This week I’m super-excited to take my vampire literature class to London. The trip has evolved beyond a vampire lit themed excursion to a dark history tour. During my last trip to London, I was researching for my Ripper trilogy, and I spent a lot of time not only in old graveyards and churches, but hanging out with Daleks. This time, I’m revisiting some of my favorite hotspots in London while still keeping a lookout for Daleks.
Here are Some Places We’ll See:
St. Pancras Old Church
This is one of my favorite little out-of-the-way places in London. The church has a quirky and dark history. The early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft was initially buried in the churchyard. Her daughter, Mary Godwin (future author of Frankenstein) met up with Percy Bysshe Shelley for romantic trysts near her mother’s grave before she eloped with him. Lord Byron’s physician and author of the novel, The Vampyre, John Polidori, was buried there before his body was later lost by the construction of the railway. The railway construction, during the Victorian period, cut straight through the graveyard. Railway workers pushed aside the graves without reverence, and architect (and future novelist) Thomas Hardy was put in charge of relocating graves. He clustered them around what is now known as The Hardy Tree.
My class and I are touring my one of my favorite cemeteries in the world. Hauntingly beautiful and overgrown, the Victorian cemetery is not only home to thousands of graves. One of my favorite Halloweenie-stories is about how poet and artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, buried a book of poems with his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, but then later had her body exhumed when he needed money. Although it’s not exactly clear in Dracula where the doomed vampire Lucy Westerna is buried, many film versions of Dracula—including my favorite 2006 BBC version—locate the dramatic scene of her “second death” in Highgate Cemetery.
Operating Theatre Museum
One day, we’re attending a talk at the Operating Theatre Museum. As an operating theatre in the nineteenth, century, surgeries were performed before the invention of anesthesia. (Yikes!) Many of the patients were poor, and medical students and apothecaries could observe the surgeries for learning purposes from the surrounding seats.
Jack the Ripper Tour
What trip to London would be complete without a Jack the Ripper tour? One issue we talked about in my vampire lit seminar was the many connections between Dracula and the Jack the Ripper murders ten years earlier. Specifically, we’re hoping to catch Donald Rubelow’s tour. Rumbelow is both a world-leading Jack the Ripper expert and author of The Complete Jack the Ripper.