I’ve always been fascinated by vampires. Hollywood, Stoker, Vlad the Impaler; whether in film, books or history, the mysterious allure of the vampyre is something I simply can’t resist.
My grade 12 year of high school, I handed in my Independent Study Project — a research paper entitled, “DRACULA: The Man, the Myth, the Legend”. Sure, the name is a little clichéd, but this was my passion at the time, and the project was worth a full 30% of my final English mark.
The project was a 14-page delve into everything “vampire”. From the historical figure of Vlad Tepes, to Christopher Lee’s role as a ’60s sex symbol, I tried to cover it all. And the point I set out to prove?
“The obsession with Dracula exists because it fulfills the desire in people either to dominate or be dominated.”
Yeah. These were the days before I had a blog (2004, to be exact) — so I needed an actual “point” to research and explore for this. “I’m obsessed with vampires, so let me fan over them for the next 10+ pages” wasn’t supposed to be the objective. (Though I still managed to do just that!)
In the essay, I quoted what is still one of my favourite bits of writing: An “In Memoriam” written for Bela Lugosi by horror aficionado Forrest J. Ackerman. You can find it in my previous post “The Immortal Count“.
I am a stickler for attributions, and also proof of said attributions. Whether it’s the artist/title of a painting, or footnotes in a book, I’m not one who likes to say anything — spoken or written — if I can’t find a reference for it.
So when it came time to write the aforementioned blog post, I remembered the Ackerman memoriam, went searching online for it…
…and couldn’t find it.
Not only were Ackerman’s words nowhere to be found, I couldn’t find even a mention of the memoriam that might suggest such a thing actually existed. Days of searching yielded nothing at all.
I had no choice but to dig out my old essay and copy it from there. The footnote indicated that I had quoted it from Peter Haining’s 1976 book, “The Dracula Scrapbook”. I immediately remembered checking this book out of the school library because it had a very cool painting on the cover that reminded me of Vincent Price. I also distinctly remember wondering if the school would notice if I just never brought it back. (I DID, of course!)
Perturbed by the lack of a better attribution than my 10-year-old high school footnote, I decided to finally buy a copy of the book. In 2004, finding a rare-ish, 30-year-old book about Dracula wasn’t as simple as logging onto Amazon or Thriftbooks. But as it turns out, it wasn’t that easy in 2016 either. It took some time to find it, but eventually I ordered what was supposed to be a 1992 reprinting of the 1976 book.
You can imagine my dismay when the book arrived and the Forrest J. Ackerman Lugosi In Memoriam was not in the book.
I knew it would have a different cover, and perhaps there would be some additional material, but I never dreamed there would be content removed. I scoured it from cover to cover, page by page, again and again. Nothing. At this point, I was honestly starting to doubt my 17-year-old self. But I remembered that book so well! And I remembered reading the memoriam IN it. I’d had absolutely NO reason whatsoever to just make up the footnote I put in the essay.
I tried again to find a copy of the 1976 edition, but the few I saw were out of my “acceptable” price range. I wrote to the sellers, asking if anyone could just look up page 107 and tell me if the memoriam was there. If it was, I intended to buy the book at the [outrageous] price they were asking for it. All came back with the same answer: “We’re simply too busy to look for you.”
I was really disappointed. The mystery of the missing memoriam was haunting me. Why would they take that out of the later edition? It just made no sense.
Finally, this past December, a listing for the 1976 edition popped up on Thriftbooks — only $4.55 plus $3 shipping. Merry Christmas to me! (Thriftbooks is an excellent site, btw. I’ve made quite a few purchases, and highly recommend them. Especially if you’re in the States where all orders over $10 ship for free!)
The correct edition arrived about a week later, and I held my breath as I thumbed to page 107. And there it was.
After 13 years, it was like being reunited with an old friend. Here was the In Memoriam at last, ink on paper, in my hands.
The In Memoriam closes out the Forrest J. Ackerman section of the scrapbook titled, “Bela Lugosi: Public Vampire No. 1”. The editor introduces this section with a short bio of Ackerman and then states: “Not long after Lugosi’s death, Ackerman wrote an appreciation of him for one of the many magazines to which he contributes, “The Book of Weird Tales”. It is written in his own idiosyncratic style and he even signed himself as ‘Dr. Acula’ . . .“
Then there’s a two-page sectioned biography of Lugosi, as written by Ackerman, a few photos, and then it finishes with the In Memoriam, stating: “Finally, now, the words Forrest J. Ackerman wrote in memory of the man he had befriended in the last years of the actor’s life.”
But the question still remained: Why is the memoriam missing from the 1992 “The Dracula Scrapbook”? As it turns out, I still can’t figure out why this was done, but I have discovered what was done.
Simply put — they are not the same book. Yes, the title is the same, the author is the same. They are listed on multiple retail pages as versions of the same book. But now that I have them both in hand and can compare side by side, there is nothing to compare. The style is different; the format is different; and most importantly, the content is different. Everything about these two books is different. Ergo, they are NOT two versions of the same book. They are two DIFFERENT books that happen to have the same name and author.
While searching around recently, I also came across an interesting post — one that would have been very helpful when I was first looking to buy a copy of “The Dracula Scrapbook”. From a Vault of Evil posting: “The NEL [New English Library] publication [1976 book] is not to be confused with this far later Souvenir Press offering of the same title [the 1992 edition] which is actually the remaindered ‘The Dracula Centenary Book’ given a hasty makeover and bunged back on the shelves. Don’t buy this one thinking it’s the above, because it ain’t. It’s merely The Dracula Centenary Book under false pretenses.” [As a side note, my copy of the 1992 book is by Longmeadow Press, not Souvenir Press. But that’s a mystery someone else can solve!]
Yep, would have been good to know. Though I suppose it all worked out for the best anyway. The one upside to the two books being completely different is that each is a valuable addition to my library. Instead of being stuck with two of the (almost) same book, I have two that are unique! And Dr. Acula knows that you can’t own too many Dracula books.
* Placing the two books back onto the bookshelf, Wendy suddenly felt a sense of loneliness and realized it was because she had finally solved “The Mystery of the Missing Dracula Memoriam”. But a new mystery wasn’t far off. Soon she would find herself embroiled in “A Case of Mistaken Identity: The Virgin of the Rocks”…
* Was going for a Nancy Drew vibe today with all this — just in case my non-Nancy Drew-reading readers didn’t pick up on the style references!