Dracula’s undead appeal

Behind Bram Stoker, what inspired him to create the prince of darkness and the annual festival that honours both the man and the monster.

Abraham Stoker (1847 – 1912) was born in Clontarf, Dublin, a leafy seaside suburb five kilometers from the city centre, as the bat flies. Bram, as he was known, was bedbound until the age of seven, a time when his mother Charlotte would fuel his imagination with macabre tales and Irish folklore from her native County Sligo. He recovered and went on to attend Trinity College Dublin and spent much time devouring books over at Marsh’s Library, the oldest public library in Ireland and home to the deathmask of Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift. Trinity’s elegant patchwork of historic buildings, old libraries and cobblestones haven’t changed much since Stoker roamed here as a student, where he was a university athletics champion, a capped footballer, and President of the Philosophical Society.

How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads: to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams

Bram Stoker

Once graduated, Stoker worked as a clerk at Dublin Castle, as well as a theatre critic, during which time his paths crossed with that of Gothic author Sheridan Le Fanu and acclaimed actor Henry Irving. Both are said to have inspired elements in Dracula, as is a trip Stoker made to St Michan’s Church in Dublin around this time. His work as a civil servant helped shape Dracula’s structure, which uses diary entries, memos and telegrams to lend an eerie realism.   

In 1878, Stoker married Oscar Wilde’s ex-girlfriend, Florence Balcombe, in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street where a bust of him now sits. The couple moved from their house on Kildare Street to London so Bram, at the request of Irving, could manage an eminent theatre in the city. It was here in 1897 the man behind the fangs used his knowledge of undead Irish tales to pen Dracula.

Bram Stoker Festival

Dracula has since become one of pop culture’s great icons and, each October, legions of horror lovers descend on Dublin’s Gothic heart to celebrate the Count and his creator. It’s a weekend of ghastly thrills and ghostly spills around the city, family events and late-night antics, large-scale spectacles and much more.  

Want to find out more about the Bram Stoker Festival?

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