*As seen in The Logbook. Issue 4.
By staff writer
He wrote the most famous gothic horror novel in the world. A piece of fiction that has inspired over a century of films, novelisations, TV programmes, graphic novels, horror stories and endless revamps.
He managed to combine historic figures with a mythic monster and create a hallmark of horror that is used as a reference in anything to do with vampires or the undead. And yet what do you actually know about the writer Bram Stoker?
As the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin builds up pace for this year’s festivities, we take a look at the Irishman who created an entire genre of horror. Who was the man behind Dracula?
HIS FAME WAS THE UNDEAD.
During his lifetime Bram Stoker was better known for being the personal assistant for the actor Sir Henry Irving and the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London which Irving owned. Stoker was a theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail and it was after he gave a favourable review of Sir Henry Irving’s Hamlet at the Theatre Royal in Dublin that the pair of them met and became friends. He also wrote a non-fiction book entitled The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland or which we’re sure you’ve never heard of either.
Nevertheless Bram Stoker did have many noteworthy friends during his early life. In 1878 he married Florence Balcombe, who was a celebrated beauty whose former suitor was none other than Oscar Wilde. The same author who wrote the life-expose-horror Picture of Dorian Grey that also dealt with immortality, humanity and excess. It couldn’t be said that they were friends, but definitely acquaintances and when Oscar Wilde had his grandiose fall from grace, Stoker visited him on the continent.
Stoker had always been involved in writing, be it memoirs for his patron and friend Sir Henry Irving, in theatre critiques and in short novels. He wrote The Snakes Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897 while he was part of the literary staff of The Daily Telegraph. He also wrote The Lady of The Shroud in 1909 and the Lair of the White Worm in 1911, both horrors.
While successful in their own way, they never reached the heights that Dracula did. And even Dracula only became the massive hit it was after his death and almost entirely because of the movies that were made based on it.
THE SECRETIVE LIFE.
It has been speculated that as he was a deeply private man that his success as a writer was forestalled by his lack of drive for the limelight. There is even some evidence to demonstrate that he may have been a repressed homosexual who used fiction as an outlet. This has come under scrutiny because in 1912 he demanded imprisonment of all homosexual authors in Britain. At the time, Oscar Wilde was being publicly trialled as a homosexual and Dracula was begun only weeks after his conviction.
As quietly reclusive as the Count Dracula himself Bram Stoker could very well be an even more interesting character than any he could have found himself.
And as a child of Dublin, Halloween in the city is almost dedicated to him.
DEADLY ADVENTURES AWAIT AT BRAM STOKER FESTIVAL
THIS OCTOBER BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND
Bram Stoker Festival 2018 Reveals First Events: The World Premiere of The Night of the Shifting Bog & Irish Premiere of NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century, with a specially commissioned new score.
A limited number of early tickets will go on sale at 6pm Wednesday 5th September. Final tickets and full programme will be released in late September.
One of Dublin’s most anticipated festivals, and now one of its biggest, Bram Stoker Festival returns to celebrate the supernatural, the thrill of Samhain and the legacy of one of Ireland’s most treasured authors this October Bank Holiday Weekend (October 26th – 29th). Brought to you by Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland, Bram Stoker Festival today revealed the first of this year’s events. For events information and tickets sink your teeth into www.bramstokerfestival.com
Fans of film screenings accompanied by live music will love the stunning NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century, directed by Andrea Mastrovito, an animated interpretation of the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu. Set in present day New York City, it turns the original film on its head, positioning the vampire character as that most contemporary of “outsiders” – an emigrant escaping war and hardships at home only to face economic exploitation, discrimination and xenophobia in their new country. Rich with symbolism and political commentary, the film retells the story of the vampire through the lens of modern-day fears about Islam, immigration, and refugees. The film, which replicates the eerie, flickering shutter effect of early cinema, will be accompanied by a specially commissioned live score by internationally renowned composer Matthew Nolan (Ireland), with similarly celebrated international musicians Erik Friedlander (U.S.A), Sean MacErlaine (Ireland) and Jan Bang (Norway) at St. Anne’s Church, Dawson St, where Bram Stoker married Florence Balcombe in 1878.
Brave enough to delve deep into the woods by night? Adventurous souls are welcomed to walk deep into the woods under cloak of darkness, at the world premiere of The Night of the Shifting Bog, by the world renowned Loosysmokes. A world where bodies soar in the sky and crash to the ground, swallowed whole awaits. Using the centuries-old trees as their stage, this dark, immersive and atmospheric aerial acrobatics show will enthral and spook in equal measure, as performers whirl and scatter through shadows, flickering projections, pulsing sounds and the audience itself. This specially commissioned new circus/theatre show, taking place in St. Anne’s Park, Clontarf, is based on a passage from The Snake’s Pass, Stoker’s novel set in the boglands of Ireland.
For families, firm favourite Stokerland returns to take over St. Patrick’s Park for two days of Victorian fun and frolics. With one of Dublin’s most stunning cathedrals as a striking backdrop, this Gothic gathering is full of entertainment to keep little monsters amused, including the macabre talents of world class street-performers as well as rides and attractions to ensure a fangtastic time for all.
The full programme for Bram Stoker Festival will be revealed in late September. With more than 70,000 people expected to enjoy the festival’s events in 2018, there’ll be something for everyone in the packed programme of theatre, readings, illustration and animation, outdoor screenings, audio treats, free family fun parks, podcasts and electrifying adventures in unusual locations throughout the city.
Commenting on the early announcement of three shows as part of the 2018 festival, Festival Co-Director Maria Schweppe said, “We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s programme. We’re working with artists and producing events that find inspiration in the life and works of Bram Stoker, his gothic legacy, Dublin’s spectacular Victorian, the supernatural, and Ireland’s Samhain traditions, while also celebrating contemporary and artistic interpretations of his most significant legacy, Dracula.”
The Night of the Shifting Bog
St. Anne’s Park, Raheny, Dublin 5
October 26th – 29th (2 performances nightly)
Tickets: €16 (incl €1 booking fee)
Supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.
NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century
St. Anne’s Church, Dawson Street
October 26th (2 performances)
Tickets: €21 (incl €1 booking fee)
Supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Park, Dublin 8
October 28th & 29th
Limited tickets on sale 6pm Wednesday 5th September at www.bramstokerfestival.com
Dubliners and visitors to the city are invited to follow the fun using #bitemedublin #fiaclafola at www.facebook.com/BramStokerDublin and @bramstokerdub on Twitter and Instagram.