Well, last weeks column got a ton of responses. So I’m going to do my best to answer as many letters as I can this column. Note that eventually ALL your letters will be answered. If you write me, I will answer it. It may just take a while for them to appear in the column.
I’ll start with the fact a fellow IP Staff member questions me about Billy the Kid. I was asked whether it was true or not whether Billy the Kid had died on July 14, 1881, or if the story that he faked his death and lived to be an old man is true or not.
In fact, William Henry Bonney did die that Summer afternoon in Fort Summer at the hands of Sheriff Garrett. A man by the name of Ollie P. Bill Roberts did try to pass himself off as the late Billy the Kid, but it was a hoax, although a very good one.
Instead of covering it more here, I want to lead you to the best Billy the Kid website I’ve found. There’s a ton of information there, all well researched, and an entertaining read to boot/ Why rehash something when I can give you the best I found intact?
This first letter comes from Mike Entwistle:
Hey, I enjoy the column, and I have a question kinda relating to the
usual stuff you cover, and I can’t remember you talking about it in
any of your Nyogtha columns – What exactly is the deal with Van
Helsing? I recently read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and of course, there
was the bad movie Van Helsing, and I was wondering if they were at all
related, and where else Van Helsing appears and such. It’s been
bugging me for a little while, and I haven’t really found that much
out about this, so I figured you’d be the guy to ask.
And the cooking recipies are great, even if I don’t use them. They
make me go off and cook myself, so keep doing them. One day, I’ll use
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Well Nate, there’s only one real source for Van Helsing information, and that’s Stoker’s original novel. Bram Stoker invented all the characters in the novel, although each character is based on an in-real-life person Stoker knew. Dracula is very much like Gulliver’s Travels, where behind the first layer of an entertaining fictional tale being told, there lies a ton of metaphor and annotation waiting to be discussed. Back on October 22nd of 2003, I did a one shot of the old VC for 411mania, and that column has since been moved here to Inside Pulse. You can read it here, and it covers that very topic of where Stoker came up with certain characters. However, for the sake of ease, I’ll reprint a snippet of that topic here for you, from a paper I had published a while back.
One of the most overlooked and important details about Dracula is that Stoker did not expressly plan for his vampire to be Vlad the Impaler himself. However, when Stoker set out to write his vampire tale, he had no knowledge of Vlad. The Book was going to be called, The Un-Dead until the day he ran across a set of old books in the British Museum Reading Room (Florescu, 150). Stoker become fascinated with The Impaler Prince, and quickly gathered all the information he could find on Vlad. The sources ranged from texts written during Vlad’s life, like The Story of a Bloodthirsty Madman Called Dracula of Wallachia, written by the poet laureate Michel Beheim in 1463 for the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, to speaking with actual well-known experts on the leaders of Western Europe, such as Arminus Vambery (Florescu p. 7; Wolfe; P.291), who as thanks, was placed into Stoker’s novel as an ally of Van Helsing. Stoker’s own letters and journals that he made over the seven years it took to write Dracula are now housed in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I myself have been lucky enough to read through them. In one journal entry Stoker writes how he came across a book by William Wilkinson which he checked out of the Whitby Public Lending Library. In fact, Stoker even recorded the call numbers of this book and others he checked out about Vlad (Florescu, 148.)! Within Wilkinson’s book, Stoker found information about Vlad’s betrayal by the boyars and his brother Radu. Stoker notes how important details like this are, so he can place them in the Count’s life. And so Stoker does at the beginning of Chapter 3 when he has the Count say, “Who was it but one of my own race who at Voivode crossed that Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery upon them (p. 41)” Dracula goes on ranting about the greatness of this Dracula for another page or so. But unbeknownst to the casual reader, or to Harker, the Count is actually speaking about himself, but must refer to himself as a separate person, so as not to reveal his true nature to Harker. Thus Stoker has managed to give Vlad real immortality, by transforming him into the Undead Count that shall never be forgotten by the race of man.
Yet, Dracula/Vlad is not the only real life person carried over into this novel. Parts of Dracula actually tell the history of Bram Stoker. You see, many of the characters in the book are based on real people Stoker knew or was fascinated by. Obviously we have the Count and Vlad, but every main male character has a real life counterpart. Harker’s real life counterpart is scene designer Joseph Harker (1855-1920) who Leonard Wolfe tells us was the scene designer or the Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked (p.1). As well, Stoker mentions the real Harker in is book, Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving. In this biography/memoirs, Stoker mentions Harker only is passing by saying he was a great painter and did many of the sets of Shakespeare plays at the Lyceum (p.110, 156). Quincey Morris was a very important character to Stoker. He was one of the few Americanophilles in England in the 19th century. He was good friends with Walt Whitman and Mark Twain whose work he defended across the Atlantic to his fellow Europeans (Wolfe, p.78). Stoker published a pamphlet entitled, “A Glimpse of America,” which he called America, “a nation not merely like ourselves—the same in blood, religion, and social ideas, with an almost identical common law, and with whom our manifold interests are not only vast, but almost vital (Wolfe, p.78).” Quincey was added to Dracula to basically spite the Anti-American sentiment that was all around him. Quincey was based on Joaquin Miller, an American frontier poet who was writing the same time as Stoker. Miler moved to England where he was renowned for his rustic cowboy look and his outfits. Morris reputedly talks similar to how Miller spoke. As well, Stoker based Quincy on John (not David) Bowie. Stoker has him not only wield the knife that bears Bowie’s name, but he too dies of knife wounds while fighting off Mexican soldiers at the Alamo. Stoker changed his death at the hands of one “foreign enemy” to that of Dracula’s gypsies. Finally, the most interesting character is that of Abraham Van Helsing. Mina describes the good doctor as being,
“A man of medium height, strongly built, with his shoulders set back over a broad, deep chest and a neck well balanced on the truck as the head is on the neck; the head is noble, well-sized, broad and large behind the ears…big, bushy eyebrows…The forehead is broad and fine, rising at first almost straight and then sloping back above two bumps or ridges wide apart; such a forehead that the reddish hair cannot possibly tumble over it, but falls naturally back and to the sides. Big, dark blue eyes are set widely apart, and are quick and tender or stern with the man’s moods. (p. 226-227).”
Why is this important? Because it is the very description of Abraham Stoker himself! Stoker gives the character his first name, and like Stoker, Van Helsing has archaic knowledge and insights into both the realms of the Vampire and Tepes himself. As well, through Stokers letters to friends and families and diary entries we are given subtle hints that he is playing the part of Van Helsing in his novel. Many of his friends and heroes are transformed into characters in his novel, why not the author himself? Many other authors have picked up on this idea, from Leonard Wolfe (p.148), to J. Gordon Melton (653), to even Famous Dracula Scholars Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally (p.147-148). So now, not only has Vlad the Impaler achieved immortality through this classic novel, but many of Bram’s friends live on as well.
There’s more, such as how Mina is Stoker’s wife, Florence, and how Dracula is not just Vlad the Impaler, but a composite of the Wallachian Prince, his old boss Henry Irving, and even Oscar Wilde, whom Stoker had a fierce rivalry with over the woman who eventually chose Bram over the eventually outed homosexual. Ah poor Oscar, had Florence chosen him, he probably wouldn’t have died so dramatically and disgraced.
It’s also believed that Stoker modeled Van Helsing partly after Professor Max Muller, professor of comparative religion at Cambridge University. Muller helped Stoker with Eastern History and religion, which is a huge part of the novel he eventually wrote.
As you mentioned earlier, there was the terrible (by far the worst movie of the year) Van Helsing film where Hugh Jackman played the Angel Gabriel who while suffering from Amnesia, takes the name Van Helsing and hunts down monsters. Horrible film. No, there is no correlation between the film and Universal Studio’s massive suck fest. Universal just wanted to use all the monsters they had to make a film that people would pay money to see, not realizing it was all (crappy) special effects and void of any plot or point. Universal just wanted to make some dough and cross promote it with their old classic (and actually good) horror films in order to sell those DVD’s as well. I bought the classic DVD’s, as I love Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr and Boris Karloff. I regret ever spending money on Van Helsing the film.
I do have a book suggestion for you Nate. It’s a collection of short stories about the Van Helsing character Stoker wrote. It’s called, The Many Faces of Van Helsing and you can find it at most bookstores. The stories in there are decent, but obviously nowhere near Stoker’s original characterization. An author of note in the collection include Tanith Lee and to help you find the book, the ISBN number is 0-441-01170-5. Hope all this answers your query to me Nate!
Next up is a letter from Mnemosyne1732@aol.com who writes,
I’ve been wondering for the longest and can’t seem to find anything fully conclusive. What is the Dagon or Daegon?
There’s two answers to this question actually. But first, I want to point out this very topic created a flame war over at 411Mania over a year ago. I made a joking post that someone took serious and ouch, yeah. Big verbal altercation.. You can read the original thread here and read the apology letter to me here What is most notable to me, is it was the first time someone seemed to realize that the Alexander Lucard writing video game stuff for 411 is the same Alexander Lucard who made his name in the late 1990’s as a folklorist and spiritual debunker. And Subcultural Icon of course. ;-)
Again, since it seems to be topic rehash week, let me condense what I wrote back in 2003 here so that we can give you a more streamlined read.
Dagon has been in every nearly every recorded religion that began in the Middle East Region. Dagon was first recorded with in Sumerian religion, And was later taken by many other religions including the early Hebrews, Christians, and Phillistines.
And Dagon does NOT mean little fish in Arabic. That’s a horrible Christian misinterpretation that comes from HP Lovecraft’s using the name for his God of the Deep Ones. We’ll get into that a little later though. Another common misbelieve if that Dagon is the Hebrew word for corn. Nope, that’s Teyras. Dagon or Dagan or Daghan means, “Grain” or “Cereal.” This mistake because the American Revised King James version of the bible substitutes the word Corn for the words Grain and Cereal. Just a bad translation of the Latin and Greek and Hebrew texts. And since then, the Catholic Encyclopedia has been propagating this error, albeit it unintentionally
Dagon was a Farming related diety. But also associated with Thunder.
Dagon, or DAGAN in his pre biblical pervision of his name was used not only by the Sumerians, but also before Sumer as his name was synonymous with rulers. Go look up a list of Sumerian rulers and count how many times the king added Dagan to his name.
Here’s a little Encyclopedia exert to help us out as well.
Dagon – (Dagan) a god of Syria-Mesopotamia, later of the Canaanites, and finally of the Philistines. Very little is known about either his origins or exact nature. By most evidence Dagan was a pre-Sumerian, pre-Semite god worshiped in the middle Euphrates region. There were important shrines of Dagan at Tuttul, Mari, and Terqa, all within present-day Syria. With the emergence of the empire of Akkad under Sagan (c. 2300 BCE), Dagan was adopted as an Akkadian national god. During the following period of neo-Sumerian renaissance (Ur III, c. 2100-2000 BCE), Dagan’s name is found on seals alongside that of his consort, Shalash, a goddess of perhaps Hurrian origin. She may be the same as Shala, the consort of the Babylonian weather god Adad. In the Isin-Larsa period (C. 2000-1900 BCE) two kings of Isin bear names with the element dagan, Indindagan (“Dagan has given”) and Ishmedagan (“Dagan has heard”).
No doubt Dagan had a significant function among the Canaanites, but few sources provide real evidence of his role. Baal is called “son of Dagan”. Several towns within Canaanite territory are named Bet-Dagan (“temple of Dagan”).
Dagan was the chief god of the Philistines, who surely borrowed his cult from the Canaanites.
Dagan was a god of good weather and agricultural fertility.
Encyclopedia of Religion, Eliade, M., ed., NY, 1987, V.4, p. 196
Dagon appears several times throughout the bible, ranging from 1 Samuel 5, Verses 1-12 1 Chronicles 10, Verse 10 to many others ranging from Chronicles to Judges to . Dagon even plays a key role involving the Ark of the Covenant (Indiana Jones fans, take not of this and read your Bible!)
This is the HISTORICAL Dagon, however, probably not the one most people are familiar with. Most non-theologists and role playing game aficionados will be more familiar with the “God” HP Lovecraft created using the same name and who now, thanks to the power of stupidity, is often intermingled with the real Dagon created a hodge-podge of fantasy mixed with dead religion.
In the world of the Cthulhu Mythos, Dagon is the husband of Hydra, and the father of a race of Man-Fish hybrids known as the Deep Ones.
“Dagon” was Lovecraft’s second piece of published fiction. It was also his first story published in the infamous “Weird Tales” magazine, which is now synonymous with writers that would eventually form the circle later to be named “The Cthulhu Mythos.” It tells the tale of a Shipwrecked sailor who discovers evidence of Dagon/Deep Ones. It should also be pointed out here that there is a correlation between Caliban from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and Lovecraft’s Deep Ones. Intentional or coincidence?
Dagon was written in 1917 but not published until 1923. Today, it is one of Lovecraft’s least read and discussed tales, but in it’s day, it set off a fierce storm of letters to which Lovecraft wrote, “In Defence of Dagon” and caused many a writer’s imagination to churn.
If you are curious, I suggest two tales by Lovecraft to help you understand the Deep Ones and his interpretation of Dagon. The first is the aforementioned “Dagon”. That should be explanatory enough. The second is one of Lovecraft’s best works and by far the best story ever written featuring Deep Ones or Dagon. It is called “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” And I recommend it to anyone. Clicking on these links will bring up a complete unabridged PDF version of these tales. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these.
If you want to read more HP Lovecraft, I suggest going here which is a complete online library of all of his works.
There is also an excellent horror film named “Dagon” which recants the tale of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” I highly recommend it.
I hope this helps my reader with all he could ever want to know about Dagon.
One last letter from Richard Haynes of Atlantic Baptist University.
I liked the column. It’s funny how, right after talking about the “Pokemon” version of “golem” you said “and THAT my friends is the golem.”
Anyway, my question is: what ghost or supernatural stories or myths would you find most likely to be real? I know you don’t believe that stuff is real, but what, to your mind, has the most evidence for it, or the least evidence against it?
Atlantic Baptist University
Well it’s hard to separate me from my undying love for Pokemon, no? As for your question? It’s actually the most asked question I get. “What does Alexander Lucard believe in?/ What things do you believe actually exists/ What is out there that we believe is merely fiction?”
Well, I can’t really answer that. See, for me to be an effective folklorist/cultural anthropologist/vampirologist/parapsychologist/whatever label you want to give me, I have to divorce myself from my emotions and beliefs and use only cold hard facts, research, and empirical data to do my writings. I can’t use such things as hunches, intuition, faith, or beliefs. If I don’t separate the two, my writing becomes not only biased, but even worse, it becomes slanted and the risk of me fudging data and misrepresenting facts comes into play. And that’s the worst thing a researcher or non fiction writer can do: placing his own opinions as fact do the disservice of the reader. And that’s why you will always see me take the point of view of skeptic/debunker. I will never tell you what to believe is real. That’s a personal choice. If you want to believe in vampired and ghouls and Cthulhu, I won’t judge you. If you want to believe in nothing and that the Supernatural, Aliens, and God are all hogwash, the same thing. It’s your choice. I’m not going to make that/be an influence for anyone.
I will say though, if you go looking for Things That Should Not be well…why don’t I sum it up by using Edward Van Sloan’s final lines as Van Helsing (See how things go full circle) in both the Broadway Play and the Universal 1931 film of “Dracula”
Just a moment Ladies and Gentlemen! Just a word before you go. We hope the memories of Dracula and Renfield won’t give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you go home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains and you dread to see a face appear at the window…why just pull yourself together and remember that after all THERE ARE SUCH THINGS
That’s it for the spooky section of NYOGTHA this week.
Inside Pulse 2004 Gaming Awards! Go vote
A.J. talks Holiday shopping while O’Reilly gives the NFL and EA a verbal spanking. Refuse to buy Madden people! You have to boycott!
Fernandez plugs me briefly in regards to Sisters of Mercy, and thus I return the favor.
Cameron teases people with the thought of Ms. Lohen being naked.
Grutman writes Wrestling Fan Fiction (and probably slash too) but then teases me about having discussions with friends about NeverWinter Nights.
Half of Eric’s column is rehashed spyware commentary. Sounds like this column this week. ;-)
Gotta love the nod to G1 Devestator with the new Constructions out.
I want Man-Bat!
Laflin likes playing “Guess what song these lyrics are from” with me.
Another Shazam push? How many times has DC tried to and failed with Captain Marvel?
Nightwing is the Identity Crisis killer! Or not…
Flash movie! Is John Wesley Shipp available?
I spent Sunday watching, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” with a friend and her two boys, and decided that since the #1 film in the Country made Puttanesca, maybe I should give the recipe for it. After all, Millions will be seeing it and not knowing what it is other than a pasta dish. It’s cheap, it’s quick, and great for you college kids.
Rotini Alla Puttanesca
8 ounces Rotini, cook as package directs
26 ounces of Pasta sauce. Go with something that contains peppers and is preferably spicy. I prefer Classico or Newman sauces if I buy canned.
One half cup shredded carrot
1 tablespoon capers
1 diced red pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
crushed red pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese.
1. In large saucepan combine pasta sauce, carrot, pepper, capers, oregano and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover, simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Cook the pasta according to the box you bought.
3. Toss sauce with hot rotini. Spinkle with cheese.
Hey, I said it was quick and easy! It’s good for you non meat eaters too.
That’s it for this week. As always, keep the letters and questions coming, and I’ll be back next week to jump start you after a long and hopefully relaxing holiday weekend.
Goodnight out there…whatever you ar