The Dracula Society
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Past Society Events in 2019
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 probably been more appreciated by his similarly educated potential readers in the late Victorian era than they would have been today.
With many vivid illustrations, the talk concentrated on an aspect of Dracula which has been largely overlooked by previous researchers into the sources of Stoker's references.
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.