Discover the California Town Known as the 'Vampire Capital of the World'
The concept of vampires originated among the Slavic people in Bulgaria nearly one thousand years ago. However, their idea of a vampire greatly differed from what we think of vampires today. Translated as “ghost monsters,” the early beliefs about vampires were that they were non-corporeal beings. These ghost-like specters would spread disease and cause trouble around the villages at night. That is very different from the vampires we know today. Find out about the history of these creatures of the night and which California town is known as the “Vampire Capital of the World.”
History of Vampires
The concept of vampires originated from the Slavic people. And, up until 1686, Hungary was the only place with vampire lore. In 1686, the Holy Roman Empire took over Hungary. As Imperial troops interacted with the Slavic peasants, the vampire legend spread. Soldiers brought the vampire lore home to Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. By 1732, the word “vampire” first appeared in English as the stories of vampires traveled from East to West.
By the 18th century, the idea of vampire blood-drinking became incorporated. At the time, people thought human blood possessed healing qualities. Because they believed that blood was the vessel of the human soul, it stood to reason that drinking blood would allow you to absorb soul energy. And so, doctors prescribed human blood as medicine. Patients used it to “cure” many ailments, from epilepsy to poor eyesight.
As vampire lore made its way into literature, best-sellers like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend made vampires iconic.
Today, vampires continue to be popular in pop culture with cult classics such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and True Blood.
The Vampire Capital of the World
Surprisingly, Santa Cruz, a city with 257 sunny days a year, is known as “The Vampire Capital of the World.” And this is all due to the 1987 movie The Lost Boys. Almost all of the filming of this movie was in Santa Cruz, a city that was transformed into the fictional place of Santa Carla. Many famous Santa Cruz landmarks are featured in the film, as the protagonist brothers, Michael and Sam, and their friends, try to survive the vampire capital of the world.
The Plot of The Lost Boys
Teenage brothers Michael and Sam move to a new town in California with their mom, who is divorced. In this fictitious town, known as Santa Carla, the younger brother, Sam, befriends two comic book nerds. Their names are Edward and Alan, but people in town nickname them the Frog Brothers. These two are vampire experts and well-versed in the lore.
Meanwhile, the older brother, Michael, falls in love with a beautiful girl named Star. Through Star, Michael joins a local motorcycle gang who, unbeknownst to him, are vampires. From there, Sam and his new friends must save Michael and Star from the gang of vampires before it is too late.
The Success of The Lost Boys
With just a budget of $8.5 million, this box-office hit surprised everyone. Earning $32.2 million at the box office, this film put vampires back on the map. Its subsequent sequels, Lost Boys: Tribe (2008) and Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010), were less popular. These direct-to-DVD sequels never saw theaters.
The Vampire Capital of the World Tour in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has a self-directed tour that you may take to see all the popular Santa Cruz spots that made it into the movie. Here are the highlighted places on the tour:
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
This well-known oceanfront walkway was the backdrop to many scenes in The Lost Boys. For instance, when we first meet the leader of the vampire motorcycle gang and his crew, the filming site is on Santa Cruz’s beach boardwalk. Also, the massive Giant Dipper roller coaster, which is an iconic piece of the beach boardwalk, can be spotted in many of the nighttime scenes of the movie.
Atlantis Fantasyworld Comic Book Shop
When Sam first meets the Frog Brothers, it is at this comic book shop in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s been a popular haunt of Santa Cruz for over 40 years. However, after the 1989 earthquake destroyed the original shop, Atlantis Fantasyworld relocated to Cedar Street. The owner of the comic book shop, Joe Ferrara, was even an extra in The Lost Boys.
Santa Cruz Wharf
Located in Monterey Bay, the Santa Cruz Wharf was the filming location of Max’s Video Store in the movie. This impressive wharf is almost half a mile long and over 100 years old! While the appearance may not be the same (now it is a Santa Cruz Bay Company gift shop), fans of the film will recognize its shape and front entrance.
The characters Sam and Michael live with their mother and grandfather in a charming little house, which is the clubhouse for the Pogonip Country Club. Situated high on the hill above Santa Cruz, this country club functioned as a golf course, polo club, and social club. While the clubhouse has been unused for decades, hikers can still visit this filming location.
The Trestle Bridge
While this filming location is outside the Santa Cruz tour, it is still an interesting spot. Some of the filming of The Lost Boys took place south of Santa Cruz in Santa Clarita. One of the filming locations there included the Iron Horse Trailhead trestle bridge. Remember that iconic scene in which the vampire gang is hanging from the bridge? That’s the Iron Horse Trailhead trestle bridge! Since the movie was produced, a convenient pedestrian walkway was added to this old railroad trestle bridge for anyone wanting a longer look.