Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.
While manager for Irving and secretary and director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels, beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was part of the literary staff of the London Daily Telegraph, and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909), Jewel of the Seven Stars (1903) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, after Irving’s death, he published his life of Irving, which proved successful, and managed productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow Florence Stoker.
Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry who was a Hungarian writer and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry’s dark stories of the Carpathian mountains. Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship’s logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life.”It gave form to a universal fantasy . . . and became a part of popular culture.”
The original 541-page manuscript of Dracula, believed to have been lost, was found in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1980s. It included the typed manuscript with many corrections, and handwritten on the title page was “THE UN-DEAD.” The author’s name was shown at the bottom as Bram Stoker. Author Robert Latham notes, “the most famous horror novel ever published, its title changed at the last minute.”
Stoker’s inspirations for the story, in addition to Whitby, may have included a visit to Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, a visit to the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and the novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
The first film adaptation of Dracula was released in 1922 and was named Nosferatu. It was directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and starred Max Schreck as Count Orlock. Nosferatu was produced while Florence Stoker, Bram Stoker’s widow and literary executrix, was still alive. Represented by the attorneys of the British Incorporated Society of Authors, she eventually sued the filmmakers. Her chief legal complaint was that she had been neither asked for permission for the adaptation nor paid any royalty. The case dragged on for some years, with Mrs. Stoker demanding the destruction of the negative and all prints of the film. The suit was finally resolved in the widow’s favour in July 1925. Some copies of the film survived, however, and the film has become well known.
The first authorised film version of Dracula did not come about until almost a decade later when Universal Studios released Tod Browning’s Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. Universal went on to feature the character in a number of variants and sequels, including Dracula’s Daughter and Son of Dracula.
The next major adaptation was Hammer Film’s 1958 Dracula (aka Horror of Dracula) starring Christopher Lee as the Count. Several more Hammer Dracula films, such as Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Satanic Rites of Dracula followed. A myriad number of international movies featured Stoker’s vampire character, including cheapjack productions like Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein and spin-off oddities like Blacula and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.
In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola produced and directed a major $40 million Hollywood version that despite being titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula had only a few nuances of the novel, whilst Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead and Loving It comedy version starring Leslie Nielsen was surprisingly faithful to the original storyline. The latest name director to film a version of Stoker’s novel is Italian Dario Argento’s 2012 Dracula 3D. Stoker’s character has also featured in masses of animated TV series and movies aimed at children, such as the recent Hotel Transylvania, plus toys, games, sweets and Halloween outfits.
The Jewel of the Seven Stars has been adapted several times, most notably as Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971, Hammer Films again) and The Awakening (1980). Ken Russell directed a typically loose adaptation of The Lair of the White Worm in 1988.
Stoker’s short story The Burial of the Rats, originally published as in the 1914 collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was cited as the inspiration for a 1995 film of the same title, and yet the bizarre film features Stoker himself being seduced by topless temptresses.
Because of the Stokers’ frustrating history with Dracula’s copyright, a great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, Canadian writer Dacre Stoker, with encouragement from screenwriter Ian Holt, decided to write “a sequel that bore the Stoker name” to “reestablish creative control over” the original novel.
In 2009, Dracula: The Un-Dead was released, written by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. Both writers “based [their work] on Bram Stoker’s own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads excised from the original edition” along with their own research for the sequel.
On the 8 November 2012, Stoker was honoured with a Google Doodle on Google’s homepage commemorating his 165th Birthday.