Photo: Jack Dracula by Diane Arbus.
Jack Dracula: “The Marked Man” had over 1000 tattoos which in his day were valued at US$6000. Some notables include: a pair of trompe-Poeil goggles, the winged cap of Mercury with a rose cluster across his crown; a two-foot wide eagle across his chest, a tiger and snake wrestling, a werewolf stares from his kneecap and on the inside of his under lip is inscribed the name DRACULA. He is also adorned with winged dragons, a peacock, geisha girl, a cigar-smoking skull, a hypodermic entitled Death Needle, the names of his three heroes: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and on his fingers the initials of some obscenity which his girl friends were so good at deciphering that he finally converted the ones on his left hand into flowers.
Jack Dracula was was the stage name for Martin Semnack who was born on Christmas Day, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York. After a stretch in the US Navy he returned to Brooklyn but was unable to find permanent work and started hanging out in Coney Island. In 1954 he got his first tattoo. This was just the start of a fifty-year career as a tattooed man. In the 1950s-1960s Dracula worked with many tattooists including Eddie Funk, Tom Yeomans and operated shops in Camden and Philadelphia. He also worked in the 1960s as a sideshow attraction for Ringling Brothers Barnum Bailey Circus, Amusements American Carnival, Dave Rosen’s Wonderland Sideshow in 1957, Riverview Park in 1962, Jerry Lipko’s Shows in 1963, Palisades Park in 1964 and the Huber Museum in New York City.
- A 1970s news article about Dracula stated that he was a gourmet cook, a certified wine connoisseur and an amateur archaeologist.
- He was a well-versed opera fan and member of the Mario Lanza Institute.
- Dracula also had a large collection of antique jade.
- Diabetes and lung problems forced Dracula to retire in the 2000s and on January 18th, 2011 he died at the Park Pleasant Nursing Home in Philadelphia.
Dracula was an authority on necromancy and a writer and devotee of horror stories and introduced Diane Arbus to the literary netherworld. The following is a fragment from his writings entitled “A visit From Count Dracula“.
‘Twas the night before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except a dead mouse.
Much of the information mentioned above was originally published by the Tattoo Archive © 1997 (Updated 2016).
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