Author Ian Holt wrote a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dracula the Un-Dead) alongside Stoker’s great-grand nephew, Dacre Stoker. Holt also serves as writer and producer for the supernatural thriller film, Episode 50. We caught up with this vampire expert just in time for Halloween.
Q: Why are vampires portrayed as sexy monsters?
A: That was just a happy accident. As written, Bram’s character of Count Dracula was old, he smelled like the grave, he had hair on his palms and the facial features of a rodent. Bram’s Count Dracula was not at all sexy.
It was not until Bela Lugosi was cast that the play and the book became the mega-success we all know it as today. Bela came to England from Hungary where had just completed a hugely successful run as Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. His good looks made him a national sex symbol and his erotically charged performance as Romeo had women swooning in the aisles.
A: (continued) Bela brought that same sexual energy and good looks to his stage and film performance as Count Dracula. Thus, the dye was cast and the vampire as sexy monster was born.
Q: What do you think is the most misunderstood factor about vampires?
A: Vampires do exist. I have met them. They have a culture and religion and they do drink blood. It’s given to them by willing donors who have to pass an HIV test and are screened for STDs. I’ve even seen Vampires protest in the streets of Hollywood when Los Angeles proclaimed a Z-Day (Zombie Day) and didn’t have a V-Day (Vampire Day) for Vampire-Con.
Katherine Ramsland in her book, Piercing The Darkness, meets with and interviews vampires that kidnap and murder people because they have an insatiable desire to drink human blood. There’s even a clinical term for this, Renfield’s Syndrome.
Vampires have existed throughout antiquity in every culture. Shapeshifters in American Indian culture are just vampires under a different name. Those warrior tribes who ate their victim’s flesh were said to gain strength and agility and eventually the power to change form into a deer, a wolf and even an eagle. In the early settlements in the USA, like Salem, there are graves that say the person buried here is a vampire and they carried the disease Consumption (Tuberculosis). When the gave was opened the limbs and head had been cut and the bones rearranged just like Van Helsing says you have to do in Bram’s book.
Q: What’s next for you? More vampires or something else?
A mix of both. I have a vampire reality series I’m working on where a group of Twilighters pledge to a real coven of vampires, a prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a non-fiction book about why we love vampires titled Vampire Lust that I’m working on with celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich of the Today Show and Fox News and of course the film version of Dracula The Un-Dead.
Q: What human factors do vampires retain in their new supernatural form?
A: They retain the choice of doing good or doing evil. They have the ability to love and fall in love. They can be magnanimous and forgive trespassers against them or be petty and seek revenge. They all seem to be good dressers, so they maintain pride and vanity. They can be shallow or deep. Vampires are really just us magnified. Since bullets pass right through vampires and with the strength of twenty men they can bend the bars of any prison, vampires don’t have to worry about the police or the rule of law. They’re already outsiders, trying to hide who they really are from society, so vampires don’t have to worry about being PC or polite or manors or even morality. In other words, vampires retain all human factors, except a fear of death, aging or being ostracized for bad behavior. They are just us unbound.
Q: What is it like working with Dacre Stoker and the Stoker family?
A: It was a real honor to work with Dacre and the Stoker Family on Dracula The Un-Dead. When Bram died and his legacy was passed on to the family, they only were able to maintain control of it for a few short years before the copyright fell into the public domain. The last time they were involved in the story was the 1931 Bela Lugosi/Todd Browning film. Having to stand aside and watch the many liberties Hollywood and dozens of novelists have taken with Bram’s story over the decades was difficult for the family and left them scared and jaded. Rightfully so.
Bram Stoker was one of my heroes growing up. He not only created the vampire genre, but also modern horror and maybe even James Bond. These are all my favorites.
With Dracula, Bram created the megalomaniacal “foreign or oustider” villain with a certain skill-set that the heroes had to discover and find a way to overcome. This is the basic storyline for Michael Meyers, Freddie Kruger, Jason Voorhees and yes, even James Bond.
Helping to give the Stoker family back control over Bram’s legacy by re-establishing lineage and a new copyright with Dracula The Un-Dead has been a life long dream come true.
Q: What was your experience shooting Episode 50?
A: Episode 50 is based upon a real story that occurred at two of the most haunted sites in the country, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia and The West Virginia State Penitentiary.
At Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, using copper divining rods, I had a twenty-minute conversation with a female ghost who at one time had been a patient at the facility and died there. The divining rods cross when encountering a disturbance in the electro-magnetic field. It’s believed a ghost, that’s some sort of conscious energy, can cause such a disturbance when approaching the rods. So, I asked this ghost to approach the rods and make them cross for a “yes” answer and to move away from the rods so that they would separate and open to a full east-west position for a “no” answer. In this fashion, we carried on a conversation that lasted twenty minutes. I mean, I have done some incredible things in my life, not the least of which is spending the night in Dracula’s Castle in Poenari Transylvania, but I think this conversation took the cake.
At The West Virginia State Penitentiary, there’s a basement room off the exercise yard called The Sugar Shack. The guards would lock the prisoners in there and leave since there weren’t enough guards to handle all the prisoners. Using this to their opportunity the prisoners created their own hell down there. Murders, rapes, drug deals and usage, you name it, it happened down there. Naturally, this is one of the most haunted sites in the prison.
When we went down there the lights were on in the front section. Just thinking out loud I said, “Gee, it’s not that scary down here.” Almost on cue, there was a loud bang from the darkened rear hallway. The air in the place became real heavy and it was hard to breath. Our whole bodies were tingling and shadows started to move against the light. It was real creepy.
So we went into the darkened area and found a lead pipe lying on the floor. We looked up and saw pipes running across the ceiling. We hit the pipes on the ceiling with the pipe we found on the floor and exactly recreated the bang we had heard. Realizing there was no other explanation than a ghost lifting that pipe off the floor and hitting the pipes on the ceiling, I out loud apologized if I offended anyone by what I had said. Again, almost on cue, all activity stopped.
NOTE: This interview was edited for length.
- Famous Writers' Sleep Habits & Literary Productivity: INFOGRAPHIC
- The Cooper Hewitt Hosts The 'Maira Kalman Selects' Exhibit
- Biographile to Run Series of Essays on Writing by Authors
- Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens Adaptation Now on BBC Radio 4