Dacre Stoker, a Canadian transplanted in the small Southern town of Aiken, South Carolina, travels the world telling people about the man known as Dracula. He's even been to Romania, the iconic novel's setting, to help boost tourism in and around Transylvania.
It should be noted that Dacre's great-grandfather's brother was Bram Stoker, author of the famous vampire story that has influenced countless movies and has became a pop culture icon.
After all his research and knowledge of the subject, Dacre feels a bit bad.
"I really do feel a little guilty on behalf of Bram Stoker, because he based a fictional character on a historic ruler who was actually a hero to the Romanians," he says.
These days, Dacre is spending a lot of time in Romania, helping tourism guides direct people to come see the sites of the real Vlad Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, fictionalized as Dracula the vampire.
"I have the name and the ability to influence change there. Not too many Romanians are happy that their hero was turned into a blood-sucking villian," says Dacre.
Dacre wrote a sequel to "Dracula"—a fantastical follow-up novel titled "Dracula: The Un-dead." Dacre and writing partner Hans de Roos are currently working on a nonficiton travel guide of the region.
In going to Romania, Dacre did something his great-grand uncle actually never did. Though "Dracula" was set in Transylvania—now a part of Romania—Bram never visited the area. He wrote the historic novel entirely from England and he was known for his intense research on the region.
Dacre Stoker's Must-See Guide to Romania
SIGHISOARA: This this 12th century walled-city in Mures County is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, you can visit the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, though the home has now been turned into a restaurant and bar called Casa Dracula. There is a museum inside the historic clock tower and a dungeon with a display of the many gruesome torture devices of the time.
TARGOVISTE: Now mostly in ruins, this was the princely court of Dracula. The 14th century fortress and Royal Court of Targoviste also was the former royal residence of Wallachia. Dacre says this is "by far one of the most important and representative historical monuments in Romania for tourists." Within the fortress is the impressive Chindia Tower built in the 15th century.
BRAN CASTLE: Located in Brasov, the castle is a national monument and a landmark in Romania. The fortress is on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Bram Stocker saw a sketch of this castle in one of his research books, so he used it to describe Dracula's castle in the book, though the real location is nowhere near where the castle is in the book.
It also is debatable whether Dracula even visited this castle, but Dacre says, "It is a magnificent castle and well worth the visit."
PELES CASTLE: In Sinaia Prahova County, this is one of the most beautifully decorated castles in Romania, Dacre says. It had nothing to do with Dracula or the book, but is near Bran Castle and on Dacre's must-see list.
The castle was built at the initiative of King Charles I of Romania, outside the commune Podul Neagului in 1874.
CORVIN CASTLE: The castle was laid out in 1446, when construction began at the orders of John Hunyadi, who wanted to transform the former keep built by Charles I of Hungary. Dracula was held prisoner in the castle for seven years after he was deposed in 1462.
POENARI FORTRESS: The fortress was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Wallachia. Around the 14th century, Poenari was the main citadel of the Basarab rulers. In the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times, but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins.
In the 15th century, however, Dracula repaired and consolidated the structure, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice. There are 1,427 steps to the top, Dacre says, and impaled mannequins pay homage to Dracula's nickname "The Impaler."