Dacre Stoker was a twelve-year-old boy living in Montreal, Canada when he discovered that he was the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, the Irish author of the 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula. Stoker has dedicated much of the last twenty years to honouring the legacy of his famous ancestor by doing extensive research on the author and novel, writing a prequel and a sequel to Dracula, having plaques erected in significant places, and working as a guide offering specialist Dracula-themed tours to Ireland, the UK, and the Transylvania region in Romania known for its medieval towns and castles. For this year’s 125th anniversary of the publication of Dracula, Stoker has unveiled a plaque in Cruden Bay in Scotland, where Bram Stoker wrote the novel and then celebrated with fans dressed in Victorian attire in Whitby, England where the novel is set. To find out more, Speak Up caught up with Dacre Stoker who was preparing for this month’s Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. We asked him at what point his great-granduncle began to make an impact on his life.
Dacre Stoker (Canadian accent): Growing up in Montreal, Canada, at Halloween, we would have people come to the door, dressed up and ask for candy or trick or treat and people would joke. And I sort of remembered around the age of twelve that people would joke, “Oh, the Stoker household! What if we go to the Stokers? Are you going to give us candy or take our blood?” So, I’d sort of giggle and get a little embarrassed. And I finally asked my dad, I think at the age of twelve, “What’s going on?” And he said, “Well, son, let me tell you.” And we went to the library in the house and he pulled out what turned out to be a first edition of Dracula, signed by Bram to his mother, that we inherited. And I sort of started looking through the book and started reading it. But honestly, at the age of twelve, I didn’t read it in earnest. I read it enough to realise ‘this is spooky!’
The character is one of the most globally successful supernatural beings on record. Why is that so?
Dacre Stoker: Bram was a humble man, but I think that Bram would have looked at a 125-year run of something he created as being pretty bloody impressive. Here’s a 125 years, it’s on stage, on opera, ballet, it’s moved into comedy, it’s moved into horror, it’s moved into anything from audiobooks to games to board games... It is everywhere in popular culture you can imagine; Sesame Street all the way up to X-rated stuff. I mean, it is absolutely incredible.
LIFE AND DEATH
To create the character, Bram Stoker did extensive research, combining elements of Eastern European folklore with an English and American literary tradition.
Dacre Stoker: When he was doing his research, in the London library and the Whitby library between 1890 and 1897, Bram found thirteen countries that had some sort of a vampiric or something equivalent to a spirit coming back from the dead and taking life in some form, either drinking blood or emotional life or something like that. So this is the unifying thing. Not only is it used to entertain, but there is a deep-rooted concern or interest that probably every culture in the world experiences. And that its people think about life after death at some point in their life, and consider the spirits of those gone before us, and are they resting in peace or are they not? Where do they fit in In the grand scheme of things? In that big question of the meaning of life and the meaning of death. And I am convinced that Bram had a serious interest in the occult. It was sort of this new Enlightenment of people in the Victorian era. And Bram was in good company with people like his friend Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain and Prime Minister Gladstone and Winston Churchill, thinking about spiritualism and all this. So, his novel touches on this, and I think that’s reflective of everybody in the world that’s read the novel or thinks about anything. It’s a very common, common thing. What about life after death?