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Dracula fans from all over the world visit Cruden Bay to celebrate 125th anniversary of horror classic written in Aberdeenshire

Dacre Stoker gave a Dracula talk in Cruden Bay, attended by former Aberdeen librarian Fiona McLennan and dozens of other enthusiasts. Image by Chris Donnan, design team.
Dacre Stoker gave a Dracula talk in Cruden Bay, attended by former Aberdeen librarian Fiona McLennan and dozens of other enthusiasts. Image by Chris Donnan, design team.

International Dracula die-hards have descended on Cruden Bay to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the horror novel.

Fans from America, Sweden and – yes – Transylvania are staying in the Aberdeenshire village where Irish author Bram Stoker penned much of the classic book.

They are there with the writer’s great grand-nephew Dacre Stoker, with the north-east the final stop on a tour of UK landmarks that influenced the book.

Dacre hopes more visitors might now be lured to the scenic seaside spot known for inspiring Castle Dracula.

He says he is “committed to putting Cruden Bay on the map as a location for literary enthusiasts”.

Our design team crafted this image to wish the notorious fictional blood-sucker a very happy birthday.

Meet the Dracula fans visiting Cruden Bay

Last night, The Press and Journal attended a talk at Port Errol Village Hall.

There, we heard from some of the enthusiasts who paid to join Dacre on his pilgrimage.

One of the three tourists taking part was Kay Larkin, who ventured from South Carolina to satiate her thirst for all things Dracula.

Dacre Stoker outside Port Erroll Village Hall.

Kay first sunk her teeth into the book aged 12.

She became obsessed with the creepy Count all over again when the 1992 movie version came out while she was at college.

She bought a ticket for the 125th anniversary tour “straight away” after seeing Dacre give a talk in her hometown of Charleston.

Kay beamed: “I came here especially for the tour… I’ve just got the bug!

“It has been amazing and I plan to go to Transylvania next, I’m a big fan.”

Bram Stoker based Dracula’s eerie home on Slains Castle, overlooking Cruden Bay. Supplied by Mike Shepherd

Fan bumped head at clifftop castle

Ingmar Sohrman is a University of Gothenburg professor who has written a book about Dracula.

Ingmar read Stoker’s classic as a teenager, and it inspired him to study romantic languages and Russian.

For the elderly Swede, his trip to Cruden Bay is a lifetime in the making.

And Seanetta, a horror film aficionado from California who now lives in Edinburgh, is enjoying the holiday despite a bump to the head when excitedly exploring Slains Castle.

“I’m very accident-prone,” Seanetta added.

“I also twisted my ankle at Robin Hood’s Bay.”

Representing Romania was Gloria Anderson, from the Experience Transylvania group, who organised the tour with Dacre.

With a blood red jacket, jet black hair and Transylvanian twang, some may have been checking for fangs when they met her.

Our map shows the locations the group visited before reaching the north-east 

Tourism body Visit Scotland is eager to promote the nation’s literary links as a way to boost visitor numbers.

Jenni Steele, film and creative industries manager, hopes people “will come and see the inspirational places” that helped create Dracula.

Former Aberdeen librarian is a vampire fang-atic

But not every fan had travelled the world to celebrate Dracula’s 125th anniversary.

And it’s not every retired librarian that would have made their own vampire-inspired necklace for it…

Fiona McLennan, who used to work at Aberdeen Central Library and lives in Mintlaw, chuckled as she explained she designed the jewellery “to look like drops of blood”.

Fiona McLennan made a special effort for the occasion.

She added: “I love vampire stories.

“I just think it’s romantic and dangerous… Malevolent but glamorous.

“Maybe it comes from visiting Slains Castle as a teenager and getting up to all sorts of high jinks and escapades, it’s always been a special place.”

Ellon resident Ian Jukes loves Dracula so much that he and his wife visit Whitby on holiday every year.

He admits he often ends up getting into “jovial arguments” with locals about its true birthplace.

Scores of people crammed into Port Erroll Village Hall for the talk.

Talk details Bram Stoker’s affinity with Cruden Bay

And the talk sought to prove beyond any doubt that Cruden Bay is the book’s real spiritual home.

Bram Stoker is known to have enjoyed about a dozen month-long summer stays in the coastal community between 1892 and 1910.

He saw these breaks as a welcome retreat from city life in London, and perfect for doing some writing.

It’s thought he even dreamed of purchasing his own holiday home there with the proceeds from Dracula…

Bram Stoker was known to have stayed in the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel during his visits to the area.

But sadly he never lived to see the book become a hit.

It was published in May 1897, and he died in 1912.

Horror fans only started to snap it up in their droves after it was given the Hollywood treatment in the following years.

The setting for last night’s presentation was a poignant one as Bram Stoker helped raise funds to get the village hall built in the 1890s.

And he gave a lecture there himself just years after Dracula was published.

Dacre Stoker and local historian Mike Shepherd at the hall before the talk began.

Cruden Bay talk details Doric in Dracula

Dacre’s talk, attended by about 100 people, elaborated on Bram Stoker’s life and the various events that inspired his most successful work.

Local historian Mike Shepherd explained how the writer stumbled upon Cruden Bay while looking for a secluded spot between Aberdeen and Peterhead to write.

Mike even revealed that Bram slipped some Doric into Dracula, with one character saying “I wouldn’t fash masel'”.

The talk also detailed how the layout of Slains Castle was painstakingly brought to life in the book as Dracula’s ominous abode.

Dracula link to live forever

Count Dracula has gone on to become one of the world’s most famous fictional creations.

He’s even now an emoji.

Over 100 years, the fiend has been portrayed by scores of actors – most famously Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman.

But before any of them donned the gothic garb, the first person to play the role was Bram Stoker himself.

And it wasn’t on stage or screen, but rather deploying a “method” approach while “marching” along the sands at Cruden Bay.

He would spend hours “getting into the mindset” of the characters while strolling the windswept shoreline.

And his wife would even describe seeing him “perched like a giant bat” on the rocks while in these dark reveries.

Cruden Bay can rightfully claim to be Dracula’s birthplace.

And the Stoker bloodline now wants to make sure that link has eternal life.

At 6.30pm today, Dacre will unveil a plaque at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel to mark the anniversary.

Dacre C Stoker: Bram Stoker’s Dracula links to Aberdeenshire will live on eternally

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