Dublin is a popping place by day. It’s a place where bustling streets turn into quaint lanes lined with cafes, shops, pubs and the most delightful people I’ve ever met. It’s a place to get lost in, if not for the lack of street signs than definitely for the ambiance. But Dublin turns into something much darker by night. When Temple Bar shuts down. When the twenty-somethings turn in. When St. Stephen’s Green goes dark, and when the shadows take over the night. That is when you will experience the dark side of Dublin. It is then, and only then, when you begin to understand why Dublin inspires darkness inside us.
Standing in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin during the small hours of the night is a far different experience than by day. The moon settles a diffused glow along its spires just enough for the shadows to cascade and wrap around them. Dark nooks get darker and the lovely courtyard behind it disappears into the night. I can’t help but think,
What lurks around these corners, is there something in the shadows?”
Back to Dublin
It was my first night back to Dublin since the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This time I was coming back to explore a much darker side of this great city, starting with the iconic Gothic Vampire Novelist, Bram Stoker at the Bram Stoker Festival. A Dubliner, Bram Stoker spent many years of his life growing up, studying, writing and finding his wife in Dublin. Known for one of the most famous vampire novels of all time, Dracula, Bram Stoker found inspiration in Dublin. The more time I spent in this city, the more I began to understand why starting with the very books he read.
The 300-Year-old Haunted Marsh’s Library
Just past the medieval graveyard at St.Patrick’s Cathedral stands a Gothic stone archway and hinged door marking the path of stairs to Marsh’s Library, the first public library in Ireland. As I opened the door to its gallery I was immediately transported back three hundred years. My eyes scanned the thick and dramatic oak shelves. The spines of antique books so textured with age seemed like something from a Harry Potter Movie as if it were only possible they existed had someone imagined them. There was something about this place that made me want to stay. Perhaps this is what kept Bram Stoker, reading books of travel and death. Records of his readings are kept in a ledger where I saw the hand scrawls of the likes of Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, and James Joyce.
Most every Dublin tourist knows of the famed Long Library at Trinity College, but few know of Marsh’s Library. In comparison, Marsh’s Library is merely a closet, but don’t let this fool you, it remains unchanged since its founding in 1638. It is home to 25,000 rare and extraordinary books with permanent residence on its original oak shelves. But, Marsh’s Library has more than just books who have taken up residence in its halls.
The Ghost of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh in Marsh’s Library
Maybe it’s just me but these kinds of places inspire creativity and summon the darkest corners of my imagination. If not for the antiquity, then for the realization of walking between the very walls which Bram Stoker once walked and where he began writing his Dracula drafts. As I stood in awe at the centuries before, I was led by an audio tour of the library’s history and the story of its resident ghost; a spectral figure seen in the wee hours of the library gallery who is said to be that of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh.
The ghost of the archbishop concerns the loss of his niece whom he raised. Legend has it she fell in love and eloped. Riddled with guilt, she left a letter in one of the books explaining her reasons for running away. To this day the haunt of the archbishop lives within the centuries old walls of the library in perpetual search of the note. Was this something Bram Stoker sensed while he was drafting his Gothic novel? Perhaps it was something in death yet more physical than a specter. Something with a permanent residence in something more confined, Gothic, and macabre. Something like a crypt.
To be continued…
Do you wonder what lurks in the shadows? Follow me on my visual and written Gothic adventures through Dublin as I explore a crypt of mummies at St. Michan’s Church, an invisible graveyard at Trinity College, and a Shapeshifter’s Ball.
Thinking of Catching the 2015 Bram Stoker Festival?
Check out the Bram Stoker Festival site for up to date details on the next Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. If you’re looking for exceptional accommodations during your stay, I can highly recommend the Shelbourne, Dublin’s most famous hotel. The historic Shelbourne Hotel is a luxury 5-star property dating back nearly two hundred years and is home to a host of Dublin’s history. One of the most interesting to me is its history of Bram Stoker himself frequenting for dinner. In fact, this is where he met and befriended his lifelong peer, Henry Irving. From the moment you step inside until you rest your head, every detail about the Shelbourne Hotel is perfect and exquisite. Prices are well ranged within the standard of service and luxury amenities. To learn more about the history trail of Bram Stoker in Dublin, click here.