When I travel, I love reading books that have roots in the place I’m visiting. It livens up the experience of the book, and I feel like I can hear little echos of the story in the new streets I walk down. If I reread the book in the future, no matter where I am, the memory of the other landscape remains.
One of the first things I did when I moved to Dublin in August for the Mitchell Scholarship was take myself to the beach with a paperback copy of Dracula, by Bram Stoker. While much of the book takes place in the haunted forests of Transylvania or the foggy shore of Whitby, England, Dracula also was formed by Dublin! Stoker grew up in Clontarf, on the northside of the city. He also attended Trinity College from 1864 to 1870, where I’m studying now for my master’s degree in creative writing.
The city celebrates this legacy heartily, with memorial parks and plaques scattered throughout Stoker’s old haunts. There’s also the Bram Stoker Festival, running every year since 2014 around Halloween. This year was the first festival since quarantine ended, and the organizers packed Halloweekend with literary skullduggery. Live performances, screenings of old vampire movies, themed tours of local museums and historical sites, and more popped up through the city. On Saturday, I went with some friends from my writing workshop to Marsh’s Library, where Stoker would have studied as a young man. We heard some very fun ghost stories from the librarians, and the tale of how an ancient mummy turned up in one of the office closets. Even without the spooky stories, the Library is definitely worth visiting when you’re in town. It’s incredible to see so many old books so well preserved from the 18th century. It smells shockingly good in the stacks, strangely sweet from all of the old paper and leather. You can also see the caged reading desks, built to prevent book thieves. The library desks at Trinity are much comfier!
Outside Marsh’s Library, we wandered around Stokerland, a Halloween fair on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This is definitely more for little kids, but I missed passing out candy at home this year, so it was sweet to see all of the tiny witches, fairies, and superheroes running around. The food trucks were also really good, I had the best tacos I’ve had since moving here!
If you’re in Dublin around Halloween, I highly recommend stopping by any of the Stoker Festival offerings for a spooky good time. For now, RTE has a nifty trove of interviews, theatrical readings, and articles all about Bram Stoker and Dracula’s legacy in Ireland, which you can enjoy year-round.