The Terror of Armadillos

Was watching Dracula again over the weekend, which reminded me of Tod Browning’s curious feeling about Armadillos – he apparently thought them incredibly weird, and insisted on putting them in Dracula’s Transylvania:

According to David J. Skal. Browning stuck an armadillo into another of his horror films, too, but i can’t recall which one.

There’s an armadillo used as a giant prehistoric creature – a cut-rate Glyptodont, maybe, or even an Ankylosaur, since the picture doesn’t care too much about its geologic eras. But that was a Hal Roach film.

Skal also points out a silent curiousity – Armadillo and Vampire Bat in his book V is for Vampire, but that’s probaby just a coincidence.

In the Spanish version of Dracula, filmed at the same time as the 1931 Lugosi film, but wioth a different cast and crew, there are NO armadillos.

Incidentally, this site ( ) claims that

But I’m suspicious. No one else ever mentioned this, and you’d think that Forrest J. Ackerman, or Leonard Wolf or Dabvid Skal would’ve said something about it, if it was true.

In fairness to Tod Browning, the armadillo probably did appear incredibly weird and unfamiliar to the overwhelming majority of his audience at the time. At the beginning of the 20th century, armadillos were still not found north of Texas. By the time Dracula was made, they had only recently expanded their territory into adjacent states, and a separate population had just been established in Florida. Probaby almost nobody who lived near enough to a movie theater to see Dracula would have also encountered armadillos on a daily basis.

Besides, admit it: even now that they’re a common sight pancaked all over the interstate system in the southeast US, they are still freaky-looking litte buggers up close. A mammal with a shell? That’s practically Australian in its grotesque wrongness.

My personal theory is that Dracula had the armadillos specially imported to keep the worms out of the grave dirt in his coffins. Say what you will about the armadillo, they are marvelous at sniffing out invertebrates. They can smell a worm six inches deep in the ground. Not so great if you’re trying to keep a well-manicured lawn, but essential if you’re a vampire and don’t want to wake up with a nose full of nightcrawlers.

Let’s face it, if vampire movies were to be judged on their strict fidelity to natural history, almost every “vampire bat” shown on screen would have to be disqualified as ridiculously oversized.

I think it’s Mark of the Vampire. I remember sitting up and pointing it out to my daughter.

I am *so *stealing this saying and will use it every chance I get. Thank you.