“Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain” New Expanded Second Edition

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A new expanded 2nd edition of Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain by Frank J. Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks has been published by Cult Movies Press. Originally published in 2000, the critically acclaimed biography of Bela Lugosi was the product of over a decade of extensive research by the authors and was the first book to study a particular, and neglected, period of Bela Lugosi’s life and work.

The book traces Lugosi’s final tour of Dracula in Britain in 1951. Shrouded in mystery for half a century, what little had been known about the tour and Lugosi’s time in Britain had been clouded by oft-repeated inaccurate accounts. Dello Stritto and Brooks unearthed many previously unknown facts to tell the full and true story for the first time. In the days before the now ubiquitous Internet made such a task relatively simple, the authors traced and interviewed Lugosi’s co-workers, most of whom had never spoken publicly about their time with him, located scores of people across Britain who saw Lugosi perform in Dracula, and gathered material from archives and individuals across the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, America, and Canada. The product of their research was the compelling tale of a fading Hollywood legend’s last stab at greatness, and of forgotten triumphs.

While Dracula made Bela Lugosi world famous, it forever trapped him in monster & mad doctor roles. In the heyday of Hollywood horror, he reigned as a star, but when horror fell out of fashion, he scarcely worked at all. Late in life, with few job prospects in Hollywood or New York, he searched for one last comeback. In 1951, the 68-year old Lugosi and his wife Lillian staked their fortunes on the stage tour of Dracula in Britain, a project which had almost taken place in 1948 (Bela Lugosi Unrealised Projects). They hoped to take Dracula to London’s West End and reproduce his original success on Broadway in 1927. For six months and in more than 200 performances, Lugosi thrilled audiences in the provinces. The gruelling trek of one week engagements, often with twice-nightly performances, across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, broke his stamina. The West End never beckoned and the tour was ended when Lugosi told producer John Chartres Mather that he could not continue. Lugosi filmed the comedy Mother Riley Meets the Vampire before leaving Britain. Contrary to popular myth, Mother Riley Meets the Vampire was not hastily arranged to help an unpaid and stranded Lugosi buy passage for himself and his wife back to America. The film had been arranged several months before the tour ended. As he sailed back to America, his spirits buoyed by the prospect of being reunited with his son, Lugosi was not to know that he had played his signature role in the famous vampire play for the last time, and that the final comeback which he so desperately desired would never materialized. His months in Britain were soon forgotten, even by his most ardent fans.

Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain also tells the behind-the-scenes stories of Lugosi’s three British films,  Mystery of the Mary Celeste (1935), Dark Eyes of London (1939), and Mother Riley Meets The Vampire (1952), for which Dello Stritto and Brook interviewed cast and crew members. The making of these films is intertwined with the controversy in Britain over American horror films, a battle between censors and producers that almost ruined Lugosi’s career.

V.O.L. DUSK JACKET 4.23.15With the first edition described as “exhaustive” and “definitive”, I asked Andi Brooks why he and Frank Dello Stritto decided to write a new edition. “Our interest in Bela Lugosi’s time in Britain didn’t end with the publication of the first edition. We have continued researching it ever since. When we conducted our original research the Internet was in its infancy. We did everything the old-fashioned way – letters, telephone calls and literally knocking on people’s doors. We covered as much ground as we could, which took a lot of time and money, but it was impossible to find every piece of information and to trace every person we wanted to speak to. Now it’s a completely different world. There is so much information available online now which wasn’t accessible back then. Of course, although it may at times seem as if the sum of human knowledge is just a keystroke away, a lot of traditional footwork and plain good luck are still needed. The Internet has also allowed us to connect with other researchers and fans who have generously shared their knowledge and allowed us to delve into their collections. Frank and I also had another reason for wanting to produce a second edition. Although we were very flattered by the praise which the original edition of Vampire Over London received, we simply weren’t satisfied with it. The amount of new material we had collected since 2000, and the fact that we were still receiving requests for the book long after it had sold out, gave us the opportunity to revisit the project and produce a new edition which we feel is superior to the original.”

Vampire Over London 2nd Edition

The expanded and updated second edition of Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain can be ordered for $30 plus $3.99 shipping from Cult Movies Press at http://www.cultmoviespress.com (International shipping rates are available upon request). It is also available at Amazon International http://amzn.com/0970426933 and Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0970426933

To obtain a discount on your order, contact Frank Dello Stritto directly at fdellostritto@hotmail.com

Bat Head 3 Reviews for the first edition

“Vampire Over London, which is beautifully produced and of a quality we seldom see today, is a model of documentation and informed and entertaining writing. I was so fascinated by it that I gave up virtually an entire weekend to read it. I cannot claim to be a big fan of Bela Lugosi, but the authors’ enthusiasm, clarity and intelligence were such that I was mesmerized as much as any of Dracula’s victims. A magnificent book.”– Anthony Slide, Classic Images

“In this impressively researched book the authors’ combined sense of detail is remarkable…Dello Stritto and Brooks cover the six months of the touring company with three-dimensional clarity…you can almost smell the cigars Lugosi smoked while standing in the wings.”– Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

“Just when you thought everything that could possibly be written about the classic horror stars had already seen print, along comes the fascinating Vampire Over London. It’s an admirable book, written by that rare breed – film historians who actually know how to write…it’s essential.”- Richard Valley, Scarlet Street

“This tremendous new volume manages to offer a wealth of new information! A must for Lugosi fanatics…the authors have done their research on this subject, and the result is the final word on this portion of Lugosi’s life…It’s a humorous, informative and often touching tribute to a little known slice of Bela’s life.”- Shock Cinema

“Genre cinema historians Frank Dello Stritto and Andi Brooks perform an invaluable service for Bela Buffs. Their painstakingly researched tome is a book no self-respecting Lugosi lover can afford to be without.” – The Phantom, Videoscope

“An indispensable tome…exhaustive…Physically, the book is as impressive as the research and writing…will quickly become a collector’s item.” – Tom Weaver, Fangoria

“…a remarkable book…a carefully researched work of scholarship with a concern for accuracy usually reserved for much weightier subjects.” –  Henry Nicolella, Castle of Frankenstein

“A superb piece of literature! I think Bela must be resting in peace at long last in his satin-lined coffin.” – John C. Mather, Co-Producer of the 1951 British Dracula tour

“A really splendid piece of research, it has to be definitive.” – Richard Eastham, Director of the 1951 British Dracula tour

“It is a wonderful epitaph for a very special person.” – Richard Butler, 1951 British Dracula tour cast member

“If you’re a Lugosi fan, the book is an essential…it also serves as an excellent history of an era of British stage history that simply doesn’t exist anymore..If you possess the first edition you are a fortunate person, but you are even more fortunate if you have both editions.” – Doug Gibson, Standard Examiner

For those who love Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) or Dracula, and you know who you are, this book is essential…Dello Stritto and Brooks do not drown in their own research. They are scintillating raconteurs, and this 300+ page book moves along as breezily as a fascinating dinner conversation…This is a terrific book, not to be missed.” – James Abbott, The Jade Sphinx

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 Related Pages

Bela Lugosi, A Generous Star – An extract from the 2nd edition of Vampire Over London: Bela Lugosi in Britain

1951 British Dracula Tour – Exclusive Interviews With The Cast & Company

1951 British Dracula Tour – Newspaper Articles And Memorabilia

Vampire Bats And Devil Girls From Mars: Dracula Producer John Chartres Mather Interviewed By Frank J. Dello Stritto.

“Child, never look into my eyes!” The Hypnotic Stare of Bela Lugosi

The Day I Met Bela Lugosi by Derek R. Pickering.

Knee-Deep in Ice Cream, Smoke & Wayward Rubber Bats: An Interview With Richard Butler by Andi Brooks

An Encounter With Bela Lugosi by Roy Tomlinson

When Bela Lugosi Came To Britain

When Dracula Invaded England

In The Footsteps Of Dracula: An Interview With Author Steven P. Unger

Since its publication in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has become a hugely influential book, spawning a whole sub-genre of literature. Both novel and author have been studied, documented and analysed from every possible angle, and subjected to evermore convaluted readings, which, no matter how ludicrous, appear to have found a readership. With the interest in Dracula and vampires stronger than ever, we can probably look forward to the, sometimes dubious, pleasure of many more Dracula-related writings vying for our attention and money.

Rising above the inevitable sea of dross are some real gems, amongst which is the second edition of Steven P. Unger’s In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide. Published by World Audience, Inc., the book takes the reader on an unforgettable journey to every site that is closely related to both the fictional Count Dracula and real historical Vlad the Impaler. Part memoir, part travel guide, In the Footsteps of Dracula was, the author writes, “written to entertain, to inform, perhaps even to inspire.” For this reader, he succeeded in achieving those aims and more. I could easily have enjoyed that rare pleasure of reading the book in one sitting, but was glad that the demands of everyday life meant that I had to spread my reading pleasure over several sessions, which gave me time to digest the wealth of information it contains. I found the biographies of Stoker and his novel and Vlad Ţepeş and the account of Steven’s journey through England and Romania (with the accompanying practical details on how to duplicate it) equally fascinating. One of the many  joys of the book is the collection of Steven’s own photographs, some of which are included with the following interview I did with him.

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When and how did your fascination with Dracula begin?

Growing up, I voraciously read science fiction books and horror comics (the best of which you still can read on this great New Zealand Web site— http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.co.nz/), and especially loved watching the old Hammer Films about Count Dracula on TV.  They were produced between 1958 and 1974 and almost always starred Christopher Lee in the title role.  Although they plummeted in quality from superb to abysmal over the years, I saw them whenever I could.

Around 1980 I found a large-format paperback published in 1975 titled The Annotated Dracula, with surreal artwork by Sätty, copious notes, maps, and even a calendar of events.  I read every word.  I loved Bram Stoker’s imagery and his skillful foreshadowing of dire events; at the same time the annotations helped me to understand how his imagery boiled up from the collective unconscious of the Victorian mind and the sexual repression of the 1890s when Dracula was conceived.

Many people, including myself, have dreamed of this kind of journey, but few of us have actually embarked on it.  What motivated you to turn the dream into reality?

My obsession to travel to every site related to either the fictional Count Dracula or his real historical counterpart, Prince Vlad Dracula the Impaler, grew out of a visit to Whitby, England, where three chapters of the novel Dracula take place.  I stood on the cemetery hill where, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray spent hour after hour sitting on their “favourite seat” (a bench placed over a suicide’s grave near the edge of the cliff), gazing out toward the “headland called Kettleness” and the open North Sea beyond—while Count Dracula slept just beneath them.

In my mind’s eye, I could see the un-dead count rising at night from the flattened slab of the suicide’s gravestone to greedily drink the blood of the living.

The graveyard where Count Dracula spent his days sleeping in the sepulcher of a suicide looks the part that it plays, with its weathered limestone tombstones blackened by centuries of the ever-present North Sea winds.  That graveyard made the novel more visible, more visceral, to me, and I wondered if the sites in Transylvania and in the remote mountains of southern Romania would evoke the same feelings. As I was to discover—they did.

At that moment I decided to visit and photograph every site in England and Romania that is closely related to either Bram Stoker’s fictional Count Dracula or Vlad the Impaler—to literally walk in their footsteps and to write a book about my experiences.


The Old Church Cemetery in Whitby, England

How long was the journey in the planning?

It took a good year until I was ready to book my passage.  The initial research took many months.  The primary scenes in Dracula take place in Whitby, where much of the book was written; London; and, of course, the Borgo Pass in Transylvania, the site of Count Dracula’s castle.  I knew I would travel to those places.

Researching the life of Count Dracula’s historical counterpart, Prince Vlad Dracula the Impaler, took considerably more time.  I read all I could find on him, tracking down obscure references and unpublished theses online.  I needed to separate myth from reality (he was not a vampire, but he certainly was bloodthirsty, with a penchant for impaling his victims regardless of gender or age), and to eliminate from my itinerary those places in Romania that were geared toward tourists on the Dracula Trail but had no connection to the real Vlad the Impaler.

I decided to go to Sighişoara, his birthplace; Tărgovişte, his center of power; Poienari, his hidden fortress; and his purported tomb on SnagovIsland.  I also tried to research how to journey to those places using public transportation, and got nowhere.  There are no tourist offices in Romania as there are in Western Europe, and I wound up waiting until I arrived at one site to find out how to travel to the next, whether by bus, by train, or by the Romanian equivalent of stuffing a telephone booth, the Maxitaxi.  That was all part of the experience, certainly, but not one that I would wish upon my readers. 

Therefore, for the independent traveler who would leave his armchair for the Great Unknown, In the Footsteps of Dracula:  A Personal Journey and Travel Guide contains a Practical Guide to the Dracula Trail, with a complete Sample Itinerary (updated for the 2nd Edition) featuring recommendations for lodging and detailed instructions on traveling to each British or Romanian Dracula-related town or site.

How long did the whole journey take and what was the cost?

 I spent almost two months in all traveling, but because this was to be a photo journal, I always allowed at least one extra day at each location in case of heavy rain or snow.  I spent almost a month in Romania for the price of a week in England.

Following is a breakdown of a typical day’s expenses in Transylvania converted into American dollars.  (These are 2005 prices; a check of hotel prices in different cities in Romania in 2010 showed increases of about 40%, which would bring the day’s expenses to about $77—still an incredible bargain):

 MaxiTaxi from Sighişoara to Bistriţa:  $ 6.17

Taxis from Bed and Breakfast Coula, Sighişoara to MaxiTaxi stand, and from MaxiTaxi stand to Hotel Codrişor, Bistriţa, plus tips:  $5.00

Room with two beds, private shower, cable TV, and full breakfast, Hotel Codrişor, Bistriţa:  $35.00

Dinner at Crama Veche, Bistriţa, including cherry brandy, bean and ham soup, chicken paprikash, and pickled salad, plus tip:  $9.00

Total day’s expenses:  $55.17

What was the high point?

That would be Poienari, the real Castle of Dracula.  I had traveled to other remote, forbidding places before entering the almost lightless forest of Poienari.  But never before or since have I felt the apprehension and isolation I did while climbing to Vlad Ţepeş’ mountaintop fortress at Poienari.  The forest was as quiet as a tomb; I can’t recall hearing the song of even a single bird.

The ascent was exhausting.  At last, I encountered a grizzled, elfin gentleman sitting on almost the very top step, who indicated with his fingers the amount of the small entry fee.  From there the lone approach to the fortress is by a wooden footbridge.

Of all the places I explored that are associated with Vlad Ţepeş, only at Poienari did I feel that he was somehow still keeping watch.  Perched on a remote peak near a glacial moraine in the FăgarăşMountains of southern Romania, Poienari remains pristine and almost inaccessible.  Because the terrain is too steep and isolated to ever be cultivated or developed, there will never be a theme park at Poienari with scary rides and Count Dracula/Vlad Ţepeş collectibles.  Nor should there be, given the malevolent history of the fortress.

Thousands of boyars (nobles) and their families had been force-marched there from Tărgovişte to die rebuilding the castle for Prince Vlad; it was here that his treacherous brother Radu stormed the fortress with cannons, reducing the once courtly residence into broken turrets and formless rubble.  And it was here that Prince Dracula’s wife cast herself from the highest window of the eastern tower, choosing a swift death over the torture of the stake.


The Fortress of Vlad the Impaler at Poienari

 Were there any disappointments?

 I can’t say it was a disappointment, since I was warned . . . northwest of the Piaţa Unirii, Bucharest’s main square, is the Historic Quarter and the Old Princely Court of Vlad the Impaler.  The Hanul lui Manuc (Manuc’s Inn) in the Historic Quarter is worth seeing.  In a bygone century it was a caravan stop, and it still serves as a hotel and restaurant with a large courtyard surrounded by wooden balconies.  Don’t eat at the restaurant, though.  Lonely Planet’s Romania & Moldova describes the service as “appallingly slow and surly,” and, actually, that’s giving the restaurant way too much credit.

You did the journey seven years ago.  What, if anything, do you think will have changed?

There’s likely to have been some inflation, as indicated above, and probably less reliance on internet cafés by locals, as more and more people use smart phones.  I’d take one too if I were going again, but I’d never use a phone in place of a camera.  But I don’t think the important places will have changed much.  The locations are either protected as a World Heritage site, as with Sighişoara, or are too inaccessible to develop, as with Poienari.  The Romanians won’t kill the goose that lays their golden tourist eggs.

Have you had any feedback from anyone who has inspired to follow in your footsteps?

I have, and it’s a great feeling, not only to have been read as an author, but to hear that my writing changed people’s lives in a positive way.

If you did it again, would you do anything differently or add any locations to your itinerary?

I’d go to the places in Dublin that I wrote about; to Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery in London and to Bran Castle in Romania even though it’s a tourist trap.  I’d also bring a smart phone with temporary foreign coverage and a shockproof, weather-resistant digital camera.

You mentioned that a friend helped you to overcome language problems when you visited the grave of Vlad Ţepeş.  How much of the journey were you able to make alone?

That was the only place that I didn’t travel to alone, and the only place where readers of my book might require a guide to get them there.  Otherwise they can safely and economically follow my Sample Itinerary as described above. 

Would it be possible for someone to make the whole journey alone without any knowledge of Romanian or German?

 Yes—the Berlitz Romanian Phrase Book & Dictionary is worth taking along with you.  A lot of the younger people in the larger towns and cities learned English in school, and generally you’ll also be able to speak English with hotel personnel and the proprietors of Bed and Breakfast establishments.  However, in the countryside or at smaller restaurants, you’ll need some basic Romanian phrases.  If you do happen to know German, most Transylvanians of Saxon descent speak German and Romanian, although the majority of ethnic Germans left Romania after the reunification of Germany in 1990.

The “Eating Out” section is invaluable—it’s always the most-used section of my Berlitz phrase books when I travel.  Speaking of food, I was able to maintain a very healthy diet in Romania.  Fresh vegetables, especially cucumbers and tomatoes, were plentiful, and roasted red peppers were always available as a side dish at restaurants everywhere or at self-service cafeterias in Bucharest.  The meat served is mostly pork or chicken, as an entrée or as part of a delicious, slightly sour soup called either borş or ciorbă, made from a fermented mix of flour, cherry bark, thyme, and basil.  (With respect to dining out in England, if you like East Indian food, I don’t think there’s any town in the nation without at least one “take-away” Indian restaurant.)

You wrote that, taking sensible precautions, there are no safety issues when traveling through Romania, but one incident on your journey seemed rather sinister.  While waiting for the boat to take you to Vlad Ţepeş’ grave, you were accosted by two men, who you had to give some money to.  What exactly happened?

That was when I was traveling with a native Romanian, Daly Gurman.  I deferred to his judgment in giving the men a small amount of money to go away.  If I’d been by myself, I would have truthfully told them that I didn’t understand what they wanted, and maintained what the soteropolitanas—the people of Salvador, Brazil—call a mão-de-vaca, a cow’s hand, which never opens.

Bearing in mind the questionable authenticity of Vlad Ţepeş’ grave, is it worth making the trip?

I think so.  Snagov Lake, about 25 miles north of Bucharest, is narrow but almost 12 miles long, with a small island in the northeastern part of the lake.  With its rustic scenery, boisterous frogs lining the lakeshore, and posters of Vlad Ţepeş’ exploits in hopelessly fractured English, the Snagov Lake area has just the right tone for a Draculaland.  Besides, if you go there in winter you might be able to ice skate across the lake from the village of Silistea to the island, where Vlad Ţepeş’ purported tomb lies in the inner chamber of a stone monastery church that dates back to 1521.

Having brutally tortured and murdered tens of thousands of his own subjects, Vlad Ţepeş hardly seems like a suitable figure to be honored and respected.  Do Romanians really “dream of Vlad Ţepeş or a new Vlad Ţepeş” in times of trouble?

Many do.  Vlad Ţepeş was a product of his times.  His father was required to give him up as a hostage to the Turkish sultan when Vlad was in his teens, and it was there that he repeatedly witnessed the practice of execution by impaling.  And although in his quest for power and dominance he impaled more Romanians than Turks, he is still seen as a hero for his part in later battles against the Turkish Empire.

A visit to the island tomb of Vlad Ţepeş confirms the reverence still felt for the historical Prince Dracula as someone who defended the cross, as opposed to the literary Count Dracula, who abhorred it.  The tomb is covered by a stone slab surrounded by golden icons and giant candelabras.  An antique lantern rests on the left side of the slab, a silver engraving of Vlad Ţepeş is at the center, and a vase of fresh-cut flowers graces the right.

On one of the church walls, below Vlad’s portrait, is the following inscription (recreated verbatim):

“King Vlad the Impaler Dracula

He was a great European personality in fighting against Turkish Empire for Christianism.  His courrage was admired also by Turkish Army & leaders.”

As I took in the medieval splendor of the tomb of Vlad Ţepeş, Father Bănăţeanu, the latest in a line of monks who for over 500 years have lived alone on Snagov Island to tend Vlad’s grave, handed me a leaflet that read in part:

” . . . Prince Vlad the Impaler was known in all Europe as Prince Dracula; he was a great fighter against the Turkish Empire.  It is a strange story isn’t it?”


Father Bănăţeanu and His Dog

 What distinguishes him from Nicolae Ceauşescu, who inflicted more recent horrors on the long-suffering people of Romania?

What was unforgivable for Ceauşescu was his hypocrisy.  Obsessed with repaying the soaring national debt and building edifices that were really monuments to himself, Ceauşescu banned the importation of consumer products and commanded the exportation of all goods produced in Romania except minimal food supplies.  While the official television broadcasts showed stores full of groceries that were actually painted plastic, thousands of Romanians were being tortured in political prisons and millions were near starvation.

Vlad Ţepeş never pretended to have his subjects’ interests at heart; he fought, and fought well, against whoever opposed him, be they Turk or Romanian.  And while Vlad Ţepeş died in battle with his father’s sword in hand, on Christmas Day in 1989 the brutal dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena were executed by a military firing squad in Tărgovişte, Romania, after fleeing from their country residence at—of all places!—Snagov Lake.  The videotape of their execution, with Nicolae loudly singing The Internationale as Elena cursed at the soldiers, telling everybody to go to hell, was immediately released to news agencies in Western Europe.

Bram Stoker never traveled to Transylvania.  How accurate were his descriptions of the land?

While his descriptions of the Carpathian Mountains bore a superficial resemblance to the actual terrain, when it came to specific details, Bram Stoker’s Transylvania bore little resemblance to any Romania that ever existed.  For example, Stoker wrote of “hay-ricks [haystacks] in the trees” based on illustrations of Transylvanian haystacks built around stakes, with the ends of the stakes poking out like branches.  Thus, generations of Dracula readers assumed that Transylvanians put their haystacks up in trees!


Haystacks on Transylvania’s Borgo Pass

It still seems possible to conjure up the spirit of Dracula in Romania, but Gothic Weekends in Whitby, England, while good for the local economy, hardly seem conducive to capturing the spirit of the town as Stoker knew it while researching and writing Dracula there.  How did a Gothic Weekend in Whitby add to your Dracula experience?

I chose to go to Whitby during the Gothic Weekend   specifically because I knew I’d get much more interesting pictures for my book with a trio of Goths posing, for example, on the Bram Stoker Memorial Seat than at other times of the year, when I’d just have a picture of an empty bench with a plaque in the middle.  For the serious sojourner on the Dracula Trail, August 11th was the day Mina ran through the town to save Lucy from the blood-thirst of the Count.  Alternatively, a dreary winter’s day might convey a more somber atmosphere around the old church graveyard and the ruins of Whitby Abbey.  So it’s really a matter of intent–is it to be a party or a sort of contemplative walk back into the Victorian subconscious   for a day?

There is nowhere else on Earth besides Whitby where one can truly walk in the footsteps of the literary Dracula.  Bram Stoker’s Transylvania was the pipe dream of an armchair traveler with a genius for writing:  real enough for the 19th Century English or American reader, but bearing little resemblance to the society or even the architecture of Romania at that time or any other.

On the other hand, Stoker was intimately familiar with Whitby and its ancient legends.  He lived there:  you can see his house.  You can see the “house at The Crescent” where Mina Murray (later Harker) stayed with Lucy Westenra and her mother, and where Count Dracula circled Lucy’s bedroom window in the form of a “great bat.”  Three doors away from the “house at The Crescent” was the office of Mr. S. F. Billington, the attorney who arranged for “50 cases of common earth, to be used for experimental purposes” (one of those cases containing the Count in his coffin) to be transferred by rail and wagon from Whitby to Dracula’s estate at Carfax near London.

You can stand on the Tate Hill Sands where Count Dracula first touched the English shore in the shape of an immense wolf-like dog, and stroll among the ancient tombstones of the churchyard cemetery where he took refuge in a suicide’s grave and first tasted Lucy Westenra’s blood.

You can see all of these places, and more, virtually unchanged from the 1890s.  All in all, Whitby adds immensely to the spirit of the Dracula Trail.

As a novel and cultural experience, Dracula has attained a status that it never had during Stoker’s lifetime.  Why does its popularity continue to grow when many more “serious” and acclaimed pieces of contemporary literature are now forgotten?

 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with its imagery and sheer sexuality, much of it stemming from Stoker’s unconscious mind, captured the imagination of the public in 1897 and has never been out of print—in fact it’s the 2nd most widely-read book in the world, after the BibleDracula was published during the height of Victorian sexual repression; two years later, in 1899, Freud would publish The Interpretation of Dreams.  It’s not a coincidence that vampires have remained so popular.  They’re immortal, powerful, and seductive—who wouldn’t want all of those attributes?  Or at least two out of three.

Above all, vampires are creatures of the night, as are dreams, and, just like dreams, they can never be controlled.

Is the 2nd Edition now the definitive version of your book?

I would think so.  It’s the result of reviews from all over the world; everything has been updated and corrected where necessary.  And besides, I’ve got new books to write and new heights of imagination to climb!

One final question.  Who is your favorite Dracula?

I think that Bram Stoker’s original vision of Count Dracula was most closely represented in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film Nosferatu with Max Schreck (below).

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A new updated and expanded 3rd edition of In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide  is available from:



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About the Author

Steven P. Unger

Steven Unger was one of a handful of white students at a black college, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and a member of the Bear Tribe, a California commune that tried sharecropping, goat herding, and living in teepees—and failed spectacularly at everything.  These adventures and many more are described in his novel Dancing in the Streets (http://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Streets-Steven-P-Unger/dp/1937536114/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3).

He also wrote the accompanying text and Preface for Before the Paparazzi:  Fifty Years of Extraordinary Photographs, which includes over 250 pictures taken by Arty Pomerantz, staff photographer and assignment editor for the New York Post from the 1960s through the early 1990s.  Before the Paparazzi is available from www.amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Before-The-Paparazzi-Extraordinary-Photographs/dp/1935444395/ref=la_B007MAM64E_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1346780528&sr=1-2) and from their own site at www.beforethepaparazzi.com.

Lugosi – A Play For The Stage By Michael Theodorou

Bela Lugosi’s 1951 British tour of Dracula is the setting for ‘Lugosi’, a new play by Michael Theodorou. A two-hander featuring the characters of Bela and Lillian Lugosi, the play explores the couple’s relationship as Bela’s almost total dependence upon Lillian pushes it beyond breaking point. 

In addition to being an experienced playwright and director, Michael has held the position of  Head of Drama at several prestigious schools in England, written an influential book on the teaching of drama in Secondary Schools and, as Michael Chesden, worked as an actor in theatre, television and films. He told me why he wrote the play, the research he conducted, and his plans for its production.

Author Michael Theodorou (also known as Michael Chesden)

What drew you to Bela Lugosi as a subject for a play?

My wife introduced me to the films of Bela Lugosi when we used to watch late night films together on television. I remember that there was a season of ‘horror’ films and one of them was ‘The Devil Bat’ starring Bela as Dr Paul Carruthers, a disgruntled scientist who takes revenge on his employers for having used his formulas for making money but not recognising his contribution. Bela trains a bat to recognise the scent of a ‘lotion’ that he invents which he then gives to a number of his employers as a gift and then sets the bat on them! Of course, the plot was ridiculous and we had a lot of laughs but it was the first time I’d seen Bela acting and I was immediately struck by his presence and the sincerity of his acting. In the same season we saw ‘The Raven’ and once again I was drawn by his distinctive style of acting and his ability to engage the viewer even though some of the close-ups elicited quite  a few laughs. I realised that here was an actor who had been trained in the theatre and whose style of acting was if anything too big for the screen. As I discovered more about him and read about his early career in Hungary as a member of the National Theatre and then about his rise and fall in Hollywood I began to formulate the idea of writing a stage play about him which would bring into focus both his stage and film careers.

Why did you choose the 1951 British Dracula tour as your setting?

In the course of my research on the stage play about Lugosi I came across your book ‘Vampire Over London’ and I realised that the 1951 Dracula tour in Britain was the perfect starting point for my play. I could use the stage play of ‘Dracula’ as well as going back in time and quoting extracts from his early film successes on celluloid to give a comprehensive picture of both his stage and film techniques. I must confess here that I have used extracts from my own script  of ‘Dracula’ in the Lugosi play. I wrote my own original stage version of ‘Dracula’ in 1994 when I was teaching at Wells Cathedral School in Somerset and I needed a challenging play for the very talented students in my department. So when Bela delivers his Dracula speeches in my play he is using my own version based on Bram Stoker’s novel! At least there won’t be a conflict over copyright!

Lugosi’s life has been dramatised before. There was ‘There Are Such Things’ by Steven McNicoll and Mark McDonnell, which won the Hamilton Deane award for the best dramatic presentation from the Dracula Society in 2002 and most famously Tim Burton’s ‘Ed Wood’. Why did you think Lugosi’s life merited further dramatic treatment?

As far as I’m aware, ‘There Are Such Things’ is a radio drama whereas my play is written specifically for the stage. The element of live performance was so important to Bela and that is what I have attempted to stress in the play. Tim Burton’s ‘Ed Wood’ is, of course, a film and though it is excellent in many ways I still find the concept of Lugosi’s character in the film rather sensationalist and inaccurate. But there is room for all these versions and it’s encouraging to see that Bela’s name is still arousing such interest around the world.

Your script is packed with authentic period detail and atmosphere. What kind of research did you do?

I read a number of biographies starting with ‘The Man Behind the Cape’ by Robert Cremer and then went on to read the books by Gary Don Rhodes. I also found the book ‘Bela Lugosi’ edited by Gary and Susan Svehla in the Midnight Marquee Actors series particularly interesting for stills and photographs. As background reading I also read a biography of Bram Stoker by Daniel Farson and of course your ‘Vampire Over London’ was an invaluable source! There was also a lot of information on You Tube including some interviews with Bela himself.

Posing for the press 1

Bela poses in his dressing room during the British tour

How long was the whole process of research and writing?

It probably took me a year from beginning to end. Once the research was done and I started writing it flowed surprisingly quickly. There was only one interruption when I had to go into hospital for an operation and I still hadn’t written the ending. I told the surgeon he had to do his job efficiently and quickly as I had a play to finish when I came out. Almost as soon as I’d been discharged the ending came to me and I wrote it down straightaway and finished it. I’ll credit that surgeon if the play is ever published!

What was your impression of Lugosi at the beginning of the project and had it changed by the time you finished?

Lugosi’s character was a bit shadowy to start with but as I continued writing and as I selected episodes from his life that seemed appropriate I began to realise that he was a very generous and expansive person with a great sense of humour despite all the setbacks he’d had in life. There was also, I felt, an innocence about him, a guileless quality which made him trust people and, of course, because of that people took advantage of his good nature. When he had money he spent it both on himself and others unstintingly. He loved good wine and food and wanted others to share his success. His nature led others to take advantage of him and he did make a lot of wrong decisions like when he turned down the part of the monster in Frankenstein because there was no dialogue! He was not a calculating person, he was natural. Of course, he had faults. He was very jealous and demanding of women. He was Hungarian and expected women to behave in a certain way, hence the split with Lillian .It got to the stage where she couldn’t live with him any more and he was genuinely devastated when she left him .He went downhill after that. I have tried to convey these and many other qualities in the play.

As an actor yourself, how do you appraise him as an actor?

As I never worked with him and never saw him live on stage I can only give my opinion as a member of an audience seeing him on film. He comes across as very sincere, intense and totally identified with his roles. He does not belong to the naturalistic school of acting and may therefore to a younger audience come across as corny and contrived. His acting style stretches back to silent films where actors had to convey as much as possible with their faces and sometimes come across as melodramatic. He made the transition well to talking films – unlike a lot of other actors – and had a commanding voice and a distinctive accent which certainly served him well in the ‘Dracula’ film but unfortunately he became identified with this role for the rest of his life. As he used his natural native Hungarian accent he became typecast and was offered only similar roles. I would have loved to have seen him on stage which is where his true vocation lay. He would have been electrifying in the role of ‘Dracula’ on stage and I would love to be transported back in time to have seen him in some of his major roles at the Hungarian National Theatre.

Why does Lugosi still hold such a fascination? Is it the element of tragedy?

Certainly the tragic elements in his life do hold a fascination but I think the real answer to this question is that he was a larger than life character who enjoyed life, lived life to the full and gave to those around him a magic quality which touched them and that they never forgot, both is his personal relations and in his acting.

Lillian Lugosi is sometimes portrayed as a shadowy character, but she takes centre stage in your play. Descriptions of her during the British tour vary from “charming” and “lovely” to “a pain in the ass.” What do you think was her role in Lugosi’s life at the time?

She takes centre stage in my play because she was the biggest single influence on Bela at the time. She was not only his wife but arranged his interviews, read his contracts, sewed his costumes, cooked for him, drove the car, nursed him and kept his cigar alight off stage! She was very protective of him and got a reputation for being difficult and demanding. In the play she comes across as sharp and rather vitriolic but this is because she loved Bela and, being thirty years younger, she felt it was her duty to protect him. It’s a great part!

Bela and Lillian from the Birmingham Gazette - Collection of Kevin Mulligan

Lillian and Bela pose for The Birmingham Mail (Photo courtesy of Kevin Mulligan)

Going back to Tim Burton’s ‘Ed Wood’, Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning performance has been hailed as uncanny by those who knew Lugosi. Do you think that will be intimidating for any actor following in his footsteps?

It was certainly a great tour de force performance by Martin Landau but I’m not sure that he captured the spirit of Lugosi as accurately as some people seem to think. I think it was an interpretation, but to my mind, it was not definitive. Yes, any actor who is cast to play Lugosi in my play might certainly look at Martin Landau’s performance in the film but should certainly not be intimidated by it. It is one of a number of possible interpretations and the actor will be free to interpret the part in his own way.

Did you write Lugosi with a particular actor in mind?

When I started writing the play I didn’t have any actor in mind, but one evening I was watching a television drama and I saw an actor who impressed me very much by the sincerity and truth of their performance and I suddenly thought ‘yes, he could play Lugosi’! I looked him up on the internet and found out that he had the right kind of background and experience but had just accepted a part in a long running series of ‘Coronation Street’! I may still drop him a line to see if he might be interested. As regards the role of Lillian I thought of an ex student of mine who happens to be an actress and who just happens to look just like Lillian. I got in touch, sent her a script  and she would be very interested in playing the part if commitments allow.

Tell me about your writing process. Are you a 9–5 writer or do you write only when the inspiration takes you?

There are as many ways of writing as there are suns in the universe and each writer has their own individual idiosyncrasies. In my experience inspiration does come suddenly. It usually comes from a combination of circumstances which lead to the subject matter. Once I have chosen my subject – or my subject has chosen me!- I do a lot of reading round the subject and yes, I do quite a lot of research especially if I am writing about real people. You should have respect for your subjects in order to do them justice so getting as many facts right as possible is essential. However, I do not want to be bound by mere facts. In the case of ‘Lugosi’ I have written a play which I hope captures the ‘spirit’ of the man rather than just a catalogue of accurate dates.

How far does your involvement with your plays go beyond the writing? Are you involved in casting, staging, directing, raising funds etc?

I like to be involved in the whole process but it very much depends if I can interest a commercial management in the project. If a management becomes involved then the writer’s role tends to be more subsidiary. The management will tend to oversee the casting of actors, the appointing of a director, designer etc. If the project remains a self financing activity then I could be involved in every aspect from raising the money to playing the part of Lugosi myself!

What are the difficulties faced in trying to stage a play these days? What are your plans for your play?

It has never been easy to stage a play and with the economic situation in the country at present it’s more difficult that ever to interest anyone. My plan is to work towards a production of the play at the Edinburgh Fringe next year (August 2012). I have had experience of taking productions to the fringe in the past but not under my own steam so this would be very much a labour of love and I would need as much support as possible from any interested parties. I think that the subject of ‘Lugosi’ could attract a very large audience and bring the play to the notice of theatre managements who might see the commercial possibilities, not only in this country but in Europe and the United States. Although this is not a biography of Bela, I have noted that in recent years biographical drama about famous people has become popular with theatre managements (Callas, Onassis ) who can see commercial possibilities for the right subject. There is also the option of television becoming interested in a dramatised documentary about Bela and I will try to interest the few contacts I have in that area. Let’s face it, the TV companies have got to try something else apart from endless series about the police and hospitals soon!!

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Michael  will keep us up to date with the progress of the play.

In the meantime, you can visit his website at:



Read an extract from his adaptation of Dracula here:


His books on school drama are available from Amazon:



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There Are Such Things! Bram Stoker Interviews Michael Theodorou About His New Stage Play.

An Interview With Bram Stoker

Dracula was published in the UK by Archibald Constable and Co. on May 26th, 1897. Just over one month later, the following interview with Bram Stoker was published in the July 1st edition of The British Weekly. The interview was conducted by Jane Stoddard under the pen name “Lorna”.

“Mr.Bram Stoker. A Chat with the Author of Dracula”

One of the most interesting and exciting of recent novels is Mr. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” It deals with the ancient mediaeval vampire legend, and in no English work of fiction has this legend been so brilliantly treated. The scene is laid partly in Transylvania and partly in England. The first fifty-four pages, which give the journal of Jonathan Harker after leaving Vienna until he makes up his mind to escape from Castle Dracula, are in their weird power altogether unrivalled in recent fiction. The only book which to my knowledge at all compares with them is “The Waters of Hercules,” by E.D. Gerard, which also treats of a wild and little known portion of Eastern Europe. Without revealing the plot of the story, I may say that Jonathan Harker, whose diary first introduces the vampire Count, is a young solicitor sent by his employer to Castle Dracula to arrange for the purchase of a house and estate in England.


Stoker's handwritten notes detailing the characters in DraculaBram Stoker’s handwritten notes on the characters of Dracula


From the first day of his starting, signs and wonders follow him. At the “Golden Krone” at Bistritz the landlady warns him not to go to Castle Dracula, and, finding that his purpose is unalterable, places a rosary with a crucifix round his neck. For this gift he has good cause to be grateful afterwards. Harker’s fellow-passengers on the stage-coach grow more and more alarmed about his safety as they come nearer to the dominions of the Count. Kindly gifts are pressed upon him: wild rose, garlic, and mountain ash. These are meant to be a protection against the evil eye. The author seems to know every corner of Transylvania and all its superstitions. Presently in the Borgo Pass a carriage with four horses drives up beside the coach. “The horses were driven by a tall man with a long brown beard, and a great black hat which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight as he turned to us…. As he spoke he smiled, and the lamplight fell on a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth as white as ivory. One of my companions whispered the line from Burger’s ‘Lenore’: ‘Denn die Todten reiten schnell’ (‘For the dead travel fast’).”


Dracula First EditionDracula first edition


This is the famous king vampire, Count Dracula, in ancient times a warlike Transylvanian noble. Jonathan Harker is conscious from the first that he is among ghostly and terrible surroundings. Even on the night journey to the Castle, wolves which have gathered round the carriage disappear when the terrible driver lifts his hand. On his arrival the guest is left waiting, and presently a tall old man, whom he suspects from the beginning to be none other than the driver himself, bids him welcome to his house. The Count never eats with his guest. During the day he is absent, but during the night he converses, the dawn breaking up the interview. There are no mirrors to be seen in any part of the ancient building, and the young solicitor’s fears are confirmed by the fact that one morning, when the Count comes unexpectedly to his bedroom and stands looking over his shoulder, there is no reflection of him in the small shaving glass Harker has brought from London, and which covers the whole room behind. The adventures of Jonathan Harker will be read again and again; the most powerful part of the book after this is the description of the voyage of the Demeter from Varna to Whitby. A supernatural terror haunts the crew from the moment that they leave the Dardanelles, and as time goes on one man after another disappears. It is whispered that at night a man, tall, thin, and ghastly pale, is seen moving about the ship. The mate, a Roumanian, who probably knows the vampire legend, searches during the day in a number of old boxes, and in one he finds Count Dracula asleep. His own suicide and the death of the captain follow, and when the ship arrives at Whitby, the vampire escapes in the form of a huge dog. The strange thing is that, although in some respects this is a gruesome book, it leaves on the mind an entirely wholesome impression. The events which happen are so far removed from ordinary experience that they do not haunt the imagination unpleasantly. It is certain that no other writer of our day could have produced so marvellous a book.

On Monday morning I had the pleasure of a short conversation with Mr. Bram Stoker, who, as most people know, is Sir Henry Irving’s manager at the Lyceum Theatre. He told me, in reply to a question, that the plot of the story had been a long time in his mind, and that he spent about three years in writing it. He had always been interested in the vampire legend. “It is undoubtedly,” he remarked, “a very fascinating theme, since it touches both on mystery and fact. In the Middle Ages the terror of the vampire depopulated whole villages.”


Sir Henry Irving (top hat) and Bram Stoker take a cab from the private Burleigh Street entrance of the Lyceum Theatre, which was reserved for the use of the “Unholy Trinity” of Irving, Stoker and H.J. Loveday, the Lyceum’s stage manager.


Is there any historical basis for the legend?

“It rested, I imagine, on some such case as this. A person may have fallen into a death-like trance and been buried before the time. Afterwards the body may have been dug up and found alive, and from this a horror seized upon the people, and in their ignorance they imagined that a vampire was about. The more hysterical, through excess of fear, might themselves fall into trances in the same way; and so the story grew that one vampire might enslave many others and make them like himself. Even in the single villages it was believed that there might be many such creatures. When once the panic seized the population, their only thought was to escape.”

In what parts of Europe has this belief been most prevalent?

“In certain parts of Styria it has survived longest and with most intensity, but the legend is common to many countries, to China, Iceland, Germany, Saxony, Turkey, the Chersonese, Russia, Poland, Italy, France, and England, besides all the Tartar communities.”

In order to understand the legend, I suppose it would be necessary to consult many authorities?

Mr. Stoker told me that the knowledge of vampire superstitions shown in “Dracula” was gathered from a great deal of miscellaneous reading.


The Land Beyond the ForestEmily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest, published in 1888, is still in print


“No one book that I know of will give you all the facts. I learned a good deal from E. Gerard’s ‘Essays on Roumanian Superstitions,’ which first appeared in The Nineteenth Century, and were afterwards published in a couple of volumes. I also learned something from Mr. Baring-Gould’s ‘Were-Wolves.’ Mr. Gould has promised a book on vampires, but I do not know whether he has made any progress with it.”

Readers of “Dracula” will remember that the most famous character in it is Dr. Van Helsing, the Dutch physician, who, by extraordinary skill, self-devotion, and labour, finally outwits and destroys the vampire. Mr. Stoker told me that van Helsing is founded on a real character. In a recent leader on “Dracula,” published in a provincial newspaper, it is suggested that high moral lessons might be gathered from the book. I asked Mr. Stoker whether he had written with a purpose, but on this point he would give no definite answer, “I suppose that every book of the kind must contain some lesson,” he remarked; “but I prefer that readers should find it out for themselves.”

In reply to further questions, Mr. Stoker said that he was born in Dublin, and that his work had laid for thirteen years in the Civil Service. He is an M.A. of Trinity College, Dublin. His brother-in-law is Mr. Frankfort Moore, one of the most popular young writers of the day. He began his literary work early. The first thing he published was a book on “The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions.” Next came a series of children’s stories, “Under the Sunset,” published by Sampson Low. Then followed the book by which he has hitherto been best known, “The Snake’s Pass.” Messrs. Constable have published in their “Acme” library a fascinating little volume called “The Watter’s Mou,” and this with “The Shoulder of Shasta,” completes Mr. Stoker’s list of novels. He has been in London for some nineteen years, and believes that London is the best possible place for a literary man. “A writer will find a chance here if he is good for anything; and
recognition is only a matter of time.” Mr. Stoker speaks of the generosity shown by literary men to one another in a tone which shows that he, at least, is not disposed to quarrel with the critics.


The Book of WerewolvesSabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Were-Wolves, published in 1865, is also still in print


Mr. Stoker does not find it necessary to publish through a literary agent. It always seems to him, he says, that an author with an ordinary business capacity can do better for himself than through any agent. “Some men now-a-days are making ten thousand a year by their novels, and it seems hardly fair that they should pay ten or five percent of this great sum to a middleman. By a dozen letters or so in the course of the year they could settle all their literary business on their own account.” Though Mr. Stoker did not say so, I am inclined to think that the literary agent is to him a nineteenth century vampire.

No interview during this week would be complete without a reference to the Jubilee, so I asked Mr. Stoker, as a Londoner of nearly twenty years standing, what he thought of the celebrations. “Everyone,” he said, “has been proud that the great day went off so successfully. We have had a magnificent survey of the Empire, and last week’s procession brought home, as nothing else could have done, the sense of the immense variety of the Queen’s dominions.”

Bat Head 2Related articles

Staged Reading Of Dracula At the Lyceum Theatre In 1897

Contemporary Reviews Of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

 The Library

A collection of  editions of Dracula

Staged Reading Of Dracula At The Lyceum Theatre In 1897

The first theatrical performance of Dracula took place on May 18th, 1897 at the Lyceum Theatre in London. Arranged by Bram Stoker to protect the dramatic rights of his novel, the performance took the form of a dramatic reading performed by a fifteen-strong cast drawn from members of the Lyceum’s resident company of actors.

Stoker's handwritten manuscript for the staged reading of Dracula

Stoker’s script for the staged reading of Dracula


The script, comprising of a prologue and five acts containing forty-seven scenes, was largely assembled from the galley proofs for Dracula, which would be published eight days later on May 26, with handwritten additions, changes and stage directions by Stoker. Even at this late stage, Stoker was undecided about the title for his novel. The programme announced Dracula or The Un-dead. When he signed a publishing contract with Archibald Constable and Company two days later the title had changed to The Un-Dead. Six days later he finally settled on Dracula.

The Lyceum Theatre

As was usual for copyright readings, posters were put up outside the theatre only half an hour before the 10:15 a.m. performance. The audience comprised of just two paying members of the public and some of the Lyceum’s actors, crew and staff. The two members of the audience who had purchased tickets must have been extremely patient. The reading is usually said to have taken about four hours to complete, but  a second reading undertaken one hundred years later, and read “at breakneck speed,” took six hours.

The convention of the time was to list actors only by their surnames in an effort to bestow professional respectability at a time when, with few exceptions, actors were not viewed as socially acceptable. This had made researcher’s attempts to identify individual actors an often frustrating venture. Thanks to Bram Stoker’s meticulously kept records, however, most of the cast have now been identified. The Mr Jones listed in the programme as Count Dracula has traditionally been identified as Whitworth Jones, an actor “whose roles veered toward an assortment of wizards, kings, and demons, including Mephistopheles.” Stoker’s records contradict this theory, showing that Whitworth Jones was not employed at The Lyceum until September 1897 as a member of the Forbes Robertson’s Company, which took out a short sublease of the theatre. He was never a member of Irving’s company. A much more likely candidate is an actor by the name of Thomas Arthur Jones (1871-1954) who usually performed under the name T. Arthur Jones. Like several other members of the Dracula cast, he was appearing in the Lyceum’s current production of Madame Sans-Gêne, for which he was listed as “Mr Jones in the programme. The case for his nomination for the role is strengthened by the fact that he read the part of Sir Robert Walpole in Stoker’s copyright reading of his novel Miss Betty at the Lyceum on January 31st, 1898.

Bram Stoker

Professor Van Helsing was read by Tom Reynolds (1866-1942), who enjoyed a long career as an actor on both stage and screen and as a stage manager. Beginning his career in 1887, he was still attracting strong reviews 45 years later when appearing as the Judge in A.A. Milne’s 1932 production of The Wind in the Willows.

Tom Reynolds photographed by Bassano on November 3, 1919

Kenneth Rivington, then appearing alongside T.A. Jones in Madame Sans-Gêne, read the part of John Seward M.D. He played another famous doctor later in his career. In 1905 he appeared as Dr. Watson opposite William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes, The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner at the Duke of York’s theatre in London. Rivington also appeared as Sherlock Holmes in a touring production of the play,  which was notable for featuring a young Charlie Chaplin in his first dramatic role. Forty-six years later, in 1951, the Duke of York’s theatre was the venue for the second week of rehearsals for Bela Lugosi’s British revival tour of Dracula. Rivington played Dr. Watson again in a production of  The Speckled Band at the St. James’s Theatre in 1921.

Ellen Terry and Edith Craig in the Lyceum’s 1892 production of Henry VIII

Mina Murray  was read by Edith Craig (1869-1947), the daughter of the great Victorian actress Ellen Terry. Then appearing as Toinon in Madame Sans-Gêne, Edith had a prolific career in the theatre as an actress, often in productions with her mother, director, producer and costume designer. She was also an early pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement.

Other members of the cast of Madame Sans-Gêne who took part in the reading included Herbert Passmore as Jonathan Harker, E. Eardley Howard as R.M. Renfield, Mr. Porter as the attendant at the asylum, and Herbet Innes (also known as Innis) as the Hon. Arthur Holmwood. Innes later read the part of Robin in the 1898 staged reading of Miss Betty

Wallace Widdecombe (1868-1969), who read the part of Quincy P. Morris, went to America in 1901 with Sir Charles Hawtrey to star in the play A Message from Mars. He continued his career in America until his final role in 1953 in a production of Richard III. His role in the 1932 production of Red Planet by John L. Balderston, who adapted Dracula for the American stage, was just one of many appearances he made on Broadway. He also had roles in several silent films. Remarkably, and previously undocumented, Wallace Widdecombe appeared in the role of Dr. Seward opposite Raymond Huntley in the American production of Dracula in 1929 and 1930 and in the same role opposite Bela Lugosi in a 1943 revival tour of Dracula. At the time of his death, at the age of 100, he was the oldest living member of Actors Equity.

Wallace Widdecombe in the early 1900s

Of the remaining parts, Captain Swales was read by Henry Gurney, an actor who remained active until at least 1909, and Lucy Westenra by Mary Foster, who also read the part of Priscilla Pole in the 1898 staged reading of Miss Betty. There is some confusion as to who read the parts of Mrs. Westenra and the servant. One possibility for Mrs. Westenra is Kate Gurney, who may have been related to Henry Gurney. However, Stoker biographer Daniel Farson (1927-1997) claimed that an alternate version of the playbill existed which not only stated that the performance began thirty minutes earlier at 10 a.m., but that the part of Mrs. Westenra was read by a Miss Yeolande. At the time, there were two actresses by the name of Yeolande at the Lyceum – Miss Ida Yeolande and Miss E. Yeolande. Nothing is known of the Miss Cornford listed as reading the servant, but according to Farson the alternate playbill listed a Miss Holland as reading the part. At the time of the reading, an actress by the name of May Holland was employed at the Lyceum.  Despite Stoker’s meticulous records, nothing at all is known of the Mr. Simpson who read the part of the coastguard or the Mrs. Daly who read the part of a vampire woman.


Sir Henry Irving

Stoker is said to have desperately wanted Sir Henry Irving, on whom he is reputed to have based the character of Dracula, to play the title role in a full production, but Irving adamantly refused. Legend has it that when Stoker asked Irving what he thought of the reading, the actor replied with a dismissive, “Dreadful!” According to Ellen Terry, Irving, a supreme egotist, “simply could not give himself up to appreciation. It was never any pleasure to him to see the acting of other actors and actresses.”

Dracula was granted License #162 by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, the official censor charged with protecting the morals of the British theatregoing public. Surprisingly, considering Dracula’s subject matter, the censor found nothing objectionable in the play. He notified Stoker that it was a “very remarkable dramatic version of your forthcoming novel; which I should say amply fulfils the letter of the copyright law….and to my official mind is satisfied that there is nothing unlicenseable in the piece.”

Despite the granting of a license and Stoker’s conviction that a theatrical production would be a popular hit, bringing in much-needed cash to the Lyceum’s coffers, no version was produced during his lifetime. According to the December 3rd, 1899 edition of the Kansa City Journal, however, an American backer approached Stoker with a view to putting Dracula on the stage. The paper reported that ” Since arriving in Boston, Bram Stoker, Manager of Sir Henry Irving, has received a proposition to dramatize his latest book, “Dracula.” If it is put on the stage, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will, it is said, soon become a pleasant memory.” Nothing more was reported of the project. Perhaps Stoker was unwilling to allow anyone to stage a production of Dracula when he still had hopes of persuading Irving to star in a production at the Lyceum?

On May 18th, 1997, exactly one hundred years after the staged reading at the Lyceum, Dracula or the Undead received a second performance at the Spaniards Inn in Hampstead, London, to an audience of two – an intentional homage to the original production . Built in 1885, the inn was an appropriate setting for the reading as it was mentioned in chapter fifteen of the novel. In his diary, Dr. Seward wrote of his visit to Lucy’s tomb with Van Helsing. After finding the tomb empty, they recovered a small child, one of the victims of the now un-dead Lucy, from among the tombstones. They left the child for a patrolling policeman to find at the edge of Hampstead Heath. “We heard his exclamation of astonishment, and then we went away silently. By good chance we got a cab near the ‘Spaniards,’ and drove to town.”

Stoker’s script for Dracula Or The Un-Dead was published for the first time in 1998 by Pumpkin Books. (Andi Brooks)

Thank you to J. Betterton for additional details of Thomas Arthur Jones (see comments below).

A very rare recording of Sir Henry Irving, Bram Stoker’s choice for Count Dracula, delivering a recitation from Richard III, recorded on May 9th, 1898.


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An Interview With Bram Stoker

Contemporary Reviews Of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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A collection of rare editions of Dracula