Dr. Raymond T. McNally, 71, a colorful Boston College professor who camped it up while discussing the legend of Dracula, died Thursday of complications of cancer in St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton.
Dr. McNally coauthored the 1972 besteller ''In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires '' with Radu Florescu, a Boston College professor. The book, which was updated in 1994, provides a historical foundation for the Transylvanian legend of the ''undead'' count popularized by Irish novelist Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel ''Dracula.''
The duo found that the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, though not one of the living dead, was a good deal more bloodthirsty than the legendary count. Tepes ruled parts of Romania in the mid-15th century and had men, women, and children impaled, buried alive, burned, and multilated in other ways. To deter the Turks, who were plotting an invasion, he impaled thousands on wooden stakes and displayed their bodies on the borders.
''We found out that when he would dine amid his impaled victims, he would have the blood gathered in bowls, then he would dip the bread into the bowl and consume it,'' Dr. McNally said in a story published in the Globe in 1994.
Romanian peasants were terrified that the man they nicknamed ''Dracula,'' or ''son of the devil,'' might return from the dead.
''We were the first to link the mythical vampire with the actual historical personality,'' Dr. McNally said in 1979.
According to Dr. McNally, when Tepes was a child, his father gave him to the Turks as a good-faith gesture after promising not to attack them. He later broke the promise and betrayed his son.
Dr. McNally was author or coauthor of several other books, including ''A Clutch of Vampires: Things Being Among the Best Vampire Stories from History and Literature,'' and ''Dracula Was a Woman'' about a 16th century Hungarian countess reputed to have tortured and murdered about 600 virgins.
His work was funded in part by three Fulbright research grants. ''I have this vision of some US senator standing up in the US Senate and saying: `What are we doing funding this research on vampires?''' Dr. McNally said in 1987. ''We've funded a lot of other things that were worse than that.''
Dr. McNally was born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He graduated from Fordham University and earned a doctorate in Russian and East European history from the Free University of Berlin.
He joined the faculty at Boston College in 1958.
''In childhood, I was interested in stories of the imagination, especially in fairy tales and the Grimm fairy tales in particular,'' Dr. McNally said in an 1989 interview. ''While watching a Dracula horror film on the late, late show in 1958, I realized that the film was set in places that are real. I looked at my map and yes, there really was a Transylvania and a Borgo Pass.''
He teamed up with Florescu, who was a specialist on Romanian history.
Dr, McNally said his favorite movie vampire was Max Schreck, who played the decadent, decaying count in ''Nosferatu,'' the 1922 film.
In 1996, Dr. McNally released a CD-ROM called ''Dracula: Truth or Terror,'' which included ''Nosferatu'' as well as an animated miniature version of himself offering commentary on the ''undead.'' Click on the little man and a stake is driven through his heart.
According to McNally, driving a stake through a vampire's heart is often misunderstood. ''A stake through the heart or navel during the daylight is not enough. The idea is to pin the corpse to the earth as double insurance,'' said Dr. McNally, who claimed to have seen the action performed on a suicide victim in Romania in 1969.
Dr. McNally often wore a cape when publicizing his Dracula books, and sometimes swept it over his head with his arms outstretched, much like the Hollywood version of the legendary count. ''He was not a scholar who locked himself into an ivory tower,'' Boston College historian Thomas H. O'Connor said yesterday. ''Sometimes his showmanship overshadowed his scholarship, but he was a serious, methodical academic who did much to develop Boston College's history program on Russia and the Middle East.''
Dr. McNally leaves his wife, Carol (Maymon); two sons, Michael of Chalfont, Pa., and Patrick of Newton; three daughters, Katherine of Larchmont, N.Y., Brigitte of Hull and Tara of Holland; a sister, Doris Shell of Cleveland; and several grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Ignatius Church in Newton. Burial will be in Newton Cemetery.
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