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Tony Henderson

'Vampire' couple from North East help break Dracula world record

A 'vampire' couple are still coming back down to earth after helping achieve a new world record in a clifftop Dracula Spectacular.

Faye Allison and partner John Ward, from Blackhall Mill in Gateshead, were among 1,369 enthusiasts who travelled to Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire for English Heritage’s bid create the record for the biggest number of vampires gathered in one spot. The event was to mark the day that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was first published 125 years ago in 1897.

The previous record was set on September 30 2011 when 1,039 people dressed as vampires attended an event organised by theme park Kings Dominion in Virginia in the United States.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was partly inspired by the dramatic ruins of the 11th century gothic Whitby Abbey, now in the care of English Heritage. Those who took part in the abbey gathering had to conform to a vampire dress code, including fangs.

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Bookseller Faye, 30, who is originally from Shotley Bridge in County Durham, first came across Bram Stoker’s Dracula book as a young girl on a family holiday to Whitby.

She said: “It is absolutely my all-time favourite book. I have always loved it. The Gothic side of it is fascinating. I think there was always a Gothic side to me as a child. Bram Stoker did an amazing job on what is a story about bravery, courage and facing fears.”

John Ward and Faye Allison at Whitby Abbey (Supplied picture. Free to use)

The vampire assembly began at the abbey at 6pm on Thursday and the result was declared at 8.15pm. Faye said: “The whole event was absolutely brilliant. It was so surreal and exciting that I couldn’t believe it was happening.

“It was phenomenal and I loved it. Some of the costumes were brilliant and people had put in so much effort. They were even talking in Translyvanian accents.

“The only problem was trying to drink a bottle of Venom beer through my fangs.”

Mark Williamson, English Heritage’s site manager for Whitby Abbey, said, “We are so excited to have broken the world record for the largest gathering of vampires. Everything we do at English Heritage aims to bring history to life and make it fun, so what better way to mark this element of Whitby Abbey’s fascinating past?

“Since its first publication, 125 years ago, Dracula has had a phenomenal cultural impact and we get visitors from all around the world as a result. Just like Bram Stoker, they all fall in love with its incredible atmosphere, thousand-year history and stunning sea views.”

The novel Dracula was inspired by Bram Stoker’s visit to Whitby in 1890 as he viewed the ruins of the town’s abbey, perched high on a windswept headland, and its church surrounded by swooping bats. The names of several of the count’s victims were taken from headstones found in the church, while Stoker found the name ‘Dracula’ in a book in Whitby’s public library, which mentioned a 15th century prince called Vlad Tepes who impaled his enemies on wooden stakes.

Whitby Abbey’s record breaking vampire gathering was the first in a series of events planned by English Heritage in 2022 to celebrate the 125th anniversary.

But for Faye and John, there will be another big Dracula day on October 30 – the day before Halloween. Their County Durham wedding on that day will have a vampire flavour.

Faye’s wedding dress will be similar to that which featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula, starring Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker.

Flowers for Faye’s bouquet and guests’ tables will be made from the pages of a Dracula book, and the top table will be named after Bram Stoker. Nurse Gary Hetherington and partner Tracey Brown, from Silksworth in Sunderland, were also at the abbey event.

Gary, who has Dracula costumes on display in his home, is a regular visitor to Whitby.

He said: “I’ve been interested a Dracula and vampires since I was a boy. I have been a massive fan for more than 40 years.”


* The bones that bring history to life

* How Northerners helped shape Britain

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