When I stood at Dracula’s grave in Romania my head was filled with one thought: “Michael Jackson was here.”
Vlad Tepes is the Dracula of history. He wasn’t a vampire, just a ruler who believed in corporal punishment, namely driving huge stakes through people and letting them slowly die. For this he earned his nickname The Impaler. Bram Stoker based his novel on Vlad.
Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson.
Vlad’s tomb is famous for two things: it’s empty and Michael Jackson visited it when he came to Romania on his Dangerous World Tour.
To get to the Snagov monastery where Vlad’s empty grave is I had to paddle two other tourists and my cab driver in a rowboat to the island where it sits. A family lives on the island and runs tours of the monastery.
The monastery you are picturing in your head is too big. Vlad’s monastery is closer to the size of an old brick abandoned schoolhouse that your grandma would point to and say, “That’s where my mom went to school” except a little more ornate. It’s about several hopscotches long and a few four-square courts wide. At the front there was a photocopy of Vlad with candles on each side that the caretakers lit after swinging open the doors.
Vlad was a tyrant. He murdered thousands and ruled by fear. He has been dead for centuries and still people talk about him. But standing there I could only think about the nugget of info in my guidebook that the King of Pop had visited the monastery.
Had he stood where I stood? Did the visitor’s book still have his signature in it? Did he have to row his own boat? Did the caretakers chase him out the door for snapping photos?
I realized that I had never been closer to Michael Jackson than at that moment on a small island in a small monastery in Romania.
Vlad rocked Romania with fear. MJ just rocked Romania. It’s likely that both will be remembered in myths and legends where they’ll be vilified and deified for centuries to come.
Here’s MJ in Bucharest 1992 performing a tune that Dracula could get his groove on to: