First editions of the classic vampire novel “Dracula” appeared in London bookshops on May 27th, 1897.
It's author, Irish writer Bram Stoker, certainly didn't invent the notion of vampires – creatures who rose from their graves at night to feast on the blood of living humans. They featured in folklore across Europe from ancient times, but Stoker's Gothic horror story would eventually drag them kicking and screaming into the bright glare of popular culture.
It tells the tale of arch-vampire Count Dracula travelling from his castle in the Carpathian Mountains to the shores of an unsuspecting England. He leaps from the deck of his ship in the form of a large black dog when it runs aground at Whitby, with all the crew missing except the dead captain tied to the helm.
Exercising a hypnotic power over his victims, the Count visits Lucy Westenra in the night to drink her blood and transform her into his own kind. Her friends, dismayed and confused by her worsening condition, only discover the horrible truth after involving Professor Abraham Van Helsing, an expert in the legend of vampires and how to foil their diabolical schemes.
On its release the book enjoyed only moderate success, with sales only really taking off in the 1920s after it was adapted for the Broadway stage. That led to a 1931 blockbuster film starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula (pictured), which really sparked the vampire mania which endures to this day.
Since then there have been countless movies, books, plays and even video games featuring the mesmeric Count Dracula and his hordes of vampiric acolytes, covering every genre from grisly horror to comedic parody.
There have even been scholarly works tracing the origins of Stoker’s character, most citing 15th century Transylvanian-born prince Vlad Dracula as the author’s inspiration. Renowned for his cruelty, he earned the name ‘Vlad the Impaler’ through his fondness for impaling his still-living enemies on sharpened wooden spikes.
As recently as January this year, the character was revived from his grave yet again in a new three-part BBC adaptation hung on the bones of Stoker’s original plot, but with several 21st century twists. Written by horror film aficionado Mark Gatiss and ‘Dr Who’ scriptwriter Steven Moffat, it was a highlight of the Beeb’s Christmas and New Year schedule and met with favourable reviews.
Although Stoker himself died in 1912 – years before his literary creation really took off – Count Dracula continues to enjoy a popularity as undying as the character himself.