I was reminded by the inestimable Tony Lee that today was in fact the centenary of the death of Bram Stoker, who died following a series of strokes on the 20th April, 1912.
Though he is not credited with the creation of the literary vampire (that credit goes to John William Polidori, one time personal physician to Lord Byron) he certainly did his bit to ensure that the Vampire became the enduring myth we know and love today. Without him there would have been no Lestat, no Lost Boys, no Blade, no Buffy the Vampire Slayer* and, of course, no Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman as Dracula. In fact, Hammer horror would have spent the entirity of the 70s having nothing good to make films about and Francis Ford Coppola would have been stuck making endless sequels to the Godfather and Vietnam war films.
Of course, there would also be no Twilight. But I feel we can forgive the old chap for that one.
I would like commemerate this occasion by talking about something else which was instrumental in the creation of Dracula and hence all of the above… the town of Whitby. Whitby is the place where Stoker may have got the inspiration for Dracula – at least the evidence suggests this to be the case. Based on the notes he left, the only mention of the name ‘Dracula’ comes from a reference to a book called ‘An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia’by William Wilkinson (1820) which he found in Whitby library.
Of course, Whitby is also the place where the Demeter, the ship that brings Dracula to England, lands. I suspect this was by way of crediting the contribution the town made to his work.
It is easy to see how Whitby can inspire one of the greatest horror stories of all time. While the inspiration for the character came from Wallachia, the moody and misty atmosphere of this little Northern port town must have had some influence on the feel of Stoker’s writing and, indeed, the interpretations that followed. I remember my own visit to Whitby with fondness. I was a teenager, taking a yaught trip down the north east coast with a group from college, and we stopped overnight in Whitby. We visited the Abbey, went to the Dracula Museum and spent a fun day wandering aroung the place. The Abbey alone is an imposing and grand sight and I have always had a love for dynamic coastal views.
And Whitby is not shy about crowing about its connection to Stoker. Not only is there the Dracula museum and the blue plaques commemmorating his visit but it also welcomes the many goths who congreate there twice a year for the Whitby Goth Festival. And personally, I do not see why they shouldn’t be proud of their role in creating a character who is promising to be almost as immortal in popularity as he was in actuality.
*There is absolute evidence which suggests that, had Bram Stoker not written Dracula, Joss Whedon would never have been born.