May 18, 1897. Irish writer Bram Stoker presents ‘Dracula’ to a small audience at the Lyceum Theatre in London, a week before the eponymous novel was first published. While vampires had been around in literature since the early 19th century, Dracula went on to become the most famous vampire in the horror genre. Stoker drew inspiration for the story from his reading on eastern European superstitions. He named the character after research led him to Prince Vlad ‘The Impaler’ Dracula, a fearsome 15th century warlord in modern day Romania. The mannerisms and theatrical presence of Dracula are thought to have been inspired by famous Shakespearian actor Sir Henry Irving, a long-serving director at the Lyceum Theatre where Stoker worked.
Also on May 18: Britain declares war on France, officially starting the Seven Years’ War (1756); Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed Emperor of the French (1804); Mount St. Helens erupts in the US state of Washington (1980); Ian Curtis of Joy Division commits suicide (1980).
Born on May 18: Nikolay Romanoff, later Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (1868), Frank Capra (1897), Karol Jozef Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II (1920), Yannick Noah (1960).