Dracula Land Plans Kept in Dark

The Romanian government has announced plans to build a Dracula Land theme park to attract visitors interested in Prince Vlad Tepes, a 15th-century nobleman who was the real-life model for Bram Stoker's character.

But Prince Vlad's only living relative has a rival plan for a park in Germany, and appears to be in the dark about the Romanian venture.

Prince Vlad is a national hero in Romania, but he's better known to the rest of the world as Vlad the Impaler, the Machiavellian ruler of Wallachia, a Romanian province that bordered Transylvania, home of the fictional Count Dracula.

Dracula, of course, was the creation of Stoker, an Irish novelist. Dracula, published in 1897, is about vampires who gain life through the sucking of human blood.

Known for his brutal forms of revenge, he often ordered his enemies to be skinned, boiled, decapitated, burned or roasted. Living up to his name, the Impaler, his favorite method of killing was impaling his victims on stakes.

Despite these atrocities he is considered a hero in Romania because he fought to protect his country from the advances of its 15th-century enemies, the Turks.

The Romanian government plans to attach a Dracula Institute to the theme park, with conference facilities and a library.

"This institute will allow us to maintain permanent contact with some 4,000 Dracula clubs around the world," says Tourism Minister Matei Dan, who announced the plan last week.

Although Romanians believe the character of Count Dracula is an insult to their local hero, Dan dismisses the naysayers. "There are some voices in Romania who accuse me of selling a false legend, bringing harm in their opinion, to the image of a great Romanian hero. But I am a pragmatic man and these critics do not put me off."

The theme park is expected to cost $60 million and should be open by 2002, in an as yet undisclosed location widely thought to be in either Transylvania or near the capital Bucharest, where Prince Vlad is buried.

Dan did not elaborate on the details of the project, simply saying that it was a "fantastic plan."

A Bloody Rivalry?

The last remaining relative of the infamous Romanian hero is Ottomar Rudolphe Vlad Dracul Kretzulesco, who lives in a medieval castle outside Berlin. In an interview with ABCNEWS.com in December, he said he intended to turn his castle into a vampire theme park.

When recently told about the Romanian Tourist Board's plans, Prince Otto declined to comment. His agent Petra Huber said: "He knows nothing of this and will probably have nothing to do with it."

Asked whether they planned to cooperate with Prince Otto, the head of the Romanian tourist office in London, Maria Jordache, told ABCNEWS.com, "We expect a delegate from the Romanian Tourist Board to be visiting Germany at the end of the month."

Whether there will be competition — or cooperation — between the two theme parks remains to be seen.