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Dracula Museum would make Bela Lugosi proud

Move over, Michelangelo and Monet. Bela Lugosi and Bram Stoker rule at the Dracula Museum.

Walk into the two-room apartment-turned-museum and come face to face with a 12-inch wax replica of the wicked Vlad Tepes, a


a Count Dracula.

The glass-covered tyrant is nestled among paintings, stamps, coins and candles of the 15th-century Romanian count who, historians claim, impaled 10,000 Turks, earning him the nickname "Sir Stake."

There's the Stoker memorial wall, filled with pictures of the Irish author who brought the literary Dracula to life, an invitation to Lugosi's funeral and a packet of soil marked: "From Bela Lugosi's grave."

The museum is the brainchild of Jeanne Keyes Youngson, who was a successful freelance filmmaker until a fateful trip to Transylvania 29 years ago. After that, her interest in vampirism became an obsession.

The result: the Count Dracula Fan Club, founded in 1965, and the museum, which opened in 1990.

Youngson says the club has 2,500 members in 26 countries and operates 15 offshoot divisions, including a junior fan club called Vampires 'R Us.

The club provides information on all legends and facts related to Dracula. Only members are allowed into the museum, although accredited authors may use its extensive library of 24,000 books for a nominal donation.

Fan club members pay an initial fee of $50 and an annual $35 renewal fee to get monthly newsletters telling them about upcoming vampire movies, books and events like the World Dracula Congress, to be held in Bucharest, Romania, in May.

In honor of Halloween, Youngson has an exhibit called "Dracula's Sweet Tooth," featuring vampire and Dracula candies from around the world. Items include "Dracula Bad Blood Bubblegum" and "Drac Snax" from Romania.

Interest in the genre has sharpened recently with the upcoming release of the movie version of Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire, starring Tom Cruise as Vampire Lestat.

"It's just unbelievable the way it's captured the public's attention," Youngson says.