Daniela Diaconescu is the Vice-President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (TSD), “a cultural-historical organization dedicated to scholarship and research centred on the two Draculas – the Count of Bram Stoker’s novel and the 15th-century Wallachian voivode better known as Vlad the Impaler.”
The TSD was founded in Bucharest in September 1991 by Nicolae Paduraru (1937–2009), a former employee of Romania’s Ministry of Tourism, Department of International Relationships, with Diaconescu’s assistance. The organisation soon spread out with branches in Canada, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States. Paduraru continued to serve as its president until his death; no one was appointed to take his role.
In 2016, the TSD celebrated its 25th anniversary—but there have been major shake-ups in the last several months. Shortly after their Fourth World Dracula Congress (October 20–22, 2016) at Trinity University, Dublin, Diaconescu circulated a press release which covered the biggest shake-up of all. We’re going to talk about that now.
Anthony Hogg: Hi Daniela! According to your October 28 press release, “The Inner Circle of the T.S.D. – formed by Romanian and Foreign members – decided to end the official activity of The Transylvanian Society of Dracula – Romania.” I must admit, I was quite surprised to hear that! Why did that happen? Can you elaborate on the “official activity”?
Daniela Diaconescu: Yes. The Transylvanian Society of Dracula was a juridical personality under the laws and rules of Romanian authorities. Ending the ‘official activity’ means actually to close the bank account, to erase it from the official register, to stop paying the fees and taxes requested.
The Transylvanian Society of Dracula remains and will remain open – as I am alive 😀 – to all those interested to find out more and correct information about the relation between the ‘genuine’ Dracula (I am referring here of the supernatural Stokerian character) and the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler (too ‘small’ to be compared with the force of the Count Dracula).
AH: I was also quite surprised by the timing—it followed so soon after the congress. My colleague, Erin Chapman, attended and did not recall any announcement about the TSD folding. Was it intended that the conference be the organisation’s last hurrah? How long was it known, beforehand, that the organisation would be folding? It all seems very sudden.
DD: Was not at all ‘sudden’. The thought to close the official activity of the T.S.D. has been taken in the Spring of 2016. But the life dictated – as always – the events. 2016 was the year of the celebration of 25 years old of the T.S.D. – worth a conference; 2016 was also the year of the commemoration of 7 years after Nicolae Paduraru passed away – also, worth an ‘in memoriam. These two things obliged me, us at the end, to organize the conference.
AH: The TSD isn’t totally dead, though. Your release also states “This is a good time to inform you that the only viable and reliable Transylvanian Society of Dracula remains the The North American Chapter, that becomes The Transylvanian Society of Dracula – President Dr. Anne DeLong – and will also be responsible for the motto and the Dragon-d sign, unique in the world.” Why was this branch chosen for this honour? What will happen to the other branches?
DD: The Transylvanian Society of Dracula had many branches, at the beginning of its life. In Italy, in Spain, in Suisse, in the U.S.A., in Japan, in Greece, in Russia, practically – the first members of ours from these countries wanted and managed to organize branches. But the most serious and reliable branches is that established in Canada, by Prof. Elizabeth Miller. Professor Miller – invested as Baroness of House of Dracula for her highest involvement in the T.S.D. activity – succeeded to keep the T.S.D. Canada Chapter at the same high level.
The other chapters were loosing in time, for several reasons. One of them is that one of the articles of our Statute asked for keeping in a legal form the organization, respecting the laws of each country where exists the chapter. It is hard to take such a decision and to keep it alive, knowing that you have to report all the information regarding the organization, paying fees, respecting the laws.
AH: Although your press release says, “The Romanian and Foreign Experts of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula will keep their titles as long as they will exist on Earth,” what will that mean for you if the organisation is no longer in operation? What will you be doing now? Will you still be involved in Dracula studies?
Yes, I did. The organization is no longer in operation, indeed. But we cannot retire the titles. Firstly, because all those personalities who received a title, they deserve it for their researches, activity, results, involvement, and all you want – in Dracula field. They served with honour the purpose of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, as it is stipulated in the Statute and as Nicolae Paduraru, the founder president and the Brain, actually, of this, left with ‘death tongue’.
Secondly, because nobody can retire the title of ‘professor’ or ‘doctor’ or ‘actor’ or … only because the institution where they worked does no more exist. The title remain and honoured the work and efforts made to make known the society, to laud its voice, to explain a ‘myth’, to spread the image of The Transylvanian Society of Dracula in the World.
AH: Let’s take a step back in time—let’s go back to the organisation’s founding in 1991. How did you first become involved in it? Why, and how, did it come into being?
DD: Nicolae and I were working together in the Minister of Tourism, but not in the same department. I was more than a friend of Nicolae and helped him in every step he did in thinking and organizing this society. Nicolae left his job in 1991, when he established legally the society. I just could help him in my ‘free time’, after the work. He asked me to join, but it was taking me a little bit longer to leave my job, because I have had more responsibilities to take care of, and because of my family. In 1993, I decided to join, on April 1st – and was not at all a joke…
I started to work very hard and only for the T.S.D. – many times without any salary and any money recompenses. The beginning was very hard. The ‘all’ staff of the T.S.D. were only two of us – and an accountant, of course, but her job was specific, not ‘dracularian’. So, all what should be done – was done by Nicolae and me.
AH: There appears to have been a major tourist angle associated with the organisation, with the Company of Mysterious Journeys, which conducts Dracula tours in Romania, cited as a TSD “subsidiary.” Can you explain the extent of these tourist connections? Was the TSD founded, at least, in part, to promote Romanian tourism?
DD: Yes, the ‘Company of Mysterious Journeys’ was the official tourist agency of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula – Romania and has been founded first of all to have a financial source for developing the T.S.D. itself. We were not having money from nowhere, nobody, we have not been supported financial speaking by no one. We need money for organizing our conferences, congresses, we invited high and important personalities and we, many times, supported all or part of the expenses. We have paid from our personal money, but the activities were growing and growing and we could not managed.
Nicolae had the idea to found a tourist agency for an ‘auto-financing’ us and, in the same time, to voice our purpose, to show our results, to be seen easier and correctly in the world.
AH: Speaking of tourism, I can’t help but reflect on the major upheavals taking place in Romania at the time the organisation was founded; we’re of course talking about the collapse of Communism under Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918–1989), widely noted as a very repressive time in Romania’s history. Even though Dracula tourism had been trickling in from the 1970s onward, most likely due to the popularity of Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu’s book In Search of Dracula (1972), it seems the Dracula connections were largely curtailed, even by the government. Can you explain this resistance to us? Did you personally experience it?
DD: The foreigner tourists interested in Dracula on the Romanian land existed since 1960 – 1970. The Romanians have had no idea about the novel, about the supernatural character created by Bram Stoker. Nicolae Paduraru, because of his job, has been confronted with the story since the middle of ’60, when the tourists came in Romania with the novel in a hand and a map in the other, seeking for the Dracula castle. Obviously, nobody knew about what they want and they search. Nicolae worked at the tourism international department in the former Minister of Tourism and his job was to meet the journalists of English-speaker language. In this way, he was one of the few employees who came up with Bram Stoker, the Count Dracula and the novel itself. Nicolae Ceausescu did not allow to even pronounce the name ‘Dracula’ or ‘Draculea’, because the Occident nicknamed him in the bad sense of the word. So, nobody, nowhere and never could use the name of ‘Dracula’. Yet, more and more Westerners were coming searching for a certain Dracula, personage of an English book. All those tourists were bringing West money and much money – Pounds, U.S. Dollars, especially, and the government did not dare to refuse this money (valuta forte!). So, the groups and the individual tourists coming were joined always, beside the English-speaker guide (most of the time – Nicolae) by a ‘driver’ or a ‘friend’ – actually a worker in the famous ‘Romanian securitate’. The most funny was when big groups of English and Swedish and American groups came for Halloween parties. Then, all the waitresses and the waiters were important officers, serving the tourists in the restaurants.
Yes, I participated at a few this kind of Halloween parties with Britain tourists.
AH: The TSD has been in operation a long time; 25 years. With such a long history, especially considering that most vampire organisations tend to fold after a short time, why do you think the TSD lasted so long? What was the key to its longevity?
DD: The longevity of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula – Romania was a natural consequence of the seriousness of the founder-members, of the respect due to all those coming to us, of the intellectuality on that we based our point of view, of our complete dedication. I believe that always ‘The people hallows the place’ – as a Romanian proverb says.
AH: What do you feel the TSD has achieved in 25 years? What do you believe is its most important contribution is to Dracula scholarship—or the world?
DD: The Statute of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula voices – as the most important point, to make the difference between the two Dracula characters, historical and fictional. Our historical figure – Vlad Tepes (the Impaler) was important for us, at the certain time, but unknown by the World, was too small even in our history, to be compared with the Count Dracula – one of the biggest and strongest fictional figures in the World Literature. The T.S.D. work, sustained by big and important scientists, scholars, professors, artists, writers, historians, folklorists, and not in the last – by the romantic fans of Dracula – accomplished this purpose. People from all around the world understood that there is any connection between our history and the Gothic literature, unless the name. After 25 year of work and personal dedication, we can say, crossing the heart, yes – we succeeded. Nicolae can be satisfied there, where he is.
The T.S.D. helped many of the Dracula members in finding their path, in sustaining graduation, in writing books and essays, in filming, in any domain where it was requested its help. And I have to bold that this happened with our totally implication – with our mind, with our physical and financial efforts. But never ever we regretted – me, at least, never ever regretted for any thing or any person. I was, am and will be happy to give my contribution to help somebody to accomplish a serious and noble aim.
AH: I’m sure you have lots of memories during your time as vice president. What are some of your fondest memories of being involved with the TSD?
DD: God! I should spend a life to share a part of my memories. Practically, each day in the T.S.D. meant a memories.
The first could be the day when I announced my family that I change my ‘serious’ job at the Minister of Tourism with one at ‘The Transylvanian Society of Dracula’. My parents were petrified: the name ‘dracula’ was very closed to ‘dracul’ = devil. They didn’t understand what I want to do. Myself was a little be ashamed to say where I am working. At time, people did not know about Dracula and they thought that I work for some occult organization.
The other heavy memory is the organizing the First World Dracula Congress, in 1995. Nicolae and I were almost overruled by the authorities, we needed weeks and weeks to make the directors of several institutions to help us in a way. Finally, Nicolae managed to convince the Ministry of Tourism about the importance of the event, then others fallowed: the Romanian fly company, the hotels managers, transporters and and But, the people who confirmed the attending were sooooo many, we actually had no room for all. This was an event that marked me. Two people working to organize an event of over 350 persons: and all what meant this.
Also – the permanent meeting and the opportunity to meet very important persons from all the world. This had a big impact and contributed to increase my personality.
Thank you for this interview, I feel that I can, once more, to bring in front of the world the big figure that was Nicolae Paduraru. If all of that was possible, it dues to his charisma, his knowledge, his determination to accomplish his aim. I was around just for help as ‘the man of the shadow’…
- “a cultural-historical organization”: Elizabeth Miller, “Nicolae Paduraru (1937-2009), Founder of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula: An Obituary,” CESNUR: Center for Studies on New Religions, n.d., accessed November 24, 2016, http://www.cesnur.org/2009/paduraru.htm. archive.is link: https://archive.is/DJXn3.
- We’re going to talk about that now: Questions emailed to Diaconescu on November 30, 2016. Answers received December 8, 2016.
- October 28 press release: Daniela Diaconescu, post on Children of the Night Dracula Congress Facebook group, October 28, 2016, accessed November 23, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/groups/COTNDC/permalink/1125052407579654/?comment_id=1125154854236076&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D. archive.is link: https://archive.is/N5GcV. At the time Diaconescu posted the press release, the Facebook group still operated under the Transylvanian Society of Dracula banner and name. All further press release quotes are taken from this source.
- cited as a TSD “subsidary”: Daniela Diaconescu, “Nicolae Paduraru (1937-2009),” interview by Mark Benecke, trans. Gregor Karosi, Mark Benecke Forensic Wiki, last modified on January 30, 2012, accessed November 30, 2016, http://wiki2.benecke.com/index.php?title=Nicolae_Paduraru_(1937-2009). archive.is link: https://archive.is/cBoJ9. The interview was conducted in May 2009.
Disclosure: I have been a member of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, Canadian branch (then North American branch, now the only official branch), since 2011. If you want to become a member too, follow the instructions here: https://kutztownenglish.com/transylvania-society-of-dracula/.
If you’re interested in attending a Dracula tour via Diaconescu’s organisation, Company of Mysterious Journeys, visit her website for more information: http://www.mysterious-journeys.com/.