Paraphernalia, Vampire(pop culture)
As the vampire entered popular culture during the 1960s, a host of items were manufactured to promote and exploit the interest. Actually the first such item seems to have appeared in 1928 at the 250th performance of the stage play of Dracula in London. Everyone who attended was given an envelope, which they were told not to open until after the performance. The envelope contained a copy of Dracula’s Guest, a collection of short stories by Bram Stoker, and a small rubber-band-powered bat that flew into the air when released.
Movies have always been a great source of collectible items—posters, movie cards, publicity packets, and photographs, even souvenir booklets—so such items were common with vampire movies. It wasn’t until 1966, however, in connection with Hammer Films, Dracula, Prince of Darkness, that special items were produced specifically as advertising gimmicks for a vampire movie. Patrons attending the movie (usually shown as a double feature with another Hammer production, Plague of the Zombies), were given vampire fangs and a zombie mask.
In 1968, manufacturers began to recognize the existence of a vampire-oriented public for whom a variety of such items could be created and marketed. This recognition came in the wake of the success of vampire Barnabas Collins on the gothic television soap opera Dark Shadows. In 1968, Barnabas and Dark Shadows provided the theme for a new board game, Viewmaster 3-D reels, and a Halloween mask and costume. In 1969 a veritable flood of new Dark Shadows products were released, including several records, a second board game, jigsaw puzzles, model kits, a magic slate, and pillows. The success of Dark Shadows memorabilia led to the production of other vampire items either specifically for Halloween (from plastic fangs to greeting cards) or to both build and exploit the market generated by various vampire movies. In 1992 a line of approximately 100 products (including trading cards, T-shirts, computer games, jewelry, and miniature statuettes) was developed for release in connection with Francis Ford Coppola‘s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
During the 1970s, while most vampire paraphernalia was produced in connection with either Dark Shadows (which still has a large, well-organized fan network) or with particular motion pictures, the vampire image was adopted by a number of products that ranged from breakfast cereal to candy. The spread of products dominated by a vampire image also coincided with the adoption of the vampire theme in advertising. Examples of this included ads in which a vampire recommended a product like mouthwash, and one in which a victim was rescued by a garden poison that killed insects dressed like Bela Lugosi.
Halloween Paraphernalia: The most popular vampire items have been produced for Halloween—one of the most widely celebrated holidays in North America. The merchandising of Halloween tripled between 1983 and 1993, and by the early 1990s, it was second only to Christmas in terms of the number of people who decorated their homes. The vampire has become an integral part of the Halloween celebration and merchants carry a wide variety of vampire products to respond to public demand. Leading the list are vampire costumes, both those based on the older Bela Lugosi image and some newer figures such as Barnabas Collins and horror hostess Elvira. Besides complete costumes there are vampire masks and wigs and a wide selection of make-up. Elvira has marketed a line of cosmetics, and several companies produce vampire teeth, artificial blood, and make-up. For the party planner, there are vampire-oriented supplies including placemats, posters, hanging bats, and window and wall decorations. One set of party items pictured the popular cartoon cat Garfield in vampire regalia.
Halloween greeting cards began to make an impact in the 1980s and by 1993 Halloween was ranked eighth among greeting card sales—an estimated thirty-five million cards were sent in 1992. By 2009, Halloween greeting card sales reached $350,000. Vampire greeting cards are largely humorous, often including a basic set of one-liners and riddles. The cards, designed for a quick immediate impact, indicate how stereotypical the vampire image has become—vampires are invariably shown with a cape and two fangs and, more often than not, in association with vampire bats. To a lesser extent vampires have appeared on postcards; there is a set of cards with movie stills from Dracula (1931) and an eleven-card set (of an originally projected series of twenty-four cards) from Dark Shadows (1987).
Halloween candy has also become a multi-million dollar business currently growing at about two percent per year. In recent years, among the vampire oriented candy products that reached the market were Frankford Vampire Bites, Gummi Mummies (they came in a coffin that became a coin bank), Creepy Coffin (with a chocolate vampire), Count Crunch, and Vambite.
Toys: Trading cards are closely associated with comic books. Apart from the vampires that have appeared in collections of cards picturing a host of monsters, possibly the first vampire trading cards were the two sets of Dark Shadows cards marketed by the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Company at the end of the 1960s. Both the first or “pink” series and the second or “green” series included sixty-six scenes from the television show. Imagine, Inc. issued a new Dark Shadows set in 1993 with sixty-two cards from the 1960s television series. Topps produced two card sets in association with vampire-oriented movies: The Addams Family (1991, one hundred cards) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992, one hundred cards). In addition to the one hundred-card set made for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there was an additional sixteen-card set distributed with the four-issue comic book of the movie published by Topps. In 1992, Acid Rain Studios, which had produced a number of vampire comic books, also issued a fifty-card black-and-white trading card set.
Vampire toys began with the Dark Shadows games, jigsaw puzzle, Viewmaster set, magic slate, and model kits in 1968 and 1969. Over the last twenty-five years, however, the most popular items have been the numerous vampire dolls and statues. Vampires have been reproduced in every possible medium. There was a vampire teddy bear, plastic statuettes of the characters from The Addams Family and The Munsters, and, of course, Dracula, the most reproduced figure. Dracula was occasionally placed in a coffin with a movable lid. In 1990, Funny Toys Corporation marketed “Dracula in Coffin,” a vampire in evening dress in a battery powered coffin that opened and closed with an eerie noise. In the early 1990s, Universal Pictures released action figures of the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that portrayed the four turtles as four of the classic monsters from Universal movies; Donatello was the Dracula figure. These figures were just one of a line of items licensed by Universal using the Bela Lugosi Dracula image.
Apparel: Since the 1960s, teeshirts have become the daily wear of many people, and shirts bearing the advertising of a wide number of products have been marketed. As might be expected, vampires have found their way onto such shirts. Elvira’s Queen B Productions has produced both T-shirts and sweatshirts. A variety of T-shirts with scenes from the movie and the comic book appeared in connection with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Recent Dark Shadows T-shirts had scenes from the 1990s (rather than the 1960s) television series.
The ease of producing T-shirt illustrations made it easy for smaller producers to get into the market. Vlad, the leader of the rock band Dark Theater, has a T-shirt line, as does independent cartoonist Wendy Snow-Lang. At the opposite end of the economic scale, Bram Stoker’s Dracula products included a bustier version marketed through Macy’s ($1,500), a tie with a wolf symbol, boxer shorts, and red laced underpants with rosebud appliqué.
The more affluent can purchase vampire jewelry. One of the more popular items is a reproduction of the ring worn by Barnabas Collins in the 1960s television series. Wristwatches have been produced with designs from both the 1960s and 1990 Dark Shadows television series and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Bram Stoker’s Dracula also led to the production of a set of broaches in the form of a bat, a bug, and a spider and a vampire red lipstick in a $500 bejeweled coffin-shaped lipstick holder. Among the most unusual items was an ornament suitable for a necklace or bracelet that contained dirt from Castle Dracula.
Miscellaneous Items: The number and variety of vampire-oriented paraphernalia are extensive. Dark Shadows products alone included pillows, a music box, a Barnabas Collins walking cane, lunch box, keychains, drinking mugs, and calendars. Count Chocula cereal, introduced in the 1970s, is still popular. There are lapel buttons with witty vampire one-liners and even a vampire condom.
No discussion of vampire products would be complete without mentioning the several anti-vampire kits. The first such kit was alleged to have been produced by Nicolas Plomdeur, a gunmaker in Liege, Belgium, in the mid-nineteenth century. His kit included a real pistol made in the shape of a latin cross, a silver bullet, a wooden spike, powder flask, and a clove of garlic. The only known surviving example of the Plomdeur kit is owned by Val Forgett of the Navy Arms Company. A similar kit can be found in the Mercer Museum at Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This kit’s wooden box contains a pistol, two silver bullets, a cross attached to a wooden stake, a magnifying glass, some garlic, and several “serums” especially formulated by the manufacturer of the kit, reputedly a Dr. Ernest Blomberg. The kit was reportedly designed for nineteenth-century English-speaking travelers going to Eastern Europe.
Finally, for the most intense vampire enthusiasts, Death, Inc. of San Francisco, California, has offered a full “Vampire Line” of coffins.
The Twenty-first Century: Since the 1990s, an overwhelming amount of new vampire paraphernalia has been produced in association with successful movies and television seres. Above and beyond the usual promotional materials, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) had a variety of games, jewelry, and clothing associated with it, as did Interview with the Vampire two years later. Both were, however, far eclipsed by the merchandising that developed from the seven-year run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the spinoff Angel, which ran for five years. Both the amount and variety of items with logos and pictures of the stars on them expanded exponentially. Many of the items are specifically related to the content of the movie or television show, such as the Tru Blood drink featured in HBO’s True Blood television series, and the glasses from which to drink the blood substitute; or the replica of the vampire hero’s necklace from CBS’s Moonlight series.
The merchandizing associated with Buffy carried through the middle of the first decade of the new century, but it was eclipsed beginning in 2008 by the extensive amount of paraphernalia developed in relation to the four books and the movie adaptations of The Twilight Series of Stephenie Meyer. The majority of items directed toward Twilight fans are specifically aimed for use by its largely teenage and female audience. Marketing for Twilight varies somewhat in that the many items are largely manufactured by one company which specializes in a reaching the fan base rather than a set of companies that specialized in the type of merchandise being produced (jewelry, trading cards, action figures, games, or clothing). Also, with the rise of the Internet, are guides to collecting are nonexistent. The availability of different items is totally tied to direct sales, thus guides to items not immediately available—about which a collector would like to know and for which a collector might search—are not being created. Among the rare exceptions is Jeff Allendar’s House of Checklists (http://nslists.com/jachlist.htm), which gives extensive information on trading cards sets, including all the vampire cards.
Conclusion: The number of different places where the vampire image can now be found is further proof of its significant penetration into the popular culture. The fact that so many products for children and young adults now feature vampires indicate that its popularity will only expand as the next generation matures after experiencing the vampire in such a positive manner.
(For more information on specific categories of paraphernalia, see separate entries in this book, including comic books, music, and games.)