For my final instalment with a horror theme for this year, I find it quite poignant that my journey ends not only with the Bram Stoker Festival but also with an insight into another’s adventure, in search of the elusive character that many believe was the basis for Bram Stokers Count Dracula. It all stated some weeks ago after writing an article on Bram Stoker for this blog. I was contacted by a fellow Photographer/Blogger Columbia Hillen. To cut a long story short I was kindly invited to attend a lecture given by her Husband John in the Mansion House. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland John Sean Hillen is a seasoned journalist & editor with more than 30 years’ experience, working for various media organisations. During the course of his career he has covered many of the world’s hotspots, from the Troubles of Northern Ireland to the final days of the communist regime in Romania and the Gulf War. John has also been a correspondent in the fields of medicine, science and archaeology. Today John lives with his Transylvanian-born wife, Columbia in rural Gweedore, Co. Donegal, Ireland.
I normally shy away from such lectures as I find that they tend to get quite academic and uninteresting, but I have to admit, this was an exception to the rule. Set in the stunning Oak Room of the Mansion House in Dublin, Johns lecture in front of a capacity crowd as part of the Bram Stoker Festival was captivating, entertaining and informative. John’s book ‘Digging for Dracula’, was first published in 1997 to coincide with the Centenary celebrations, to commemorate the first publication of Bram Stokers Gothic masterpiece Dracula. Starting off, John offered some words of advice borrowed from the Vampire Count, “Come freely, go safely and leave some of the happiness you bring.”
The lecture included an authoritive narrative from John with some visual aids, spanning an adventure which took him across Europe and America in search of the truth behind Dracula. Without giving to much away, John explored the historical facts and literary fiction associated with the three main points of interest, Bram Stoker, Count Dracula and the Voivode of Wallachia, Vlad Tepes. And just for good measure John introduced the captive audience to some tasty titbits all with their own unique association to the Vampire theme, and which John had come across during the course of researching the book. From the mummified remains of Templar knights in Dublin, to Jeanne Youngson, a Vampire expert and proud owner of the world’s only Dracula Museum. Then there was the Stinking Rose’s, America’s most successful garlic festival, and New Orleans with a host of supernatural secrets and the Vampire Queen herself, Ann Rice.
At the end of the lecture, the floor was opened up for questions. One of which brought a smile to my face when a member of the audience asked John whether he actually believed that Vampires existed? John quickly answered with a quote that I abide by on my own adventures. “Just because something is written about doesn’t mean it’s true. But then again, just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not.” Digging for Dracula is a cleverly written piece of work, packed with fascinating information and little known revelations. I would highly recommend that anyone with an interest in the subject should read it. You can find out more about John by visiting his Website and Blog.