The Dracula Society
Insignia designed by
Please Like and Follow!
Some notable Society events before 2022
For details of all of our more recent past meetings, trips and other events, from 2022 and 2023, use the relevant links on the left.
For reasons of space, this archive does not include our annual Christmas Party events or our occasional Library Evenings.
Our activities in the first half of 2021 were curtailed due to COVID-19 pandemic social mixing restrictions.
The Christmas Social
Thursday 16th December 2021
Also after a gap last year due to COVID-19 we finally met again for out usual pre-Christmas gathering, again at the historic George Inn in Southwark, the venue for many of our meetings in past years. Despite ongoing COVID worries, a good turnout of members enjoyed our traditional caption competition, and the "Santa's Sack" raffle to exchange genre-related artefacts.
The 46th Annual Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner
Saturday 6th November 2021
After a gap last year due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, we were delighted to meet again for our annual celebration of the birthday of Bram Stoker.
We were also delighted that both of our 2020 award winners were able to be present to receive their awards in person.
Writer and actor Jonathan Goodwin of "Don't Go Into The Cellar!" received a very special Hamilton Deane Award in recognition of his efforts to keep live Gothic horror performance alive online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Robert Lloyd Parry of Nunkie productions was also nominated by the Society Committee.
Author Will Maclean received the Children of the Night Award for his novel The Apparition Phase.
Both award winners made excellent acceptance speeches.
Our special guest was actress Judy Matheson, who amongst many other film and television roles appeared in the vampire genre films Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil.
Jonathan Goodwin and Judy Matheson
Friday 15th - Sunday 17th October 2021
Frankenstein in Bath
Originally scheduled in 2020 (twice!)
We finally made it to Bath on the third attempt, where we looked in detail at its Frankenstein connections.
When we last visited in 2006, relatively little was known about Mary Shelley's time in the city, and the circumstances around her writing much of the novel there.
Now thanks to Sir Christopher Frayling and others, we know a lot more, and it was finally acknowledged in 2018, the bicentenary year of the novel's publication, with a plaque in front of the Pump Room. The building where Mary lodged while she was working on the novel was demolished later in the 19th century to build an extension to the Pump Room. Rather fittingly, the basement of the original building still survives, and is now an electricity substation!
Sir Christopher gave us a fascinating talk on Mary Shelley's time in Bath on the Saturday evening.
The stunning "Creature" in the House of Frankenstein in Bath
A highlight of the trip was a visit to the House of Frankenstein museum, which had only opened a few months previously, and would not have been there if we had met any of our previous dates! Crammed full of very well presented exhibits on several floors, the highlight was an 8 feet tall amazing anamatronic representation of the Creature/Monster of the novel, looking very different from Boris Karloff's iconic cinematic portrayal of course!
Saturday 2nd October 2021
The Films That Never Were: Hammer’s Unmade Film Scripts
An illustrated talk by Dr. Kieran Foster
Kali, Devil Bride of Dracula; Vampirella; Vlad the Impaler; and Nessie are just a handful of over a dozen film projects from Hammer Studios that never got beyond the planning stage.
Kieran has studied all the unmade films' scripts and other materials held in the Hammer Archive at De Montfort University.
He shared with us his insights into Hammer's ongoing difficulties throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s, and highlighted a number of fascinating 'what ifs' in the studio's history.
This talk was originally scheduled in 2020, and it was good to finally be able to hold it, with a huge turnout of over 40 members!
Saturday 14th August 2021
A picnic on Hampstead Heath
Thankfully blessed with warm and dry weather, a very impressive turnout of 23 members and guests spent a convivial afternoon picnicking on Hampstead Heath, which started with readings from Dracula concerning the mysterious reports given by local children of encounters with a "Bloofer Lady" on the heath.
Our Chair Julia Kruk reading from Dracula on Hampstead Heath
Some of the children apparently carried bite marks on their necks as a souvenir of the encounter!
The lady in question was, of course Lucy Westenra......
Saturday 24th July 2021
Originally intended as our New Year meeting to tie in with our now postponed Germany trip, we finally screened the 1939 Universal Studios classic Son of Frankenstein, which features both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, with Basil Rathbone in the title role.
The wonderful Bela Lugosi as Ygor ushers Boris Karloff's "Monster" off stage at our screening
This was our first regular Society meeting since March 2020, and it was wonderful to finally see members get together face to face again after such a long COVID-19 pandemic-enforced hiatus!
Friday 30th October to Sunday 1st November 2020
Dracula in Derby
A weekend in Derby at Hallowe'en, following the theatrical Dracula connections of the Grand Theatre and Hippodrome Theatre.
At the former, Hamilton Deane's stage version of Dracula received its world première in 1924, and at the latter, Bela Lugosi performed his most famous role in 1951.
Also at the Hippodrome, in 1956, the horror actor Tod Slaughter (now considered to have been the last of the macabre melodrama "barnstormers") gave his last performance, in Maria Marten, before suddenly dying that night at his theatrical "digs" nearby.
We were shown both buildings by local expert Darrell Buxton, who gave us a fascinating account of their history.
The Grand Theatre Derby in happier times
The group at the Grand Theatre as it appears today, with Darrell on the right
The Grand Theatre building, although much altered, still stands and is in use, but is no longer a theatre.
The Hippodrome building is sadly now derelict and crumbling, the main auditorium roof collapsed, its future unknown.
The sad state of the former Hippodrome Theatre building today
The group at the rear of the Hippodrome building showing where the roof collapsed
On Hallowe'en evening, we were treated to a screening of the 1968 Hammer production, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, at the QUAD art cinema, introduced by Darrell, which was much appreciated by all.
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 7th March 2020
A talk by author Frances Hardinge, whose A Skinful of Shadows was our 2017 Children of the Night Award winner.
"Frances grew up in an old house in rural Kent, England where the wind wuthered. She has always liked dark stories – when she was six, she wrote a short story that included an attempted poisoning, a faked death and a villain being thrown off a cliff – all in just one page!"
This introduction from Frances's website sums up her background perfectly, she began writing at a precociously young age, and is now a highly successful and multi-award winning "young adult" genre author.
Wearing her trademark black felt hat, she regaled us with the story of her background and how she gets the inspiration for her work, some of which is set in real historical settings, and some in fantastical worlds from her amazing imagination.
A hugely entertaining and informative evening.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 25th January 2020
For our traditional New Year film screening, we presented for the first time at a Society event the early silent classic horror The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This marked the centenary of its original German première in February 1920.
Described by one film critic as "the first true horror film" this is the quintessential example of early German expressionist cinema.
It is justifiably famous for its twisted surreal sets, conveying an impression of the mind of a madman. Is its protagonist actually a delusional lunatic in an asylum, or is his story horrifyingly true? The audience is left to decide.
The 45th Annual Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner
Saturday 9th November 2019
We were delighted to be able to welcome our newest Honorary Life Member to our Dinner this year, which was amazingly the
45th year that the event has been continuously held!
Bram Stoker's Great-Grand Nephew Dacre Stoker is based in the United States, but fortuitously for us he was touring in the Republic of Ireland and the UK promoting his co-written novel Dracul, and presenting his "Stoker on Stoker" one-man show, and was able to be with us as our special honoured guest.
Also present was Hammer actress Pauline Peart, of Satanic Rites of Dracula fame.
No Hamilton Deane Award was presented this year, and sadly our Children of the Night Award winner Sarah Perry was unable to be with us on the night, so the award was received on her behalf by Pauline and Dacre.
Sarah sent us the picture below of her with the award later in October 2020.
Dacre Stoker at the Dinner with Sarah Perry's Children of the Night award
Sarah Perry with her Children of the Night award in October 2020
Saturday 5th October 2019
"In Old Greece, in Old Rome": Dracula and Classical Antiquity
Member Dr. Penny Goodman gave us a fascinating original insight into the classical references liberally sprinkled throughout the text of Dracula, how they related to Bram Stoker's classical education, and how he used references to the stories and characters of ancient Greek and Roman mythology.
Their significance would have been well appreciated by his similarly educated potential readers in the late Victorian era.
Stoker used these ancient motifs to root his vampire count in a remote and fantastical past, and to characterise him as a malign, shape-shifting pagan god.
With many vivid illustrations, the talk concentrated on an aspect of Dracula which has been largely overlooked by previous research.
Saturday 20th July 2019
A day out to Manningtree and Mistley following in the footsteps of Matthew Hopkins, the notorious "Witchfinder General".
Over twenty members and guests enjoyed a walk through the Essex towns where Matthew Hopkins lived and pursued his highly lucrative "mission", reputedly responsible for the execution of 300 alleged witches between 1644 and 1646. We visited the Thorn Inn at Mistley, which he owned, the infamous "Dropping Bridge" from which those accused of witchcraft were ducked into the river, condemned if they floated, and exonerated if they sank and drowned, and the site of his burial at the now demolished Church of St. Mary at Mistley Heath.
Some of the group peering nervously over the edge of the "Dropping Bridge"!
Hopkins was of course immortalised in the 1968 film production Witchfinder General, with Vincent Price in the title role.
Saturday 8th June 2019
An talk by artist and designer Graham Humphreys, who is best known for his film posters, which are mainly in the horror genre.
Graham gave us a hugely entertaining account of how he got into what quickly became his dream job. This included winning an art competition as a child with an image of Dracula's Castle which was based on Glamis Castle in Scotland!
His talk was profusely illustrated by both past and future examples of his work, which includes many horror film posters, book and record covers, and event posters.
Graham in an amazing shirt, with (inset) one of the posters that made his name!
Sunday 26th May - Saturday 1st June 2019
On the Society's first ever visit to Germany, a dozen members and guests stayed in Hamburg and Berlin, following the making of the 1922 silent film classic Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror, which was the very first, although unofficial, film version of Dracula.
The film was almost lost when Bram Stoker's widow Florence sued the film company for breach of copyright, and all copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed. Thankfully one copy survived, so we can still marvel at this masterpiece of early cinema.
We stayed in Hamburg to be able to easily visit by train the ports of Wismar and Lübeck, where many of the exterior street scenes for the film were shot.
The group at the medieval harbour gate in Wismar, which was featured in Nosferatu as Count Orlok leaves his ship and carries his coffin into the town!
The Salzspeicher in Lübeck as it appeared in Nosferatu, with Count Orlok peering through the window of his new home.
The Salzspeicher in Lübeck as it appears today.
We then moved to Berlin, to visit the last resting places of the film's director F. W. Murnau, and its star, Max Schreck. They are interred in adjacent cemeteries near Potstam, south-west of Berlin.
The group paying their respects at the tomb of Nosferatu director F. W. Murnau, which he shares with his two brothers.
The simple grave marker of the star of Nosferatu Max Schreck.
He was actually cremated, and this marks where his ashes are interred.
Also near Potstam we visited the former UFA studios, now the Babelsberg Film Park, which is now a tourist attraction as well as still being a working studio. Although the studio where the interiors for Nosferatu were filmed no longer exists, the UFA studios were responsible for many other early German classics, including Metropolis, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the latter of which was marking its centenary in 2019.
Looking to the future, for the centenary of Nosferatu in 2022, the Society is intending to once again organise a visit to Slovakia, which amongst many other things will include the great fortress at Orava, where the castle exterior scenes were shot for the film!
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 27th April 2019
A talk by Wendy Moore, author of The Mesmerist: The Society Doctor Who Held Victorian London Spellbound
The 19th century obsession with mesmerism permeated not only Victorian society, but also much popular fiction of the time, in the novels of Dickens, Wilkie Collins and, of course, Bram Stoker.
In Dracula, mesmerism features prominently both as a tool for good, in the case of Van Helsing hypnotising Mina as a means of divining Count Dracula's intentions, and as a tool for evil, with the Count's control of others to do his bidding.
The case of John Elliotson, whose demonstrations of patients being mesmerised drew huge crowds and became something of a circus show, led to one of the first public scandals of Victoria's reign. Wendy Moore talked about Elliotson, his work at University College Hospital, and how his total endorsement of mesmerism split the Victorian medical profession. Initially championed by Thomas Wakley, the founder of the Lancet magazine, Elliotson's work became hugely prominent until his peers turned against his flamboyant presentation of mesmerised cases to the public, and mesmerism was denounced as a fraud.
Only in more recent times have techniques such as hypnotherapy been acknowledged to be of value in complementing conventional medicine in the treatment of some conditions.
The Society Treasurer's and Membership Secretary's reports were received in the initial AGM part of the meeting, and those present were pleased to hear that the Society's membership numbers and its bank balance are both very healthy!
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 16th March 2019
Pale Maidens and Femmes Fatales – a talk on Fin de Siècle Symbolism and Stoker’s women
A lavishly illustrated talk by member Dr. Gail-Nina Anderson explored the effect of the late Victorian Symbolist Movement on the portrayal of the leading women in Stoker's novels, especially in Dracula and The Jewel of Seven Stars. At the time of their writing, the Symbolist and Decadent Movements in art were drawing away from the mundane features of modern life to explore an exotic, imaginative dream-world of idols and archetypes.
Using the vivid imagery of artists such as Beardsley, Munch, and Burne-Jones, Gail-Nina re-examined Stoker's women, especially Mina, Lucy, and Queen Tera, as representatives of the beautiful disturbing world of Fin de Siècle romanticism.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 26th January 2019
To tie in with our Society trip to Germany later in the year, which will visit many of its locations, we screened Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror, the 1922 classic silent film which was the very first (unofficial) screen version of Dracula. Bram Stoker's widow Florence quite justifiably sued the company responsible for the film for breach of copyright, and the judgement in her favour ordered that all copies of the film be destroyed. Fortunately for future generations, a few copies survived, so this masterpiece of early cinema can still be enjoyed today. We presented the version restored in 1997 by the British Film Institute and Channel 4 TV, featuring a specially composed score by Hammer Films' composer James Bernard.
Over thirty members and guests thoroughly enjoyed revisiting a great classic, not just of horror cinema, but of cinema as a whole.
The 44th Annual Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner
Saturday 10th November 2018
Once again at our now usual venue, the Civil Service Club in Central London, an excellent night with great food and company.
We were delighted that our 2017 Children of the Night Award winner, writer Frances Hardinge, was present with us to accept her award for A Skinful of Shadows.
Our Hamilton Deane Award winner, actor Michael Sheen, was unable to be with us in person, but sent a very touching Award acceptance message which was read out on the night.
The Hamilton Deane award made for Michael Sheen
We were also pleased to welcome two of our Society honorary life members to the Dinner as our guests of honour, actress Janina Faye, Tania from Hammer's 1958 production of Dracula, and our very own Society founder member Monica Wightman.
Society Chair Julia Kruk with Janina Faye
Now an amazing 45 years ago, Monica's late husband Bruce was one of our Society founders, and she served as our Membership Secretary for many years in our early days.
As she had celebrated her 90th birthday earlier in 2018, we thought that it was about time that Monica was finally one of our guests of honour at a Society Dinner!
Saturday 6th October 2018
A illustrated talk by Dr. Karl Bell
"Vampires from Folklore to Film"
The history of the vampire, from folklore to literature to film, is the story of a skilled shape-shifter that has continually adapted to the changing anxieties of the cultures and periods in which it has flourished.
Mainly focusing on the European vampire, Dr. Bell explored that process of transformation, one that has seen the vampire evolve from a peasant to an aristocrat to a film star.
In particular, he examined the changing image of the vampire, and considered the ways in which this mercurial creature reflects our cultural fears and desires.
A report from an attendee:
"Our meeting with Dr. Karl Bell was an entertaining and instructive talk on how the vampire over time has shifted from peasant to aristocrat to film star.
Some of the first mentions of vampires as reanimated corpses feeding on the living were during panics in Europe, born of fear and rumour. Vampires were seen then not as aristocrats, but rising from the corpses of ordinary people who died by suicide or who were unbaptised or who had killed their own relatives, and these monsters needed effective killing methods such as impaling then burning the body.
By contrast, John William Polidori's 1819 fiction The Vampyre did see the vampire as an aristocrat. This created the model of arrogant, outcast, doomed vampires who are tragic and interesting, and very far from reanimated peasants.
Dr. Bell mentioned that Stoker's creation is a bloodsucking monster, but a creature of the late 19th century, surrounded by modern gadgets such as typewriters, the telegraph, the phonograph and Kodak cameras. Dracula, not to be outdone, uses methods such as hypnotism and mesmerism. As Harker remarks: 'It is nineteenth century up-to-date with a vengeance. And yet, unless my senses deceive me, the old centuries had, and have, powers of their own which mere "modernity" cannot kill.'
We then saw the vampire now portrayed as a film star, starting with Christopher Lee oozing charisma on-screen, leading to the matinee idol vampire as seen in Twilight, Blade and the glamorous Undead such as Lestat, or David the Undead leader in The Lost Boys. Vampires can also now be seen as monsters again, as in 30 Days of Night, or Dusk till Dawn. CGI special effects have created the return of the inhuman vampire, as in Fright Night, and Van Helsing. Vampires are never about one thing, and are the most alluring of monsters. They now appear in comedies and children's films such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hotel Transylvania, adapting as we need them to stay alive to scare or charm us."
Sunday 8th July 2018
A day trip to visit Brookwood Cemetery, with our Summer Meeting speaker John Clarke. On a scorching hot day, an impressively large party of members and their guests met at London's Waterloo station, firstly to visit the remains of the nearby station operated by the Necropolis Railway, which ran funeral trains from here to the cemetery. The impressive façade of what was their second station thankfully still survives intact on Westminster Bridge Road, although the sign above the entrance betraying the building's original function is now covered up!
The impressive façade of the offices and second station of the Necropolis Railway Company near Waterloo. The station itself was destroyed during the Second World War. The board below the four pillars hides the original "London Necropolis" sign.
We then travelled by train to the cemetery itself, to trace the remains of the railway there. The path of the line can still be traced, but sadly there is little remaining of the two stations once within the cemetery apart from being able to still see the platforms. The South Station building actually survived until the early 1970s, but sadly had to be demolished due to vandalism. Its associated chapel still survives, now operated by a group of Greek Orthodox monks. We were invited into the beautifully restored building, and many of us were immediately reminded of the churches in Romania. In fact apparently the majority of the people in the congregations there are now Romanian!
The site of the South Station in Brookwood Cemetery, showing the original platform.
The monks' house in the foreground is built on the site of the station building. The surviving station chapel building in the background is now a Greek Orthodox church.
One other item of interest to us in the cemetery, which sadly does not have many Gothic connections, was seeing the ashes interment marker of horror author Dennis Wheatley!
Cruden Bay Trip
Friday 8th - Monday 11th June 2018
After a gap of eighteen years, seventeen members and guests finally re-visited Cruden Bay, the resort on the East Coast of Scotland which Bram Stoker visited numerous times to holiday and to work.
We were delighted to finally be able to stay at the Kilmarnock Arms, the hotel where Bram stayed with his family in 1894, and his signature can still be seen in the guest book of the period, which survives! When we visited in 2000, the hotel was in a poor condition and we stayed elsewhere, so it was good to finally be able to stay where Stoker stayed, although on most of his many visits to the resort he actually hired private cottages, both in the village and in the vicinity, several of which we visited.
Bram Stoker's entry in the guest book at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, where he stayed with his family in August 1894. The identity of "G. Vaughan Hart" is uncertain.
We also visited (and in some cases re-visited) several of the castles in the area, and of course a distillery!
The Cruden Bay part of our visit was conducted by local Mike Shepherd, who has made an extensive study of Bram Stoker's visits to the area. This included the spectacular local cliff-top ruin of Slains Castle, which some have (rather fancifully perhaps) suggested as an inspiration for Castle Dracula!
The group with Mike Shepherd in the remains of the "octagonal room" in Slains Castle. Stoker was undoubtedly a guest here, and referenced the room in Dracula.
Many of the group actually started the trip a day earlier with a night in Inverness, from which they visited Cawdor Castle, famous from Shakespeare's "Scottish Play", and Loch Ness, although sadly its most famous "resident" did not put in an appearance!
Saturday 2nd June 2018
As a taster for our future Society summer outing in July, author John Clarke gave a fascinating illustrated talk about the history of the "Necropolis Railway", which transported the dead and their attendant mourners from a private station near London's Waterloo station to two stations on a branch line which ran into the massive Victorian "garden cemetery" at Brookwood, which is near Woking in Surrey. The service started in 1854, and at its peak from 1894 to 1903, the trains carried more than 2000 corpses every year.
Brookwood Cemetery, the "London Necropolis", was intended to be hopefully the final answer to London's critical burial space problem. It was promoted as the "permanent solution" to finding space for the capital's dead, and when opened it was the largest cemetery in the world. It is still the largest in the United Kingdom, and one of the largest in Europe.
Sadly the cemetery and the line never fulfilled the dreams of their promoters, and the Necropolis Railway ceased operating after its station near Waterloo was bombed and destroyed during the Second World War.
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 21st April 2018
After the Society's AGM business, including the delivery of the membership secretary's and treasurer's reports, Society member Dr. Fiona Subotsky gave an illustrated talk about the medical men in the Stoker family, and the other doctors of whom Bram Stoker would have been aware through them.
Many of the medical procedures described in Dracula were based on the knowledge he gleaned from them about the cutting edge procedures of the time in surgery and psychiatry.
It was certainly very interesting indeed for us to discover that there was a real-life Doctor Seward!
We were also delighted at this meeting to be able to take the opportunity to bestow in person Society Honorary Life Membership on Bram's great-grand nephew, writer and researcher Dacre Stoker, who was over here from America and present as a guest. Dacre's great-grandfather was Bram's youngest brother George Stoker, an army surgeon, who was one of the "medical Stokers" mentioned in Fiona's talk!
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 10th March 2018
Lloyd Shepherd, author of The English Monster, first in the Charles Horton series of historical detective novels, gave us a fascinating insight into his work, being interviewed by Julia Kruk.
The series was continued with The Poisoned Island, Savage Magic, and The Detective and the Devil.
The Ratcliff Highway murders of 1811, terrible crimes which were later eclipsed in the public consciousness by the Jack the Ripper murders, and largely forgotten, were one of Lloyd's sources of inspiration. The case was influential in the start of properly organised policing and criminal investigation in London.
Charles Horton was a real constable in the Thames River Police, and Lloyd, a former journalist, uses many real historical figures and institutions in his fiction, and weaves a strong thread of unsettling horror and the supernatural into his tales, making them much more than just conventional period crime stories.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 20th January 2018
A screening of The Tomb of Ligeia
At our traditional New Year film evening we screened this classic 1964 Roger Corman production, one of his series of films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe starring the incomparable Vincent Price.
Presented on the anniversary of its US release in 1965!
The 43rd Annual Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner
Saturday 11th November 2017
Another very successful and enjoyable evening, with both of our Society award winners in attendance, and a very special guest in the amazing Renee Glynne.
Our Hamilton Deane Award was presented to television writer and producer Ashley Pharoah, for the 2016 BBC TV series The Living and the Dead.
Our Children of the Night Award was presented to writer Ramsey Campbell, for The Searching Dead. Ramsey became our first ever two-time winner, having won the award previously way back in 1989 for Ancient Images.
Our very special guest for the evening was former Hammer Films script supervisor and continuity girl Renee Glynne, who is still going strong at 91 years old!
She had many amazing stories to tell.
Our usual genre quiz was keenly fought as always!
Saturday 7th October 2017
Guest speaker, Duncan Light
A talk on the history of Dracula tourism in Romania, of which the Dracula Society was certainly one of the early pioneers.
Duncan interviewed some early Society members some years ago as part of his research for a book on the history of Romanian Dracula tours, about their experiences on early Society tours of Romania. His book, The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania has now been published in paperback, and we were grateful to receive a copy for the Society archives.
We started the evening with a short video presentation taken from our Society 30th anniversary video, featuring footage from our early forays into Transylvania, which was very well received, especially by those in attendance who were seen on it as they were more than forty years ago!
Duncan then gave a fascinating illustrated talk about the history of Dracula tourism before the Romanian revolution of 1989.
The first tours that were marketed in Romania using the Dracula connection were actually sold in America in 1973, a year before the first Dracula Society tour, so we weren't quite the first!
This was our first meeting at a new venue, The Rugby Tavern, and was deemed to be a great success.
Friday 8th to Monday 11th September 2017
Nearly forty Society members and guests enjoyed three nights in Whitby, marking the 40th anniversary of the Society's very first visit back in 1977. This was amazingly the 12th occasion that the Society had officially visited the North Yorkshire seaside town, where Bram Stoker stayed in 1890 and where he of course set several chapters of Dracula!
Many of those in attendance actually love Whitby so much that they visit privately every year anyway, but this time we had a day of events at the Royal Hotel, followed the next day by our traditional walks through the town visiting the sites mentioned in Dracula, and also to Robin Hood's Bay, following the cliff-top footsteps of Mina and Lucy to the site of their "severe tea" at the Bay Hotel.
The events included a special screening of the film Holy Terrors, introduced by its co-director Mark Goodall. This portmanteau work is based on six stories by the Welsh writer Arthur Machen, whose supernatural tales have seldom been adapted for the screen, and was much appreciated. A huge bonus was the fact that the film was shot entirely in and around Whitby!
We also enjoyed talks on werewolves by Gail-Nina Anderson, and on the film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Barry McCann.
Summer Day Out
Saturday 8th July 2017
"City Penny Dreadful"
Some twenty Society members and guests enjoyed a summer day out in the City of London, on a walk led by member Laura Miller, encompassing some of the grim and supernatural elements of the City. Laura is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, and of the City itself, and is also a qualified guide for the many fascinating historical stories and the myths and legends of this ancient historic area of London.
Saturday 10th June 2017
Guest speaker, screenwriter Ashley Pharaoh
Ashley Pharaoh boasts an amazing CV in writing for television, starting out with "soap opera" dramas EastEnders and Casualty, and later high profile and hugely successful series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, which he co-wrote, amongst many others.
He was invited to speak to us as the co-creator and writer of the six part 2016 BBC TV series The Living and the Dead.
The series is set in the late Victorian period in rural Somerset, where Ashley was brought up, and is undoubtedly Gothic and very "Jamesian". Ashley described the series as "eerie" (he said that he didn't like to use the word "horror" to describe it!)
It explores the leakage of events through time from the present to the past (rather than the other way around as is more common) and the way that the life of the main protagonist Nathan Appleby is affected by this, eventually making him doubt his sanity.
Sadly, despite a "cliff-hanger" ending to the series, it seems that no more episodes will now be made.
The series has deservedly been nominated for our Hamilton Deane Award for 2016.
Czech Republic Trip
Tuesday 30th May to Sunday 4th June 2017
"The Golem and the White Lady"
Twenty-one Society members and guests spent five nights in Southern Bohemia and Prague, where the Czech Republic's capital city is home to the Gothic legend of the Golem!
The Golem is a Jewish legend concerning an artificial being formed from clay, usually by a Rabbi, and given life by placing a sacred scroll under its tongue. The creature's purpose is to protect the Jewish community when it finds itself under threat, but much like Frankenstein's creation, in Prague the Golem ran out of control!
We also followed the legend of the ghostly "White Lady", which appeared to be in fact several different similar legends attached to several castles in Southern Bohemia!
We were blessed with generally excellent weather, in fact rather too hot at times, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the castles, and exploring the city of Prague, which the Society last visited in 1999!
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 22nd April 2017
"The Horrors Within"
After the business of our AGM, where we received our treasurer's and membership secretary's reports for 2016, we celebrated the genre work of the Society's very own authors!
We were pleased to hear that our membership numbers are now the highest that they have been for many years, and that the Society's finances are healthy.
Following the business part of the evening, member Tracy Lee chaired a discussion panel made up of five fellow members who are published authors, celebrating the depth of literary talent that we have present in the Society.
The panel consisted of Berni Stevens, Sue Gedge, Tina Rath, Jason Brawn, and Katherine Haynes.
All five read extracts from their work, and then took questions from Tracy, and from the floor, about how and why they started writing, and their inspirations.
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 11th March 2017
An evening with writer Ben Aaronovitch
Ben is the author of the acclaimed (and very Gothic!) fantasy series Rivers of London. We were delighted to welcome him to a Society event to be interviewed by Society member and fellow writer Tony Lee.
Ben gave us an extremely entertaining insight into his writing work in television and books over three decades, which includes two stories for the BBC TV series Doctor Who in the 1980s, and subsequently three "New Adventures" Doctor Who novels. He also wrote episodes for the short-lived "science fiction soap opera" TV series Jupiter Moon in the 1990s, and even wrote an episode of the long-running BBC TV medical drama Casualty!
His sources of inspiration for his current ongoing literary work, the Gothic fantasy "police procedural" series Rivers of London, are varied and fascinating. The series has now run to six books.
It revolves around the character of PC Peter Grant, apprenticed to a shadowy division of London's Metropolitan Police Force which deals with "magic and supernatural crime"!
This meeting was our first at a new venue, Ye Olde Cock Tavern public house in Fleet Street in central London, a street famous as the home of the British newspaper industry until about thirty years ago. The street is named after the Fleet river, a tributary of the Thames which now runs underground as part of London's original Victorian sewage system. As some of the main characters in Rivers of London are the "gods of the river", named after the tributaries of the Thames, this was a very appropriate location for Ben's interview!
New Year Meeting
Saturday 21st January 2017
A special screening of Theatre of Blood
Another first for the Society. We enjoyed a screening of the 1973 Vincent Price classic Theatre of Blood, with a live commentary from writer John Llewellyn Probert!
A former Society Children of the Night award winner (in 2006 for The Faculty of Terror) John has written the first of a series of "Midnight Movie Monographs" on this film, one of his all-time favourites, which he first watched on TV as a child!
While the film played, he regaled us with many fascinating facts about the production, its locations, and the use of incidental music.
He also told us many things about the film's cast, which reads like a "who's who" of the British character actors of the time.
Vincent Price plays a deranged Shakespearian actor, spurned by a circle of critics, on whom he wreaks murderous revenge one by one in the manner of killings in Shakespeare plays.
John considers this to be the role that Vincent was born for, and it was one of his favourite parts, helped no doubt by the fact that he met his future wife, co-star Coral Browne, while working on it!
As many of Vincent's horror films were not considered of any merit at the time by most critics, it was probably a very enjoyable part for him to play for other reasons too....
The 42nd Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2016
Saturday 12th November 2016
Once again we held our Annual Dinner at the Civil Service Club in central London, where the food and service were again excellent.
We hope to be able to use this venue for the foreseeable future.
Our Hamilton Deane Award for 2015 was won for the second time by film director Guillermo del Toro.
Following on from his award in 2006 for Pan's Labyrinth, this time he was honoured for his film Crimson Peak.
He was sadly unable to collect the award in person as he was filming in Canada, but sent an entertaining acceptance letter, which was read out at the Dinner.
The Hamilton Deane award made for Guillermo del Toro
Our Children of the Night Award was won by writer Michael Chislett, for In the City of Ghosts.
He was present to collect the award in person at the Dinner, and made a very entertaining acceptance speech.
Michael Chislett with his Children of the Night award
The traditional Dinner quiz was keenly fought as always!
Saturday 1st October 2016
A talk by guest artist Anne Sudworth
For the very first time we enjoyed an illustrated talk by an artist.
Anne Sudworth is known internationally for her striking paintings of imaginary haunting moonlit landscapes, magical trees bathed in "earth light", and images based on some of Britain's most famous mystical sites, including Stonehenge, Avebury, Tintagel, and Whitby Abbey, which is one of her favourite subjects!
She considers all of her pictures to have a Gothic quality, even those which are not immediately seen as such.
Her fascinating talk explained the sources of her inspiration, in literature, folklore, mythology and nature.
Saturday 23rd July 2016
A day out in Bournemouth
To bring to a close our 2016 Society events commemorating the bicentenary of the origins of the classic Gothic novel Frankenstein, we returned after a gap of eleven years to the seaside town of Bournemouth on the South Coast of England to visit the grave of its author Mary Shelley, who is interred in a family tomb in St. Peter's churchyard in the centre of the town.
Mary Shelley's grave at St. Peter's church Bournemouth
The Society group pictured at Mary Shelley's grave
We also took the opportunity to visit the site of Skerryvore, the house where Robert Louis Stevenson lived from 1885-1887, and where he wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The house was destroyed by a bomb in 1940 during the Second World War, and only a memorial garden now remains.
Another very well attended day out, which was luckily again blessed with excellent weather!
Saturday 11th June 2016
A talk by author Christopher Fowler
Christopher Fowler has many fans among the members of the Dracula Society who love his dark short stories, anthologised in Dark Terrors and Best New Horror, and his novels, such as Psychoville, Hell Train, and Nyctophobia.
Here he recounted his recent first trip to Transylvania, which he illustrated with photographs of places which are very familiar to many Society members, and spoke about the inspirations for his writing.
He also read an extract from his new novella, which is a work in progress, which explores something that he feels that Bram Stoker missed out from Dracula, an account of the time that Jonathan Harker spent whilst at Castle Dracula cataloguing its contents, especially the Count's library.
We were also delighted to have with us as extra guests, Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Juliet Landau and her husband Deverill Weekes, who were in London promoting and raising funding for a documentary series A Place Among the Undead, which they hope will be the definitive work on vampires in modern popular culture.
Juliet is the daughter of the actor Martin Landau, who is much revered in the Society for his Oscar-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 biopic Ed Wood.
Juliet also appeared in the film as actress Loretta King.
Many photo opportunities presented themselves at this meeting!
The Diodati Bicentenary Trip
Thursday 2nd to Monday 6th June 2016
Celebrating the birth of Frankenstein and The Vampyre
Twenty-two Society members and guests spent four nights in Geneva Switzerland, to mark the bicentenary of the holiday that the poet Lord Byron, his personal doctor John Polidori, and Byron's fellow poet Percy Shelley and his fiancée Mary Godwin, spent staying by Lake Geneva in 1816. During that stay, where they were confined indoors for long periods due to very poor weather, they all met one evening at the Villa Diodati, where Byron and Polidori were staying, and decided to pass the time by each writing a horror story.
Most of the Society group pictured at the gates of the Villa Diodati
Two significant literary works grew from this "competition".
Mary Godwin started work on the novel that she would publish as Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a work considered by many to be the very first science fiction novel, and of course a hugely influential and much filmed Gothic classic.
John Polidori went on to publish The Vampyre, which was the first work to feature an attractive and aristocratic vampire figure, Lord Ruthven. This work almost certainly influenced Bram Stoker later in the century when he was creating Count Dracula.
The 2016 weather forecasts made the likely conditions sound every bit as grim as the original 1816 holidaymakers had experienced! In fact we had very good luck indeed with dodging the worst of the rain, and three members were able to do an open air reading performance near to the Villa Diodati, although sadly the building itself is now in private hands and inaccessible.
Society members Barry, Tina, and Penny performing with the villa in the background
The Villa Diodati in a drawing from 1835
The Villa Diodati as it appears today
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 30th April 2016
"Diodati and the birth of Frankenstein"
An almost unprecedented forty-five Society members and their guests packed into our usual meeting venue at the Devereux public house in central London to hear an excellent illustrated talk by long-time friend of the Society Sir Christopher Frayling.
The theme of the talk was to tie in with our trip to Switzerland which was due to take place five weeks later to mark the bicentenary of the events at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva which resulted in the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and John Polidori's The Vampyre. Along with many fascinating facts about the events concerned, Sir Christopher talked about his own personal experience there while filming his BBC documentary series Nightmare, the Birth of Horror, for which he won our Society Hamilton Deane award for 1996. This very much increased the anticipation of those in attendance who were booked on our trip!
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 12th March 2016
A talk on the author Dennis Wheatley by Phil Baker, the author of the biography The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley. This tied in neatly with our screening in January of the Hammer Films' production of Wheatley's best-selling novel The Devil Rides Out.
For this meeting, we returned, after a gap of many years, to the Barley Mow public house in London's Horseferry Road.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 23rd January 2016
As a tribute to Christopher Lee, who died in 2015, our traditional New Year film evening was a screening of The Devil Rides Out, a classic Hammer Films' production first released in 1968.
This was one of Lee's favourites of all of his countless films, and was based on a novel by his personal friend Dennis Wheatley.
Unusually, in this film Lee's character is on the side of good, battling the evil Devil worship cult leader Mocata, played with sinister brilliance by Charles Gray!
An amazing well over thirty Society members and guests packed our usual meeting venue, the Devereux public house in Central London, for this event.
The 41st Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2015
Saturday 7th November 2015
For our 2015 Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner, we found ourselves at a new venue after five years, the Civil Service Club in London's Great Scotland Yard.
The food was excellent, as was the company of course! The evening included as always our Society Award presentations, and a light-hearted Gothic genre quiz.
For the first time ever, the 2014 Hamilton Deane Award was shared, with a dead heat on the voting by members.
We were delighted to welcome as our Dinner guests actors and writers Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, who were together the winners of one of our two joint Hamilton Deane Awards, for their BBC TV series Inside No.9.
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton
We had hoped that John Logan, the creator of the other joint award winner, the Sky TV series Penny Dreadful, would also be with us on the night, but sadly he had to decline at the last minute due to filming problems on the next series, which was being shot in Ireland. However, he still made an excellent acceptance speech through the mouthpiece of Society member Tony Lee!
His award was later presented to him at the Irish location.
The 2014 Children of the Night Award was won by Katherine Haynes, for her collection of short stories Daydreams and Nightmares.
Again the award was won by one of our own members, which emphasises the depth of writing talent present now in the Society.
Our other special guest was actress Martine Beswick, who is mainly known for her appearances in James Bond films, but we were honouring her for her performance as Dr. Jekyll's alter ego in the 1971 Hammer Films' production Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.
Saturday 10th October 2015
"The Victorian Cult of Death"
Guest author Essie Fox gave the Society a fascinating illustrated talk about how the Victorians' obsession with death and its rituals provided inspiration for her Victorian Gothic novels.
One of the most surprising aspects mentioned was that when photography became common in the later years of the Victorian era, this came to include a tradition of photographing the dead, both humans and pet animals, with those still living grouped around them. Some of those pictures are understandably quite disturbing to us nowadays!
A wonderful unexpected bonus was the inclusion of two appropriate live songs to accompany the talk, Gone and Still Do You Leave Me, which were beautifully performed by a friend of Essie, professional singer and composer Kirsten Morrison.
Saturday 18th July 2015
A day trip to Whitstable
The Society officially visited the Kent seaside town for the first time, exploring its Peter Cushing connections.
After meeting in the "Peter Cushing" pub, we visited "Cushing's View" where there is a commemorative bench where he used to love to sit, and his former house on the seafront. We then went to the Tudor Tea Rooms, where he was a regular customer, and a plaque marks the table that he always used, and visited the local museum where there is an exhibition devoted to his career.
It was a very well attended day with thankfully excellent weather!
Saturday 13th June 2015
"The Lord of Strange Deaths"
The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer
This was an illustrated talk by Antony Clayton and Phil Baker, who have collaborated (with others) to publish a collection of essays on the life and works of the author Arthur Sarsfield Ward, who was of course much better known under the nom de plume of Sax Rohmer, the creator of one of popular literature's most colourful arch-villains Doctor Fu Manchu.
Parallels are easily drawn with Bram Stoker's Count Dracula.
Fu Manchu is a evil genius, using apparently supernatural occult powers as well as arcane science to recruit an army of totally controlled followers who will help him in his aim of world domination.
The title of the talk refers to Fu Manchu's famously elaborate and bizarre ways of dispatching his enemies. After all, why just have someone shot, when you can use the scent of a rare flower to attract a probably even rarer poisonous centipede to bite them?!
Although in later stories he appears to be more on the side of the angels when opposing Nazism and Communism, Fu Manchu is always portrayed as being a ruthless, wicked and manipulative villain, with scarcely hidden racist overtones rife, in the earlier books especially, against this sinister "threat from the East".
Much as in the case of Count Dracula and the threat of vampirism, Fu Manchu's intended subjugation of the so-called "civilised" world was presented as a creeping insidious contagion.
Saturday 23rd May - Wednesday 3rd June 2015
Twenty-two Dracula Society members made what was amazingly the tenth Society pilgrimage to the land of Bram Stoker's Count Dracula, and the source of his name, Vlad Dracula, the Impaler.
This was the Society's first "proper" Romania trip since 2009, after only visiting the Bucharest and Black Sea coast areas in 2013, and this time we re-visited some of the major sites from our trip twelve years previously in 2003, including the World Heritage Site painted monasteries in Bucovina, and the unique "merry cemetery" at Săpânţa, close to the Ukrainian border.
For interest, our full itinerary can be seen here.
Of course we did the Dracula Society Transylvania essentials too, first visiting Poenari Citadel, Vlad Dracula's stronghold, where we once again braved the climb of 1480 steps to reach the ruin!
Some of the group raising a glass at the top of Poenari Citadel
We also visited as always Sighişoara, the historic birthplace of Vlad Dracula, and the Tihuţa Pass, better known to Dracula fans as the Borgo Pass, where we stayed once again in the beautiful surroundings at the Castle Dracula Hotel.
The group at the Castle Dracula Hotel, beside the Bram Stoker statue
At the Golden Crown hotel in Bistriţa, we once again had the traditional "meal of Jonathan Harker".
The "Salon Jonathan Harker" at the hotel had been completely refurbished since our last visit, and for those who remembered it from previous trips, the new version was not an improvement!
The Salon Jonathan Harker at the Golden Crown Hotel, as it is now
The Salon Jonathan Harker as it was in 2009, it was rather better then we thought!
The whole Romania experience was amazing as always, and it was great to travel with a large number of "Romania Trip Virgins" on this occasion, and to find that they all loved what they saw and experienced there.
Among the many new non-Dracula related delights this time were two wonderfully scenic train rides. The first was in the Tihuţa Pass, and it was followed by the Society's third "leiter wagon" horse and cart ride in the Pass. Later in the trip we spent a whole day riding on a wonderfully ramshackle narrow gauge steam logging railway, followed by a night in a static sleeper train hotel, where the food was among the very best on the whole trip!
Here's to the next one, now due in 2021.......
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 25th April 2015
"Dracula, a Publishing History"
An illustrated talk by John Moore
Dublin-based John Moore possesses one of the world’s most important archives of Bram Stoker manuscripts, photographs, correspondence, and English and other language book editions, exhibiting many items from his collection in 2014 in Dublin and on tour in Milan and Taiwan.
After the business of the Society AGM, where we received our Treasurer's and Membership Secretary's reports, John gave us an amazing visual tour of just the directly Dracula-related part of his massive collection, which he has built up over 35 years. This included examples of many extremely rare early editions of Dracula, including those published in non-English languages, many with beautiful cover artwork.
We hope that John will return again in the future to explore the non-Dracula parts of his Stoker collection.
We were pleased to hear from our Membership Secretary that our membership numbers are now more buoyant than for many years!
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 7th March 2015
"The Sex Life of the Vampire"
This was a talk by our very own Society member Dr. Tina Rath,
on a subject perhaps surprisingly never before specifically discussed at a Society meeting!
When and why did the traditional hideous vampire of folklore, an unappealing creature to say the least, become an attractive creature of seduction and sexual desire?
It apparently all started with Lord Ruthven, the creation of Dr. John Polidori in the short story The Vampyre, which was published in 1819. This is of course the "other" iconic image to be born from that famous 1816 gathering at the Villa Diodati!
Ruthven was the first high born aristocratic, and therefore appealing, vampire. Of course this theme was later much expanded on by the theatre, and later by films and television, resulting in the sexy vampire image that we know today, as Tina explained in detail, ably accompanied by her husband Tony, who read the quotations. A lively question and answer session followed of course!
New Year Meeting
Saturday 24th January 2015
Following on from our talk on "Body Snatchers" in October 2014, for our traditional New Year film evening we screened the 1960 production The Flesh and the Fiends, with Peter Cushing portraying the infamous early nineteenth century Edinburgh surgeon Robert Knox, who notoriously used William Burke and William Hare and others to provide him with corpses for his research, with "no questions asked!"
A huge turnout of nearly forty people attended this event, which was nearing the limit for the size of the room at our now usual venue, the historic Devereux public house in the City of London.
The 40th Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014
Held actually on Stoker's 167th birthday, and once again at the Hotel Russell, this time in their elegant panelled Library Room.
After the usual keenly fought quiz, both of our Society annual awards were presented in person to their recipients.
Our Children of the Night Award was won for 2013 by one of our own Society members, Anna Taborska, for her short story collection For Those Who Dream Monsters.
Our Hamilton Deane Award was won for the second time by actor, writer, producer and director Mark Gatiss, for his BBC TV "Ghost Story at Christmas" production of M. R. James' The Tractate Middoth, which he wrote and directed.
He also wrote and presented a documentary on James to accompany his adaptation.
After his previous success in 2008 with Crooked House, Mark became our first ever two-time Hamilton Deane Award winner!
Our special Dinner guest this year was actor Jeremy Clyde, who played the title role in BBC TV's 1979 adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu's Schalcken the Painter.
A fitting end to the Society's celebration of Le Fanu's bicentenary.
Another excellent evening, the 40th occasion that we have marked Bram Stoker's birthday in this way, the first time being way back in the year 1975! See a history of our annual Dinners here.
Saturday 4th October 2014
"The Body Snatcher"
A talk on Robert Louis Stevenson and the body snatching trade, by Dr. Ruth Richardson.
Following the screening of a couple of illustrative film clips, from The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) and The Body Snatcher (1945), we settled down for a talk about the life of R. L. Stevenson, and especially about his short story upon which the latter film was loosely based.
First published in the Pall Mall Christmas "Extra" magazine in December 1884, its characters were based on criminals in the employ of the real-life Edinburgh surgeon Robert Knox (1791-1862) around the time of the notorious Burke and Hare murders in 1828. Knox was portrayed by Hammer Films' actor Peter Cushing in The Flesh and the Fiends.
Another well attended meeting, where the question and answer session after the talk was itself long and interesting!
Friday 29th August to Monday 1st September 2014
A long weekend in Bram Stoker's birthplace, marking the bicentenary of Gothic horror writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu.
This event was organised with A Ghostly Company, whose members swelled the number of attendees to over forty!
We concentrated very much on Bram Stoker on our previous visits to the Irish capital in 2002 and 2007, but this time, in the company of our fellow member and Children of the Night award winner Brian J. Showers, we also paid much attention to the life and work of Le Fanu, who unlike Stoker, spent his entire life in the city.
On the first afternoon, we were treated to a private viewing of a portrait of Le Fanu at the National Gallery, which sadly is not normally on display.
Brian Showers with the Le Fanu portrait, and a cast of Le Fanu's death mask
On the first evening, we had a talk by Jim Rockhill, the editor of Le Fanu’s collected supernatural stories, followed by a tour de force one-man performance of his own original horror story by member Barry McCann.
Brian Showers introducing the illustrated talk by Jim Rockhill
Barry McCann's one-man show
The next day we set out on our Dublin literary trail, led by Brian.
70, Merrion Square South, Le Fanu’s home from the 1850s until his death.
Brian Showers with his fellow Children of the Night Award winner Roger Johnson of
A Ghostly Company, at St. Ann’s Church.
Bram Stoker was married here to Florence Balcombe on the 4th December 1878.
The bust of Stoker in St. Ann's church, which was placed there in 2012 to mark the centenary of his death (rather strangely it is at present completely unlabelled!)
Other relevant sites visited included -
The Shelbourne Hotel
Bram Stoker met Sir Henry Irving here, and subsequently very possibly first contemplated becoming Irving’s manager.
7, St. Stephen’s Green North
Bram Stoker moved here in 1877 from his brother’s house in Harcourt Street.
The setting for Le Fanu’s ghost story An account of some strange disturbances in Aungier Street.
Charles Maturin lived and died at number 37, since demolished.
That evening we were treated to a great performance of a new version of Green Tea by Wireless Mystery Theatre from Belfast, which was performed with live music and sound effects.
The Wireless Mystery Theatre performing Green Tea
The following day we visited Mount Jerome Cemetery, to pay our respects at Le Fanu's grave, which had recently been restored to mark his bicentenary. Those who remembered the sorry state it was in on previous visits were delighted to find it transformed!
Although the weather had been rather indifferent so far, thankfully on this day we were blessed with warm sunshine, and members bought flowers to place on the grave in tribute.
The newly restored Le Fanu grave in Mount Jerome Cemetery
The group pay tribute at Le Fanu's grave
Later some members opted to visit Chapelizod, on the other side of the city, which has Le Fanu connections – The House by the Churchyard being sited there, and of course Ghost Stories of Chapelizod.
That evening we enjoyed a special "Le Fanu Birthday Dinner" at an excellent restaurant.
Another great trip which was enjoyed by all.
Saturday 9th August 2014
Kensal Green Cemetery
Well over twenty members and guests spent a fascinating afternoon on a private tour of the cemetery.
This was arranged to follow up our March Meeting talk by Catharine Arnold about London's "garden cemeteries", of which Kensal Green was the very first, opening in 1833.
There are many graves with literary connections there, including Wilkie Collins, Harrison Ainsworth, and James Malcolm Rymer. George Reynolds, whom we learnt about at our Summer Meeting back in June, is also there, "deposited" in the catacomb.
A good number of our party then went on to have dinner at the Dracula House Romanian restaurant in nearby Harlesden.
A thoroughly enjoyable day out.
Saturday 7th June 2014
A fascinating talk by Jessica Hindes about the work of the relatively unknown 19th century author of "penny dreadfuls" George W. M. Reynolds, whose most famous work is the epic "urban Gothic" serial The Mysteries of London, and who also wrote Wagner: the Wehr-Wolf and The Necromancer.
Reynolds was a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and they shared a mutual contempt by all accounts.
Dickens asserted that Reynolds was "a name with which no lady's, and no gentleman's, should be associated"!
Despite that, in his time Reynolds was much more popular and widely read than his rival, especially amongst the poorer working class of the time, who were the very first mass media audience.
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 26th April 2014
For the first time in the Society's now over forty year history, after the business of our Annual General Meeting, where we received our Membership Secretary's and Treasurer's reports for the previous year, we were entertained by a "performance poet"!
Cardinal Cox gave us a hugely entertaining rendition of some of his short poems, inspired by subjects ranging from Moby Dick, Victorian freak shows, Dracula's journey from Whitby to London, Steampunk, M. R. Jamesian ghosts in Cambridge, and verses inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 1st March 2014
"Death in London"
An illustrated talk by writer Catharine Arnold, whose first book was Necropolis - London and its Dead.
This talk was all about the fascinating origins of London’s famous "garden cemeteries", such as Kensal Green and Highgate, which are much featured in Gothic fiction, including of course, Dracula.
Catharine's descriptions of the conditions in some of the places where thousands of bodies were interred, after London's traditional burial places were overwhelmed by the sheer number of the dead when the capital's population exploded, were quite disturbing!
Copies of her book were available for purchase and signing.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 25th January 2014
To begin the Society's events to mark the 2014 bicentenary of the birth of writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu, our traditional New Year Film Evening presented an excellent quality 16mm film print screening of Hammer Films' 1970 production The Vampire Lovers, which is a very loose adaptation of Le Fanu's Carmilla, starring Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing.
As a bonus "extra", the evening also included a re-enactment by members of a "missing scene", which was scripted but never used in the final version of the film!
This was hugely entertaining, and much appreciated by the large number of members in attendance.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2013
Saturday 9th November 2013
Our biggest and most formal event of the year was held again at the Hotel Russell, now for the fourth time. An excellent meal with great company as usual!
Our Hamilton Deane Award for 2012 was won by Jane Goldman, for her screenplay for the 2012 Hammer Films' production of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, which starred Daniel Radcliffe.
Jane was unable to be with us at the Dinner to be presented with her award in person, due to filming commitments, but we were very fortunate to have with us on the night to accept it on Jane's behalf, actress Pauline Moran.
Pauline's best known role is probably as "Miss Lemon" in many early episodes of the long-running television series Poirot, with David Suchet in the title role as Agatha Christie's famous Belgian detective. However, she was with us at our Dinner as a former "Woman in Black", from the 1989 ITV television production!
Pauline Moran receiving the Hamilton Deane Award on behalf of Jane Goldman
Our Children of the Night Award for 2012 was won by Tim Powers for his novel Hide Me Among the Graves.
Again sadly Tim was not able to be with us on the night, as he had returned to America after appearing at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton only the previous weekend!
We did take the opportunity to present him with his award in person at that event.
Tim Powers with his Children of the Night Award at World Fantasy Con.
Our very special guest for the evening was television and film director Philip Saville.
Philip's body of work spans five decades of hugely significant and influential television dramas, including Boys from the Blackstuff, and The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, to name but two!
He was with us finally as our Dinner guest because of course he also directed the 1977 BBC television production Count Dracula, which starred Louis Jourdan in the title role. This production is considered by many in the Dracula Society to be the most faithful screen version of Bram Stoker's novel ever produced.
Webmaster's note: Gerald Savory, who adapted Dracula for this production, was a special guest at our Dinner in 1981. Neither he nor Philip Saville were nominated for the Hamilton Deane Award for the adaptation when it was new, as at that time only actors were considered. Very surprisingly, considering how highly the production was thought of within the Society, none of the actors involved were Award winners either, including the much praised Louis Jourdan in the title role! (The Award for 1977 was actually won by actor Vladek Sheybal for his performance in The Night of the Marionettes.)
Saturday 5th October 2013
An evening with author Chris Priestly
Winner of the Society’s Children of the Night Award for Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth in 2009, Chris has been delighting lovers of traditional horror stories – of all ages – for many years. He talked about his boyhood and how he grew up with a passion for reading, discovering classic works of fiction almost by accident. Taking his inspiration from classic ghost and horror stories (tales by Poe, Mary Shelley and Dickens spring to mind), Chris has turned to Coleridge and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for his latest book, The Dead Men Stood Together, in which a boy and his uncle embark upon a doomed sea voyage....
Chris read a passage from this, as well as a new story from one of his republished Uncle Montagu series of collections, copies of which were available to buy (and get signed) at the end of the evening.
Also available to buy were copies of the Society's own publication, His Red Eyes Again (our anniversary anthology of members' vampire stories). This anthology just happens to contain a special guest story by Chris Priestley, so members could get their copy signed by Chris as an added bonus!
The Dracula Society 40th Anniversary Celebration
Friday 13th to Monday 16th September 2013
A special long weekend event held in Whitby
To celebrate the Dracula Society's 40th birthday (we started out in October 1973!) we went to one of our favourite places in the world, the historic seaside town of Whitby, in the Northern England county of North Yorkshire.
Whitby of course features prominently in three chapters of the novel Dracula. Bram Stoker stayed there in 1890 and was much inspired by the town and its people.
We were based at the Royal Hotel up on the West Cliff for most of our events. The hotel is sited just across the road from where our co-founder Bernard Davies hypothesised that Lucy and Mina would have been staying at their lodgings in the novel Dracula.
It is also just around the corner from where Bram Stoker actually stayed in 1890! Also across the road from the Royal Hotel is our Dracula Society commemorative seat, erected in 1980.
The Society Bram Stoker seat, with the Royal Hotel building just visible at the top left
We began with a welcoming event held on the first evening at a public house down in the old town, which featured a demanding and keenly fought quiz!
The Mayor of Whitby visited our welcome evening and tried the Society's favourite drink!
The following two days at the Royal Hotel were full of varied talks, a performance by Hamilton Deane Award winner Robert Lloyd Parry, and a huge auction, which raised funds for the Society as well as redeploying many items between members' collections!
The stage at the Royal Hotel with our Stoker portrait and Hammer Dracula cloak
David Pybus of Whitby Museum exploded a few myths about Stoker's stay in Whitby
Kevin Corstorphine spoke on the relationship between the works of Stoker and Poe
Paul Magrs read from one of his Brenda and Effie novels, which are set in Whitby
Robert Lloyd Parry on stage as M. R. James telling the story of Count Magnus
Lynn Shepherd talked about her latest Dracula inspired novel Darkness Visible
Barry McCann talked about the vampire on film
This was the star lot at our auction!
Our traditional Society walk through Whitby was held on the Saturday afternoon, taking in all the sites mentioned in Dracula, and of course the place where Stoker stayed, and our Dracula Society seat. The weekend was so full that our other Whitby tradition, a walk to Robin Hood's Bay, had to wait until next time!
Members on the Whitby Dracula trail visiting the house where Bram Stoker stayed in 1890
On the Saturday evening, a celebration dinner was held in the splendid Gothic surroundings of one of Whitby's oldest buildings, Bagdale Hall.
An amazing over forty members attended this event, the weather was much better than had been predicted, and a marvellous time was had by all! Here's to the 50th!
Saturday 6th July 2013
An evening with author Wayne Kinsey
Wayne Kinsey is the author of several books about the history of Hammer Films. His most recent, to mark the centenary year of the actor's birth, is The Peter Cushing Scrapbook.
In conversation with our Society Chair Julia Kruk, Wayne gave us a fascinating account of how his love affair with Hammer Films began watching them on TV as a youngster, and how his sequence of books about them developed.
He revealed that his best research experiences were when interviewing technicians. Actors were apparently in some cases less of a pleasure to deal with. Names were mentioned!
Again a very well-booked meeting, especially considering the time of year and the excellent weather. This Summer meeting was held a month later than usual due to Wayne's availability.
Saturday 8th June 2013
A "Jack the Ripper" walk!
Nineteen members and guests assembled at the City of London's Tower Hill on a sunny but rather unseasonably chilly afternoon for a specially organised guided walk around the East End haunts of the anonymous Victorian serial killer who became notorious as "Jack The Ripper".
It had been nearly thirty years since the last similar Society walk, which was conducted in 1985 by our late Co-Founder President Bernard Davies, whose grandfather was a London Metropolitan Police officer at the time of the Ripper murders.
A fascinating and intriguing afternoon was had by all, on what was our first extra Summer Outing day for quite some years.
A Black Sea Odyssey
Saturday 18th to Saturday 25th May 2013
On this Society trip, nineteen members and guests stayed in the heart of the Romanian capital Bucharest, taking in the city centre for the first time in some years. The sites we visited while there included the supposed burial place of Vlad Tepes (shown below) which is in the island monastery out on beautiful Lake Snagov, and also the remains of Vlad's "Princely Court" in the centre of the city.
We then went on via Constanta and the Danube Delta into Bulgaria for the very first time, where amongst the many other fascinating sites visited, important new ground was broken for the Society with a stay in the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna, the point of origin of the Demeter.
This was the ill-fated ship that carried Count Dracula and his earth boxes from the Black Sea to Whitby in the novel Dracula.
The Dracula Society can now finally proudly boast that it has officially physically visited all of the significant real places mentioned in "the book"!
Shown above is our Society Chair Julia Kruk at Varna, reading the appropriate passages from Dracula at sunset overlooking the docks, on the deck of a "Demeter" of sorts.
(Actually a replica galleon being used as a restaurant!)
Another great Society trip which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone involved!
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 20th April 2013
After the business of the AGM, author Lynn Shepherd talked to us about her research into the complex lives of Lord Byron, the Godwins, and the Shelleys, for her latest novel A Treacherous Likeness. The tangled and often tragic relationships between the members of this group rivalled any soap opera!
Lynn writes "literary mystery" novels, in the style of works by Jane Austen (Murder at Mansfield Park) and Charles Dickens.
She adds her own original characters, such as great-uncle and great-nephew detectives Charles Maddox senior and junior, to those created by the original novelists. Unlike in her previous novels, many of the main characters in A Treacherous Likeness are based on real people rather than literary creations.
From Lynn's website on A Treacherous Likeness:
In the dying days of 1850 the young detective Charles Maddox takes on a new case. His client? The only surviving son of the long-dead poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein.
Charles soon finds himself being drawn into the bitter battle being waged over the poet’s literary legacy, but then he makes a chance discovery that raises new doubts about the death of Shelley’s first wife, Harriet, and he starts to question whether she did indeed kill herself, or whether what really happened was far more sinister than suicide.
As he’s drawn deeper into the tangled web of the past, Charles discovers darker and more disturbing secrets, until he comes face to face with the terrible possibility that his own great-uncle is implicated in a conspiracy to conceal the truth that stretches back more than thirty years.
The story of the Shelleys is one of love and death, of loss and betrayal. Lynn Shepherd offers her own fictional version of that story, which suggests new and shocking answers to mysteries that still persist to this day, and have never yet been fully explained.
Lynn's talk was fascinating and very entertaining, and this meeting was also very well attended.
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 9th March 2013
Historian Mike Dash, who has researched this subject for thirty years, ever since he was frightened as a boy of eleven by an image in a magazine, gave us a fascinating illustrated talk on the urban legend of "Spring-Heeled Jack".
Was he a supernatural or even alien phenomenon, or was his legend the creation of mischievous pranksters or criminals, reinforced by hysteria created by sensationalist Victorian journalism?
The latter seems very likely, although the existence of strikingly similar independent legends in other countries does make you wonder.....
Over forty people attended this meeting, which is unprecedented in recent years!
New Year Meeting
Saturday 26th January 2013
To mark the 2013 centenary of the birth of actor Peter Cushing, rather than seeing one of his very familiar and much watched performances from a Hammer Dracula or Frankenstein film, we instead enjoyed a DVD screening of his starring title role in Hammer Films' 1962 production Captain Clegg (released in the US as Night Creatures.) The film is a highly entertaining version of Russell Thorndike's Doctor Syn and features several other Hammer regulars, including Michael Ripper in a prominent role.
This was preceded by a screening of the 1951 US TV production The Lost Will of Dr. Rant, which was produced for the NBC series Lights Out and is based on The Tractate Middoth, by M. R. James. This short adaptation, starrring a young Leslie Neilson, is very faithful to its source, and is also a fascinating example of early live television drama.
A well attended and enjoyable evening.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2012
Saturday 10th November 2012
Once again held at the Hotel Russell.
An excellent meal with great company.
Our Hamilton Deane Award for 2011 was won by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, for his performance in the dual roles of Frankenstein and his monstrous creation (alternating with fellow actor Jonny Lee Miller) in the National Theatre production of Frankenstein.
Benedict was unable to be with us on the night due to filming commitments abroad, and his award was collected on his behalf by our special Dinner guest, actor Anthony Higgins, who appeared (under the name Anthony Corlan) in two Hammer films, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Vampire Circus.
Anthony Higgins collecting the Hamilton Deane Award on behalf
of Benedict Cumberbatch.
Our Children of the Night Award was won by writer and actor Reggie Oliver, for Mrs. Midnight, and Other Stories.
Both guests gave excellent and highly entertaining speeches at the event. The evening included our usual challenging quiz!
Saturday 6th October 2012
An evening with author Marcus Sedgwick
A fascinating talk by Marcus, who had last addressed us at our Summer Meeting way back in 2004! He detailed for us his research into vampire lore for one of his books, where he was determined to use only the original historical mythology, not the later inventions of authors and film makers!
Saturday 9th June 2012
An auction and "bring and buy sale" evening
Including one of our traditional Society quizzes, with challenging questions on films and books!
Members bought along items to sell to their fellow members, and an auction was held to dispose of some items held by the Society, to raise Society funds. A very successful and enjoyable evening.
Friday 25th May - Monday 28th May 2012
Ghosts and Witchfinders
A long weekend based in Bury St. Edmunds
We visited Aldeburgh and Great Livermere, places associated with the life and ghost stories of M. R. James, marking 150 years since his birth in 1862, and also Lavenham, Orford Castle and Rushford, locations associated with the filming of Michael Reeves' 1968 film Witchfinder General.
We also visited the remains of the priories at Thetford and Castle Acre. The latter was used in the filming of Roger Corman's 1964 film version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tomb of Ligeia.
The weather was glorious, and a great time was had by all of the 27 attendees!
For interest, to show what sort of trips we do, the itinerary is available archived here.
Spring Meeting and AGM
Friday 20th April 2012
A very special Society event held on the exact 100th anniversary of the death of Bram Stoker
A small Society group of Committee and long-standing members visited Golders Green Crematorium in north London on what was a very wet afternoon, to pay our respects to Bram at the place where he was cremated. We were joined there by the attendees of a centenary commemorative symposium being held at Keats' House, including Society Honorary Life Member Sir Christopher Frayling.
Later the Society event proper began at the Lyceum Theatre in central London, where Bram worked for many years as the manager of actor Sir Henry Irving. A large contingent of Society members mingled with many other prominent attendees from the Lyceum and the literary world to drink to the memory of Bram at his former workplace. The Society Committee thanks graphic novel author and Society member Tony Lee for his invaluable help in making our Lyceum event such a well-attended success.
Later still, even more members joined us for the main evening event, a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Miller and Dacre Stoker on Stoker's Notebook, which was recently discovered in an attic by Bram's great-grandson Noel Dobbs. The notebook's contents, a collection of jottings including jokes and poems, made by Stoker in Dublin between 1871 and 1881, have now been annotated by Elizabeth and Dacre and published in book form.
A highlight of the evening was the first presentation of a newly inaugurated occasional Society award, the Bernard Davies Award. Named after one of our Society founders, it recognises achievement in the area of scholarship in the Gothic genre.
The Dracula Society is delighted to be able to announce that the first recipient of our Bernard Davies Award is Dr. Elizabeth Miller.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 28th January 2012
Our traditional New Year film evening was devoted to Charles Dickens, marking the 2012 bicentenary of his birth.
We started by watching an episode of the largely forgotten series Dickens of London, made by Yorkshire Television and transmitted by ITV in 1976, starring Roy Dotrice in the title role.
We of course chose the episode Nightmare, in which Dickens encountered a certain E. A. Poe, while on a visit to the USA. Poe and Dickens did actually meet, but this account of the event was created entirely by series writer Wolf Mankowitz. Elements of Poe's The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar were incorporated into the narrative to great and disturbing effect.
We then turned to an old favourite, again from television in 1976, the BBC Ghost Story at Christmas production of Dickens' The Signalman, starring Denholm Elliott.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2011
Saturday 12th November 2011
Again at the elegant Hotel Russell, where we had dined last year.
Our Hamilton Deane Award for 2010 was jointly won by the co-creators of the play Ghost Stories, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson.
We were delighted that Jeremy was able to attend our Dinner in person to collect the award on behalf of both of them.
Our Children of the Night Award was presented to writer Michelle Paver for her novel Dark Matter.
Our guest of honour for the evening was actress Caroline Munro, seen here with Jeremy Dyson.
Saturday 15th October 2011
An Evening with John L. Probert
John was the winner of our Children of the Night award in 2006 for his short story collection The Faculty of Terror. He is now working on his first full length novel, and he started by reading an extensive extract exclusively for the Society!
Then followed an interview and question and answer session with our Society Chair, Julia Kruk. Among many fascinating insights, John told us about his childhood introduction to horror films, which he now has an encyclopaedic knowledge of, and explained how his "day job" as a hospital urologist helps him with his literary characterisations thanks to the patients from widely different backgrounds that he comes into daily contact with.
An amazing tour de force came next, as John and his partner Kate performed for our delight "potted versions" of two British horror films, Blood on Satan's Claw, and Corruption. Presented in pantomime style, with audience participation encouraged, and the use of props which included glove puppets, it brought the house down, oh yes it did! A great evening of insight and entertainment.
Saturday 11th June 2011
A day out to visit the newly re-opened Strawberry Hill House, Horace Walpole's "little Gothic castle"
This followed on from our visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition of its former contents in the summer of 2010.
Following the day at Strawberry Hill, a group of members had an excellent authentic Romanian meal at the Amurg restaurant in Leytonstone, East London. This included glasses of the Society's favourite Romanian plum brandy, "tuica"!
Monday 23rd May - Sunday 29th May 2011
There are pictures from this trip in our Event Photos Section.
For interest, to show what sort of trips we do, the itinerary is available archived here.
Sixteen Society members enjoyed a six night return to Slovakia, to visit more of the many castles in the west, especially those once owned by the alleged so-called "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory, who was honoured (indirectly) with the dubious title of Countess Dracula by Hammer Films!
This was our third visit to the area, the last being ten years previously in 2001, and it included another visit to the fantastic castle at Orava, which none of us who visited it in 2001 had ever forgotten. It was used by director F. W. Murnau to film some of the exterior scenes in the 1922 version of Nosferatu, and is little changed. A video (in Slovakian) here will give you some idea of what we saw there.
The trip also included a day in the beautiful Austrian capital, Vienna.
Spring Meeting and AGM
Saturday 7th May 2011
"Wyrms" with Jacqueline Simpson
The Society's Annual General Meeting, to receive the Membership Secretary's and Treasurer's reports, followed by a talk on fantastic beasts by Society member folklorist Jacqueline Simpson to mark the centenary of Bram Stoker's The Lair of the White Worm.
March Literary Meeting
Saturday 19th March 2011
John Polidori: The First Vampyre
A talk by Dr. Ruth Richardson and Professor Brian Hurwitz. According to Ruth, this was actually a repeat performance for the Society, but as the previous occasion was nearly twenty years previously, the memories of the long-standing members present of it were a little hazy!
The illustrated talk, originally titled Ghosts, Vampyres and Lord Byron's Doctor was fascinating. It centred on John Polidori's short life, and especially his association with the famous get-together at the Villa Diodati in 1816, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein and Polidori writing The Vampyre, which undoubtedly had an influence on Bram Stoker later in the century.
New Year Meeting
Saturday 29th January 2011
Our first meeting of the New Year was a tribute evening to our founders, Bernard Davies and Bruce Wightman, both of whom we have now sadly lost, Bernard most recently in September 2010.
After an excellent buffet at a new venue to us, the Freemasons' Arms in Holborn, we started with a screening of our Society Anniversary Film, which was made in 2003 to mark thirty years of the Society, but has never been shown at a Society event since our Convention in that year. It charts the history of the Dracula Society from its foundation in 1973, and is built around interviews conducted with the founders Bruce and Bernard.
We followed that with a film starring Tod Slaughter, of whom Bernard was a great aficionado. Crimes at the Dark House was made in 1940, and is loosely based on Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. It is a great example of Slaughter's over-the-top performances, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all!
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2010
Saturday 6th November 2010
This year we revisited something of the opulent surroundings of the early Society Dinners, by dining at the Hotel Russell, in Russell Square in the heart of London, in their "Virginia Woolf Suite". The company was excellent as usual, but many of us keenly felt the absence of our late co-founder, Bernard Davies, who was not with us at our Annual Dinner for the very first time.
Our Hamilton Deane Award had been won by actor Aidan Turner for his performance as "Mitchell" in the BBC TV series Being Human. Aidan was unable to attend, but his award was accepted on his behalf by the creator and writer of the series, Toby Whithouse.
The Children of the Night Award was presented to writer Chris Priestley, for Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth.
We were also privileged to have with us as our special guest Society Honorary Life Member, writer and broadcaster
Professor Sir Christopher Frayling.
A great evening as always, and hopefully we will be able to use the same excellent venue again.
Lancaster Witch Weekend 2010
Friday 17th to Monday 20th September 2010
From a participant:
"There are two notable fictionalised accounts of the Pendle witch-trials, Harrison Ainsworth’s The Lancashire Witches of 1848 and Robert Neill’s 1951 novel Mist over Pendle. It was this latter title that struck us most forcibly on the Sunday morning when we marched resolutely through the rain up to the top of Clitheroe Castle, peering from under our umbrellas at the magnificent view of Pendle Hill wrapped indeed in a blanket of thick, opaque mist that clearly wasn’t going to disperse half so fast as our plans for an open-air picnic. But the organisers had pre-empted any disappointment by finding us a great pub lunch at the White Bull in Ribchester. It boasted a wonderful old wooden bull as its inn sign, the remains of a Roman bathhouse at the end of the garden and, best of all, a charming young man who told us about its haunted history and took us into the cellar to see where prisoners had once been chained before being led through a tunnel to the gallows. Several of our ladies would gladly have followed him down any tunnel he cared to name, but this one was long-since stopped up, so we staggered back into the rain to Ribchester’s surprisingly good Roman museum. Samlesbury Hall was our last calling point – the Samlesbury witches were also tried in 1612, but acquitted after a farrago of crudely concocted evidence was dismissed. The Hall, which for some reason we approached by limbo-dancing under a barred gate, is an attractive, rambling black-and-white building just made for costume dramas. A mixture of stately home, wedding venue and antique shop (with a garden centre thrown in for good measure) it has featured in various TV ghost-hunts, but no white ladies were observed as we made our utterly inevitable way to the gift shop."
Summer Meeting 2010
Saturday 12th June 2010
Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill
Despite the warm weather and the distractions of the football World Cup, an impressive number of members visited the Victoria and Albert Museum together to see an exhibition devoted to the former contents of Strawberry Hill House, Horace Walpole's "little Gothic castle" in Twickenham. The contents of the house had been dispersed in 1842, but many had been gathered together again for this exhibition, and this was the first major retrospective on Horace Walpole, who was arguably one of the most important and pioneering collectors of the 18th century. Strawberry Hill House itself is a fine example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture. Between 1747 and 1792 Walpole expanded and rebuilt the property, adding towers and battlements, turning a former modest coachman's house into a "cabinet of curiosities".
The building itself is now being restored, and we hope to visit it again next Summer, which will be nearly thirty years after our previous visit!
[Webmaster's note: We did indeed visit Strawberry Hill House itself in June 2011]
After the exhibition, we departed to the Cittie of Yorke public house for a talk by Dr. Clare Rider. Clare is currently archivist at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, but was formerly an archivist for St. Mary's University, which acquired Strawberry Hill in 1929. Clare gave a highly informative and entertaining talk, discussing Walpole, the house itself and also Walpole's 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, which originated the genre of the Gothic novel. This was followed by other Gothic readings by Society members.
New Year Meeting 2010
Saturday 9th January 2010
Once again we met at the George in the Strand for our traditional New Year film show. Bad weather made the turnout lower than expected, but a hardy few braved the icy conditions, both outside and inside the venue, where the heating wasn't working!
We enjoyed two rarely seen episodes of the 1977 BBC TV series Supernatural. The first was The Night of the Marionettes, an interesting take on the origins of the Frankenstein story. This item was especially interesting to us as the actor Vladek Sheybal was one of our very early Hamilton Deane Award winners for his performance in this production, and most of us hadn't been able to see it again until now! The second episode presented was Dorabella, an atmospheric vampire tale.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2009
Saturday 7th November 2009
The Dinner was held in the "Judges' Court" at Brown's restaurant in central London, a preserved former courtroom!
Actor and writer Mark Gatiss received the Hamilton Deane Award for Crooked House.
Writer Brian J. Showers received the Children of the Night Award for The Bleeding Horse, and Other Short Stories.
Autumn Meeting 2009
Saturday 10th October 2009
An Evening With Robert Lloyd Parry
After an excellent buffet, we dimmed the lights and settled down for an evening devoted to Robert’s interpretation of M. R. James.
Robert’s Nunkie Theatre Company was about to release a DVD of his shows and we were privileged to watch a rough cut version of The Mezzotint. Even as a rough cut this was highly enjoyable, and gave us a flavour of what the final edited version would be like. This was followed by a question and answer session with Robert and the DVD’s producer Steve Featherstone, moderated by our Chair Julia Kruk.
It was immediately apparent that Robert does not simply read the story – he tells it! M. R. James wrote both for the reader and the listener, and Robert’s portrayal and delivery had everyone engrossed within moments.
Robert discovered M. R. James at an early age, and both have the distinction of having worked at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Robert was the winner of our Hamilton Deane Award in 2008, and he is about to embark on another touring production towards the end of 2009. The DVD entitled A Pleasing Terror comprises Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook and The Mezzotint and is now available here.
Whitby Trip 2009
Friday 11th - Monday 14th September 2009
Society members once again visited Whitby for a pleasant weekend excursion into the literary Gothic, in particular to trace the footsteps of Mina, Lucy and the Count. The weekend began with a dinner amongst opulent surroundings at Bagdale Hall, an atmospheric Tudor manor house.
The next morning, we began our tour with the Bram Stoker Memorial Seat, which was erected in 1980 by Scarborough Borough Council and the Society to mark the 68th anniversary of Stoker's death. From the bench, you can look directly across the harbour as Stoker did, to the churchyard with its 199 steps up from the town, to the ruins of Whitby Abbey, and to Tate Hill Sands where the Demeter crashed ashore. After photographing the blue plaque that marks 6 Royal Crescent, where Stoker stayed with his family, we visited Tate Hill Pier, and then climbed the 199 steps to the cliff-top churchyard and looked down on the red roofs of the old town, before exploring the beautiful Gothic ruins of the Benedictine Abbey.
On Sunday a group of intrepid explorers braved the 7.5 mile coastal hike to Robin Hood's Bay. Mina described in her journal how she and Lucy had "severe tea at Robin Hood's Bay in a sweet little old-fashioned inn, with a bow-window right over the seaweed-covered rocks of the strand". The Society preferred to indulge in pints in The Bay Hotel pub before exploring the rock pools on the sandy beach and the cobbled streets lined with second-hand book shops. That evening we visited The Magpie Café, a celebrated fish restaurant, and listened to the entries submitted to the short story competition. There are not many creative souls that can spin a yarn using a set of requisite words that included "dishwasher", "kipper" and "penetrate" but the stories told ranged from the humorous to the haunting to the horridly macabre. The weekend was brimming with friendly conversation, good food and sunny weather, although compared to Romania, Whitby was found to be severely lacking in Dracula merchandise!
Summer Meeting 2009
Saturday 13th June 2009
A Gothic London Walk and Quiz
We started the day with a "Trail of Terror" around the streets of Soho and Piccadilly, led by our experienced and knowledgeable guide, Jean Haynes. She coped admirably with the crowds, and the noise of the traffic, to point out numerous places of interest in a comparatively small area of London’s West End, from Piccadilly up through Soho and finishing at Oxford Circus. Buildings and locations lived in – albeit briefly – by authors such as Mary Shelley, Charles Maturin and Ann Radcliffe were brought to our attention, as well as other locations associated with their Gothic creations. There were around fifteen of us following Jean in and out of the streets and alleys. There were many more members, however, who joined us in the evening for our Quiz!
Back at the function room of The Blue Posts pub, we arranged ourselves into teams for what turned out to be a challenging, varied and enthusiastically received quiz. There were film and trivia questions, a music round, and people and picture rounds. Also general Gothic literary questions, and some relating to the Society’s own history. And it was great fun! The team of "Bernard’s Best" were the winners, with "The Honours List" coming a very close second. We will certainly be resurrecting this very successful ‘Quiz Night’ format in the future!
Romania Trip 2009
20th - 31st May 2009
There are pictures from this trip in our Event Photos Section.
For interest, to show what sort of trips we do, the itinerary is available archived here.
Maintaining the six yearly cycle on from 1997 and 2003, we returned to the Society's founding roots with another trip to Romania for 2009. As always, we visited the essential Dracula related sites in Transylvania, both relating to Bram Stoker's fictional Count Dracula, and the real historical Vlad Tepes Dracula, the Impaler.
We also visited areas to the west and south of Romania, which was new territory for us. We climbed over ancient ruined citadels, and braved the rickety ladders within the towers of medieval fortified churches. A splendid time was had by all!
A new Dracula-related highlight was our very first visit to Lugoj, the birthplace of the immortal Bela Lugosi, who took his stage name from the town.
Sadly, there is no "blue plaque" or equivalent thereof marking his birthplace. The town does not acknowledge Bela as one of its famous sons, largely because he was actually Hungarian by birth. Lugoj (Lugos) was in Hungary at the time!
Here's to our next Romania trip, which should now be in 2015!
A Special Event
Saturday 2nd May 2009
An evening with Dr. Elizabeth Miller
March Meeting 2009
Saturday 7th March 2009
An evening of Edgar Allan Poe
We gathered again in the "Theatre Bar" of The Victoria pub to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe (January 19th, 1809) at our March Literary Meeting.
Members read from a wide variety of Poe’s short stories and poems. An in-character reading of Roderick Usher's last minutes captivated the entire room, recreating wonderfully the edgy energy of Usher in his doomed house with his buried-alive sister - "Madman! I tell you that she now stands without the door!”
The Angel of the Odd was read, one of Poe's lighter tales, although of course still darkly edged with grotesque humour. The most entertaining moment of the evening, however, was definitely the reading of The Raven as a “duet”, complete with two cuddly soft toy ravens enthusiastically joining in! (You had to be there.......)
The readings were interspersed with viewings of movie clips, including two of the three Poe-inspired segments from Tales of Terror, a 1962 film directed by Roger Corman. This fabulous 60s kitsch featured The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, and The Black Cat. Another excellent episode was a version of The Cask of Amontillado, with English actor Freddie Jones playing the doomed Fortunato with a sombre dignity.
There was also an entertaining piece from Canadian TV which featured the "Poe Toaster", an unnamed admirer who leaves gifts of roses and cognac on Poe’s grave in Baltimore, Maryland every year on the anniversary of his death.
A good night was had by all - even minus the roses and cognac!
A Special Event
Friday 16th January 2009
An evening with Leslie S. Klinger
Members and guests were given the chance to meet one of the Society's more high profile members from across the Atlantic, Leslie Klinger, at a special Society event. Les was over in the UK for a brief tour, promoting his new book, as well as attending the Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s annual Dinner. Les is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on those twin icons of the fictional Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. He is the editor of the three-volume collection of the short stories and novels, The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and has just recently published a similar, meticulously detailed, in-depth examination of Stoker’s Dracula.
What could be a more fitting backdrop for Leslie than the ornate Victorian "Theatre Bar" of The Victoria pub in Paddington? Les talked about his passion for "playing the game" – approaching Dracula as if the events of the novel were actually true, rather than a supernatural Gothic fiction imagined entirely by Bram Stoker. However you feel about this approach, Les’s research, combined with his extensive knowledge of the period, makes him an exciting and stimulating speaker. Copies of his book, The New Annotated Dracula, were on sale on the night, and members were eager to get their copies signed by the man himself. We hope it won’t be too long before Leslie returns to the UK again – and visits his fellow Dracula Society members.
New Year Meeting 2009
Saturday 10th January 2009
Our first meeting of the year was the traditional film evening. Held at the "George in the Strand" as last year, this time we were presented with a real treat for those with a taste for the truly bizarre!
Following the sombre sad announcement of the passing of our co-founder Bruce Wightman, two days previously, the mood was completely reversed by a screening of Zinda Laash, a long-lost Pakistani film based (even more loosely than usual) on Dracula.
Also known as The Living Corpse and, inevitably, Dracula in Pakistan, this version of the story begins with the twist that the vampire is not in this case of supernatural origin, but the creation of science. A professor creates an "elixir of life", which actually transforms him into a vampire.
One of the many delights of this film is the at times hysterically inappropriate music score, which plunders from a huge number of different sources. The seduction of the "Jonathan Harker" equivalent character, this time by a singe "bride", has to be seen to be believed!
The film is set in the then contemporary 1960s, and has a wonderful period kitsch feel throughout. People keep breaking into "Bollywood" style song and dance routines for no apparent reason, and the scenes in the "Golden Crown" with a female dancer in an early 1960s style t-shirt and cut-offs gyrating in front of the ogling male drinkers certainly convinced this viewer that Pakistan must have been a lot more Westernised then than it is now! A delight for all.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2008
Saturday 8th November 2008
Our annual Society Dinner was held at The George in the Strand to celebrate what would have been Bram Stoker's 161st birthday.
After the meal, we came to our annual awards.
Robert Lloyd Parry, the winner of the Hamilton Deane Award for his first one-man show as M. R. James, Oh Whistle..., was unavailable due to his commitments performing his also critically acclaimed second one-man show of James' spine-chilling stories, A Pleasing Terror.
The award was presented in person to Robert a few weeks later,
when we attended one of his performances.
The Children of the Night Award was presented to F. G. Cottam, for his début novel The House of Lost Souls.
He revealed that he had never won anything before except school swimming trophies, and was therefore especially pleased to at last receive an award for his writing work!
The traditional after-Dinner quiz was centred around the many film and stage productions featuring Count Dracula. Perhaps due to the company having had a little too much wine and food by then, the eventual winner won with only three correct answers!
Autumn Meeting 2008
Saturday 4th October 2008
Our Autumn Meeting took place at the Old Star pub across the road from St. James's Park station.
Dr. Fiona Subotsky, the widow of film producer Milton Subotsky, came to talk to us about her late husband's work, but firstly to discuss the subject of the asylum as a motif in Gothic horror.
As an eminent psychiatrist herself, Fiona was an authoritative speaker on this subject. The evening was fascinating, and a lively question and answer session followed Fiona's illustrated talk. Milton Subotsky produced the 1972 "portmanteau" Amicus horror film Asylum, and much of the later discussion centred on that piece of his work.
We are very pleased to now have welcomed Fiona as a Society member.
The Byron Weekend 2008
19th-22nd September 2008
The weekend began on Friday in Lincoln, where excellent accommodation had been arranged at the Newport Guest House and at the Old Bakery, and after a joyous "tuica" at the former, the party repaired to the Old Bakery for a traditional Lincolnshire meal. On the following morning, our coach transported us to Hucknall. Having passed the "Byron Bingo Hall" (no comment!), we arrived at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, where Byron, along with his daughter, Augusta Ada, is buried in the vault. The church was restored by the Victorians and has some lovely Pre-Raphaelite features. We were made very welcome.
From here we travelled to Newstead Abbey. It would take far too long to describe in detail this lovely and fascinating place, set in wonderful grounds. Having completed the tour of the house, we sought out the monument that Byron erected to his dog, Boatswain, who died in 1808.
From there, it was on to Nottingham and the famous "Olde Trip to Jerusalem" pub, hewn out of the soft rock at the base of Nottingham Castle.
On Sunday, we visited Newark, which, as well as housing the printing press where Byron had his first work published, also boasts a castle with strong Civil War connections. Byron’s ancestor Sir Richard Byron was here, on the Royalist side. From there, we visited the somewhat grim but superbly maintained and preserved Southwell Workhouse, and then, after a few drinks at the "Saracen’s Head", we came to Burgage Manor, the place where Byron spent his holidays as a young man. We were unable to go inside, but we enjoyed some Byronic readings on the grass outside, and then had time to see Southwell Minister with its famous green man carvings.
The evening was enlivened by a somewhat riotous meal back in Lincoln. This was a wonderful weekend.
Summer Meeting 2008
Saturday 14th June 2008
A new departure for our Summer gathering. Instead of Hampstead Heath and the Spaniards inn, as in the last few years, this year we went to a new venue, the "Prospect of Whitby" pub on the River Thames at Wapping. This is an ancient inn, associated with the notorious "hanging judge" Judge Jeffries, and its name of course is associated with our beloved Whitby! The meeting was a free-form event, where members brought readings to entertain us, and we were regaled by excellent contributions from Sue Gedge, Tina Rath, and a special reading of an appropriate passage from "the book" by our special guest, Hammer Dracula actress Janina Faye, who was installed as an Honorary Life Member of the Society at the event.
A splendid time was had by all at this historic and beautiful location.
Spring Meeting and AGM 2008
Saturday 26th April 2008
The Society held its AGM and Spring Meeting at the Ship public house, in Holborn.
After the official business of the AGM, members settled back to enjoy a talk by actor Ian Fairbairn. Ian is one of several renowned actors who have recently recorded audio versions of a number of stories by M. R. James for Fantom Films Ltd. We were also fortunate to have his producer, Dexter O’Neill present, who gave a brief introduction as to how these new audio books came into being. Ian then recited an abridged version of one of James’ most gripping and creepy tales – The Ash Tree.
Following the talk, Ian was interviewed by our Media Officer Des Bradley, and fielded questions from the audience, during the course of which we learnt about Mr. Fairbairn's prowess at installing central heating systems, and heard details of his wonderful collection of cinema projection equipment!
After the meeting members were able to purchase copies of the CDs, which Ian kindly signed.
March Literary Meeting 2008
Saturday 1st March 2008
"Back To The Book" Part Two
A view from a panellist:
As one of the panel for the 2008 Back to the Book evening it was comforting to return to the cosy atmosphere of the upstairs room at The Ship Tavern in Holborn.
An excellent (but potentially daunting) turnout of members and their guests arrived, and I wondered how I found myself in one of the hot seats for the latest “A Question of Dracula”. The excellent food, coupled with copious alcohol, and the friendly and efficient service put the audience in a good mood. The questions were insightful and erudite and lead to some very interesting dialogue.
All too soon the end of questions was announced – hopefully leaving the membership hungry for the next literary event.
As I dived into my first glass of wine of the evening so many issues continued to demand further thought! Could Mrs. Westenra really be quite as wicked as one panellist maintained? Can ghosts and vampires exist in the same universe? Why did Mina think that the men were so wonderful when to one panellist they fell way short of the mark?
Above all, why did no-one ask about the "statutes of mortmain"?
New Year Meeting 2008
Saturday 12th January 2008
An earlier date for our first meeting of the year than in previous years, more fitting for a "New Year" meeting.
We were also at a new venue, "The George in the Strand" in central London, for our traditional film evening.
This time we saw the production of Dracula from the classic 1968 Thames Television series Mystery and Imagination, starring Denholm Elliott in the title role.
This performance was eight years before he became our first official Hamilton Deane Award winner in 1976 for the feature film To the Devil a Daughter.
We were very privileged to have with us David Marshall, the designer of the production, who engaged in a very entertaining interview with our Society Media Officer Des Bradley before the screening.
A very successful and well attended evening, with much praise for the splendid food provided! Hopefully we will return to this venue in the future, as it will be very suitable for many types of event.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2007
Saturday 10th November 2007
Our annual night of celebration, a formal evening of dinner, drinks and fine company, was this year enhanced by two special guests. Carol Marsh, who played Lucy in the 1958 film version of Dracula was in attendance, reunited with the little girl in the film who nearly fell victim to her blood lust, Tania, as played by Janina Faye. The weekend marked 50 years since the classic Hammer Horror first began production, and we were fortunate to have both these actors in attendance.
Also in attendance was our Children of the Night Award winner, John L. Probert, who after receiving his award for The Faculty of Terror, gave a hugely entertaining and enthusiastic acceptance speech. The Hamilton Deane Award winner, Guillermo del Toro, was unable to be with us in person to accept his award for Pan's Labyrinth, but the award was accepted on his behalf by our good Society friend, writer Alan Jones, who later delivered the award to Guillermo, pictured with the award.
The evening was held at "The Lounge Bar" in Holborn, London, a short walk from the tube station. This is our second year at this venue, which proved to be a great success once again.
Our private upstairs bar showed clips from our special Society 30th anniversary DVD, and also from the 1958 Hammer Dracula. The downstairs restaurant had candlelit tables, moody music, our portrait of Bram Stoker on the wall, and our famous cloak, as worn by Christopher Lee in those classic Hammer films, on display.
Autumn Meeting 2007
Saturday 29th September 2007
"Back to the Book"
Once in a blue moon, as the saying goes, we return to the reason for our existence and debate Bram Stoker’s book Dracula with an audience and panel made up of the membership. This took place at The Old Star, by St. James's Park tube station, London, and this time we elected for a BBC Question Time format. Instead of the weekly political situation being debated, it was questions about "the book" you always wanted answering. The panel of four selected members, including the chairman, were bombarded with questions and gave their answers in a short eighty minutes. It left at least half of all the planned questions left unanswered, until the next time!
[Webmaster's note: The "next time" was in March 2008!]
Rye Trip 2007
28th-30th July 2007
Mrs Amworth and The Turn of the Screw was the title of this three-day long weekend trip to Sussex. In the past, we had only done this as a single day trip, but this year we decided to take in more of this marvellous location. We visited Lamb House, the home of Henry James for 18 years of his life, which later became the home of E. F. Benson. Rye is a treat in itself, with many tea-rooms, restaurants and drinking establishments.
On the Sunday we availed ourselves of a coach, and headed off to see Smallhythe Place, the former home of actress Ellen Terry, and Bateman’s, the Jacobean house of Rudyard Kipling.
Bodium Castle, a medieval pile with superb moat and battlements, was a great playground and made for a fine finish to the weekend.
Sunday Lunch at Le Gothique Restaurant
Sunday July 8th 2007
This Gothic pile, formerly an asylum for the physically, rather than mentally ill, was the location in South London for a one-off addition to our calendar of events. Lunch was taken in the courtyard by a large number of members who had gathered to imbibe the Victorian atmosphere and splendour of this marvellous building. An excellent lunch was served on what was a very hot summer day.
Summer Meeting 2007
Saturday 16th June 2007
Our summer event saw us once again in Turpin's Bar upstairs at the historic pub (mentioned by name in Dracula of course!) The Spaniards Inn on Hampstead Heath, London.
This year we had a continuity girl who used to work for Hammer Films in the 1960s and 1970s, Renee Glynne, being interviewed by Dracula Society member and broadcaster Donna Dawson. Renee gave us a gossipy insight into the world of temperamental actors and demanding directors.
Gothic Dublin Trip 2007
8th-11th June 2007
We arrived at our hotel mid-afternoon on the Friday to start our long weekend in Dublin, which allowed time for a little relaxed sightseeing (particularly to get a first view of the amazing Dublin Spire which had been just a hole in the ground on our last visit in 2002). In the evening we met together for dinner at the 101 Talbot restaurant where we were joined by Brian J. Showers, the author of Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin who was to be our guide for the serious expedition on Saturday.
Bright and early on Saturday morning we congregated at Trinity College for the grand tour which took in many sites with literary connections, including the homes of Oscar Wilde, Sheriden Le Fanu and of course Bram Stoker. We visited the church where Stoker married Florence Balcombe in 1878. We lunched in "The Bleeding Horse" (a splendid pub mentioned in Le Fanu’s The Cock and the Anchor). The afternoon provided more leisure time which many used to take advantage of the glorious weather with a spot of sun-bathing.
On Sunday morning we took a train to Clontarf to visit the birthplace of Stoker in Marino Crescent. We also visited The "Bram Stoker Dracula Experience" which was both entertaining and informative, but sadly lacking in souvenirs! In the afternoon we visited the Dublin Writers’ Museum and had more time for shopping, afternoon tea and relaxation. In the evening we had a very enjoyable meal at "Gallagher’s Boxty House".
Monday provided opportunities to visit St. Michan’s Church with its mummified bodies in the crypt, followed by an educational visit to the Jameson’s whiskey distillery!
We made our way back to the airport only to be faced with massive delays – but nevertheless we left with many happy memories of the places we'd seen, the excellent company, the food we'd eaten, the films we'd seen and of course the whiskey and the wine.
Spring Meeting and AGM 2007
Saturday 31st March 2007
Our Annual General Meeting was this year held in the newly refurbished upstairs room at The Barley Mow pub in Horseferry Road, London.
After the routine business necessary to ensure that the Society had a committee in place to smoothly run the busy calendar of events and trips for the next year, it was on with an auction! Usually held every two or three years, this always gets the members reaching for their pockets to buy an (almost) priceless gem for their collection, be that an early edition of Dracula, or a rare plastic model kit of the Count himself. Many members left the evening with bags full of successful auction purchases.
New Year Meeting 2007
Saturday 3rd February 2007
Twenty-seven DS members and guests gathered at the Paper Moon in Southwark for an excellent buffet supper and wonderful film evening to mark the release, 50 years ago, of Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein - Britain's first colour horror film and one that helped propel horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to iconic genre status. This film also started the journey that ultimately established Hammer Films as one of the greatest film companies in the genre. Prior to the screening of Curse of Frankenstein, there were talks on the origins of Exclusive/Hammer and Hammer's cycle of Frankenstein films, as well as a screening of some fascinating Exclusive/Hammer trailers ranging from the 1930s to the 1970s.
The Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner 2006
Saturday November 11th 2006
The Lounge Bar in Holborn provided the setting for the Dracula Society's Annual Dinner and very good it was too - excellent food, a welcome drink at the door, friendly and attentive staff, and a lovely bar upstairs with a DVD screening showing footage of the Society's trip to Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland in 2001. Our guests included Children of the Night Award winner Sarah Singleton who received her award for Century and Hamilton Deane Award winner Lesley Sharp who received her award for Afterlife.
Autumn Meeting 2006
7th October 2006
An evening with Stephen Volk
Stephen Volk, screenwriter of supernatural dramas such as Gothic, The Guardian, Ghostwatch, Ghosts, and Afterlife, gave an interview about his career at a well-attended meeting in the cellar bar of the Cittee of Yorke pub in London's Holborn. He also read a short story called The Latin Master from his horror anthology Dark Corners.
"Gothic Paris" Trip 2006
22nd-25th September 2006
A splendid long weekend in Paris was had by approximately twenty members, with visits to catacombs, cemeteries, cathedrals, and galleries. Sites visited included the Paris Opera House to pay respects to The Phantom, and the splendidly Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame - home to gargoyles and hunchbacks.
A Special Event
12th August 2006
Bela Lugosi Celebration Film Evening
A splendid buffet supper and film evening in central London was enjoyed by over twenty members, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of the actor Bela Lugosi. His life and films were discussed, ranging from his early days in his native Hungary through to his final years in Hollywood. Particular analysis was made of his Universal films and his time in the UK. We then had a screening of one of Lugosi's classic films from the 1930s - Murders in the Rue Morgue - followed by a toast to the memory of the most enigmatic and mysterious Dracula ever to grace the silver screen.
Summer Meeting 2006
17th June 2006
Tales on the Heath
Our summer meeting this year was a picnic on Hampstead Heath, followed by a open-air talk on London legends by our resident folklore expert, Dr. Jacqueline Simpson, co-author of the book The Lore of the Land. We sat under the trees, sipped our wine and listened to the stirring legends of Spring Heeled Jack, Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper and the Highgate Vampire, amongst others. Another lovely Dracula Society event.
Bath Trip 2006
12th-15th May 2006
A group of Dracula Society members enjoyed a delightful weekend in Bath.
The events included a trip to William Beckford’s tower and tomb on Lansdown Hill, a ghost walk and a day excursion to Silbury Hill, Avebury and Glastonbury, interspersed by plenty of delicious meals and suitably chosen DVDs, including Roald Dahl’s The Landlady set in this beautiful (if sometimes spooky) city.
A good time was had by all!
Spring Meeting 2006
8th April 2006
An Evening with Christopher Neame
Christopher Neame entertained and informed us with recollections of his experiences at Hammer in the 1960s and 1970s, where he eventually rose to the position of Production Manager. A capacity crowd asked many questions and gained an insight into what it was like working with legends such as Christopher Lee, Terence Fisher and Bette Davis.
New Year Meeting 2006
4th February 2006
This year, our traditional New Year film evening centred around a screening of the Amicus classic From Beyond the Grave, plus some delightful 'extras' including a short on a subject dear to the Society's heart, touring Romania. A successful, enjoyable evening, with the buffet at the Barley Mow well up to its usual excellent standard.
Egypt Trip 2005
11th-23rd November 2005
Fourteen of us had a splendid trip to this timeless and magical land where we saw many wonderful sites, and sights!
We covered the length of the country visiting such splendours as The Pyramids, The Sphinx, Cairo Museum, Abu Simbel, Karnak and Luxor, together with the treasures of the West Bank such as The Valley of the Kings. One of the major highlights was gently travelling the Nile from Aswan to Luxor in a Nile cruise boat stopping off at beautiful places en-route.
This was a truly amazing experience!
Whitby Trip 2005
15th-18th April 2005
A major event in the Society's calendar for this year, this was our first official visit to Whitby since 2000. This trip was held in April specifically to commemorate the 25th anniversary of our Dracula Society Bram Stoker seat. This was placed up on the West Cliff at Whitby, and unveiled on 20th April 1980, the 68th anniversary of Stoker's death. From the seat all of the main locations in Whitby which feature in Dracula can be seen. An unprecedented thirty-five members made this probably the largest Dracula Society trip ever, and a splendid time was had by all!
Spring Meeting 2005
Saturday 9th April 2005
AGM and Auction
A new meeting venue, the Devereaux pub in Holborn, proved to be excellent surroundings for our Annual General Meeting, and a Grand Auction of Society Archive artefacts, and items brought by members. A very profitable night was had by all, and many went home with new treasures, while others had the satisfaction of seeing duplicate or unwanted items in their collections going to new good homes.
New Year Meeting 2005
Saturday 5th February 2005
This year's annual film screening was the much loved 1959 Hammer version of The Mummy starring, of course, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Committee member Adrian Winchester presented the film "on the big screen" from an excellent 16mm print.
Bram Stoker's West Country Trip 2004
17th-20th September 2004
A long weekend in Exeter and Taunton
Summer Outing 2004
15th August 2004
West Wycombe Caves
A visit to West Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, to see the famous caves, the home of the infamous Hell-Fire Club, and visit the National Trust village there.
Summer Meeting 2004
19th June 2004
Our Summer meeting, held again at the Spaniards Inn on Hampstead Heath, London. Once again we took over Turpin's Bar, and our guest speaker was author Marcus Sedgwick. Amongst many other stories, Marcus wrote The Book of Dead Days, which is one of the nominations for our Children of the Night Award.
He specialises in children's writing, and proved to be a fascinating guest, showing us the book he kept all his thoughts and ideas in.
Questions for him kept coming from members, including the would-be and existing authors in the audience.
Edinburgh Trip 2004
21st-24th May 2004
This long weekend saw the Society's first trip to Edinburgh.
Led by Society member Dr. Gail-Nina Anderson, we explored the Kirkyards, art galleries old and modern, Edinburgh Castle, and the restaurants!
The sun shone on us everywhere we went. Edinburgh Castle, despite its expensive entry ticket, proved to be a real delight.
We had a screening of the film Mary Reilly, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The Jekyll and Hyde connection was plain to see everywhere in Edinburgh, from exhibitions of the author's work to the pub named after the famous story.
The Witchery By The Castle restaurant proved a big hit with members, with its Gothic splendour and fabulous food.
Spring Meeting and AGM 2004
3rd April 2004
The Society hosted the launch of the new Second Edition of the Mammoth Book of Vampires at our AGM.
The collection's editor Steve Jones was in attendance, along with contributors Tina Rath, Sidney J. Bounds, Christopher Fowler, Brian Stableford, and Kim Newman.
New Year Meeting 2004
7th February 2004
The Barley Mow in Victoria, London, provided us with our venue for a film screening. This year it was a 16mm showing of the classic Hammer film Brides of Dracula, supplied and shown by member Adrian Winchester.
A good turnout ensured a successful night, along with the good food and wine!
The Dracula Society Convention 2003
31st October-2nd November 2003
This was one of our most ambitious events ever, mounted to celebrate our 30th birthday!
Held at Hallowe'en, it was a huge success.
Image design ©Ken Barr.
Thanks to our Society Honorary Life Member artist Ken Barr for granting us the rights to the above artwork, which he designed especially for this event.
To mark the Dracula Society's 30th anniversary, which actually fell on October 23rd 2003, this was our first full weekend Society celebration, and was held at The Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel, in Rochester, Kent.
[Webmaster's note: we did it again for our 40th anniversary in 2013, at the Royal Hotel in Whitby!]
The event began on the Friday evening in the hotel's "Great Expectations" bar, with a special Hallowe'en welcome.
Saturday was a full day of talks with guest speakers, film and video screenings, dramatised stories and a panel discussion. There were bookstalls and other Gothic merchandise on offer throughout the day.
Saturday evening was the Society's grand night of the year, when we celebrated Bram Stoker's birthday (a little early!) with our customary Annual Dinner, followed by a masked ball!
Sunday morning's programme included an auction, and the presentation of the Society's Awards and other prizes.
The BBC's "cult" website conducted interviews with some of our attendees, for inclusion in a "talking heads" montage of vampire aficionados posted on the site.
See if you can guess which of the interviewees are Dracula Society members!
(Please note that this section of the BBC website is no longer being updated, but it will hopefully stay on line. The Real Player browser plug-in will be needed to play the clip.)
Summer Meeting 2003
21st June 2003
Mummies at the Victoria
This is rapidly becoming the headquarters of the Dracula Society! This time we gathered to mark the Centenary of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars.
Society member Katherine Haynes gave a brief summary of the book and introduced the film chosen for the occasion Bram Stoker's Legend of the Mummy.
A modern version of the story, yet quite faithful to the book.
We had a cold buffet and enjoyed the convivial atmosphere of both the Theatre Bar and the "Library" Room above our favourite pub!
Romania Trip 2003
29th May to 10th June 2003
The Romania Travel Centre created the banner above to promote this Society event, which was arranged through them.
They continue to offer other Dracula-themed trips to Romania, following on from the success of our trip.
One traveller's report:
This was a 12-day tour of Romania, and it included many of the best experiences from the trips that the Society had done in the past.
We visited the city of Cluj in the north, after an internal flight from Bucharest following the international flight from London.
We stayed at Hotel Castle Dracula in the Borgo Pass and spent an afternoon going out into the countryside, enjoying a picnic, and an exhilarating cart ride!
We marvelled at the fantastic painted monasteries in the north-east of the country.
We walked through the Bicaz Gorge, with its sides towering above us, with the rushing river beside us.
We visited Sigisoara, one of the best preserved walled medieval towns in Europe, which has the birthplace of Vlad to its credit, currently home to a tourist restaurant.
We visited many citadels, including climbing the hundreds of steps to stand in Vlad Tepes's real home at Poenari, a fabulous ruin set high up above the Arges River.
We also saw the Princely Court at Targoviste, residence to both Vlad and his father at one time, with its imposing tower.
This final trip for some years to Romania by the Society was, in this author's opinion, the best he can remember!
Spring Meeting and AGM 2003
12th April 2003
After a brief run-through of the AGM business, including the fact that there will be a small increase in subscriptions next year, we welcomed our guest for the evening, Jill Morley.
Jill used to do film doubling and stand-in work. We invited her along because of her work at Hammer Films. She has stood in for the likes of Ingrid Pitt, Judy Geeson, and Martine Beswick. Not being a subject most people know a lot about, she fielded a number of questions from the audience.
One of the things Jill would be asked to do would be close up work of make-up being applied. Some actresses' complexions did not stand up to close-up scrutiny, or valuable time and money could be saved if they got Jill in to do the work. Standing by a bedroom window as a shadowy figure getting undressed as the killer prowled around the house outside was a regular occurrence for Jill. Lighting tests, making cups of tea, speaking parts as a hat-check girl, a street prostitute in Hammer's Hands of the Ripper, driving fast cars, horse-riding, close-up shots of pulling a garter up her leg, these were just some of the things Jill got called upon to do in the years she was in the business.
She worked on Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Horror of Frankenstein, and Fear in the Night, as well as many others. She worked on "Carry On" movies, TV spin-offs such as On the Buses and lots of TV shows such as The Protectors. She worked for Ken Russell on the notorious film The Devils, and shared a bit of gossip about that one! "What gossip?" I hear you say, ah, well, you needed to have been there!
Autumn Meeting 2002
5th October 2002
This was our first visit to a pub in Paddington called "The Fountains Abbey". We hired the large upstairs room for our film screening of City of the Dead on DVD.
We also had a special guest. writer Jonathan Southcot, who was interviewed by our Chair, Julia Kruk. Jonathan wrote The Cult Films of Christopher Lee, and brought copies of this out-of-print book, which he signed for members, and spoke of his experience of collaborating with Christopher Lee on the book, as well as telling us about some of the documentaries he has made about Hammer horror films. He has also done some commentaries for DVD releases of classic horror films.
York Trip 2002
2nd-4th August 2002
Medieval Vampire Monks! Yes, it's true, there were such things, apparently!
We were guided around haunted abbeys across the beautiful Yorkshire countryside in what can only be described as heat-wave conditions. We were regaled with stories that would chill your blood, which was handy considering how hot it was, and took in the wonderful Newburgh Priory, Byland Abbey, and Rievaulx Abbey. These fantastic places inspired the imagination.
We ate at some excellent restaurants, and wished our two day trip had been longer.
Dublin Trip 2002
28th June to 1st July 2002
Amazingly this was the first time that an official trip to the birthplace of Bram Stoker had been organised by the Society, and the event was so popular that we were near to turning members away.
We took in the literary sites of Dublin on a tour organised on the Saturday. We saw the home of Oscar Wilde, visited his statue in St. Stephen's Green, and went to one of the houses Stoker lived in during his time in Dublin city centre.
We had dinner and a tour of Trinity College courtesy of David Lass of The Bram Stoker Society, and visited Stoker's birthplace in Clontarf. The park opposite Stoker's former home has been renamed The Bram Stoker Memorial Park, and there is a tree and sign board to mark this.
As always with the Dracula Society, shopping is a must, so plenty of time was reserved for this, and we even squeezed in a ghost walk!
Summer Meeting 2002
2nd June 2002
Alan Jones at the Spaniards Inn
Our guest Alan Jones is a film reviewer for magazines such as Shivers, and regularly organises the Frightfest festival held at the Prince Charles Cinema in London every year. Alan has a good insight into the film business and has unique access to the casts of many of the latest genre films. He was "in conversation" with our Chair, Julia Kruk, who also happened to be one of his schoolmates when they were younger! Alan had great gossip about the stars, much of which he shared with us, and many members asked questions about the people whom Alan has met, as well as how to get a job like his! We had a full house for this event.
A Special Event
Saturday 18th May 2002
Elizabeth Miller at the "Bram Stoker Tavern"
This was an "extra" evening, organised to present Dr. Elizabeth Miller with her Children of the Night Award, which she was unable to receive the previous year at our Bram Stoker Birthday Dinner. Elizabeth had just returned from Romania (presenting at the annual Dracula Congress) and on her way back to Canada was stopping by between flights. All a bit busy for her, but members had a great chance to meet Elizabeth. She also conducted some interviews with members herself to establish what attracted us to the Dracula Society. She signed copies of her book Dracula - Sense and Nonsense, for which she won the award, and the evening was completed by dinner at a good local Polish restaurant. Elizabeth is one of the foremost authorities on the subject of vampire folklore and Gothic history.
Spring Meeting and AGM 2002
6th April 2002
The Society's very own Tina Rath was "in conversation" with writer Tanith Lee at the Cittie Of Yorke pub. Tanith is an established writer who has contributed greatly to the genre with titles like Silver Metal Lover, for which the film rights had recently been sold, the Lionwolf Trilogy and her new book A Bed of Earth. Tanith has also written for television in the past, including episodes of the BBC production Blake's 7.
1973 - 2023