Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Quote by Khalil Gibran: We are all like the bright moon, we still have our darker side.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿
Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires
Photo by Nichitean Dumitrita Veronica on Pexels.com

Close on the heels of World Goth Day comes World Dracula Day. It might be sunny springtime where you live, but this is the week to ignore the singing birds and blooming flowers, and channel your dark side (for those of you who don’t already do that year round anyway). What better way to immerse yourself in all things Dracula than by visiting the places associated with the Count?

(Note: I won’t be including any sites that focus exclusively on Vlad Dracul/Vlad the Impaler. While he has his own blood-soaked history, his connection to Stoker’s Dracula, in my opinion at least, doesn’t go much further than the name.)

Bran Castle, Transylvania

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Bran castle

The only castle in Transylvania that fits Stoker’s description, Bran Castle is widely considered to be “Dracula’s castle.” If the beautiful building and rich history aren’t enough for you, the castle regularly offers special exhibitions. Until November 2022, there’s an exhibition on the Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For general vampire entertainment there’s a “History of Dreads in Transylvania,” which includes the strigoi, among other myths and legends. If the onsite restaurant is open when you go, you can try the “Count’s Dessert” (chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, fresh fruit, and rose petal powder).

“Golden Crown” Hotel, Transylvania

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Golden Crown, Coroana de Aur, Bistrita

After Stoker published Dracula, tourists started showing up in Transylvania. From the start they were looking to stay in the same hotel that Jonathan Harker spent a night in (The Golden Crown). The hotel didn’t exist, but some enterprising soul realized it would be a great idea to build it. The Coroana de Aur (“Golden Crown” in Romanian) hotel in Bistrita doesn’t have much in common with the inn Harker stayed at, but there is a Jonathan Harker Salon at the restaurant. You can also order authentic Mămăligă (polenta) like Harker ate. No word on whether they also offer stuffed aubergines.

The Dracula Experience, Whitby

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, The Dracula Experience

Live actors and special effects tell the story of Dracula and how the town of Whitby relates to it. The “Experience” has been described as a story set in a haunted house, which is appropriate since the building it’s in is apparently centuries old and haunted. To explore the building’s ghost sightings and other paranormal activity, a Paranormal Night takes place the first Saturday of every month (no special effects here).

St. Mary’s Churchyard and Whitby Abbey, Whitby

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, St. Mary's, St. Mary's churchyard, Whitby Abbey, 199 steps

The graveyard at St. Mary’s Church is the setting and inspiration for a number of scenes in Dracula. Try to see how many of the character’s names you can find on the gravestones (Stoker borrowed a few of them). On the way to the church, you can climb the 199 steps that a black dog (Dracula in another form) was seen running up in the book.

Whitby Abbey by Mat Fascione is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

And while you’re there make sure to make the 100 metre (340 feet) trek from St. Mary’s to Whitby Abbey, another source of Stoker’s inspiration. Explore the ruins before checking out the on-site museum and shop. The Abbey hosts all kinds of Dracula-themed events (this year they’re trying to break the world record for the Largest Gathering of People Dressed Like Vampires), so check the schedule before you go.

Bram Stoker’s Grave, London

World Dracula Day: 6 Places to Visit, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Bram Stoker, Dracula, Whitby, Transylvania, Romania. vampires, Bram Stoker's grave

If you’re in London, you can go pay your respects at the final resting place of the man who brought the world Dracula. You do need to book ahead because the building is kept locked. If you can’t make it there in person, you can leave a virtual flower in his honour.

These are just a few of the Dracula-related places to visit, and I expect more will open as tourism eventually returns to normal. Do you have a favourite Dracula-themed place or event? Share in the comments…

Don’t forget to give other vampires some love too– download my books today!

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven

“The Giaour”

lines 757–768:

But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.

Lord Byron, 1812 (published in 1813)

Happy World Goth Day! To celebrate, I’m exploring the life and work of George Gordon Byron, better known as Lord Byron: poet, adventurer, freedom fighter, the original celebrity, cursed soul, granddaddy of goths, and the first modern vampire (probably not literally).

If you weren’t aware, vampires weren’t always the charismatic, sexy, human-seeming creatures we know them as these days. The vampires of times past were generally monstrous, charmless, and often more like zombies than what we now consider vampires to be (take a look at my post A Further 5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of). That all changed with Lord Byron.

When Byron was born in 1788, he had a caul over his face. There are many superstitions about cauls. Some believe being born with one is lucky and the child is destined for greatness, some believe the child will have second sight. In Romania the belief is that those born with a caul become vampires after death.

Byron’s childhood was fairly traumatic by any standards. His father was rarely around (and when he was, his presence didn’t improve anything), his mother was an alcoholic, and his governess abused him. At age 10, he inherited the title Baron Byron of Rochdale, along with the family’s ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, which incorporated the ruins of a Gothic monastery. At some point he found a human skull in the building and took to drinking from it in front of friends, who he’d then dare to do the same.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven
Portrait of Lord Byron by Théodore Géricault, 1811

As his popularity grew, Byron cultivated a “cult of personality” based on his invented romantic and heroic image. He had portraits painted of himself as different characters: Le Corsair, Scottish sailor, Egyptian bandit. He adapted his personality, his clothing, and even the way he spoke, to suit the occasion or who he was with. He presented himself as a tragic outsider with a mysterious past, a character out of his own books, and made sure never to let the persona slip.

Byron was one of the first to write about vampires in English. In his poem”The Giaour” (quoted above) he tells of a man cursed to become a vampire and destroy his own family. In notes with the poem, Byron comments on the belief in the Levant, Greece, and Hungary of the Vroucolachas (or Vardoulacha). After its publication, some expressed fear about Byron’s hypnotic, or vampiric, ability to control his admirers with his poetry.

This image Byron created of himself as the archetypal “Byronic Hero” would influence future literary characters such as Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Count Dracula, Batman, and Severus Snape, to name a few, as well as real-life celebrities and rock stars like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.

In his unfinished work “Fragment of a Novel” (also known as “A Fragment” or “The Burial: A Fragment) from 1819, Byron’s character, Augustus Darvell, brings vampires into the modern age. Darvell is wealthy, attractive, and blends easily into human society. Although Byron never completed the story, according to a letter by his doctor and ‘frenemy,’ John Polidori, Byron was planning on having Darvell’s friend bury him according to strange and ritualistic instructions, only to come back later and find Darvell alive and wreaking havoc (including seducing and killing the man’s sister).

Speaking of Polidori, Byron didn’t just write about vampires. he was portrayed as one in the works of others. Polidori’s story “The Vampyre” was strongly influenced by Byron’s ideas for the continuation of “Fragment of a Novel” (Byron was also wrongly given credit for “The Vampyre,” and Polidori struggled to correct the mistake). Besides Byron’s influences, the main character “Lord Ruthven” was an unflattering and exaggerated portrait of Byron. Ruthven is a sexual predator who is calculating and cruel. He revels in sin and degradation. Although he looks sickly and cadaver-like, he’s also compelling and hypnotic. In the end Ruthven gets away with everything, while those around him suffer.

Lady Caroline Lamb, a married woman Byron had an affair with and then ignored, got back at him through her novel, Glenarvon. Again, a barely disguised Byron is portrayed as a vampiric (and somewhat ridiculous) character, howling at the moon and dressing as a monk. He seduces and ruins every woman he meets and betrays everyone close to him. Unlike Ruthven, he gets his comeuppance when he’s confronted by the ghosts of all the women he’s destroyed, and then throws himself into the sea out of remorse. Lady Caroline is credited with describing Byron as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

Byron and Polidori transformed vampires from the grotesque undead to attractive and charming almost-humans. Bram Stoker was likely influenced by Byron when he wrote Dracula, and ever since, vampires in both print and onscreen are overwhelmingly “Byronic”: tragic, mysterious, dark, brooding, and embodying (or inducing) lust. Literary critic Tom Holland wrote in his 1999 essay “Undead Byron” that “vampires remain recognizably Lord Byron’s descendants.” He also comments, “…the modern genre of vampire fiction may be seen as perhaps the most vital and enduring of all the varied expressions of Byronism.” As violent and bloodthirsty as the modern vampire can be, fans are under their spell, as much as Byron’s fans were under his.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, skull, human skull, skull cup, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven
Lord Byron’s skull cup (Photo: devonlive)

Even in his own time, it didn’t go unnoticed that Byron had more than a few vampiric qualities. People around him complained that he was draining the life from them, and overshadowing them with his “almost supernatural magnetism.” Critics claimed he hypnotized and subjugated his followers. Byron himself felt he was cursed, pointing out that many of the people closest to him suffered misfortune, or died tragically.

Amelia Opie, a woman Byron had charmed, claimed he had “such a voice as the Devil tempted Eve with; you feared its fascination the moment you heard it.”

And like a true vampire, Byron was immune to conventional life and the rules and judgments of polite society.

He was seductive and insatiable, not unlike vampires, although his appetite was for sex, not blood. He was openly bisexual and had a particular taste for married women, but not so particular that he didn’t also sleep with admirers, servants, prostitutes, and his half-sister. It was rare that anyone turned him down.

In a letter from 1819, Byron claimed to have no interest in vampires:

“I have besides a personal dislike to ‘Vampires,’ and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to reveal their secrets.”

Reading this, I can’t help thinking that “little acquaintance” indicates that there was some acquaintance. And what secrets of theirs was he keeping, exactly? It’s not difficult to imagine that as he toured Europe and came into contact with many of the cultures that had strong vampire folklore, he might have encountered a creature that wasn’t quite human. At one point in his travels, he was claiming that “spies” were following him through Geneva and Flanders. Were they journalists looking for hot gossip to publish, or maybe something more?

In 1823 Byron went to Greece to fight for Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. He spent 4,000 pounds (equivalent today to about 477,000 USD or 382,000 GBP) of his own money to refit the Greek naval fleet. He also took command of a Greek unit of elite fighters. Unfortunately, he fell ill with a “fever” on 15 February 1824. Ironically, doctors bled him to treat the illness, which most likely led to his death.

Byron died on 19 April 1824, aged 36. Some say his heart was cut out and kept in Greece, where, to this day, he’s a national hero. In any case, his body was returned to England. He was supposed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but the Dean of Westminster refused on the grounds of Byron’s “questionable morality.” (They did add a memorial plaque to Byron in 1969.) He was instead buried in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall.

Lord Byron: The First Modern Vampire, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas, aspasiasbissas.com. Lord Byron, vampire, vampires, The Giaour, Fragment of a Novel, A Fragment, Byronic Hero, goth, goths, gothic, John Polidori, The Vampyre, Lord Ruthven, Westminster Abbey
Lord Byron memorial
This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library
Image © 2022 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

His death didn’t end the vampire rumours about Byron. Because people kept insisting that his coffin was empty, in 1938– more than a century after his death– the vicar of Hucknall agreed to open the casket. Byron was inside, naked and well-preserved, The vicar stated:

‘Reverently, very reverently, I raised the lid and before my eyes lay the embalmed body of Byron in as perfect condition as when it had been placed in the coffin … his features and hair easily recognisable from the portraits with which I was so familiar. The serene, almost happy expression on his face made a profound impression on me … I gently lowered the lid of his coffin – and as I did so, breathed a prayer for the peace of his soul.’

And so Lord Byron rests in peace…or maybe not.

What do you think? Did Byron become a vampire, or just play one on the page? Share in the comments…

Celebrate World Goth Day with some new books:

Aspasia S. Bissas books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw, book, books, free book, free books, freebies, freebie, free ebook, free ebooks, vampire, vampires, dark fantasy, dark romance, historical fiction, gothic fiction, gothic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, dark reads, indie author, indie fiction, strong female protagonist, aspasiasbissas.com

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
FREE Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer paperback, use this link to order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

🧿

Further Reading

Wikipedia: Fragment of a Novel

Was Lord Byron England’s 1st Vampire?

On the Very Scary Rise of the First Literary Vampire

Lord Byron’s Image Inspired Modern Take on Vampires

Lord Byron in Popular Culture

“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know”

Biography: Lord Byron

Lord Byron: Westminster Abbey

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