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Dracula Amusement Park Draws Controversy - 2002-04-12

A Dracula theme park will soon be built in the heart of Romania's Transylvania region after that country's government announced it received enough investment for plans to move ahead. But the spooky park is not without controversy.

A gothic, but spooky, castle in the medieval Transylvanian city of Sighisoara may not be a place to spend the night alone. Yet, it will be the major attraction of Romania's first ever multi-million-dollar Dracula theme park. The park, which is expected to be called Dracula-land, will also feature horseback riding, a golf course, restaurants and even a zoo, encircled by a miniature train.

Dracula-land was moved to Sighisoara since is the Transylvanian hometown of the 15th-century prince Vlad the Impaler. Prince Vlad's nickname came from his tendency to impale captured enemy soldiers on stakes.

Stories about that royal figure inspired author Bram Stoker, who never visited Transylvania, to write in 1897 his now famous novel about the bloodsucking Count Dracula.

But plans to create Dracula-land has sparked concerns among conservationists who claim a nearby medieval citadel might be damaged by tourists. Other Romanians had preferred a theme park about the more innocent Mickey Mouse, while religious leaders fear Dracula-land could draw Satanists to Romania.

However, Romania's government welcomes the millions of dollars it will generate from foreign investors, including an apparently happy Austrian brewer who reportedly will get the exclusive rights to sell drinks. Even more money is expected from the one million tourists that are expected to visit the park annually. In addition, the project is expected to bring thousands of jobs to the impoverished region.

Romanian officials hope it will help to rebuild Romania after a decades of mismanagement under late dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, who was known by some as Draculescu. The privately funded park will cost about $15 million with another $19 million needed for infrastructure improvements and the restoration of the city's 15th-century fortress.

But Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon says investors have already bought nearly $3 million worth of stock, more than 60 percent needed by law for the project to proceed.

These are figures even Dracula would laugh about.