Tag Archives: Dracula

The Whitby Witches

18 Mar

Whitby is a town on the North Yorkshire coast that is perched between two supernatural thresholds – the moors and the sea. This area is rich with extraordinary history, stories of the magical and mysterious, of shipwrecks, sailors, superstitions and the supernatural, of wild adventure and impossible happenings. The 17th century abbey here made Whitby one of the key foundations of the early Christian period, and a centre of great learning, though little interfered with the fishing community which scraped together a living on the harbour banks of the River Esk below. For a thousand years, the local herring boats landed their catch until the great whaling boom of the 18th century transformed the fortunes of the town. Melville’s Moby Dick makes much of Whitby whalers like William Scoresby, while James Cook took his first seafaring steps from the town in 1746, on his way to becoming a national hero. Tourism started in Whitby during the Georgian period and developed further on the arrival of the railway in 1839. Its attraction as a tourist destination was enhanced by its proximity to the high ground of the North York Moors National Park, its Heritage Coastline and by its association with the classic horror novel Dracula. There are also stories of a horrific black hound that prowls the streets of Whitby by night, tales of unexplained supernatural phenomena at the Pavilion Theatre and reports of paranormal activity in virtually every room of an historic Georgian manor that is now a guest house during the tourist season.

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The Vampire in Literature

12 Nov

Vampires, the aristocracy of the Undead, have a long and distinguished literary legacy. The vampire first appeared in literature in the 18th century, then really came into its own in the 19th century with the publication of several masterpieces of the genre which are read to this day. There was then another spike in interest at the end of the 20th century until the present day when, both on the screen and on the page, franchises like Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and Being Human show that the vampire has never been more popular. References to pale creatures that prey on the blood of the living first appeared in 18th century poetry, for example The Bride of Corinth (1797) by Goethe, a story about a young woman who returns from the grave to seek her betrothed. The first mention of vampires in English literature arguably appears in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Christabel (published in 1816), in which the eponymous heroine is seduced by a female supernatural being called Geraldine, who tricks her way into her residence and eventually tries to marry her after having assumed the appearance of an old beloved of hers. These subtle initial appearances of the creatures of the night were soon succeeded by much more overt, and terrifying, references to vampirism.

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Dracula and The Historian

28 Sep

Dracula (1897), not only an incalculable influence on the world of supernatural fiction (and horror movies) but also one of the most famous of all literary characters, was the creation of Abraham (Bram) Stoker, who was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847. As a child Stoker spent many hours listening to his mother’s grim tales of Irish folklore and real-life horrors. We therefore need look no further than his childhood to find the terrifying and haunting images which would later be the mark of much of Stoker’s literary output as an adult. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (Ireland’s finest academic institution), Stoker in the end disappointed his father’s ambitions for him to become a lawyer and instead became the manager of the famous English actor, Sir Henry Irving. Stoker’s association with Irving brought him into contact with some of the finest writers of the day, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, Wilkie Collins and Walt Whitman, but for him the excitement of touring with an actor paled into comparison beside his true passion of writing. Strangely enough it was Irving, with his striking appearance and imposing presence that provided the template for the figure at the heart of Stoker’s life’s work: Count Dracula.

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