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Vampires and the law:

I've just started reading Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead, by Paul Bibeau. As the back cover explains:

At eight years old, Paul Bibeau had the footie pj's scared off of him when his sister sprang out of a crawlspace in the dark wearing plastic fangs. It was the start of a lifelong fascination with vampires. Now a "grown-up" journalist, he has embarked on a quest to discover how a second-rate Wallachian Prince named Vlad, inserted into an odd little nineteenth-century book by some guy named Stoker, became such a pervasive cultural icon.

I'm about fifty pages into the book now; the early chapters, mostly about Romania, are very good and funny. But for now, let me share with you one passage from the book (pp. 34-36), about why Romanians haven't been so keen to capitalize on the international fame of their native son Vlad Dracula.

As of 2000 almost half of Romania's population lived in poverty . . . . But the country also had a potential fortune -- a character whose legend had launched a multimillion dollar media empire. Romania was like a homeless guy carting around one of those stolen supermarket carts filled with bags of aluminum cans, a pile of dirty laundry, a half-drunk bottle of Night Train, and a framed Van Gogh original in mint condition. It just didn't make sense. Why couldn't the country cash in? . . . .

Sighi┼čoara [a Transylvanian town that at one point was going to be the site for a Dracula theme park] had already seen its share of Goths . . . and locals wanted none of it. At a rock music festival a few years ago, it was mobbed with up to 90,000 people. . . . [T]he rock fans actually scrawled pentagrams on the gravestones at the local church . . . .

[I]n late 2001 . . . a Miramax crew filmed a series of movies called Dracula Resurrection there. Locals reported stumbling over fake-blood-soaked mannequins in their town square. "My daughter was terrified," said one townie.

It wasn't hard to see their point. To Romanians Vlad was a national figure, not a vampire. Imagine foreigners coming to visit the Lincoln Memorial by the thousands -- wearing stovepipe hats, false beards . . . and plastic fangs. They love Lincoln. They love how he can turn himself into a bat. How he freed the slaves and rises at night to suck the blood of the living. Imagine you know you could make major bucks off these freaks if you chiseled a pair of wicked-looking teeth on Lincoln's statue.

You'd have to be desperate to even consider it.

As someone whose middle name begins with "Vlad," I may be blogging in the future about my own interests in vampires and the law -- what Buffy has to do with property law and the law and economics insights of Angel.

L. Halbrook:
Thanks for the tip on the book. The excerpt was interesting and answered a question I'd wondered about. I too have had a lifelong fascination with vampires. (Though I've never exactly figured out why!)
10.23.2007 9:16am
advisory opinion:
That's hilarious.
10.23.2007 9:31am
liberty (mail) (www):

what Buffy has to do with property law


What a tease!

I am hanging on the edge of my seat.
10.23.2007 9:46am
Laurent (mail):
Dear Sasha,
By the way, someone (Peter Huang) already done that kind of work for another series... The Law &Economics of Xena

Let's try:
http://www.whoosh.org/issue2/huang.html

A huge fan work and a very nice delight
Best whishes
10.23.2007 10:02am
pilight (mail) (www):
One might think that people rising from the grave would have a profound effect on probate and inheritance law.
10.23.2007 10:06am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Take THAT, rule against perpetuities!
10.23.2007 10:34am
Tracy Johnson (www):
The original article from 2002 has dropped off the Stanford site, but a mathematical essay on the ecology of vampires can be found here:

Vampire Ecology
10.23.2007 10:38am
dew:
Years ago, Salem MA had a similar (if much smaller) situation. Thousands would come as tourists around Halloween looking for witches and other Halloweenish things. For many years, the residents resisted it, then in the 80s they decided to encourage it and milk the tourists, and the town seems to do quite well.
10.23.2007 11:05am
Houston Lawyer:
Lots of issues regarding property rights of the undead. Should all closings be held in the daytime in sunlit conference rooms? Are all principals required to be there in person?
10.23.2007 11:13am
JosephSlater (mail):
Excellent, timely, thread topic.
10.23.2007 11:15am
Laurent (mail):
Excellent paper on vampire ecology... Furiously funny !
10.23.2007 11:27am
Anderson (mail):
Frankly, Vlad as vampire comes off as considerably less vile than the historical Vlad. The Romanians should be happy for the glamorization.
10.23.2007 11:48am
Cornellian (mail):
Just think of all the taxes I'll save from being the beneficiary of my own testamentary trust!
10.23.2007 12:03pm
Paul Bibeau (mail) (www):
I'm honored to be in the hallowed halls of Volokh! Longtime fan. To reply to dew's post, the book actually has a chapter on the Six Flags Over the Dead Witch that Salem, MA has become. Hope you like it.
10.23.2007 12:16pm
WHOI Jacket:
Salem is still a pretty town. You can avoid the "witch" stuff fairly easily and go visit Hawthorn's home, the House of Seven Gables, the Customs House, and a very picturesque town green.

Then you can hit up the wax museum....
10.23.2007 12:29pm
Mark Field (mail):

Years ago, Salem MA had a similar (if much smaller) situation. Thousands would come as tourists around Halloween looking for witches and other Halloweenish things. For many years, the residents resisted it, then in the 80s they decided to encourage it and milk the tourists, and the town seems to do quite well.


Similar issues have affected the island of Lesbos. A neighbor of mine, who was born there and whose family still lives there, has some very funny stories about the reaction of the locals to certain tourists.


what Buffy has to do with property law


Judging from her experience, I can safely say that vampires and demons don't seem to have much respect for the principle that one's house is one's castle.
10.23.2007 12:35pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Mark Field: Much more complicated than that! You have to invite them in! (At least vampires.) Now what counts as an invitation-only place, what counts as an invitation, who can invite, and how to revoke the invitation are complicated and interesting questions.
10.23.2007 12:39pm
dew:
To reply to dew's post, the book actually has a chapter on the Six Flags Over the Dead Witch that Salem, MA has become. Hope you like it.
Ha! Now I'll just have to buy it. Thanks.

Salem is still a pretty town. You can avoid the "witch" stuff fairly easily
It is hard to avoid it around Halloween. I've volunteered at the Peabody-Essex museum (which alone can be worth a trip if you are in the Boston area) and the Witch House around then - hoards of tourists mixed with lots of costumed characters (and more than a few pretty strange people) with witches everywhere of course.
10.23.2007 12:57pm
FC:
...a second-rate Volokhian Prince named Vlad the Impaneler, inserted into an odd little twenty-first century blog by some guy named Sasha...
10.23.2007 1:15pm
Rolly:
Favorite supermarket tabloid headline from some years ago:

AIDS Fear Cuts Vampire Attacks
10.23.2007 1:17pm
Mark Field (mail):

Mark Field: Much more complicated than that! You have to invite them in! (At least vampires.) Now what counts as an invitation-only place, what counts as an invitation, who can invite, and how to revoke the invitation are complicated and interesting questions.


Clearly the invite issue could be solved by requiring that anyone extending an invitation show livery of seisin. This would have prevented the invitation to Harmony in Real Me. Then again, perhaps not -- Dawn did claim that "this is my house too" in Empty Places (an episode which demonstrates that sometimes humans aren't all that respectful of property rights).

Revoking the invitation seems to require a witch and some smelly herbs. I'm not sure how they revoked the invitation to Cordelia's car (Passion), but we do know that public schools require no invite, so I'm guessing they can't be "locked". Perhaps that's an issue private school advocates might want to exploit.
10.23.2007 2:15pm
wm13:
Is Vlad really appropriately compared to Lincoln (I mean for Romanians)? I thought he was a more ambiguous figure than that (even to Romanians). But the basic point still stands: presumably Americans would have mixed emotions about outfitting Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson in vampire fangs to cater to tourists.
10.23.2007 2:58pm
Paul Bibeau (mail) (www):
WM13: You're probably right. But the image of a pair of chompers chiseled onto Abe's face at the Lincoln Monument just haunted me. I couldn't resist it.
10.23.2007 3:36pm
abb3w:
And here I am hoping to see the Addison v. Clarke SCOTUS ruling come out in fanfic someday....
10.23.2007 3:48pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"Mark Field: Much more complicated than that! You have to invite them in! (At least vampires.) Now what counts as an invitation-only place, what counts as an invitation, who can invite, and how to revoke the invitation are complicated and interesting questions."

We would love to hear those complicated and interesting questions. Please elaborate ...

"Revoking the invitation seems to require a witch and some smelly herbs." Yes, no doubt garlic.
10.23.2007 4:31pm
Mark Field (mail):

Yes, no doubt garlic.


Nope, moss herbs: "Um, the-the-the, uh, the ritual's fairly basic, actually. It's just the recitation of a few rhyming couplets, burning of, uh, moss herbs, sprinkling of holy water..."
10.23.2007 5:12pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Go ahead, give us the chant ...
10.23.2007 6:14pm
Syd Henderson (mail):

pilight
One might think that people rising from the grave would have a profound effect on probate and inheritance law.
10.23.2007 9:06am



Vampire law is rather simple when you consider the legal headaches posed by Frankenstein's Monster.
10.23.2007 6:37pm
ys:

...a second-rate Volokhian Prince named Vlad the Impaneler, inserted into an odd little twenty-first century blog by some guy named Sasha...

"Volokh" indeed meant somebody from Walachia originally, so this is clearly no coincidence.

On a different note, I just saw an apparently hit musical "Tanz der Vampire" in Berlin. It does take place in Transylvania but in a shtetl. When a Tevye-like character turns out to be a vampire, and a girl he attacks tries to stop him with garlic and a cross, he laughs and says "I am a Jewish vampire, this does nothing to me!" To be fair, there is also a castle and a count-like character appearing later.

This was all in German and seemed kind of funny, but not so funny to my companion who lives in Berlin. I was lulled into calm by the fact that Roman Polanski supervised the staging, but later found that the original story and script were all in German. That somehow made me more uneasy to have seen it in Berlin and I shared my companion's misgivings.
10.23.2007 7:46pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail) (www):
If Sasha can actually reconcile every instance of invitation-or-not over the course of Angel [the series], I'll give him a nickel. For something that was a very important plot point in some episodes, it was treated pretty carelessly in some others...
10.23.2007 9:15pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Jacob: Would you like to be my research assistant? If not, I could use some RAs from among Volokh Conspiracy readers....
10.23.2007 9:22pm
JoshL (mail):

presumably Americans would have mixed emotions about outfitting Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson in vampire fangs to cater to tourists.


Speaking as an US history teacher, you are sadly mistaken if you think that most Americans know who Andrew Jackson was. Or at least, if they do after passing whatever state-mandated standardised test they have to take dealing with US history.
10.23.2007 10:04pm
Elmer (mail):

a second-rate Volokhian Prince named Vlad the Impaneler, inserted into an odd little twenty-first century blog by some guy named Sasha.

This, and the news that another person has been turned into a blogger here, and the difficulty I'm having staying away from here add up to a pretty scary possibility.
10.23.2007 10:06pm
NickM (mail) (www):

pilight
One might think that people rising from the grave would have a profound effect on probate and inheritance law.
10.23.2007 9:06am




Vampire law is rather simple when you consider the legal headaches posed by Frankenstein's Monster.


Werewolf law would also be worse than vampire law.

Nick
10.24.2007 6:18am
Eric Nuzum (mail):
There is a hilarious book on vampires worth checking out that I just read last week after seeing a bunch of good reviews. It is called THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST. The author tours around the country and world, tries (and fails) to drink his own blood. It has to be one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. Definitely worth checking out.
10.24.2007 7:30am
Jay Kurtz (mail):
There is a hilarious book on vampires worth checking out that I just read last week after seeing a bunch of good reviews. It is called THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST. The author tours around the country and world, tries (and fails) to drink his own blood. It has to be one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. It's definitely worth checking out.
10.24.2007 7:35am
Paul Bibeau (mail) (www):
Actually, werewolf law might have a pretty straightforward template that we could use. According to Sabine Baring-Gould, who wrote one of the most popular books on werewolf folklore, some of these cases were drug-induced hysteria. People would don wolf pelts, smear themselves with a magic potion (that happened to include hallucinogenic drugs) and go crazy. Any night court judge whose ever handled a crack or PCP case is qualified. FYI: In addition to his work on werewolves, Gould is also famous for penning the song "Onward Christian Soldiers." But we're getting outside my area of expertise.
10.24.2007 7:37am
Paul Bibeau (mail) (www):
... and the author happens to be named Eric Nuzum! What a coincidence.
10.24.2007 7:39am
Jay Kurtz (mail):
That was my bad--I thought the "name" was like a title field (I've never posted here before but read it occasionally--can't delete entries here once you hit Post). Eric Nuzum is the author, though.
10.24.2007 10:00am