When Canton native Eric Nuzum decided to research a book about vampires, he went straight for the jugular. He spent hours in a coffin (at a haunted house) and drank his own blood. He attended a “Dark Shadows” convention, and a topless vampire revue in Las Vegas called “Bite.” WITH BREAKOUT: Including tidbit that Bush is related to Vlad the Impaler.
When Canton native Eric Nuzum decided to research a book about vampires, he went straight for the jugular. He spent hours in a coffin (at a haunted house) and drank his own blood. He attended a “Dark Shadows” convention, and a topless vampire revue in Las Vegas called “Bite.” He interviewed self-proclaimed and wannabe vampires. He sat through all 144 episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and a slew of vampire movies, including “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter” and “Samurai Bikers From Hell.” He toured Romania (Transylvania) with Butch Patrick (the actor who portrayed Eddie Munster on television) as his guide. The book that resulted from this labor of tough love, “The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires From Nosferatu to Count Chocula,” a 242-page hardcover volume from St. Martin’s Press, has just hit stores. “It’s such a pleasure to finally see this happen,” Nuzum, 41, said via telephone from his home in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been holding all these stories in for so long I almost wanted to burst.” Often written in first-person, the book is well-researched and informative, and it manages to skillfully straddle the fence between sincerity and hilarity. Self-deprecating to a fault, Nuzum said that to overcome his limitations as a writer, “I put myself in these ridiculous situations. That’s how I make my mark.” Cradle Creepies A 1984 McKinley High grad, Nuzum’s vampire connection began when he was still in the cradle. “When I was an infant, my mother watched ‘Dark Shadows,’ which was this soap opera about vampires,” he said. “Whenever its theme music would come on, I started crying. She had to stop watching it.” Bringing things full circle, Nuzum attended a “Dark Shadows” convention in Hollywood that is chronicled in his book. There, he said, “One guy I befriended delivered this classic one-liner. He said, ‘These people don’t have the social skills to be Trekkies.’” To his surprise, Nuzum discovered a preponderance of people with physical handicaps who were drawn to the “Dark Shadows” flame: “It’s very strange when you’re in the hallway at a ‘Dark Shadows’ convention and someone dressed as a vampire goes by you in a motorized wheelchair -- and it’s the third one you’ve seen in an hour.” Nuzum says he hit the jackpot when he signed up for a tour of Transylvania in July 2005, unaware that the guide would be “Munsters” star Patrick. “He’s a former child star but a real together guy, no cliches or tragedies, but he is kinda goofy,” Nuzum said. “So here I am stuck with two dozen vampire enthusiasts and him in this almost third-world country. If there was ever a recipe for nonsense, that’s it.” Nuzum’s creepiest occurrence while researching the book was when he made plans to meet a guy called Vampire Steve in a Washington, D.C., park at 7:30 one evening. “It was fine until I realized that in November it’s dark at 7:30,” Nuzum recalled. “So I went to the park and sat on a bench and waited, and I saw this body shape in the bushes and I thought, ‘I’ve gotta get out of here’ and I ran all the way home. I’m not a tiny person, so I’m not terribly intimidated by people, but that was a really stupid thing to do.” Just Listen While interviewing people within the vampire realm, Nuzum discovered a key factor: “So many people make fun of them that if someone actually listens, they’ll tell you anything.” “The Dead Travel Fast,” selected by the Barnes & Noble chain as a featured title for November through January, is Nuzum’s second book. The first, “Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America” (2001) earned him pundit status on such VH1 shows as “Behind the Music.” It “was a much bigger deal than I ever expected it to be,” Nuzum said about the book’s reception. “It shocked and frightened me was how the world took my subjective analysis as truth, like it was a so-called ‘expert’ opinion.” The director of programming and acquisition for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., and previously the program director at WKSU-FM, Nuzum has begun working on his third book, this one about ghosts. He’s already visited a number of allegedly haunted locations around the D.C. area with a team of ghostbusters. “I’m absolutely terrified of ghosts,” he said. “So what I’ve done is address this.” Nuzum will sign copies of “The Dead Travel Fast” at the Buckeye Book Fair on Nov. 3 in Wooster. For information about the book, visit www.thedeadtravelfast.com. Canton Repository VAMPIRE-RELATED INFORMATION FROM ‘THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST’ 1. President George W. Bush is a distant cousin of Vlad Tepes, the historical Dracula. 2. Bram Stoker may have modeled Count Dracula after the poet Walt Whitman. 3. The post-sneeze blessing “gesundheit” was originally said to protect one from vampires. 4. Every civilization through world history has had some variation on the vampire. There ar echinese, Iranian, Egyptian and Japanese vampires. The Jewish Talmud contains a vampire. 5. Bela Lugosi never wore fangs when portraying vampires on stage or screen. 6. The belief that garlic can keep away vampires found its origins in the reaction of human rabies victims to strong smells. 7. Transylvania County, N.C., is home to a huge variety of white squirrels.