So what were Bram Stoker’s inspirations to write his ground-breaking horror novel, Dracula? There are many theories about how Dracula came to be. The obvious – Transylvania (modern day Romania) and its brutal medieval king, Vlad Tepes Dracul, a domineering tyrant remembered for his hatred of Ottoman Turks and his love of impalement. A bit closer to home (as Stoker never visited the far-flung dark forests and lost villages of Transylvania), Stoker’s own childhood in Ireland, local stories, myths and legends, even his own family history, may all have inspired the celebrated author.
Born in Dublin in 1847, Stoker was unlucky enough to be born during the Great Irish Famine (and strangely he died just days after the RMS Titanic, built in Belfast, sank dramatically in 1912). One dark tale tells of Abhartach, an evil dwarf who rose from the dead (more than once!), attacking various villages of County Derry. The undead dwarf was only definitely killed after a Derry chieftain buried him standing upside down with wooden hazel rods driven through his body. This time he did not return – and it’s not hard to see the connection to Stoker’s work.
There are also theories that Stoker was inspired by the stories of the terrible Famine of his youth, people who were buried accidentally, or even forcibly, alive, told to him by his mother, who was from Sligo. For those wealthy enough, they could install a bell and pulley system – just in case they woke up buried alive. But for most people, this was simply a fear to live with.
Every year, there’s a Bram Stoker Festival held in Dublin on the days leading up to Halloween, which includes events like ghost tours, tales of Stoker and vampires, a haunted library, late-night horror films and terrifying theatrical plays.