Bram Stoker Festival 2013
Commissioned piece from the Inspired by Stoker event which took place on Sunday 27th in the Smock Alley Theatre.
First day doing research at Glasnevin Cemetery Museum. Only here for a few weeks so it should be grand. It was actually mad craic. Spent the day running around getting introduced to about fifty staff from all the different departments. Can’t remember any of their names. It’s a big mad glass building - brand new so there’s a nice buzz about it. They built it to generate income for the upkeep of all the graves and monuments. There’s millions of them. Apparently literally everything you walk on in the cemetery is a mass grave – all the random bits of grass and even the car parks. I asked how they managed to build the museum there without disturbing a load of crypts but everyone just got a bit vague when I mentioned it. Strange.
They let me go on one of the tours and oh my god the creepy stories. The whole place is surrounded by a high thick wall with old watchtowers built when bodysnatching became a big problem. They even had a little wooden watch tower that they’d wheel around the place at night. The security guards used to have a load of Cuban bloodhounds too but they had to get rid of them after the half savaged the Dublin city coroner one night be accident.
Apparently the wives of the bodysnatchers used to attend funerals and they’d sprinkle loads of glitter on the fresh grave when no one was lookin. Then the lads would sneak in at night, see the sparkly earth all lit up with their lanterns, dig a hole at the top of the grave and drag out the body with a hook. They’d make a fortune selling them for medical research. And the site where Parnell is buried was originally a cholera pit. They threw all the bodies in together to reduce the spread of the disease but then there was a huge outbreak of cholera down the road in Drumcondra. It turns out the juice from the bodies was seeping into the local water supply so they had to develop a drainage system. Must remember not to drink the tap water in the canteen.
There were some shockin tales about people being buried alive. Years ago if you died of TB or something mad contagious the doctors wouldn’t want to come too near you in case they caught it. So you might just be in a coma and lookin fairly pale but they’d declare you dead. One woman woke up in a crypt screaming because a grave robber was trying to cut her finger off to get her wedding ring. The tour finished at just outside the museum at Michael Collins’ grave.
My head was full of mad thoughts after all this and towards the end of the day showed me where I’d be working. It was a nice small office overlooking the graveyard. I was given keys, shown the big mad alarm system and because it’s a part time job bridge thing I’m allowed to come and go as I please. By the time I left it was dark and I got the feeling someone was watchin me. I looked behind me and there was tall pale figure a long way down one of the paths leaning against a headstone. He seemed to disappear into the darkness. An overwhelming sense of horror came over me then but it was probably just first day nerves.
Going well so far but some weird stuff has been happening. I’ve mainly been digitizing the cemetery archives which give an amazin insight into life in Dublin over the last 150 years. Every entry shows what people died from, their age, their occupation, their marital status, who paid for the grave etc – so they’re almost as valuable as the census. All of this is linked to a genealogy archive too. All the records have been handwritten into gigantic books over the centuries and these are all kept in the basement.
I ran out of books today so one of the girls, Lucy, took me down there in the lift. It was one big long corridor with loads of doors off it. The corridor had loads of fire doors in it too so it meant that as you opened one door the last one would slam behind you. Lucy had seemed fairly chilled when I met her the day before but she seemed distracted now, dragging me through the place half running and every few seconds she’d keep looking around all wide eyed. The whole thing was terrifying. The archive room was half way down on the left. She flung the door open and kind of yelled ‘well there they are I’m sure you’ll figure it all out’ – I barely got to glance inside before she was wrenching me back out again and trying to lock the door in a kind of mild hysteria.
While she was dropping the keys and cursing I noticed a door with a giant X on it – at the very end of the corridor – an old stone door which seemed to be stained with red paint on the handle. Bit weird lookin. I went to go closer to it but Lucy had already swung me around and was pulling me sprinting towards the lift. When we got back upstairs she seems to calm down a bit but when I asked her what the craic with the door was. She just stared and said, ‘it’s just a store room.’ Then she came closer and nervously whispered - ‘never go down there after dark.’ Then she gave me a really serious horrified look, started trembling again and then collapsed right onto the floor. I found a manager and got her some sweet tea. I figured she might have just been a big hungover. Strange end to the day. Sometime see the pale face guy wanderin around the graves in the evening. He kinda looks cute.
This will sound a bit crazy but every time I leave work now there’s been a big mad dog waiting outside the door and he follows me to the bus stop. One night it was waiting for me when I got off my stop at home. I don’t mind dogs like but there’s something a bit creepy about it. Haven’t seen Lucy for days. Today just after it got dark I heard a big thump against the window. There was a bat smashin itself against the window like it had gone nuts. It kept circling around then throwin itself at the glass and made a big crack in the outside bit. Thank god for the double glazing. Eventually it got so annoying I decided to leave early.
Everything was fine until yesterday. I came in later than usual and got so absorbed in what I was doin that I lost all track of time – it was half seven when I checked my watch and everyone seemed to be gone home. I’d had a big mad coffee and I wanted to keep working so despite everything I decided to wander down to the basement myself to get some more books. It took ages to find all the right keys and I looked briefly at the strange door before going into the archive room. I put all the creepy thoughts out of my head and went in to have my first proper look around the archive room. There were tons of books, big mad dusty ones weighing down the shelves on every wall and stretching up to the pipes running along the ceiling. They all seemed to be in order so it was just a case of dragging them back upstairs with me. I came across some old maps too and decided to have a look and see if the museum site had always been empty – it actually had – and I felt bad for doubting it then – but there was a weird symbol in one of the basement rooms – like a skull and cross bones – I went to look closer at the map and that’s when all the lights went out. And my heart nearly stopped then because I could hear someone calling my name in a really horrible way, singin my name over and over again and then laughing– right outside the door. I must have passed out for a while cos next thing I knew I was on the ground and the lights were all on. I decided the best thing to do was run screamin through the building with my arms in the air. It was real embarassin. I need to stop drinkin so much coffee.
Nothing at all to report. Everthing’s been grand the last while. There seems to less and less staff by the day which is a bit weird. Will almost be sad to leave. No sign of hot pale lad for a while.
Not even sure where to begin. Bumped smack into hot pale lad after work– he must have been standing right behind me as I was lockin up but I didn’t notice his reflection in the door. And oh my GOD he was good looking. I asked him if he worked here and he stared at me all intense for what seemed like aaages and then finally said – yes. I asked if he was one of the security guards and he paused again before saying yes. I asked his name and he looked at the grave next to him then said his name was Michael Collins. He seemed a bit weird but I didn’t mind cos I was kind of lost in his eyes at this point. He sounded a bit eastern European – I love that. Ragin that I hadn’t talked to him before now.
I asked him if he was walking to the bus stop and nodded, his eyes kind of burning into mine. I thought, wow. We walked along in silence for a while, the moon was out and it was mad romantic. We were coming up to the Gravediggers pub at the entrance gate – a proper cosy old man pub where they seem to serve only Guinness and it’s full of auld fellas with caps and small jack russells. And they serve really amazing tapas now too. I was feeling reckless with it being my last day and I’d probably never see him again so blushing like mad I asked he fancied a pint. He just smiled and nodded again – gorgeous teeth. I couldn’t believe my luck. Best last day ever.
He was bein a bit awkward – he didn’t want to sit beside any mirrors – I figured maybe he had some sort of body image issue – but he insisted on sitting in one of the snugs where no one could see us. Then when I ordered a load of garlicy tapas he actually hissed at me. Definitely had an eating disorder. He didn’t talk much- you often find that with good looking types so I didn’t mind chattin away. He was from Romania and he’d said he’d been here a long time. I pointed at this big long mad nails and asked if he played the banjo but he didn’t seem to know what I meant. I noticed a load of hair on his palms but I thought it best to say nothin. He relaxed after a while and got more chatty - we ended up drinkin so late I think we ended up in a lock in. The Guinness didn’t seem to affect him though – at all – but he kept starin at my scarf more and more. People must have started to leave because every time I came back from the bathroom there was one less person the pub. Eventually there was just one poor old lad slumped over beside his pint clutching a pair of rosary beads. The poor divil.
Eventually I took the scarf off and he actually startin lickin his lips which I found flattering but a bit weird like. I think he was about to lean in for the kill then– he put his hairy hands around my throat and started nuzzling my neck in a kind of frantic way like he was trying to give me a hickey and I have no time for that. Also I started to feel mad sick the closer he got to me – there was an awful whack of death of him and on closer inspection he looked way older than I first thought. I noticed the clock then and it was six in the morning. Oh my God. Why does this always happen with lock-ins. I yawned then and started playfully pushing him away sayin I was tired and had to head home. He sat very still and calm then but kept his hands on my throat, his mad banjo nails digging into me and I knew what he was after. I smiled then and told him to close his eyes. I leaned closer to him and kissed him so softly on the mouth that he didn’t even notice me pulling up the blinds. And he was gone with scream and loud pop. Took me days to get the dust out of my hair. Bleedin vampires.
Kerrie O' Brien