Dr. Brian Dirck is a Professor of History at Anderson University and author of multiple books on President Lincoln. He joins us today to chat about the real history behind the fantasy/horror movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
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Dan LeFebvre 01:29
Alright, let’s kick this off by addressing the elephant in the room, or in this case, the vampires in the movie. As a historian, what was your initial reaction to a movie about Lincoln and vampires?
Dr. Brian Dirck 01:42
Yeah, well, you know, when the movie came out in 2012, I’ve got students who were like, I’m so cool. They’re gonna make me a vampire. And I’m like, oh, okay, you know, I Yeah, look, I gotta admit, I was just like, Okay, what the heck, you know? And I had never heard that the novels or anything like that. So yeah, I mean, my original reaction is, yeah, we’re reaching for story ideas here, aren’t we? And I, and, honestly, I had no idea what exactly you were doing. I actually thought he was originally going to be some kind of black comedy or something. Like that sounded like that kind of thing. You know?
Dan LeFebvre 02:24
Yeah. Yeah. Real dark comedy. Well, obviously, there’s the vampire aspect to it. But if you were to give this movie kind of a letter grade for historical accuracy, how would it do? I feel like if it were like this, we have to just be like, Okay, there’s vampires, but the rest of it?
Dr. Brian Dirck 02:47
Yeah. Well, the funny thing is, I actually, like Googled, just to see what would happen when I typed in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. And there are serious website to say, question was Lincoln Vampire Hunter? No, he was I was like, Really, guys, we have to actually take this that seriously, you know, so you know what I’m whoever. Now, as I understand that the author of the novel was also the producer of the show. So he oversaw the script. I gotta give this guy credit. He did his homework. I mean, he’s just, there’s very little in here, other than the vampires that he’s making up out of whole cloth. I mean, the Pete, most of the people are real people. Most of the events are real events. As a Lincoln scholar, it’s kind of fun to watch it because you kind of go Oh, wow, to go with to do with speed. I mean, that’s kind of creepy, creepy, or whatever, you know. So you know, at the end of the day, I was actually a little impressed with the whole work he had done in actually looking up stuff that actually did exist.
Dan LeFebvre 03:48
I feel like you have to have, okay, there’s vampires, but then the rest of it has to have some believability to it. It sounds like they they did a pretty good job considering
Dr. Brian Dirck 03:58
not bad, not bad. I mean, they even pulled in some relatively unknown people like Wayne Johnson, the primary black character, was a real person. He actually was Lincoln’s a valid man that he seems to admit in Springfield, and brought with him to Washington, DC, and he’s a real guy. And of course, so was Joshua speed. I mean, yeah, I mean, these were real people, for the most part.
Dan LeFebvre 04:23
Well, if we dig into some of the details of the movie, it starts by kind of setting some context for what we’re going to see the date that we see on the movie is April 14 1865. We hear Lincoln’s voiceover in the letter and I actually jotted this down I want to quote this from the movie because it’s, it was interesting to me just the way it’s phrased. It says, quote, history prefers legends to men. It prefers nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to quiet deeds. History, remembers the battle and forgets the blood, whatever History remembers of me. If it remembers anything at all. It shall be only a fraction of the truth. For whatever else I am. I’m a husband. Lawyer, a president, I shall always think of myself as a man who struggled against darkness. I leave in your chest at hands, my dear friend, Henry, this record that begins when I was just a boy. That’s the end quote. And then it goes to pigeon Creek, Indiana and 1818. So we’ll chat about kind of what happens there in a moment. But from a historical perspective, does this sound like a letter that Lincoln could have written? And with all the things that he did accomplish? Did he always see himself as somebody who was struggling against darkness?
Dr. Brian Dirck 05:28
You know, it’s plausible. Sure. Yeah. I mean, you know, there were a lot of people that knew Lincoln, who commented on his melancholy on there, there were some who believed he tended to be a bit obsessive about dark things. His his taste in poetry was quite dark. His taste in Shakespeare plays, he tended towards the kind of the, the bloody dark ones, you know, um, I mean, that’s not implausible that he, especially after, say, around the mid 1850s, when as if you’ve studied speeches at the time, he sees the slave power conspiracy, that seems to be overwhelming American democracy as a very dark thing. So yeah, I, I can get on board with that. And in fact, when I was watching the film, I was listening to that, that that monologue is, you know, it opens up with him writing that and actually really beautifully filmed scene of him writing it in DC. I was like, you know, he didn’t write that, but I could see it
Dan LeFebvre 06:33
in that monologue, where they refer to you know, struggling against darkness, which of course, the movie is referring to a very different type of darkness. But the way that it’s it’s written, that’s why I wanted to ask about it, because there was a lot of dark things that were going on during that time. I mean, Civil War
Dr. Brian Dirck 06:49
died done. Yes. Yeah. I mean, you know, and, you know, you know, Lincoln’s own struggles with the deaths of many of his loved ones. The the level of dying during the Civil War made that whole period horribly dark. I mean, and, you know, I mean, when when Lincoln was worried about the darkness in the evil that was slavery, and Lincoln never, ever said one kind thing about slavery, that was a darkness as well. And if you look at where the country was at in 1860, there was a genuine possibility that as we can put it, slavery could become national and freedom local. So you have absolutely there’s a lot of darkness. Absolutely. You mentioned
Dan LeFebvre 07:33
his name. And at the beginning of the movie, we see a young Abraham Lincoln trying to protect his friend will Johnson. He’s being beaten, willed as being beaten and taken away by a slave trader, and Abraham intervenes, but then his father, Thomas Lincoln gets involved and punches the guy who’s whipping will and Abraham, and then outcomes. Mr. Bart’s who apparently we learned from the movie, Thomas Lincoln is working for to pay off some sort of a debt. And because Thomas Lincoln can’t pay what he owes, immediately, Mr. Bark says, oh, there’s other ways to collect the debt. And then later that we find out that, of course, Mr. barks is a vampire comes to Lincoln’s home and bites aids mother, and she gets sick and dies soon thereafter. And then the movie very briefly, and very quickly just mentions that Thomas Lincoln dies nine years later. And that’s how the movie sets up that Abraham Lincoln doesn’t have any parents and he has this desire to become well vampire hunter to seek vengeance. Is there any truth to those plot points that we see around Lincoln’s parents and how they died?
Dr. Brian Dirck 08:31
Yeah, first of all, I just like I stopped laughing whenever you say vampires is the third time you know, no, you know, but again, this is one of those examples of obviously, the screenwriters slash author looked into the into the genuine circumstances of Lincoln’s early life. His mother did in fact die when he was quite young, of a poisoning accidental poisoning from something called the milk sickness, where she drank a poisoned milk. There’s a plant that a cow might eat, that had poison called traumatol in it, and she accidentally drank it along with about a dozen other people in the neighborhood. And she spent a week dying. To tell you the truth. The way she died is a lot worse than what was in the movie. You know, I mean, really bad. Yeah. As far as his father is concerned, Thomas, I mean, yeah, he had debt and he had financial problems. And, you know, he was Thomas wasn’t a bad man. He’s just kind of hapless, you know, and he ended up stumbling into bad financial setups. But yeah, I mean, yeah, he did died nine years later, although it was just a peaceful death. He just he died of disease in Illinois. So there’s that. And they were taking some liberties with William Johnson. Yes, he did exist, but we don’t think Lincoln knew him that far back. We think Lincoln met him Springfield, we don’t know how, you know, but there’s that as well. But so
Dan LeFebvre 10:07
far it sounds like the the way that they die or at least the way that according to the the movie portraying almost, you know, Mrs. Lincoln dying as much more of a shock and more of a, you know, unexpected death as opposed to they don’t even show how Thomas Lincoln dies. They just oh, he dies nine years later. So it’s, but it sounds like in that way at least they’re sort of going down the same the right path.
Dr. Brian Dirck 10:30
Yeah, they are. I mean, they really are. And, and, you know, setting aside the elephant in the room, you move the vampires out of the way. Um, yeah, I mean, that was a very traumatic experience, probably for Lincoln, although we don’t have a lot of records that really tell us how he reacted. But he lost his mother when he was very young. And that had to be, I thought, the film did a nice job of portraying just the shock and the nastiness of death on the frontier in that time period.
Dan LeFebvre 11:01
Earlier I mentioned the name Henry, it’s in the opening monologue, and that’s who he was writing the letter to, and the full name being Henry Sturges. According to the movie, Henry is both a vampire seeking his own revenge against other vampires. But he’s also a very good friend of Abraham Lincoln. did Lincoln actually have any friends named Henry Sturges?
Dr. Brian Dirck 11:22
You know, I know. I’m Bobby. I actually look, I couldn’t think of anyone of that name. So I actually went digging around and some things might my guess, and I’d have to see what the what the author was thinking. But I my guess is he’s kind of a composite of several friends possibly of Lincoln’s at that time. I kind of thought of Ward Hill Lamin actually he was a fellow lawyer, who, by the way, was the subject of his own movie about Lincoln, about him acting as his body. There’s all these memories about Lincoln. But my guess my guess is, this is a modification of Lamin who was a lifelong friend of Lincoln’s if I had to guess.
Dan LeFebvre 12:05
Yeah, because in the movie, Henry is kind of Abe’s mentor. So would he have been Lincoln’s mentor in real life? layman?
Dr. Brian Dirck 12:13
Well, no, not really young. Yeah, I think the movie kind of had to make that relationship look the way it did for the vampire plot. Like in the head, men, you could call mentors. There were a couple of older men living in the village he lived in growing up that kind of gave him books and loaned him things and taught him things. And then there were a couple of older lawyers on the circuit who had to just mentors. So again, my guess is that this Henry is kind of a composite of all that, you know, you know, men who were showing this guy the way that’s my guess
Dan LeFebvre 12:54
that makes sense. Makes sense. Out in the movie once Henry starts training, able to kill vampires he he picks up his weapon of choice he says he was never good with as movie that says, you know, quote, shooting irons, but he wasn’t real splitter so he picks up an axe. Is there any historical reason why Lincoln would pick up an axe as a weapon of choice? Well, actually,
Dr. Brian Dirck 13:15
the cut is when he was a small boy. Um, Lincoln was they were living in like a kind of a really, really primitive cabin in Indiana while they were establishing more permanent quarters, and his dad and his cousin named John Hanks were working Dr. DeSanctis was that was out route hunting. And there’s a big wild turkey that flew by the cabin is just him his mother, and I think he’s really young means like, I forget the exact age like seven or eight. And his mom thinks oh man, there’s dinner. Okay, so she hands a gun to Lincoln. He gets up in draws a beat and kills that kills the turkey and hits it. And Lincoln actually later expressed something to the effect of I accidentally hit the darn thing and killed it. And then he any literally brags in one of his autobiographies. I’ve never pulled the trigger again on any search game. So that’s apparently the last time he actually shot at something live you know, he, so yeah, there’s something to that. I mean, he doesn’t seem to have owned any guns that I know of. Or, nor was he into that kind of shooting thing. I found it rather plausible and he seems not to have liked hunting at all. And the one time he almost got himself into a duel is with swords, not guns, so I can kind of see it.
Dan LeFebvre 14:38
i This is not shown in the movie at all. But how do you get into a duel with swords? I don’t remember that’s
Dr. Brian Dirck 14:46
one of the best we can and we think this was actually Mary Lincoln, who wrote these really nasty political letters to a local Springfield newspaper about a guy named James speedy or not Thanks, Pete. I’m sorry, Jim shields, and James Shields got really mad and threatened the editor about finding out about it. And we think that Lincoln stepped up to protect Mary. And they got into a back and forth to the point where, you know, the the duel, I mean, they were they were they were, they were at that that point. And they Lincoln was in a position where he got to choose the weapons he chose broadswords if, if you can imagine Abraham Lincoln that has like, Eric, or I go ask somebody, you know, but they were gonna do it, they were actually going to do it. In Lincoln was practicing and all that and then kind of cooler heads prevailed, it never actually happened. And Lincoln found the whole thing really embarrassing. And when a Union officer brought it up during the wars that he Mr. Pres, everything was gotten to a duel. Lincoln’s is somebody that fucked up. Yeah. And shut up. Are you where you are? We’re gonna have a real problem here. It really bothered.
Dan LeFebvre 15:54
You mentioned that he was training for the duel. And that kind of leads right into my next question, because we see the sequence of Lincoln training with the axe. Did he do fighting training like that?
Dr. Brian Dirck 16:06
Very sweet to say I was like, Oh, wow, that’s you know, in real life. Lincoln was an accomplished wrestler. A very good one. And most of the eyewitness accounts that saw him most of this. He’s very athletic.
Dan LeFebvre 16:23
But if we go back to the movie, we mentioned him before Lincoln gets ruined with a man named speed in Springfield, I in exchange for Lincoln helping around speeds store and that’s where according to the movie, Lincoln meets Mary Todd for the first time, is that really how Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln really met?
Dr. Brian Dirck 16:42
We honestly don’t know exactly how they met. It’s certainly plausible. Um, there are stories. My favorite story, and we’re not sure if this is true or not, is that they met at a dance in Springfield, where Lincoln standing in the corner looking all nervous. And Mary walks over and says, Who are you and what do you want? And he says, I want to dance with you in the worst way. And they go with dance, they get down and Mary says to me, You know what, we did dance in the worst way, but don’t fulfill them. You know, I My students love that little anecdote, you know. But honestly, it’s plausible. You know, this is a good example of a fiction writer, finding one of those empty spaces in the record where you could fill in something that certainly could have happened, possibly because Mary was living in Springfield.
Dan LeFebvre 17:25
What about speed? Was that how Lincoln met speed since you mentioned he was a real person?
Dr. Brian Dirck 17:31
Yeah, that was actually one of the more accurate scenes in real life. Lincoln had relocated from New Salem to Springfield. He had just gotten his law license. But he he’s getting a new sale in this village that was already dying because of various problems. He goes to Springfield, to get very little money. He just wanders into speed store said pretty much pretty much what what the movie said. And sweet offers him a room and he moves so yeah, that was pretty much like,
Dan LeFebvre 18:03
wow, okay. Yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating. There is a scene in the movie where he tells Mary that every night he hunts vampires, and then she just laughs it off. Of course, you know, it makes a joke that maybe he isn’t so honest, after all. As I was watching that, it actually made me think of a different movie completely. It’s something where Alfred says to Bruce Wayne and Batman Begins, Alfred tells Bruce that he’s going to have to come up with some sort of a public excuse for why he’s getting all these cuts and bruises. So no one suspects that he’s Batman. Now, if we were to go along with the concept in the movie that Abraham Lincoln was moonlighting as a vampire hunter. Do we know if the real Abraham Lincoln ever had any sort of unexplained cuts, bruises or anything else that he tried to keep out of the public eye?
Dr. Brian Dirck 18:52
Boy? That’s a great question. I’ve never heard of anything like that myself. Now. I do know that when he was young, he was kicked in the head by a horse. And he later said, I was killed for a time apparently knocked him out cold. And if you look closely at I’ve got in my office, a life mask that was actually made in Lincoln. You can kind of see where that little did is that where this horse whacked him real good, you know, but you know, otherwise, you know, he was thought of as a remarkably athletic president. I mean, you first of all, it wasn’t that old. I mean, he was 56. I’m, I’m 56. It didn’t strike me as I was all you know, but he was. He was actually when he when he was laying in his deathbed basically, after you’d been shot, and they undressed him to deliver more wounds and stuff. Several people remarked on how athletic he looked, and he basically told you to ribbed his body was
Dan LeFebvre 19:51
I guess, I’ve seen those pictures of you know, when he became president, and then after, I guess, he just, I mean, he seemed to age a lot because they I mean, he went through a lot I mean, there’s a lot of stress
Dr. Brian Dirck 20:01
goggles, or you know, who would ever want to be present? The chalk kills people if you look at them for real, you know? So yeah, yeah, I mean, it looks much older. But yeah, they said that he was very physically fit although they died.
Dan LeFebvre 20:16
There’s another scene in the movie I want to ask you about with Mary Todd, and she takes off Abe’s top hat at one point it stands on it so that she’s tall enough to kiss him. What about their height difference? Did she ever? I mean, at first that top had had to have been pretty supportive to be able to support somebody. But we didn’t have that height difference.
Dr. Brian Dirck 20:34
God Yes. Lincoln is what six foot three. And I think I mean, my memories, fuzzy, I think she was like, five to maybe five years ago. And as a matter of fact, when they were doing the train, the train was traveling from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington DC to, for him to become president. He would bring Mary out onto the back of the train and he would tell the crowd now you get to see belong in the short of it. You know? Okay, yeah, whatever, you know, so Yeah, apparently there. People remarked on they just they were just an odd couple that way.
Dan LeFebvre 21:11
And even Lisa had a good sense of humor, but
Dr. Brian Dirck 21:15
yeah, I don’t marry crack a joke about that. So who knows?
Dan LeFebvre 21:23
According to the movie one night after finding out that Henry Sturgis is a vampire. He heads back to the shop where he works to find Mary. They’re looking for him. And he proposes to her right there in the shop. Is that really how Abraham Lincoln proposed to Mary Todd?
Dr. Brian Dirck 21:41
Though there’s a story, okay. No, no, not at all. Basically, you’ve been keeping company with her. And back in those days. This is gonna scare the heck out of every male listener to your podcast. If you spent more three or four days out with a woman, you’ve been short print the invitations, okay, because you’ve made a commitment. And somebody pointed that out to a visit, okay, when you guys get married, and then Lincoln’s like, marry your mind. So he he goes over to where she lived with her sister. And he goes over to your house. And we don’t know what they said. But it was something to the effect that very anything can happen. And Mary being Mary, she didn’t take that well. Okay. And apparently, he ran out of the house have what amounted to an emotional collapse for the next few days. Speed later claimed, quote, we had to take sharp things out of the room to fear that he hurt himself, that kind of stuff. And then after a few days, speed says, he goes to a band aid kind of size and says, Well, speed. I guess I’m just gonna have to marry that girl. There’s a lot of matrimonial enthusiasm there. Let me tell you, and then he goes back to the house. And from we don’t know the details, but from what we understand, Mary’s sister, Elizabeth, who Lincoln also knew kind of affected a reconciliation kind of brought them together and say, Come on, guys. Let’s listen to deal with this. So he must have proposed or somewhere in there, but it wasn’t anything like what the movie was pointing out.
Dan LeFebvre 23:08
Wow. Yeah. Really? Sound it sounds really enthusiastic about it.
Dr. Brian Dirck 23:12
Well, one story has it that this may or may not be true, but what story has it that he was on his way to his wedding? They got married, Elizabeth it was house and he’s all dressed up and you hardly dressed up and one of his friends he’s older 70 goes to weekend so she’s a dress where you going? According to this guy, you said to hell, I suppose. Not be true, but that’s I love that story. So
Dan LeFebvre 23:36
Wow. Wow, the movie suggests that one of the reasons why a gets into politics to take on slavery is not necessarily for how evil slavery is, but because it’s what the vampires are using to feed their hordes and slowly take over the country. And then he decides to put down the axe not fight with the axe but fight with words and ideals. What were the reasons that Lincoln actually wanted to get into politics if not vampires?
Dr. Brian Dirck 24:09
Good got more than we really have an hour here what Wow, um, you know what? It’s like I always tell my students there’s never any one reason for anything in history, you know, I’m part of it is just personally ambition. You know, you know, his law partner, Billy Herndon, later said Lincoln’s quote, ambition was an engine that you know, rest. I mean, he’s much more ambitious than maybe we have this all shucks rail splitter into the guy, but he’s actually a shrewd lawyer, who wants a political career now didn’t go all that well, comparatively speaking to became president, but part of the ambition. Part of it is moral conviction. He later himself he got out of politics for a while. He had not done well, when he went to the one term in Congress comes home and says to heck with this becomes those folks All family focuses on his law practice. And he later said this himself. He said I was done. I was retired until I heard the news that they were planning on reintroducing slavery into the western territories. And I was so shocked. I had to get involved. So there’s there’s moral conviction to get back involved in slavery. So I’d say those two things kind of go hand in hand, he genuinely feared that slavery, which he was convinced was on its way to extinction had been given new life by people like Stephen Douglas, and he was really mad about it.
Dan LeFebvre 25:28
Okay, so slavery did play a big part into his his other than just, you know, his own ambitions.
Dr. Brian Dirck 25:35
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre 25:37
Okay. Okay, that we talked about Abe’s mother and how she died. And there’s a scene in the movie where one of the Vampires gets into the Lincoln household during the White House. So he’s president then and the vampire bites Willie. And then he gets sick and the doctors are befuddled, he died. I don’t know what’s ailing him. But as he looks, and he immediately recognizes the wound on the arm, it’s the same thing that happened to his mother. How did the movie do showing the way that William Lincoln died?
Dr. Brian Dirck 26:04
Well, I mean, yeah, obviously, he wasn’t a vampire. But again, it’s like the entire movie. They just sort of pick and choose kernels of truth and build their narrative around it. And and in fact, Abraham Lincoln was one of only two presidents to lose a child in the White House. The other if you’re wondering was JFK. Jackie had a miscarriage during when they were living there. So there’s that so yeah, Willie did did genuinely die in the White House in 1862. Were in this matter of fact, we’re not entirely sure how he died. The best theory is typhoid that he had he drank some some tainted water. And, by the way, his little brother Tad, who doesn’t even show up in the movie, and yet two young boys living in the White House he just had tag got sick, too. He almost died. But Willie did die. And I thought thought it did a passable job with the grief. Mary was shattered, much more so than she was in the movie, the movie shows her feel quite upset. In real life, Mary teetered on the edge of insanity. She was so upset. As a matter of fact, Lincoln had to threaten to put her in the Washington DC lunatic asylum if she didn’t call downs that bad. In the people that knew Lincoln knew that he was he was shaky as well, so they can do a bad job with that actually.
Dan LeFebvre 27:34
Other than the vampires Yeah. Well, it sounds like there’s the movie kind of has a correlation between the way that William died and the way that AIDS mother died. And it sounds like they really like it was mother really died by tainted milk. And then tainted water. It sounds like there was some sort of a correlation almost
Dr. Brian Dirck 27:51
already. Yes, sexy action would be going from tainted milk and tainted water though, right?
Dan LeFebvre 27:58
Well, in the movie after William dies, a refuses to let Henry turn William into a vampire to save him, even though Mary wants him to. And then she apparently read a secret journal. So she knows what’s really going on. And according to the movie, then she blames aid for William’s death. Did she really blame her husband for William’s death?
Dr. Brian Dirck 28:20
Yeah, boy, you know, right off hand, and I’ve written a whole book on Lincoln and dying. And I’ve seen most of the most of the reliable sources on this. I’ve never seen anything like that. Um, I never marry blame yourself. Actually, um, she seems to have felt that because Willie, Willie lingered for a long time before he died, he was sick, and you get better than you get worse, you get better than you get worse. And the Lincoln’s didn’t know what to do. Sometimes they canceled appointments. Sometimes they didn’t, because after all, he is president and they gotta do what they got to do. But after he died, Mary writes in a letter, she’s like, I think we were too ambitious. And I should have stayed closer to him. Oh, my God, what was I thinking? And she actually gave sort of a religious, you know, God is punishing us for our pride. But it wasn’t particularly you pointing the finger at her husband. It was more like a general. Hey, you know what, we should have seen that he was much worse off than he actually was. And she beat herself up over that.
Dan LeFebvre 29:26
I could see that with any sort of a loss. If you those scenes just start to replay in your head and it sounds like she Yeah.
Dr. Brian Dirck 29:34
You know, personally, I’m more sympathetic to Mary than many people. And I gotta tell you, I my favorite part of this movie was Mary, you know of the whole thing. I thought he did a nice, I mean, within the context of the whole vampire story. I liked what they did with her. She was she wasn’t she wasn’t, I mean, other movies ever, like teetering on the balance of insanity the entire thing. I do think she did. descended some major mental instability eventually, but I liked what they did with her.
Dan LeFebvre 30:05
Well, near the end of the movie, the entire war tilts on the balance of Gettysburg and after disastrous first day where the vampires enter the war on the side of the Confederacy, they just, you know, roll over everybody. I then a send a train full, of course, they’re vampires. So silver plated weapons, unfortunately, speed gave up the location of the train. So so a fight ensues. And then our heroic vampire hunter Abraham Lincoln fights off the vampire. So the train makes it to the destination saves today and the nation. Was there ever a moment like this where the entire war hung into balance and Abraham Lincoln himself save the day?
Dr. Brian Dirck 30:41
No, no, I know. I’m sorry. But while you’re at it with that, that, that that battle seems the battle scenes from Gettysburg were pretty cool. I think he did a really nice job in that one opening scene of Gettysburg actually can be and you know what I can I can create this and use this in my class and they morph into vampires. I go on my mind, you know, but yeah. As as, as a as an historian, who studies this stuff. Like most historians, I don’t, I don’t see like one pivotal moment, even again, these predictions are important, okay. But the history doesn’t work that way. They did this. This is a process. You know, frankly, what I think they did not read the novel. Again, I don’t know what they did in the novel. But a movie tells a story in a very short period of time. If you’re going to have if you’re going to have a climactic moment that makes sense. I can’t think of any other climactic moment you would do. So I see it from a storytelling point of view, but in reality is much messier than that.
Dan LeFebvre 31:40
That makes sense. Any guy in the movie we don’t really show a lot of the actual battles of in the war. It’s just snippets. Yeah, just little snippets. Gettysburg is the one that we see the most of it sounds like other than vampires. That’s always gonna be the the catch.
Dr. Brian Dirck 31:56
Well, I actually liked those scenes. I was like, man, they put some work into this, you know, I mean, I actually thought they do a decent job of that.
Dan LeFebvre 32:07
The way the movie wraps up the the train that Amazon has is a decoy. And there’s a brief scene earlier in the movie after fighting off a ballroom filled of vampires to rescue his friend will even speed make their way back north thanks to Harriet Tubman. Then we see Mary Lincoln meet with Harriet Tubman again, as she’s trying to get out of Washington at the very end of the movie, we find out as well puts it’s the train isn’t the only railroad. And so as movie goers we can put two and two together that’s Lincoln used Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad to deliver the silver to turn around the Battle of Gettysburg. And of course, by extension, the war did the Lincoln’s ever meets Harriet Tubman or use the underground railroad to deliver weapons?
Dr. Brian Dirck 32:51
No to both Okay, um, actually, Lincoln did meet several prominent leaders in the abolitionist movement. Most famously, he met Yeah, Frederick Douglass, three separate occasions. He met Sojourner Truth who was another African American woman abolitionist. But we Harriet Tubman, she never met him. As a matter of fact, Harriet Tubman was not a Lincoln fan. She thought that Lincoln waited too long before you should the Emancipation Proclamation. And she was highly suspect of his motives. She thought that he was doing it mostly to get, you know, black men to go serve as cannon fodder. So she didn’t have a positive view of Lincoln at all. As far as the Underground Railroad is concerned, you know, the Underground Railroad was very important and very interesting can can be exaggerated. And plus, it’s really, really tough to track down sources, because after all, helping a fugitive slave up until 1853 was a federal felony. So you don’t go riding down records you know about this. I you know, what I’ve never seen now, maybe there’s something out there somewhere. But I’ve never seen a reliable source, in which Lincoln even really acknowledges the existence of the Underground Railroad. Now, as a lawyer, he did defend several people who were accused of breaking the law by helping slaves to their to their freedom. So he did get involved that way. But other than that, not really now,
Dan LeFebvre 34:19
but that would have been as a lawyer before he got into politics, right. Waiting
Dr. Brian Dirck 34:23
for the war. Yeah. During during the war. Again, I mean, I’m just using my my adult 56 year old memory here. Maybe there’s a reference someplace in the records where you mentioned the underground river, but there is I don’t know, I don’t remember right offhand.
Dan LeFebvre 34:38
I want to ask you about one of the kinds of concepts that the movie has, of course, again, the movies using vampires supporting the Confederate but as I was watching that I couldn’t help but think of, there’s new modern day conspiracy theories about how there are secret groups controlling political Millett, military agendas and so the movie using vampires to do this, but of course, they’re just kidding. Were there any sort of conspiracies or anything of any sort of controlling group behind the Confederacy that was using this political and military as a for their own purposes?
Dr. Brian Dirck 35:10
I you know, yeah, I mean, I’ll tell you what go find crazy uncle his YouTube channel, I’m sure he’s got you know, I mean, we I was all those guys you know that kind of thing? Yeah, I mean the Confederacy was a sort of a messy coalition of you know diehard slaveholders others who were slaveholders, but they really wanted independence more. And there’s much more opposition to the Confederacy then we are led to believe if you go look at the actual records of the four years during the war, there’s tons of Southerners think this is a terrible idea, especially poor southerners who had to bear the brunt of the fighting. In fact, you can make a pretty good case that can fit or nationalism wasn’t even viable during the war in I mean, you can get into a real argument about this, but there’s a there’s an argument to be made, that Confederate nationalism was so weak that that contributed to their collapse, people just weren’t committed to the cause. So not only was there not some kind of conspiracy, even up front and fenders didn’t know what exactly they were trying to do sometimes. Absolutely.
Dan LeFebvre 36:15
Well, so that that leads to a question then and I have about the goal in the movie, you get the vampires but they want to take over the entire country. It sounds like did the Confederacy want to take over the entire country or they just essentially want to keep the territories that they had and what they had status quo, essentially.
Dr. Brian Dirck 36:35
You know, I gotta be I was watching this movie I was thinking the Batman got it sucks being a Confederate these days, doesn’t it? They pull down your statues they accuse you doing all kinds of bad crap, you know, it’s just it’s not fun being Confederate in 2022. But yeah, I’m not really know. The can the Confederacy now I’m talking confederacy now pre war sound. That’s a different story. You could you could find people who were making arguments for making slavery a national institution, but they weren’t very large a number. And even most mainstream southerners thought That’s nuts. Okay. The Confederacy itself. I mean, Jefferson Davis’s from the very beginning of the war. He says, we just want to be left alone. In his first inaugural address, he says, Look, we can be friends here. Why don’t we start setting up trade relations, like we’re two sovereign countries, which we are. As a matter of fact, it is highly controversial, that Robert E. Lee invaded the North twice, you know, for the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, you’re trying to get to Pennsylvania, and then you get to Gettysburg because a lot of people are saying, Look, we’re not into trying to invade the North, okay. We’re just trying to be left alone. So no, there was there was never a serious consideration that hey, man, we want to go take over this whole bloody thing. You know, if anything, a lot of Confederates really wanted to go the other direction, establishing their nation, and they go conquer Cuba and go conquer the Bahamas and go conquer parts of Central America and turn that into a vast slave ship or they want to go that way. Not that way. You’re down, not up.
Dan LeFebvre 38:01
So in that, in that sequence, that at the end, Abraham Lincoln had a silver tipped axe that doubled as a shotgun in the handle. Was that sort of technology even possible in that time period?
Dr. Brian Dirck 38:13
I’ve never heard of that. I thought that’s a cool idea. That slugger you know, I mean,
Dan LeFebvre 38:19
it seemed like something from like a Spy Museum.
Dr. Brian Dirck 38:22
Yeah, you see weird weapons from the Civil War. Like I saw a picture one time of a Confederate soldier holding a single shot Derringer with a bayonet attached to the bottom of the barrel like, Dude, what are you gonna do with that? You know, I mean, you’re gonna stab somebody with a pistol. You know, me.
Dan LeFebvre 38:38
I was gonna say damages a pistol, right? Unless they
Dr. Brian Dirck 38:41
was a pistol with a what do you think you’re gonna do with that? You know, so no, I, but you know, you never know. I mean, they had just kind of weird ideas back then about, hey, we could win the war for you. I don’t know, attach a shotgun to an axe and oh, boy, you know, that kind of thing. So you, you might be surprised there might have been somebody out there that came up with some crazy idea. I mean, look, I mean, the Confederacy built a submarine for him and sick and the sucker actually worked well, sorta until killed everybody. And if it still, you know, at the end of the day, though, they, especially the Confederacy got desperate, you know, and we’re starting to come up with all kinds of crazy ideas.
Dan LeFebvre 39:21
This isn’t shown in in the movie at all. But at the very end of the book, I read the book, you know, a while ago, and we find out that at the end, Henry actually turned Lincoln into a vampire so that they can continue to fight evil together. And so the end of the book is kind of like modern day and they’re both there. Were there any theories that Lincoln didn’t actually die after being shot by booth like the movie kind of the movie that kind of suggested to?
Dr. Brian Dirck 39:49
Yeah, well, yeah, yeah, the whole bar scene and I can I read the novel, but I did read that they had him listen to the I Have a Dream speech as a vampire 1963 or whatever. Um, I don’t know of any rumors that Lincoln survived most of the you know, cray cray rumors about Lincoln centered around booth and there were all these rumors going well into the 20th century that he actually wasn’t shot in that barn in you know later which you know he was shot by a guy named Boston Corbett am surrounded all that you can find those today man there’s there’s a there’s these rumors that he actually died on a barroom floor in Texas in 1902, or stuff. Most serious stories dismissed that stuff out of hand. And of course there are all these assassination theories back then. My personal favorite is that the Pope off to Lincoln because he’s mad about something I kind of like that one myself, you know, But yo, yeah, I go look it up there all kinds of funky conspiracy theories about the Lincoln assassination. But as far as I never saw anybody claiming that he actually live I don’t I think to me eyewitnesses. I’ll tell you what, if you wanted to go dig Lincoln up and turn him into a vampire, and good luck with that, because somebody tried to steal his body out of the crypt in Springfield, after the war was over. And Robert Lincoln was so upset. He had Lincoln’s body in turn stuck in a coffin that was wrapped in rebar, it stuffed about 20 feet of ground and concrete floor, right? You will never get to the corpse of Abraham Lincoln the way that turned
Dan LeFebvre 41:16
out what were they trying to steal it with some sort of a political thing?
Dr. Brian Dirck 41:21
This is the best or these drunk Irish counterfeiters in Chicago wanted to get their engraver out of jail. So I guess after the down some major Guinness decided, You know what, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna go down to Springfield. We’re gonna steal Lincoln’s body, hide it in the Indiana Dunes and then ransom our bud getting out of jail. Oh, by the way, can we get some money wall rat, and they actually tried it, they went into the there was no guard around the sarcophagus, which is in the middle of Buceo cemetery. They go in, they start pulling the coffin out, but they didn’t realize that it was a coffin inside another coffin with all this chocolate away, like for two pills. And things are really heavy. And then the detectives went in to bust them for it. And there’s Lincoln hanging and half in half out sarcophagus. And Robert Lincoln just went DEF CON one basically, how you ever gonna keep this from happening again to make him happy? They they buried him so far. Daler will never get out. So yeah.
Dan LeFebvre 42:20
Wow, I’ve never heard that. That’s
Dr. Brian Dirck 42:23
what they would do is ever make a movie about that. I will totally come back on this again. Okay, he’s that that’s actually a thing. It actually is. Wow. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. I tell my students that are like open mouth and like, Oh, my God, y’all, I’m not making this up. I swear that,
Dan LeFebvre 42:39
wow. I have grave robbers and things, you know, they’re stealing. They’re stealing valuable, you know, especially, you know, Ancient Egypt and stuff, the gold.
Dr. Brian Dirck 42:49
Thing is those guys didn’t spend that much time in jail. Because at the end of the day, the only thing that can be prosecuted under was a law keeping people from stealing cadavers and selling them to hospitals and stuff for medical research. I mean, that’s the only law they had back then. So I think these guys spent like a little bit of time in jail and a lefty when they got out again. So it really wasn’t that big a deal to the Robert Lincoln went nuts. You know,
Dan LeFebvre 43:13
I have a feeling there were some new laws that got added after that. Oh, yeah,
Dr. Brian Dirck 43:17
well, and then they were so worried that somebody would come try it again. They didn’t want to put his body back in the sarcophagus, they forgot what to do. So they took the coffin back out, moved Lincoln’s body to the basement of the sarcophagus and piled a bunch of lumber over the top of and hit it down there. So the next quite some time tour groups would come in and the tour guide would point to the sarcophagus and say they’re the body of Abraham Lincoln when he was actually buried under a bunch of lumber like like two stories down.
Dan LeFebvre 43:44
Wow, we’ve talked about a lot obviously the vampire the elephant in the room there. But is there anything in the movie that you felt you watching? That was spot on like this? This is incredibly accurate.
Dr. Brian Dirck 43:57
bits and pieces, you know, um, you know, the production values were really good, you know, I mean, I was I was impressed the scene where the you CGI fairly well, I thought, where they panned in on his first inaugural address in there is the the Capitol dome, which is half built, which is the truth they had put the dome. You don’t want finished when they when he gave the thing. I mean, they had an eye for detail for that. That scene is awesome. It’s just like, wow, that’s really cool. And then Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was spot on. It’s probably about what the whole thing looked like. I mean, so it’s like bits and pieces. You kind of go Huh, not not bad over you. I wouldn’t would have expected worse than this, you know, but that’s the whole thing about the movie though. I mean, I was expecting I can’t be comedy at first, okay, I was like, it’s gonna be like the Batman series and TV in the 1960s. We’re gonna crack jokes about Adam West. And then this is like this deadly serious movie about all this stuff I got. What the heck was that? You know, like, what to do with this It’s not funny, it’s not There’s nothing. There’s not a single funny thing in this movie. On the other hand, the visuals are really nice in the acting is actually quite good. And all the production values are great in the service. The story just is this weird, you know? So it is, it’s different. You know what? I actually read some of the reviews, you only have like a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes, and we’ll look at the reviews, they all kind of do the same thing. They’re like, why was this even wait, you know, why? What? What am I supposed to walk out of the theater thinking here? Okay.
Dan LeFebvre 45:36
Yeah, the author that wrote that I know, he also wrote like another one called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. So it’s kind of his thing. It seems like,
Dr. Brian Dirck 45:43
hey, you know what, if you’re a writer and find your niche, man, you go for it. Okay.
Dan LeFebvre 45:49
Well, thank you so much for coming on a chat about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. And for someone listening to this, who wants to learn more about your work? Can you share a bit about your books and working again,
Dr. Brian Dirck 45:58
I’ve written several books, many of them Lincoln, the one I’m most well known for, I suppose, as far as I know, at all his lawyer, Lincoln, the lawyer, which is a state law practice, I’ve done works on various aspects of his life, the most recent one, which is how I relate to what we were talking about a little bit. It’s called the Black heavens, Abraham Lincoln and death. And I kind of look at how Lincoln processed death throughout his life from the death of his mother like we talked about all the way through how he dealt with you know, all these all the death of surrounding him during the war. Funny thing when I wrote the book, I didn’t it didn’t occur to me to include you know, silver tip taxes and people bite him in the neck. But you know, what, if there’s ever a second edition, man, I’m gonna go do that vampire thing is this gets this is also
Dan LeFebvre 46:40
what you’re saying Lincoln didn’t actually process that by just turning people into vampires or that wasn’t his thing.
Dr. Brian Dirck 46:46
Retrospective would have been a strategy you know, it would have
Dan LeFebvre 46:52
they live forever so I thank you again, so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Brian Dirck 46:59