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Celebrating Sligo's links to Dracula

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Michelle promoting the Dracuala Experience during this year's St. Patrick's Day parade in Sligo.

Michelle promoting the Dracuala Experience during this year's St. Patrick's Day parade in Sligo.

Michelle promoting the Dracuala Experience during this year's St. Patrick's Day parade in Sligo.

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Come October next, Sligo city should be full of vampires and Dracula impersonators.

It's the brainchild of Rosses Point native Michelle Henry, who wants to celebrate Sligo's links to one of the greatest horror stories ever written.

It will be a gathering event like no other in Sligo this year and the mum of one is the driving force behind it.

Sligo of course has strong links with the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker. His mother Charlotte Thornley, was born in Sligo in June 1818. She was 14 years old when the town was struck by a severe cholera epidemic. Over three months up to 150 people died on the streets each day.

Tales of this terrifying time were related by Charlotte to her son and this was said to have had a major influence on him.

Like many people growing up in Sligo, Michelle had heard of the Dracula connection but couldn't find much information.

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"I always thought that no one in Sligo ever really tapped into the whole Bram Stoker connection to the city, which is really strong."

Dracula, published in 1897, was Stoker's most famous work. "It's the most revered horror story ever written. It has influenced countless other horror writers," says Michelle.

She points out the word Dracula comes from the Irish word Droch Ola, which literally means Bad Blood.

Bram Stoker was himself was born in Dublin, his mother having moved there, but the Thornley family plot is located at St John's Cathedral.

Charlotte Thornley also worked in Longford House near Skreen.

"There's such strong links to the whole Stoker story that I felt Sligo should be making more of it," says Michelle.

At present, Michelle is just finishing her first year of a degree course in Tourism and Event Management at Sligo IT.

Growing up in Sligo, the Henry family ran a well known jewellery business at High Street, where Michelle still lends a hand every so often.

Michelle represented the store at the Showcase Ireland event at the RDS in 2011. From helping with the fine art of jewellery making to celebrating the writings of a horror writer is some leap but Michelle is confident her gathering idea will be a winner.

She has written to dozens of horror writers around the world inviting them to come to Sligo on the week-end of October 26th/27h.

This unique gathering event is called the 'Bram Stoker Experience – Get Sucked into Sligo'

It will kick start with a tour of Sligo Abbey and the story of Bram Stoker's family connections will be told.

Nearby streets will be toured showing where the cholera epidemic had ravaged in the 1800s and where mass graves were discovered.

There'll be a horror writers' workshop, while a major attraction will be a Dracula theme ball on Saturday October 26th in the Clarion Hotel.

It's the same week-end as the Sligo Live festival, but Michelle is hoping to make Sligo appear 'dead' as much as possible.

"I hope to get a Dracula theme going throughout the whole town. There will even be an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records by having as many vampires in one place as possible.

"The record currently stands at over one thousand so it would be great to break this in Sligo," says Michelle.

She says there are lots of horror fanatics throughout the world and the key will be to get them to travel to Sligo. The many events should prove enticing.

Michelle is getting support from Failte Ireland and fellow IT students along with lecturer Joanna Sweeney.

It will be a busy few months for Michelle, who hopes to still find time to compete in triathlons.

She's hoping to partake in the Mullaghmore and Rosses Point triathlons this year, and also the Warrior of the Sea event. This is a gruelling 6km swim from Rosses Point to Strandhill and takes place in July.

Throw in the odd 5k or 10k road race and Michelle will be super fit to race around after Sligo's vampires in October.

As a precursor to the events, Cloonacool native Dennis McIntyre will be in Sligo IT on April 16 to launch his new book, Bram Stoker and The Irishness of Dracula.


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