Vampires, Ghosts, and the ‘Dark Shadows’ Beauty Pageants of the Early 1970s

Today’s pop-culture landscape is rotten with stories about melodramatic, brooding vampires and their supernatural love affairs. But back in the 1960s and ’70s, those narratives belonged almost exclusively to the soap opera Dark Shadows. Near the end of its run, the series had become such an institution that it spawned a pair of Dark Shadows feature films (not to be confused with the 2012 Johnny Depp reboot), and to promote them, the producers staged what might have been the first ever nationwide spooky beauty pageants.

Courtesy of Atlas Obscura.

A Trip to Transylvania, Without the Bite

Romanian friends told us this area of medieval villages and fortified churches had little to do with the fiction of “Dracula,” yet the night was turning into a vampirish cliché. In his 1897 novel, the Irish writer Bram Stoker described the Carpathian pass as “an imaginative whirlpool” where every known superstition gathered. I saw how he might get that idea.

Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

In Search of the Balkan Soul

Thodoris Nikolaou has spent the last three years — and counting — crisscrossing the Balkan Peninsula to create a visual mosaic of the region’s people and their stories. But for Mr. Nikolaou, the project, called “…Balkaniotheque” and sponsored by the Onassis Foundation, became more than a multifaceted look at the region. It has been a search for his very identity.

Courtesy of the New York Times.

This Goth-Filled Seaside Town Inspired ‘Dracula’

Every October, the English seaside town of Whitby transforms into a page taken right out of a Bram Stoker novel.

All types of subcultures—from goths clad in 19th-century corsets and bustles to steampunks sporting vintage flying goggles—descend on this quiet port for Whitby Goth Weekend, the United Kingdom’s largest goth event.

You can see Whitby Abbey in the background of Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book III: Elizabeth.

Courtesy of National Geographic Australia.

Mountain highs: trekking without borders in the Balkans

The views from Kosovo’s highest peak are incredible. Or so I’m told. It’s a tricky thing to confirm in blanket murk and howling winds. I’ve just leaned into a gale to reach the 2,656m summit of Mount Gjeravica, where a shabby concrete marker displays a defaced plaque commemorating Kosovo’s first and only Olympic medallist.

Courtesy of The Guardian.

A hike to the mysterious Accursed Mountains in the Balkans

This remote and mysterious mountain range, much of it accessible only by foot, offers more than beauty. It hosts shepherds and goatherds and ancient pastoral traditions that have yet to be destroyed by mechanisation. In its isolated villages, traces still survive of a centuries-old code of conduct that combines extremes of punishment and generosity.

I’ve always said the “Accursed Mountains” would be right at home on a map of Middle Earth. Courtesy of the Financial Times.