When Bram Stoker penned “Dracula,” arguably the Irish author’s most recognizable piece of writing, little did he know how much the blood-hungry protagonist would become embedded in pop culture years later. Today Dracula is easily one of the most recognizable characters in literary history, not to mention a staple at Halloween costume parties around the world.
Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, Stoker took much of his inspiration for his horror novel, which was released in 1897, from his hometown and points nearby. From the crypts tunneling beneath a medieval church in the center of Dublin to the crumbling façade of a former monastery in a seaside town where he would go on holiday, inspiration was all around him. And there’s no better way to experience the man behind the book in person than to follow in his footsteps.
In addition to being a wealth of inspiration for the author, the city is also the location of the annual Bram Stoker Festival. Now in its seventh year, the four-day event (October 26-29) celebrates all things Stoker and will include a “gothically inspired program of events” such as live performances, readings and guided tours. While many of his haunts will serve as venues during the festival, the following places are a must visit for any "Dracula" fan.
Bram Stoker’s Homes
The small, Georgian-style house located at 15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf, Dublin 3, is everything one would expect from the birthplace of the literary legend. In an article published in “The Irish Times,” the author describes Stoker’s childhood home as an old house that “creaks and groans at night” with crucifixes displayed prominently on the walls and black wooden beams crossing the ceiling. Stoker lived there until adulthood, eventually moving into a house at 30 Kildare Street, Dublin, 2, an historically landmarked building. While both properties are not open to the public, they’re still both worth visiting just to be able to walk in the author’s footsteps.
Trinity College Dublin
During his college years, Stoker was better known for his athletic prowess than his academic abilities, competing in weight lifting and speed walking competitions. Between studying and events, he also worked as a civil servant at Dublin Castle and juggled roles as auditor of the school's historical society and president of the school's philosophical society, making him a well-known figure around the campus. In 1870 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, claiming that he graduated with honors, however Trinity College refutes that claim.
Saint Ann’s Church of Ireland
Built in the early 18th century, Saint Ann’s has been an important landmark in Dublin for centuries and is notable for both its Baroque style of architecture and its many contributions to the community (since 1723, the church has had a bread shelf near the altar that offers freshly baked bread for anyone in need). The church is also where Stoker and Florence Balcombe were married in 1878. Interestingly, before tying the knot, Balcombe was dating another local legend: Oscar Wilde.
Dublin Writers Museum
Much like Stoker, many of the world’s most celebrated writers have lived in Dublin, including James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Brinsley Butler Sheridan. Perhaps one of the best places in the city to experience their literary accomplishments firsthand is at the Dublin Writers Museum. Housed inside an 18th century mansion, the museum contains a comprehensive collection of books, portraits and artifacts belonging to these late writers, including a first edition of Stoker’s “Dracula.” Other holdings include business letters penned by Stoker, a portrait by painter Aidan Hickey and a bust created by sculptor Bryan Moore given to the museum earlier this year in the presence of several members of the Stoker family.
St. Michan’s Church Crypts
As one of the oldest churches in Dublin (it dates back to 1095), it’s no surprise that this medieval place of worship gives off a bit of an eerie vibe. But it’s what rests beneath St. Michan’s that’s truly creepy. Located past a metal-chained doorway and limestone stairway sits the burial vaults of some of the city’s most notable residents, including the Earl of Leitrim. Precariously stacked, many of the coffins have given way to the hands of time, revealing the skeletal remains of its occupants. It’s said that Stoker regularly visited the crypts and used them as inspiration when writing “Dracula.”
Whitby, North Yorkshire, England
Although not in Dublin (it’s located 300 miles to the east in England), Whitby played a key role as inspiration in the creation of “Dracula.” In 1890, Stoker went on holiday to the seaside town, spending time exploring its medieval architecture, including Whitby Abbey, a crumbling Benedictine monastery founded in the 11th century. Stoker mentioned the abbey in his book along with Swales, one of Dracula’s victims, which Stoker took from an inscription on the headstone from a nearby graveyard. But perhaps the author's biggest epiphany was during a visit to the local library, where he flipped through a book about Vlad Tepes, a 15th century prince who killed his enemies by driving a wooden stake into their hearts, thus earning the nickname Vlad the Impaler—or simply, Dracula.