Bela “Dracula” Lugosi’s Cape: Preserving, Perpetuating, and Popularizing a Cinematic and Family Heirloom

Jared L. Schmidt (Tillamook Bay Community College)

In 1931, Hungarian immigrant Bela Lugosi loomed large on the silver screen in Dracula as the titular Count. Lugosi’s portrayal transformed popular vampiric representations from undead, shambling revenants to impeccably dressed sophisticates. After filming, Lugosi retained an original costume element from the Dracula aesthetic he created – the cape. Drawing on interviews with the Lugosi family and Academy Museum curators, this presentation explores this iconic cape’s object biography from costume to family heirloom to museum exhibit. This presentation details how association with Lugosi imbues the original cape and subsequent replicas with numinosity and notoriety perpetuated by thousands of Americans at Halloween.

Part of 37-02 Folklore in Film and Television , Wednesday, October 20, 7:00 pm–8:30 pm