You will need black shoes, black trousers or skirt, a white shirt, waistcoat and a black cape. Fangs on the upper teeth are compulsory, pallid skin helpful and a murderous demeanor optional.
English Heritage has announced plans to break a world record few knew needed breaking: it wants to stage the world’s largest gathering of people dressed as a vampire.
The setting will be Whitby Abbey, the dramatically atmospheric 13th century gothic abbey that helped inspire Bram Stoker to write the classic novel which this year is 125 years old.
Mark Williamson, site manager for the Abbey, said every generation had their own Dracula or vampire, whether it was Christopher Lee in the 1950s and 60s Hammer horror films, Wesley Snipes as Blade or Robert Pattinson as the sensitive blood-sucker in Twilight.
“Everyone has their own vampire and people come every year to Whitby and the abbey in their thousands,” he said. “It feels like a spiritual home to Dracula.”
It was in Whitby that Stoker soaked up the atmosphere that would be a key part of the novel’s success including the dramatic abbey ruins, the innocent tourists, the beautiful harbor and salty tales from gnarled local folk.
A trip to the town’s public library led to Stoker coming across a book published in 1820 by William Wilkinson, An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia: With Various Political Observations Relating to Them. In there was a story of a 15th-century prince called Vlad Tepes, said to impale his enemies on wooden stakes. He was known as Dracula.
Whitby is attempting to surpass a record set at an amusement park in Doswell, Virginia, on September 30, 2011, when 1,039 vampire impersonators gathered as part of a Halloween event.
It has been a surprisingly tricky record to surpass. A 2019 attempt outside a church in Dublin failed, as did one in 2013 in West Sussex.
Organizers of the West Sussex bid blamed too many vampires wearing non-regulation shoes. “The criteria is really, really tight, so we fell short,” one said.
English Heritage obviously need to get 1,040 certified vampires to the record attempt on 26 May but Williamson said he hoped to get 1,897, marking the year Dracula was first published.
“That’s the dream of dreams and I think we can do it.”
There are criteria for what counts as looking like a vampire and adjudicators will be there to judge whether each person makes the cut.
For some, the cape will be the stumbling block. Who on earth has a cape? “I’ve got two,” said Williamson. “I happen to live with a costume historian so I got one from the 1840s. I’ve got to, haven’t I? I’ve got to do it right. ”