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Vampires Creep Into Vapriikki

by | Apr 24, 2019

A blood-sucking bat is often associated with vampires. Picture: Teppo Moilanen

As far as hidden talents are concerned, I have a limited repertoire. I can recite quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer as easily as a Shakespearean actor would quote Macbeth.

I idolized Buffy and the self-appointed Scooby Gang as a pre-teen, and I was sincerely saddened to learn that “vampire slayer” was not an actual occupation. Praised for its witty dialogue and pioneering storylines, the cult American television series also spoke to society’s interminable fascination with the undead. Prompted, in part, by the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897, it is a fascination that has inspired the latest exhibition to be held in Vapriikki museum center in Tampere, central Finland.

Entitled Dracula – Vampires in Vapriikki, the exhibition uncovers the myths and mysteries of the curious creatures. Marjo-Riitta Saloniemi, a long-time fan of Dracula and the head of exhibitions, says that vampires are a well-established fixture in cultures across the globe: “You find them in Asia, Australia, Africa, India, China, also in Americas . . . . Vampire beliefs have also traveled with the immigrants, like with the Polish to Canada.”

For Saloniemi, the reason behind their prolific presence is simple: “Vampires are immortal and after-life is a mystery for us all. The idea of living forever is quite fascinating for many.” Yet, Saloniemi says the undead were much more feared in earlier times: “They were believed to cause all kinds of trouble, illnesses and death . . . . People did not understand the processes of how the human bodies decay after death . . . this led them to think that the person is not dead but has turned into a vampire.”

Saloniemi first conceived of the exhibition in 2013, inspired by a Dracula display she had seen in Taipei. Some six years later, Dracula – Vampires in Vapriikki has come to fruition with objects drawn from European and American museums, as well as private collections. Saloniemi says: “We were able to gather simply fantastic items. Historical objects from medieval times and a bunch of more recent ones. Items connected to Vlad the Impaler are coming from an Austrian collection.”

“Vampires are immortal and after-life is a mystery for us all. The idea of living forever is quite fascinating for many.”

Marjo-Riitta Saloniemi

Head of Exhibitions, Vapriikki

The vampire-slaying kit includes the necessary tools to battle the Nosferatu. Picture: Teppo Moilanen

Saloniemi’s personal favorite is a vampire-slaying kit. A sought-after collection item, which materialized soon after the 1950s Dracula production in which Christopher Lee played the title role, Saloniemi says the kit includes “a rosary, the Holy Bible, a crucifix, a pistol, a silver bullet (that works also with werewolves), a hammer and a stick, dried vampire blood, ashes of a vampire, a vampire tooth and a tool to pull off the vampire’s fangs.”

The exhibition also delves into the role accorded to vampires in films, literature and popular culture. According to Saloniemi, “Vampires have been very prominent in films and popular culture since the 1930s. More and more fiction on vampires is published every year.” In fact, since the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897 and its subsequent theatre and film adaptations, the once-feared creatures have even earned their own distinct genre.

While the popularity of Dracula is undisputed, Saloniemi explains that more recent novels by authors like Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer feature a much more romantic type of vampire. Written mainly for a female audience, Saloniemi says: “Today, vampires in popular culture are not ruthless creatures like Count Dracula . . . . Vampires have feelings, they are victims of their destiny, they have superpowers, they are erotic and good lovers.”

Bella’s wedding dress as seen in ‘Twilight’. Picture: Teppo Moilanen

Saloniemi continues: “Usually the novels describe a relationship between a human (female) and a vampire. The women are not afraid to be bitten, now instead they want to be bitten to be able to share eternity with their loved one.” It is an idealistic interpretation best exemplified by star-crossed lovers, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, of Twilight fame and Saloniemi says that female visitors have clamored to the exhibition to see Bella’s wedding dress on display. 

While I am curious as to what Bram Stoker may have said about vampires that sparkle, it is undeniable that literature like Twilight has intensified society’s interest in these captivating creatures. It seems, at least for the present, vampires are truly immortal. Perhaps I won’t rule out “vampire slayer” as a future career option after all.

The exhibition is on display until August 18 at the Vapriikki museum center in Tampere.