the novel, and Morfydd Clark (The Man Who Invented Christmas) is surprisingly almost non-existent as his fiancee Mina Murray. Glittery Lucy Westerna loves selfies and making the boys jealous, but I wish we saw Lydia Wells (Years and Years) in Victorian frocks instead of modern cool and cliché party girl garb. Viewers are tossed into her pretty snobbery before skipping to her down low Dracula feedings, and the pointless cremation screams versus skin-deep beauty wears thin fast. Writer and producer Mark Gatiss (Coriolanus) as Dracula’s lawyer Frank Renfield Skypes with the Count over his human rights being violated. This awkward self-insert calls attention to itself with fast-talking legalese tut-tuts. Renfield asks questions the viewer has, but the answers should be in the story, not told by the writer onscreen.

Steeple silhouettes and gray skies open Dracula with gothic flavor, but sweeping CGI panoramas and bugs squashing against the fourth wall are irritating when we’re here for the flickering torches, winding staircase, stone corridors, and heavy drapes of Dracula’s castle. Echoes and shadows accent the candles, lanterns, portraits, creaking doors, and scratching at the window as boxes of dirt, rats, and undead adds grossness. Hidden laboratories and crosses would suggest medieval hints, but the snarling at the camera is lame and the should be disturbing vampire baby is as laughable as that delicious lizard puppet from the original V. Raw, furry black wolf transformations are much better thanks to birthing contortions, blood, moist oozing, and nudity. Likewise, the congested, ship bound Demeter scenery is superb with all the proper maritime mood, moonlit seas, foggy isolation, and claustrophobic horror tension before fiery explosions and underwater spooky. The present, however, is extremely colorful – purple nightlife, teal laboratories, dreamy red visions, and jarring pink filters. Enchanting abbey ruins contrast the high tech prison rotating toward sunlight to keep the vampire in his place, and the organization’s Victorian roots could imply a steampunk mix with the modern technology, but any older aesthetic is sadly dropped for rapid shutter clicks, strobe headaches, and onscreen text speak. YOLO! For once I’m somewhat timely on reviewing a new series – rushed to beat spoilers because social media compatriots were already talking about not finishing the First Episode here. Unlike Sharpe and Wallander, the three ninety-minute television movie-style episode season does not work for Dracula. Maybe this format is good for a Netflix binge where we just let the whole smorgasbord play, but if Gatiss and co-creator Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) had designed Dracula as six forty-five minute episodes instead of lumping everything together, it would have helped heaps in organizing the story between adapting segments from the page and adding new material or time jumps. Rumors suggest Netflix tracks viewing duration rather than series completion, so maybe bowing out after the initial ninety minutes goes further in their algorithms than if audiences had tuned out after a forty-five-minute start? The bang for instant viewing buck shows in the mess onscreen, and the only thing that could have made this worse was if it had actually been named Dracula 2020.

Narrative interference and deviations from the novel make this Dracula terribly frustrating to watch. This is the first time I’ve felt reviewing was an obligated chore, and at times, I had to take a pause because I was so aggravated. The Transylvania start and Demeter ride imply a novel retelling, but the convent shenanigans and Van Helsing ladies past or present suggest new adventures. Attempting both in a back and forth, short attention span frame only insults audiences looking for new vampire spins, experienced horror viewers, and teachers who can tell when the student has only read the first few chapters of the assigned book and just makes up the rest. Dracula isn’t scary – the Netflix and chill model is designed to make us awe at something creepy now and again, but the try-hard gore is dang common with little sense of dread. There’s so much potential for a faithful book interpretation as well as new vampire direction, but this transparent seemingly cool ultimately ends up being the same old horror same old and Dracula wastes most of its time on nonsensical absurdities.

I feel so scathing but I started with fourteen pages of complaints and made it down to six so I guess that’s an improvement? ¯\_()_/¯

For More Vampires, revisit:

Top Horror Television

Gothic Romance Video Review

Dark Shadows Video Review

Odds and DEAD Ends: Resurrecting The Queen

Resurrecting The Queen: Queen Tera in Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars,

When people think of Bram Stoker, they invariably think of Dracula. His novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars, is perhaps overshadowed simply by the importance of the vampire, but it is by no means an inferior novel. Detailing the attempt to resurrect an ancient Egyptian Queen, the novel went on to inspire movies such as Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, and in some ways the Universal adaptation of The Mummy with Tom Cruise. In this article, I will discuss Queen Tera, and the way she is portrayed as a constant threat to patriarchal society.

To note, I’m using a copy of the novel which includes the original ending and the second, revised ending. I’m basing my discussion on the original ending because it’s darker and, presumably, the direction Stoker originally intended. Also, selfishly, because I much prefer it.

Let us first note that, aside from Margaret Trelawny (and a brief mention of her mother), Queen Tera is the only female character in the novel, and she never utters a word. Her characterization is presented through the male characters of the novel; the documentation of Van Huyn’s book, or the recounting of Corbeck and Trelawny. The power that she exhumes, therefore, may or may not be interpreted to be being played up by the male characters to increase the sense of a threat that she poses. Note that before we are given a name, we have the warning that “‘The “Nameless One” has insulted them and is forever alone. Go not nigh, lest their vengeance wither you away.’” (P.84)

With all that in mind, what is initially deciphered from the sarcophagus reveals Tera to have challenged the male-dominated society of the priests, “‘who had by then achieved immense power’” (p.87). “‘In the statement, it was plainly set forth that the hatred of the priests was, she knew, stored up for her, and that they would after her death try to suppress her name.’” (p.88). Their motivation is her strength in being able to combat their overthrowing of the monarchy, “‘They were then secretly ready to make an effort… that of transferring the governing power from a Kingship to a Hierarchy.’” (p.87) The priests, to their own gain, attempt to get rid of her, “‘make out that the real Princess Tera had died in the experiment, and that another girl had been substituted, but she conclusively proved their error.’” (P.88)

Tera, however, shows incredible resilience thanks to her own determination and learning from her father, “‘He had also had her taught statecraft, and had even made her learned in the lore of the very priests themselves.’” (p.87). She even breaks the tradition of a male ruler, though others try to align her to it. “‘In the following picture she was in female dress, but still wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, while the discarded male raiment lay at her feet.’” (P.88). She is very much her own woman, not afraid to show her sex, going against the patriarchy set up for the Kingship, and against the priesthood. “‘She seems to have seen through the weakness of her own religion.’” (p.113)

Her intelligence is noted by the present-day protagonists, who even say that the mummy’s gender may affect their knowledge of the situation, that “Men may find that what seemed empiric deductions were, in reality, the results of a loftier intelligence and a learning greater than our own.” (P.164) Mr. Trelawny also states that:

“We might have known that the maker of such a tomb – a woman, who had shown in other ways such a sense of beauty and completeness, and who had finished every detail with such a feminine richness of elaboration – would not have neglected such an architectural feature.” (P.95)

However, Queen Tera possesses a knowledge which the others do not, which ensures their eventual demise and her assumed resurrection. As is noted by Carol A. Senf, “What makes Tera so overwhelming is her violence and ability to over-power the assembled experts.” (p.107). The science and understanding of all the men in the room cannot save them from Tera’s avenging evil, just as the priests could not stop her eventual revival.

It is this knowledge of another world, knowledge beyond that of the priests and the protagonists, that they fear. Women’s rights movements are slowly gaining momentum at the time, and just a few years before the novel’s publication, in 1898, Stoker’s native Ireland had the Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association arise from the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association. Gender politics is on the rise, and the female threats to patriarchal power could not have been far from Stoker’s mind.

This fear of female invasion to the modern patriarchal society is what makes Tera so terrifying. Killing dozens of people throughout the recorded events, based on a combination of ambition and supernatural power, fuelled by a wrath based on gender politics very closely linked to the rising gender politics of Stoker’s time, Queen Tera is an overshadowed classic villain of gothic horror. With gender politics still very much in the public consciousness in today’s world, perhaps revisiting this pushed-aside novel by one of modern horror’s founding fathers, is worth the time for all of us.

Article by Kieran Judge

Bibliography

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. 1971. [Film] Directed by Seth Holt. United Kingdom: Hammer.

Senf, C. A., 2010. Bram Stoker. Wales: University of Wales Press.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. United States of America: Universal.

 

 

KIDNAPPED BLOG, Loren Rhoads: Where Horror Lies 3

halogokidnappednotdateThis time of year, when the veil is thin, is a great time to make a pilgrimage to thank our forefathers in horror.

RLS grave001Robert Louis Stevenson, Vailima, Upolu, Samoa

The author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde decided to stay in Samoa in 1899.  In December 1894, when Stevenson died of apoplexy (a brain hemorrhage), he was 44. Local Samoans built him a hardwood coffin and stood guard over his body through the night. The following day, they cut a road through the jungle to his gravesite, which they called the “Road of Loving Hearts.” Working in relays, they carried the coffin to the grave. Stevenson was buried just below the 1560-foot summit of Mount Vaea in a tomb overlooking his family estate Vailima and the ocean.

Bram Stoker, Golders Green Crematorium, London, England

One of the oldest crematories in England, Golders Green may also be the best-known crematorium in the world. Over the years, many famous people have chosen to be cremated there. Some remain there in urns in the columbarium or beneath rosebushes in the garden. The current crematorium was completed in 1939. Its three columbaria contain the ashes of thousands of Londoners. London’s Cemeteries says Golders Green is “the place to go for after-life star-spotting.” My hero Bram Stoker is in one of the columbaria, which can be visited with a guide.

Some of horror’s progenitors have no graves.  After H.G. Wells was cremated at Golders Green, his ashes were scattered over the Dorset Coast.  Shirley Jackson’s son was given her ashes after she died in 1965.  Angela Carter’s ashes aren’t easy to visit either. I can’t seem to find where they ended up.

Any list of graves is likely to be deeply personal.  I’m working through visiting the graves of these writers, who have all inspired me.  Whose graves would you visit?

 

***************

CIMG0977-headshotLoren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy published this year by Night Shade Books. She’s also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. You can follow her morbid antics at http://lorenrhoads.com

Morbid Meals – Paprika Hendl with Mamaliga from Stoker’s DRACULA

EXAMINATION
My favorite vampire novel ever, hands down without question, is Bram Stoker’s immortal DRACULA.

This Victorian era novel may not be as thrilling as modern stories, but it is a snapshot of its era. Furthermore, part of the brilliance of the novel is the epistolary nature of its telling. For those not familiar with that term, that means it is told in the form of letters, diary and journal entries, telegrams, newspaper clippings, etc. This adds to the feeling of realness not only of the characters but their situation. You are there, glimpsing the past lives of these folks.

As part of his journals, the protagonist, Jonathan Harker, wrote about his trip through Europe, and he noted the meals that he ate along the way.

“I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendl,’ and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.”

It is from my tattered copy of Leonard Wolf’s excellent The Annotated DRACULA that I long ago found a traditional recipe for paprika hendl (also known by the name chicken paprikash), which itself comes from The Art of Viennese Cooking by Marcia Colman Morton.

Paprika Hendl
1 young fowl, about 4 pounds
2 tablespoons fat
2 large onions, chopped
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 cup of tomato juice
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Later in his journey, he has a breakfast of mămăligă (which is essentially a baked polenta). Here is a traditional recipe.

Mămăligă
3 cups water
salt
1 cup corn meal
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sour cream
4 slices of feta cheese (or other sharp cheese)

These two dishes, paprika hendl and mămăligă, have become a staple in my home after I discovered these recipes.  Though they were not eaten together in the story, my family loves to eat the chicken on a bed of polenta, so that has become our tradition. Below I share with you how we prepare the dishes together for one meal.

ANALYSIS
Serves: 5-6 people

Ingredients
Paprika Hendl
1 (5 to 6 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and paprika to taste
1 cup chopped onion (about half an onion)
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup red wine (or white, if you prefer)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream

Chicken broth
Chicken scraps from above
3 oz carrots, cubed
3 oz celery, cubed
3 oz onion, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Mămăligă
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 slices of feta cheese (or other sharp cheese)

Method
To prepare the chicken

  1. If you bought a whole chicken, cut into manageable pieces.
  2. You can keep the bones in the drumsticks, thighs, and wings, if you like, but do separate the breast meat from the rib bones.
  3. Remove as much of the skin as you can. Set the chicken pieces aside. Save all of the scraps for the chicken broth.

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Making the chicken broth

  1. Into a 7-quart pressure cooker, place the chicken bones, excess fat and skin, giblets, gizzards, small bits of the wings that frustrate people to eat, etc.
  2. Chop the veggies and add them to the pressure cooker, along with the salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
  3. Pour in enough water to cover everything completely, but make sure NOT to go above the “maximum fill” line.
  4. Cover with the lid and lock it down. On the stove top, turn the heat to high and bring up to pressure.
  5. When you hear the pressure release whistle, reduce the heat to low, for a steady low hiss. Cook for 40 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure and open the cooker carefully.
  7. Strain the broth into a container. You’ll need 2 1/2 cups total for the recipes here. Save the rest for later use. This will keep in the freezer for up to six months.
  8. Discard the solid bits — they have given their all.
  9. Can you make broth without a pressure cooker? Sure, but it will need to simmer for at least two hours.

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Making the paprika hendl

  1. Place a 5 quart dutch oven onto a stove top burner at medium-high heat. Add olive oil and chicken. Season chicken lightly with salt and paprika to taste.
  2. Brown the chicken on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the dutch oven. Cook until tender and translucent, but not browned.
  4. Stir in sweet and smoked paprika, wine, and broth. Mix well.
  5. Return chicken to the dutch oven, coating all the pieces with the sauce. Bring up to a boil for about a minute.
  6. Reduce the heat, cover the dutch oven, and let it simmer for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked at 165 F (74 C) degrees.
  7. (This is the perfect time to make the mamaliga or another side dish of your choice. The instructions for mamaliga are below.)
  8. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.
  9. Boil the sauce until reduced, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream and mix well. (I like to use a stick blender at this point; just be VERY careful, the sauce is extremely hot.)
  10. Serve chicken on a bed of mamaliga (or rice, pasta, potatoes, or whatever you like), and serve the sauce in a gravy boat or just pour over the chicken.

 

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Making the mămăligă

  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring chicken broth and salt to a boil.
  2. Wisk in the corn meal slowly in a steady stream. Add the milk. Cook over medium-high heat, continuing to whisk.
  3. When the mixture starts to bubble, turn down the heat to low, and cover the saucepan.
  4. For about 30 minutes you will need to stir the polenta at 5 minute intervals. A long-handled wooden spoon works best. The goal here is to keep the polenta from clumping and burning on the bottom of the saucepan.
  5. After the 30 minutes of slow stirring, remove from heat.
  6. Grease up a casserole dish. Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C) degrees.
  7. Pour the polenta into the casserole, spread the sour cream on top, and then cover with cheese.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

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DISSECTION
Of course you *could* buy your chicken pre-cut into whatever pieces you like, but this is Morbid Meals! One of the things I want to advocate with these recipes is nose-to-tailslow food cooking. Step away from the boneless/skinless/FLAVORless chicken and canned broth. It doesn’t take long to cut up a whole chicken yourself.

Plus, then you can make your own chicken broth from the chicken bones and scraps. (Especially if you have a pressure cooker, there’s no reason not to make your own broth.) Besides, you can save a fair amount of money buying a 5 – 6 pound whole roasting chicken, or for a smaller family, a 4 pound “young” chicken.

When it comes to seasoning your chicken when you brown it, go with whatever you like. You can do just salt and pepper, or as I like, smoked paprika. In addition to that, my special secret ingredient for cooking chicken is Old Bay Seasoning. Trust me, it’s not just for seafood boils. It perks up the chicken broth, too.

Regarding the mamaliga, we usually do not bake with the sour cream and cheese as it is done traditionally. In that case, it really is pretty much a simple polenta, which is done at step 5. For special occasions, though, we bake it for the traditional mămăligă.

POST-MORTEM
We enjoy paprika hendl so much, my wife and I prepared 100 pounds of it for a medieval feast put on by our local College in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Furthermore, even with my dietary restrictions, I can still make this meal and enjoy quite a feast. With a whole chicken really being the only “expensive” part of this meal, it is one that you can enjoy often, as we certainly do.

I may never get to travel through the Carpathians and partake of the local cuisine. Yet with these recipes, I do feel like I am recreating some of that culinary adventure, and that connects me to the folklore that inspired Bram Stoker.

In The Footsteps Of Dracula

Have you ever wanted to experience the trip of a lifetime. Steve Unger has taken that trip and he talks about it in his travel guide and history book: In The Footsteps Of Dracula. The book starts off with Steve Unger describing why he had to write this book. He was vistiting Whitby, England and was on Cemetery hill  where in the Book Dracula, Lucy and Mina sat in their favorite spot as Dracula slept below them. Steve said in his mind’s eye he could see Dracula rising from from the grave to feed on the living. He then felt the spirit of Bram Stoker and the ghost of Vlad The Impaler urging him to take the journey and tell the stories that they no longer could.

In the Footsteps Of Dracula then gets into visiting the locations of Bram Stoker’s dracula. You get to hear the author’s experiences as he visits where Dracula came ashore on the Demeter, cemetery hill in Whitby, The Dracula Trail and locations in Dublin, Romania and London. The author describes what the locations look like now and how they would have appeared in Bram Stoker’s time. He also gives quotes from Dracula to describe it further.

The book also tells Bram Stoker’s story. You get to hear how he was inspired to write Dracula, the places where Dracula was written and you hear about the reactions to Bram’s work when it was first released. I  really enjoyed reading the first review ever written for Dracula and hearing about the staged readings of Dracula before the book was released.

Not satisfied to give you information on Dracula alone, Steve Unger also gets into the history of Vlad The Impaler who Dracula was based on. Steve  gives examples of how Dracula compares to Vlad by giving quotes from Dracula that reference him. Hearing the story behind Vlad Tepes was like reading a horror novel itself. The author talks about how he impaled over 20,000 men, women and children, he boiled people alive, burned down a building full of people and you hear about his battles to keep his throne.

Its also told how Vlad’s father was a member of The Royal Order Of The Dragon which was a branch of The Brotherhood of the Wolf. One of their beliefs was that they could transform into wolves. While reading In The Footsteps Of Dracula, I felt that Vlad Tepes seemed like a much more horrifying character then Count Dracula and I loved hearing his story. Steve also visits all the places associated with Vlad Tepes,  including his tomb and Castle Dracula.

What really makes the author’s story come to life is the beautiful photos in this book. There are 185  pictures which really show a sharp contrast between some of the ruins of various castles to the tourist areas where people are trying to cash in on Dracula.  Some of my favorite photos was of the reading room in the British Museum, cemetery hill overlooking the ocean, Vlad’s tomb on Snagov Island and the photo of the wolf dragon.

If you ever do make this trip, Steve Unger also tells how much everything costs and the best ways to get to where you want to go. This is what makes this book the ultimate travel guide. You get pictures, a history behind all the locations and you hear about the best places to stay. I also loved how you get to hear about the people that Steve met on the way. He tells about how he met several goths on his journey and they here the friendliest people you would ever want to meet. This is an amazing book that made Count Dracula, Vlad The Impaler and Bram Stoker’s stories more fascinating.

Even if you never get to walk in the footsteps of Dracula you can still own a copy of this excellent book. You can either buy one on Amazon or you could win your very own autographed copy of In The Footsteps Of Dracula by answering two questions. What year was Bram Stoker’s Dracula published and Who was your favorite on screen Dracula and why? Email your answers to horroraddicts@gmail.com. The best answer gets the book. Good luck!