Life Ireland

Thursday 18 September 2014

Dracula's Dublin

Published 21/10/2012 | 06:00

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Get spooked at the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin Castle
Dublin Ghostbus Tour

Pol O Conghaile sinks his teeth into the centenary of Bram Stoker's death with a macabre map of the city.

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Bram Stoker Festival, Dublin Castle

The first Bram Stoker Festival takes place over the October Bank Holiday weekend, celebrating the life and legacy of the horror novelist and his masterpiece, 'Dracula'.

Highlights include walking tours of Victorian Dublin with Pat Liddy and the Le Cool Experience, silent movie screenings, discussions on the 'Twilight' series and other teen vampire fiction, and a spooky show from Spraoi in the grounds of Dublin Castle, where a young Stoker worked as clerk of petty sessions.

It's a perfectly horrid precursor to Halloween, albeit one suitable for all ages, interests and scare levels.

Details: October 26-28. See bramstokerfestival.com.

15 Marino Crescent, Clontarf

Bram Stoker was born at 15 Marino Crescent in 1847, to Abraham Stoker and Charlotte Mathilda Blake Thornley. He was the third of seven children, and spent the first seven years of his life in bed due to a mystery sickness.

Stoker spent two years at the house, a three-storey affair set on a leafy Georgian crescent overlooking Bram Stoker Park and Dublin Bay.

Local estate agents Gallagher Quigley are currently listing 15 Marino Crescent as 'sale agreed'. It was sold to private owners for below the €570,000 guide price.

Details: The Crescent is a short walk from Clontarf Dart Station.

Marsh's Library, St Patrick's Close

Bram Stoker was a regular visitor to Archbishop Marsh's famous library. During the Bram Stoker Festival, The Performance Corporation will deliver an interpretation of Stoker's short story 'The Judge's House' in the 18th-century building.

In truth, even if Stoker had never darkened its door, Marsh's Library should be on any ghost-hunter's itinerary. It's not only home to the death mask of Jonathan Swift, but the ghost of Archbishop Marsh himself.

Details: €2.50/free. Tel: 01-454 3511; marshlibrary.ie.

Dublin Ghostbus Tour

What could trump a tour of Dublin's most haunted nooks and crannies? A tour onboard the macabre mobile theatre that is Dublin's Ghostbus, that's what.

Step into the curtained saloon upstairs and you'll embark on a two-hour jaunt through a parallel universe of felons, fiends and phantoms, with actors spinning yarns along the way.

Stops include St Kevin's graveyard, the candlelit crypt of Christchurch Cathedral and, naturally, several sites associated with Dracula's creator.

The Ghostbus passes Trinity College, where Stoker studied, the house where he lived at 30 Kildare Street, and the Shelbourne Hotel, where he met Henry Irving, the man who invited him to manage the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he went on to pen 'Dracula'.

Details: €28 (not suitable for children under 14). Tel: 01-703 3031; dublinsightseeing.ie.

The Bram Stoker Room, Westin Hotel

Dracula doesn't have any dealings (that we know of) with the Westin, but that hasn't stopped the five-star hotel unveiling a room named after his creator.

The room is one of nine refurbished suites named after Irish authors, and it is kitted out with copies of 'Dracula' and lesser-known Stoker tomes such as 'The Lair of the White Worm' and 'The Lost Journal'.

Family packages are currently available at the Westin from €200 per night.

Details: Tel: 01-645 1129; thewestindublin.com.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity was Bram Stoker's alma mater, and, by all accounts, he sank his teeth into college life.

During his time at Trinity (1864-1870), Stoker served as Auditor of the Historical Society and President of the Philosophical Society -- at one point proposing fellow writer, Oscar Wilde, for membership.

This July, a centenary conference took place at the author's old haunting ground, with speakers including his great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker.

Visitors can enter Trinity's campus freely, though you may be spooked by the €9 fee to visit the Old Library and Book of Kells.

The creepiness quotient rises by night, when clip-clopping footsteps echo over the college cobblestones.

Details: €9 (Old Library/Book of Kells; kids free). See tcd.ie/visitors.

'Famine', Custom House Quay

The haunting bronze figures depicted in Rowan Gillespie's 'Famine' are as close as contemporary Dublin gets to the walking dead.

Though a relatively recent addition, the staggering figures commemorate a tragedy Stoker would have been deeply aware of, having been born in Black '47.

Something else Stoker may have drawn on were Ireland's 19th- century cholera outbreaks. His mother told her young boy stories of 'the walking dead' and victims buried alive, along with old Irish legends of wandering spectres possessed of 'bad blood' or 'droch fhola'.

Hints of 'Dracula', anyone?

Details: Custom House Quay. See rowangillespie.com.

Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street

Both of Bram Stoker's brothers trained at Dublin's Royal College of Physicians, the oldest surviving medical institution in the country.

Its Kildare Street building was refurbished in 2005, and tours are available by appointment with the Heritage Centre. Weddings, meetings, lunches and celebrations can also be held in the venue.

Ghost tours stop outside No 6 Kildare Street, according to Dan O'Donoghue of Dublin Ghostbus, because it was here that Dr Samuel Clossey is alleged to have dissected cadavers supplied by grave robbers.

Today, he says, the doctor's spirit still wanders the corridors.

"I'm sorry to say the ghost story is not true," a college archivist replies. "There certainly was a tradition of doctors digging up graves, but this ended with the Anatomy Act in the 1830s, and the RCPI building wasn't built until the 1860s.

"Samuel Clossey died in 1786, so it seems unlikely that he would choose to haunt a building that wasn't built for another 80 years," Dr Clossey adds.

Details: Tel: 01-669 8817; rcpi.ie; heritagecentre@rcpi.ie.

The Old Ballybough Cemetery, Fairview

Could Dracula have had a stake in Ballybough?

Stoker grew up nearby, and fans say he's likely to have visited a former cemetery in the area known for its 'suicide plot'.

In this unconsecrated patch, robbers and highwaymen were interred along with those who had died by suicide, and wooden stakes are said to have been driven through their hearts, to prevent their spirits from wandering.

Readers don't have to look far to find a similar device in 'Dracula' and other vampire lore, though you'll have more trouble finding the cemetery. It has long since disappeared.

Details: The 51A and 123 buses stop at Clonliffe Road.

Greystones, Co Wicklow

Okay, so Greystones is a full 52 minutes (by southbound Dart) from Dublin. Dracula thought nothing of making journeys, however, so why should we?

"The nets as they rise from the water are starred with phosphorescent lights," Stoker wrote on a visit in August 1871.

"As the ends of the net come nearer and the lead line comes up upon the beach, the fishes are seen struggling in the net and show their white bellies."

Stoker's 'Lost Journal', covering 1871-1881, was recently published together with annotations by Professor Elizabeth Miller and the author's great grandnephew, Dacre (Robson Press).

By all accounts, Stoker's handwriting was as shocking as his blood-quaffing count.

The above passage is "a first attempt by Bram at writing descriptive prose in a seaside town called Greystones", Dacre recently told 'Weekend'.

"We didn't realise that he went there quite frequently and we could surmise that it was just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, for fresh air."

Details: Greystones Dart Station. See bramstokerestate.com.

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