Back in 1990, when Konami released the excellent Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse in North America, the company ran a competition which was intended to be the ultimate Halloween horror trip.
One 'lucky' family of four would get an all-expenses-paid week in Transylvania (modern-day Romania) between October 29th and November 5th, 1991, staying at the iconic Bran Castle – a famous Romanian landmark which is marketed as being 'Castle Dracula' despite having no connection with the real-life Vlad the Impaler, the Wallachian ruler who inspired Bram Stoker's famous literary vampire. (It was once believed that Vlad was imprisoned in the castle following his capture by the Hungarians in 1462, but this has since been discredited by modern historians.)
This blood-curdling grand prize was worth a whopping $14,552 (or you could take $5,000 if you didn't fancy the flight and simply wanted the money), and first-prize runners-up would get copies of Castlevania and Simon's Quest, which second-prize winners would receive a copy of the 'original Dracula film' on VHS.
As far as giveaways go, it was a pretty sweet deal and one which was perfectly in keeping with the subject matter of the video game itself. What could be cooler for a Castlevania fan than to visit the country that inspired the creation of the Dracula novel, which, in turn, provided the backdrop to Konami's popular vampire-slaying series?
The catch is that nobody seems to have actually won the grand prize in this giveaway. There's certainly no record of a winner, and we've attempted to get in touch with Emil Heidkamp – who served as Konami of America's Senior Vice President between 1986 and 1993 – but didn't get a reply to our question regarding the giveaway.
There's speculation that the competition prize was never actually issued because, in 1991, Romania was still recovering from its bloody 1989 revolution which brought 42 years of Communist rule to an end and culminated in the execution of Romanian Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife. In hindsight, planning to send an unsuspecting family into a still-simmering political hotpot perhaps wasn't the best idea.
Atari Age forum member SoulBlazer posted in 2009 that they had actually entered the contest and requested a list of the winners from Konami, but never heard anything back:
I never got anything from Konami. Never heard anything in the media about it, never saw anything in Nintendo Power, and never talked to anyone who knew anything about it. It's too bad, cause I would have loved to have gone. I'm sure a lot of people entered though — that was a popular game. I suspect Konami cancelled the contest cause of the internal problems that Romania was starting to go through in 1991, when the trip was planned.
A cursory search across the internet brings up similar forum posts, and the general consensus is that the fabled trip to Drac's backyard never actually happened and that Konami quietly cancelled the entire competition; there doesn't seem to be any record of people even getting the first and second prizes, either.
However, perhaps we're wrong, and someone out there did indeed get the chance to 'walk in Dracula's footsteps' in Transylvania. Or perhaps the $5,000 cash value of the trip was awarded instead, and everybody simply moved on and tried to forget the ill-fated competition ever took place.
Are YOU the person who won this competition? Or were you a runner-up? Let us know by posting a comment, and you could solve a mystery that has plagued Castlevania fandom for over 30 years!