Scholar links Buffalo Bill and Count Dracula

by Terra Cole ("The Casper Star-Tribune", July 9, 2003)

CODY, Wyo. - Buffalo Bill: A Western icon.
Count Dracula: A blood-sucking, Transylvanian killer.
So where's the connection?
''I argue that Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show were important inspirations for Bram Stoker's novel Dracula,'' says Louis Warren, a professor at the University of California in Davis.
Warren recently spoke at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's Twilight Talk. His presentation was, ''Buffalo Bill Meets Dracula: William F. Cody, Bram Stoker and the Wild West Roots of the Vampire Myth.''
Stoker's ''Dracula'' was written 10 years after the introduction of William F. Cody's Wild West show in England.
Warren said a mutual friend, famous actor Sir Henry Irving, introduced Stoker and Cody.
Stoker was Irving's manager and was thought to idolize the actor. Irving's promotion of Buffalo Bill's Wild West was said to have helped make it a success, Warren said.
In his early research, Warren learned that Buffalo Bill was well liked and popular with the English. ''I began to wonder if there was anyone who didn't like Buffalo Bill,'' he adds.
There was. His name was Bram Stoker.
Before ''Dracula'' was written, Stoker wrote other novels implying he was inspired by Cody and his show. ''The Shoulder of Shasta'' written in 1895 had a character named Grizzly Dick, whose likeness to Cody is obvious, Warren said. Both had shoulder-length hair, wore beaded buckskin and high black boots with Mexican spurs.
In the story, Dick is saved by an Englishwoman, Esse, who falls in love with him. But when Dick is oblivious to her affections she gets sick and is saved by an English artist, Reginald.
Warren said the character Reginald was Stoker's embodiment of himself: athletic with a fine physique. The connections are exemplified in other novels and eventually in ''Dracula.''
In ''Dracula,'' Stoker has three characters tracking the Count, including Quincy Morris, a virile Texan.
''Of the three young male protagonists who chase Dracula down and dispose of him, Morris is disturbingly incompetent,'' Warren said.
Warren said Morris displayed the typical western traits, many of which Buffalo Bill was known for.
Not only are characters in the novel inspired by Cody, but the theme of a new frontier also is portrayed.
Popular English culture at that time feared the weakening of their race, Warren said. Buffalo Bill's show of ''powerful American virility'' both encouraged and scared them.
''(Bill) Cody's frontier centaur symbolized the transformative power of the frontier, the way that going West and conquering could potentially make of Americans something new, something more free and powerful,'' Warren said.
Stoker's ''Dracula'' embodied a frontier similar to Cody's.
''The vampire was Bram Stoker's dark vision of the same frontier transformation, the shifting of self into other, the loss of will and restraint before a new self that was soulless, consuming, irresistible,'' Warren said.
Character similarities between the book and Wild West expand to plot similarities and racial perspectives, Warren said.
''The ghost of Buffalo Bill's Wild West haunts this greatest work of vampire fiction,'' Warren said.


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