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Not a bad guy

How vile can a guy get and still have a fan base?

Very vile, actually. Take supremely wicked Dracula, for example. Created by novelist Bram Stoker in the late 19th century, the undead Transylvanian count drinks blood and enslaves minds, yet he and fictional characters like him have so consistently fascinated us that we all probably know more vampire lore than state capitals.

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So, if you’re one of the millions of vampire aficionados, the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Center City has some good times for you this month. The small museum at 20th Street and Delancey Place is presenting its ninth Dracula Festival through this month. Along with Stoker’s notes for his 1897 novel, all things Dracula will be explored in a series of exhibits and programs.

A visitor to the Rosenbach can see how perceptions of the vampire have changed over the years. In films and on TV, we’ve seen the character portrayed by a tuxedo-attired Bela Lugosi, who looked like he combed his hair with buttered toast, to the sexy Frank Langella to the truly scary Gary Oldman to Sesame Street’s puppet The Count.

“What strikes me is how alluring Dracula has become,” said Emilie Parker, the Rosenbach’s director of education.

That’s not how Stoker created the character, who was based on a real bloodthirsty, not bloodsucking, Transylvanian ruler, she said. Many aspects of Dracula’s powers and his weaknesses expanded or, in other cases, disappeared soon after Stoker’s novel came out, Parker said, and weren’t necessarily part of the original tale. Vampires cast no reflection. They can be destroyed by wooden stakes through their hearts. They are put off by garlic. In Stoker’s work, Dracula also could appear as a wolf, a power that modern fans probably don’t associate with vampires.

In a phone interview last week, Parker said she isn’t exactly sure what keeps us so interested in Dracula, but she noted that the Rosenbach’s festival has something to intrigue and entertain just about everybody. There is something for kids, families, scholars and horror buffs.

Parker recommends Dracula D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) on Oct. 29 as fun for kids and Dracula fans. It’s a free craft-making event in which participants will get to work on Victorian-era clothing, relief printing and designs. The program also will include a reading of Dracula and a Dracula-themed photo booth. And it’s free. Rosenbach admission ordinarily is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for children older than 5.

Dracula D.I.Y. premiered last year.

“It was a huge hit,” Parker said, adding that Rosenbach staff noticed a lot of families attended. Based on that, she said, D.I.Y. has been structured this year to be even more attractive to families. Still, Parker believes “people who are really into horror” will enjoy Dracula D.I.Y., too.

Also entertaining, she said, is Stoker’s Dracula, a theatrical adaptation performed by Josh Hitchens, which will be presented only on Thursday, Oct. 27. Hitchens uses much of the novel’s original text as he portrays 14 characters, Parker said.

Dracula and Friends, which will be on display until Nov. 6, features pages of Stoker’s hand-written research along with selections of other literature about the supernatural, including the museum’s recent acquisition, John Polidori’s The Vampyre.

That 1819 work is the first vampire novel published in English. ••

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215–354–3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

Dracula’s blood drive …

The Rosenbach Museum & Library, 200–2010 Delancey Place, is presenting its ninth Annual Dracula Festival through Oct. 29. Dracula Festival programs are free with museum admission. Dracula D.I.Y. is free.

For more information, call 215–732–1600 or visit www.rosenbach.org

The Rosenbach, founded by brothers and partners A.S.W. and Philip Rosenbach, looks like its neighboring Delancey Place townhouses but contains a collection of rare books, manuscripts, furniture and art. ••

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