BY TRISTA EDWARDS
Not many people know there was an epilogue at the beginning of Tod Browning’s 1931 pre-code classic, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. The epilogue featured actor Edward Van Sloan, who played the heroic Dr. Van Helsing, taking the stage just after the film’s premier showing to make a “curtain speech” to the audience before they left the theater.
Van Sloan halts the moviegoers before they depart and delivers the following bit of dialogue:
"Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen! A word before you go. We hope the memories of Dracula and Renfield won't give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains — and you dread to see a face appear at the window — why, just pull yourself together and remember that after all, there are such things.”
The sly speech, which leads in as a comforting gesture and words of reassurance to a truly terrified audience (Remember, 1931 audiences were coming into the age of “talkies” and advances in film technology were altering the visceral experience of the screen. In general, the audience reception to Dracula was one of distress, shock, and horror.) turns in sentiment and Van Sloan astutely confirms the viewers’ fears of the unknown.
Footage of the epilogue is rumored to be lost, although some claim it still exists albeit the film reel has deteriorated to the point that it is unsalvageable and can no longer be viewed. Stories of the epilogue have been mostly passed down through an oral history from fans, historians, and film's actors and their descendants.
The filmed speech was intended to be presented before all future viewings of the picture; however, Van Sloan’s speech only played during the initial run of the film and was then soon deleted from fear that it would offend and receive admonition from religious groups in its promotion of the supernatural.
When I first learned of this epilogue and its subsequent censorship I was immediately intrigued. Particularly in the expression there are such things. To me this phrase is a nod the imagination, the unexplainable, mystery, the hidden—the occult.
As a person who has always been interested in the uncanny, (As a young girl, I relished in playing the cemetery behind my house which has grown into the tombstone tourism I now enjoy as an adult.) this idiom and its intent piques my supernatural-minded curiosities; and as a writer I am tremendously absorbed with possibilities of the imagination—the power of it to create, to wield and unburden mystery, to construct other realms out of the ether, to instill emotions out of intangible worlds…very real emotions that can change people's actions or shift their worldview.
RELATED: Why I Got a Witch Tattoo
I decided to get this phrase tattooed on my wrist as a nod to Dracula, the novel and the film, both favorites of mine, my longing belief in the supernatural, and a daily reminder of the imagination’s ability to conjure.
Van Sloan’s speech, (a definite PR move on behalf of Universal Studios to inculcate fear and by extension the film into viewers’ minds and social conversations leading to more ticket sales) has the ability to lead even the most devout skeptics to moments of doubt. There are such things is meant to disrupt and challenge what you have always believed. There are such things leads you to think twice that that bump in the night is just the wind rattling the shutters and to scold yourself for thinking it could be anything but because, just for a second, you believed it was something that you couldn’t explain, something dark and unknown, something that would completely change everything you knew to be true. Changed what you knew about yourself.
I live to be shifted, to have what I know and what I don't know challenged. I want to believe that there are such things.
Do you have an occult inspired tattoo?
Submit a picture and a few words of what it means to you, why you got it, and what inspired your shadowy and enigmatic ink to email@example.com to be part in an upcoming piece on occult tattoos.
Trista Edwards is poet, land mermaid, light witch, horror enthusiast, creatrix, traveler, and dog lover. She is also the curator and editor of the anthology, Till The Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2015). She is currently working on her first full-length poetry collection but until then you can read her poems at The Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, 32 Poems, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Boiler Journal, Sou’wester, Queen Mob's Tea House, and more. She writes about travel, ghosts, and poetry on her blog, Marvel + Moon. (marvelandmoon.com)