The Dracula Society
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Past Society Events in 2018
Saturday 6th October 2018
A talk by Dr. Karl Bell
"Vampires from Folklore to Film"
Karl is a reader in Cultural and Social History at the University of Portsmouth School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies.
He is also director of the Supernatural Cities Project - www.port.ac.uk/supernaturalcities
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!