On a not so dark and spooky night Ann Massey and Chris Rush took it upon themselves to enter into the mysterious world of Castle Dracula Dublin. ANN MASSEY tells us what they discovered inside.
In the leafy Dublin suburb of Clontarf stands the birthplace of one Mr. Bram Stoker and opposite that lies Castle Dracula. Now, you would be forgiven for being apprehensive that the entrance to the home of the Prince of Darkness begins at a fitness centre with limited signage as we were, but our concerns were to be unfounded.
Undeterred, we ventured into the foyer of Westwood Fitness Club and began our mission to investigate Castle Dracula. On arrival we were greeted to a pair of stately thrones and a sign that indicated we were indeed in the right place. As we were early we walked around the venue and still could not get an indication of where the ‘castle’ was situated or what was to come, leaving us with no preconceptions, just anticipation.
Slowly the foyer began to fill up with excited visitors as we waited to see what would happen and where we would be led. A slightly strange start as we were asked to make a list of several things a vampire could do that a human could not as we sat in the cafeteria. A certain Ireland Editor’s mind went completely blank much to her horror and humiliation but thankfully the day was saved by Chris who reeled a list off without breaking a sweat! The relevance of this exercise would become clear very soon indeed.
As we walked through the corridors of the centre still somewhat unsure, we finally got a peak through the doorway of Castle Dracula and a sense of nervous excitement took hold. Led into a darkly lit hall, filled with a collection of Dracula and Stoker memorabilia, eerie sounds echoed around us as we pushed back against the wall of Dracula movie posters.
From the startling entry of the first performer, it became clear the evening was to be interactive, theatrical and above all, entertaining. After leaving the hall of memorabilia and entering the castle proper, the thrills, jumps and laughter continued to escalate as we were lead one by one through what was effectively a house of fun/horror into a seated performance area for more entertainment.
All of this was just preliminary as the main event was still to come. We entered into the graveyard, a theatre area surrounded by gravestones and gargoyles with seats facing the stage. Once seated the show began and we were left in stitches by a hilarious performer who himself was covered in bandages.
A short interval with a welcome glass of red wine allowed us to explore the props around the graveyard, take photos with the performers and most importantly, inspect the wonderful and historically significant Bram Stoker and Dracula collection. Unfortunately, the interval was over all too quickly as we could have studied the keepsakes for so much longer!
A hush came over the audience as the Prince of Darkness took to the stage and the first job was to collect our lists of vampire abilities, the selection of which would dictate the events to come. What followed left us spellbound with a magical performance and audience participation including our own Chris Rush which added to the authenticity of the act.
Was Castle Dracula what we expected? Absolutely not! A very cleverly put together attraction that does not rely on cheap scares or shock tactics to draw attention to itself and uses the novel and Bram Stoker himself as the guiding influence. In much the same way as the Count himself, Castle Dracula mesmerizes with charm, enigma and enthralling entertainment.
Meet Castle Dracula Dublin creator Ronan MacGabhann
CHRIS RUSH caught up with creator Dublin’s Castle Dracula experience Ronan MacGabhann to discover more about the castle before he and Ann visited…
(Interview originally published on Spooky Isles on 12 June 2017.)
CHRIS RUSH: I suppose the first question is where did the interest stem from to take on and develop this very interesting project?
Ronan McGabhann:I am a huge history buff and love the Victorian period and writing. I visited Castle Dracula when it was open many years ago and although it was used very differently to how we use it now, it completely caught my imagination and I dreamed about the space and what it could be. I thought it was a magical place and deserved a wondrous presentation.
Can you give us an insight to the timeframe and what was involved to get Castle Dracula to the stage it is at now?
It has taken years and years to get the Castle to where it is now, we moved all the walls, put in a stage, lighting, sound and added the craziness.
Stoker is a huge influence on the horror genre and Castle Dracula seem to have done quite a substantial amount of research into not only the creator of Dracula, but indeed his family. Was this information hard to source and why?
Bram Stoker is a case of truth being more interesting and bizarre then fiction. Bram is a local writer and our aim has always been to celebrate his amazing life and his work. We have been very lucky to find lots of writing and historians who specialise in Bram and Dracula.
The Hall of Fame sounds incredibly interesting, displaying such items as photos, the original Dracula manuscript, a lock of Bram Stoker’s hair and his birth certificate and displays on the iconic actors who took on the Prince of Darkness role. Where these items hard to source and could you give us an insight on how they were obtained?
Bram Stoker’s Hall of Fame has been a life long journey of love, collecting all the incredible exhibits we have on Show. Our highlight is of course a lock of Bram Stoker’s hair cut on his deathbed by his wife Florence and handed down through the Stoker generations until it was donated to Castle Dracula.
What do you want visitors to get from the Castle Dracula experience?
Different people have very different experiences. My two dreams are one to celebrate Bram and Dracula and give our visitors a better understanding of that time in Ireland and Bram’s Life, writing and Influences. My second dream is that as each visitor enters Castle Dracula they leave their lives behind and simply allow Castle Dracula to wash over them and do something we rarely do as humans, to simply live in the moment and enjoy.
Can you gave a brief outline of what to except when visiting this tribute to an icon?
Castle Dracula is Dublin’s most Exciting, fun & unique Irish adult attractions. Millions of Euro have been spent creating this incredible Irish Castle Dracula attraction. Travel back in time & enjoy a heart-thumping visit to Castle Dracula, meeting the weird and wonderful characters from the story of Dracula and learn about Irish writer Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula and was born beside Castle Dracula in Dublin. Brave guests journey through the dark castle tunnels, over spinning bridges to Lucy’s Courtyard, up to Dracula’s Lair and down to the world’s only graveyard theatre for a show where they promise not to bite.
Castle Dracula is a really fun experience like nothing else on the planet. Don’t miss this unique Irish adult attraction!
Lucky visitors also visit the Bram Stoker Hall of Fame in Castle Dracula, where Bram’s incredible life is laid out through letters, pictures, stories, sketches, posters and even a lock of Bram Stoker’s hair, not on display anywhere else in the world, cut on his deathbed by his wife Florence and handed down the Stoker Generations, putting you right inside the mind of the man who created the world’s most famous character! This is your unique opportunity to enjoy the amazing world of Bram Stoker and Dracula in Ireland!
Any final words for anyone thinking of visiting Castle Dracula?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Ronan and we cannot wait to visit Castle Dracula in Dublin, which by the sounds of it is going to be a fantastic experience. More information can be found at: http://www.castledracula.ie/