Oct 16, 2013
Vampires in Connecticut; Dracula author Bram Stoker's Descendant to Give Presentation
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Although vampires are now in vogue year-round, the interest in them is especially strong during the month of October. To that extent, there are multiple events "dead"-icated to the "undead" around the state, including "Vampires!" featuring a screening of The Tillinghast Nightmare, a documentary chronicling the transformation of the blood-thirsty vampire from vile, menacing neighbor in rural Eastern Europe to the beguiling, aristocratic stranger known as Dracula that also explores the Tillinghast family's decision to exhume the body of their beloved daughter Sarah and burn her heart in 1799 Exeter, R.I.
The event is on Sunday, Oct. 27 at the Garde Arts Center in New London, and on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the Mark Twain House in Hartford. It's sponsored by Historical Haunts, and features a presentation from author, writer and vampire expert Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker. Dacre Stoker will discuss some of the mysteries behind the writing of Dracula that really pertain to the New England vampire scare of the early 1800s, including an 1896 article in the New York World about it found in Bram Stoker's notes.
"When Bram read this interesting article that was in the New York World, and saw all that vampires being considered as a real thing in New England, he made the connections to the research he was doing," says Stoker, who with Elizabeth Miller, published The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years. "I’ve looked at the date of this article and it was about two-thirds of the way through the writing of Dracula. My feeling is that a lot of these little things lined up. He did the research in the British Museum and found stories of the early vampire scares in the 1500s and 1600s, and that was great. But when he reads this thing in the United States, it was really scaring people to the point where they were digging up graves and having to do these rituals—either staking hearts or burning the hearts—it became the real deal. Plus, it was in a newspaper, not in a research book, so that brought an influence to Bram that he used newspaper articles in Dracula to make the story more realistic."
Stoker also suggests that the article may have been the inspiration for another now-iconic part of the Dracula mythos. "There’s nowhere else in his notes where he references bats; so people say, ‘How did Bram bring bats into this thing? How did people in those days know about South American vampire bats?’" says Stoker. "Well, sure enough, in this New York World article, there’s a reference to these Europeans in South America and sailors sleeping on the deck of the ship and getting bit by a bat, and someone else’s horse having this bat sitting on its back and lapping up blood. So these two pieces gave Bram sort of a feeling of credibility even though he knew this was fiction. He could see that fiction was making its way into mainstream media and was like ‘Great, this is a perfect insertion into my story.’"