Once populated by Celts who loved to dress in ghoulish garb to ward off evil spirits, Ireland is the spiritual home of Halloween. It is fitting then that Dublin was the birthplace of the afterlife’s most franchised figure: Count Dracula. Long before the era of ‘Twilight’ trilogies and ‘True Blood‘ box sets, a gentleman novelist named Bram Stoker conjured the most infamous vampire of all time while wandering the tangle of streets near the River Liffey.
Stoker’s unlikely tale began at 15 Marino Crescent, where he was born in 1847. Given the stately seaside surroundings, visiting “Bramoraks” might wonder how exactly young Bram came to be an older, creepier Stoker. A plausible answer lies in the nearby Glasnevin Cemetery, where the dead haven’t always stayed in the ground. In the 19th century, Dublin’s burial grounds were notoriously rife with grave robbers, who pawned off pilfered corpses to wily anatomists at local medical schools. Today, walking tours recount this age, when high walls, watch towers, and a pack of Cuban bloodhounds were deployed at Glasnevin to deter “resurrectionists,” the original body snatchers.
Death, to Stoker, wasn’t the end of the story.
From Glasnevin, literary pilgrims head back toward city center, where landmark buildings are atmospherically illuminated in bloodred during Halloween. Trinity College, where Stoker earned a degree in mathematics (and excelled at track and weightlifting) sits close to Dublin Castle, where the author once labored as a civil servant. These buildings bustle with life but are imposing and aged in a Gothic horror sort of way.
Archbishop Marsh’s Library on St. Patrick’s Close is perhaps the most fascinating local haunt for Dracula devotees. Among its echoing antique oak bookcases, a young Stoker is said to have gorged on tomes about vampires and foreign travel. Perhaps it was here that he turned some yellowed page and first saw the name “Transylvania” and descriptions of a place he would never actually visit. Historians now suggest that the name ‘Dracula’ may be, in fact, derived from the common Gaelic term Droch Ola, meaning bad blood. The plot, like hemoglobin, thickens.
For a Halloween nightcap, head to the historic Shelbourne Hotel, which Bram Stoker patronized during his gig as theater critic for the ‘Dublin Evening Mail.’ The Horseshoe Bar makes a toasty spot to pull up a pew (and put down a couple of Jamesons) after a day of tracking the dead. Frequented by the ghost of former guest, Mary Masters, the hotel happens to be Dublin’s most haunted. Little wonder it was Stoker’s favorite.
More information: Aer Lingus flies to Dublin from the U.S. for as little as $549 round-trip. Dublin City hosts its second Bram Stocker Festival this year with a series of Halloween events running until early November. They range from the NC-18 Celtic Halloween show at the National Leprechaun Museum (seriously) to a screening of ‘Nosferatu’ at Trinity College chapel. Checking in to The Shelboure Hotel, which comes with its own genealogy butler, costs from $275 a night.