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The Dracula Tour

Vlad Dracula

Lost In Transylvania

Pitch Black chats with
Charles Rosenay
about the Dracula Tour!

Do you ever feel home-sick while cozying up to your wolfie-doll? Wanna see where the real Dracula lived? Have you ever secretly wished the Prince lyric went, "Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1549"? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," Charles Rosenay, owner of International Tours and Events has just the thing for you...It's called the Dracula Tour!

Horror Garage: At what point did it occur to you that a trip to Bucharest to brave the Borgo Pass to visit Vlad the Impaler's Castle sounded like a good idea? And ultimately, how were you able to make such a thing possible?

Charles Rosenay: My company, "International Tours and Events," was in the business of organizing theme tours for a long time. We focused mostly on rock & roll travel, including an annual "Magical History Tour" to Liverpool for Beatles fans. My other passion, besides music, has always been horror, so I had to find a way to combine my love of horror with the travel biz. Transylvania was a place I always dreamed of visiting, so it only made sense that others would want to take "vampire vacation" there too. There were small local Romanian tourguides who were doing a historical version of what we had in mind, but none of them planned evening activities and parties along with the daily sight-seeing. Also, none of them were put on by horror aficionados. So it was just a matter of utilizing their skills and merging it with what we knew would make for a great haunted travel adventure, the first and foremost terror theme tour for monster mavens. It was everything I wanted in a "Dracula Tour," and it turns out that there are many others out there like me!

HG: My understanding in that the tour itself traces Jonathan Harker’s steps as found in the novel Dracula; how accurate is Stoker's description compared to the reality? Please describe what someone on the tour could expect to experience.

Dracula's Castle Charles Rosenay: It's amazing how accurately Stoker captured the feel of Transylvania and Harker's route up Borgo Pass into the Carpathian Mountains--because he never made the journey himself. But we do, as a group, and it's really magical being able to follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker from the novel. We dine at the same restaurant described in the book, and even have the same meal and drinks. But the ultimate is when we all wind up atop the mountains at Dracula's Castle on Halloween night. Along the way, we combine the fiction with the legend and history, by visiting the real Vlad's birthplace, the castle fortress he built, the castle in which he was imprisoned, the city where he conducted his impalings, and the isolated island where he is buries.

HG: What are some of the “rules of the road” one should be aware of on a tour like this? For instance, do you suggest staying away from locals with sharp teeth? How does one survive an encounter with children of the night? If my watch suddenly flies off the night table as though picked up by unseen hands, should I be alarmed?

Charles Rosenay: All of the above!
Here are the unofficial ground rules:
-If you offer a gypsy child a Snickers bar, but he'd rather bite you, stay away.
-Do not invite strangers into the your hotel room, especially if they're flying outside your window.
-Do not try to pet the dogs in the forest; they're probably wolves.
-Do not attend any private parties in unknown clubs (you did see American Werewolf in Paris, right?).
-Do not visit graveyards alone (you did see Night of the Living Dead, right?).
-Wear a crucifix around your neck (unless you're Jewish).
-Wear garlic around your neck (so nobody ever sits next to you).
-Do not talk to strangers with bloodstains around their lips.
-Never say the tour "sucks" unless you mean it.

HG: How did you overcome language and cultural barriers while first setting up the Dracula Tour? Did you have to learn Romanian? What are some of the cultural differences one might notice between, say, Americans, and current inhabitants of Vlad’s hometown?

Charles Rosenay: We have a professional Romanian tourguide with us at all times, who does all the translating, and that solves the language barrier. This part of Eastern Europe is still, in many ways, a land that time forgot. The people lead simpler lives, and are as fascinated by us as we are with them. The countryside is beautiful and unscathed, and it's not unusual for an ox or horse & buggy to share the roads with our luxury coach. By night, the foreign land could be frightening and imposing--and it's comforting to be with a tour group--but by daylight the landscape is rather enchanting.

HG: What are the weirdest thing you’ve seen personally on these tours? Ghosts? Eerie lights? Chandeliers swaying in a breeze that doesn’t exist?

Charles Rosenay: On the Dracula Tour, some "sensitive" travelers got ill when they entered an ancient cemetery. One traveler couldn't sleep because his gothic room in Bucharest kept being invaded by an unknown greenish light throughout the night--no, it wasn't the display of his cellphone. There were numerous paranormal sightings on the GHOSTour [to haunted spots in England], as well as encounters that we could never rationally explain.

HG: Come to think of it, I’ve had some weird stuff going on in my apartment for the last few years–things moving by themselves, strange computer problems, weird noises...any advice? I’m not kidding.

Charles Rosenay: Move. Or just have a party and properly acknowledge and welcome your guests in hiding.

HG: In general, do you find that your clientele tends to be more “straight” folk looking for a super-cool history lesson, or pale-skinned people that smoke clove cigarettes and dig Marilyn Manson?

Charles Rosenay: It's amazing the variety of travelers who join us. We get the serious Goths who treat the trip like they're visiting their true homeland. We get the monster mavens who grew up watching horror films and reading horror books & mags their whole lives. We get families who want to experience the definitive Halloween. We get scholars who want to learn every aspect of the history of Vlad. We get newlyweds who spend their honeymoon with us, and couples who get married on the tour. We get seasoned travelers who've done every sight-seeing trip, ever cruise and every pilgrimage out there, and are looking for something special and off-beat. We get self-described "vampire hunters" (no, they don't bring weapons) mingling with die-hards to lead a "vampire lifestyle" plus your share of "vampire wannabes." We get doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, writers, actors and people from every facet of life. But most of all we get plain ol' everyday people who just want to have a lot of fun. And the tour, above all, delivers fun for everyone. Even though we get couples and families, it's probably those who travel alone who may have the best time of all... they always seem to wind up finding someone to "neck" with (sorry--couldn't resist). There's no doubt that even though the tour is definitely open to all ages, the tour is very sexy and cool, and is ideal for single travelers.

HG: I understand you have Butch Patrick--famous for playing Eddie Munster--now accompanying you on the tour. How’d you make THAT happen?

Charles Rosenay: We had always considered officially bringing along a well-known "guest" host for the tour, but as Dracula Tour began to sell out annually, we figured that we didn't really need a special guest. However, we'd been attending conventions and became friends with Butch Patrick, who had never been to Transylvania before. Eddie Munster is a pop culture icon, and Butch is a down-to earth nice guy, so we couldn't resist. Along with all the vampire videos we show on the coach while traveling along Transylvania, we plan on showing a few Munsters episodes which feature Butch Patrick as Eddie Munster, and he could talk about his experiences on the classic show, and what he's done since.

HG: Might there be other celebrity tour guides in the future? I’m sure plenty of horror writers, scream queens and members of gothic bands would be totally into doing it...

Charles Rosenay: Although they weren't officially celebrity guests, we have had very special people take our tour, including the great genre writer Joe Lansdale (Bubba Ho-Tep), radio personality Scott Shaw, filmmaker Steve Cuden (the award winning horror film Lucky) and others who wished to remain anonymous. We would love to have a band or musical artist join us someday, too. They could perform for our tour-group or record an album, Live at Dracula's Castle, or promote themselves when they return home as "just back from Transylvania."

Fangs for reading this, now let's go get "Lost in Transylvania!