EXPLORING THE SEDUCTION OF THE VAMPIRE LEGEND, ON "20/20," AIRING FRIDAY, AUGUST 26 ON ABC
Anchored By Elizabeth Vargas, "20/20" Examines The Fact and Fiction in This Summer's Bestselling Novel, The Historian -- A Dracula Story with a New Twist
"20/20" explores the enduring worldwide obsession with the Dracula legend. Every generation has been seduced by the vampire myth... Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire did it in the 1970s, and now first time author Elizabeth Kostova re-invents the legend with The Historian, a chilling piece of fiction centered on a hunt for the truth about the infamous Transylvanian count. Elizabeth Vargas reports a story that ranges from the castles of Romania to the fog covered streets of London in a search for the reasons why people are so fascinated by vampires - and just how much of their fantasy world may be based on historically documented fact. "The Summer of the Vampire" airs on "20/20," FRIDAY, AUGUST 26 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
"Everybody's heard of him. How many literary characters get instant recognition? You go to the mall and stop a hundred people and ask them if they've ever heard of Dracula -- how many no's do they give? Every generation will recreate its own Dracula," says Elizabeth Miller, Professor Emerita, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Dracula's first generation began in London in 1897, when theater manager and writer Bram Stoker published a novel that brought a vampire out of the wild Transylvanian mountains and onto London streets. Since it first appeared, Stoker's Dracula has never been out of print. It has been translated into 29 languages and adapted in every artistic medium.
This Summer Elizabeth Kostova's novel mixes fact and fiction to give us a new Dracula story, one with a twist. The Historian follows a woman on a trail through history in search of the truth about Dracula's Eastern European lineage. Central to her story is the possibility that the vampire Dracula was based on a real historical figure - a notorious 15th century prince from Transylvania who called himself Vlad Dracula, but was also known as Vlad the Impaler. "He was a brutal tyrant, and the nickname the impaler came quite honestly," says Miller. He was infamous throughout Europe for his preferred method of execution -- impalement.
"20/20" travels to Romania to see the mysteriously empty grave of Vlad Dracula, located in a dark monastery on a secluded island. In Kostova's novel, the grave is empty because Vlad Dracula is 'undead.' "A fiction where you have a grave but no corpse is a classic ghost story. You really can't get a more perfect set up for a mystery," says Kostova.
"20/20" also visits the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, home to Stoker's Dracula notes, to investigate the inspiration for his vampire and the possible link with the 15th century prince - Vlad Dracula.
Elizabeth Kostova spent 10 years researching her Dracula novel all over the world, but was never able to see the empty grave on Snagov Island at the heart of her story. "20/20" takes her there. "When we arrived in Romania, I felt a little scared... When you work on something for so long, seeing the reality of the traces of it can be very disappointing. But the reality here is incredible," says Kostova. And what happens when the author of the latest Dracula fiction sees the facts... and meets a descendent of the historical Dracula that her book portrays as a vampire?
Finally, "20/20" explores the never ending lure of the vampire. "The vampire legend is part of an answer to the question - what would happen to us if we were allowed to live forever?" says Kostova.
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer Rudy Bednar is executive producer and Richard Gerdau is producer of "Summer of the Vampire."