I was pleasantly surprised on June 20, 2016 when the Canadian channel, Global, aired the latest episode of Houdini & Doyle titled “Strigoi.”
In case you haven’t watched it, the series takes place in the late 1800s in London. Famed writer Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephan Mangan) and magician Harry Houdini (Michael Weston) pair up with a young female detective at the New Scotland Yard, Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), to solve paranormal related cases that the Metropolitan Police can’t solve.
This episode introduced Bram Stoker (Paul Ritter) as a long-time friend of Doyle’s. Stoker turned up at Doyle’s house in a flustered state, claiming vampire hunters were trying to kill him, but offed his maid instead.
Stoker and Doyle speculated that crazed fans were responsible, not vampire hunters, since Stoker’s book, Dracula, would be released the following week. While they spoke about the incident, Doyle picked up a photograph on his desk, which confirmed their friendship as he recalled the date it was taken.
That left me wondering: were Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930) and Bram Stoker (1847–1912) friends in real life or was the show just mincing in little tidbits of history that worked with their plot line?
My first stop was Google and hit the jackpot with The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia:
Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 november 1847 – 20 april 1912) was an Irish writer wellknown for his novel Dracula. He was a friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was at his marriage on 18 September 1907. In that same year he conducted and wrote an interview with Conan Doyle: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Tells of His Career and Work, His Sentiments Towards America, and His Approaching Marriage.
I managed to track down a copy of Stoker’s interview with Doyle, via bramstoker.org. The interview was first published in The World (New York) (July 28, 1907).
Excerpts from the interview were published in at least twenty other publications before the whole interview was reprinted by The Daily Chronicle (London) (February 14, 1908).
The Conan Doyle Encyclopedia went a step further and connected the two men not only as friends, but colleagues as well:
When Bram Stoker managed The Lyceum Theatre in London, he produced the Conan Doyle play A Story of Waterloo (based on the story A Straggler of ’15). Conan Doyle wrote in his autobiography: « I had written a short story called “A Straggler of ’15,” which had seemed to me to be a moving picture of an old soldier and his ways. My own eyes were moist as I wrote it and that is the surest way to moisten those of others. I now turned this into a one-act play, and, greatly daring, I sent it to Henry Irving, of whose genius I had been a fervent admirer ever since those Edinburgh days when I had paid my sixpence for the gallery night after night to see him in “Hamlet” and “The Lyons Mail.” To my great delight I had a pleasing note from Bram Stoker, the great man’s secretary, offering me £100 for the copyright. »
Stoker was a Sherlock Holmes fan, he thought he could use it as a model in a first version of Dracula, as a specialist of psychic research named Singleton, with a policeman named Cotford and a watson-like history teacher named Max Windshoeffel.
Stoker and Conan Doyle both collaborated with other writers on the serial novel: The Fate of Fenella, in 1892.
The site that hosted these interviews even features copies of correspondence between the Stoker and Doyle. Notice one letter has Doyle praising Stoker’s Dracula. Looks like Doyle was a fan of vampires and not just detective work.
- The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia: “Bram Stoker,” The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia, last modified Feb. 6, 2016 at 02:16, accessed August 8, 2016, https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Bram_Stoker. archive.is link: http://archive.is/8nF10.
- I managed to track down a copy of Stoker’s interview with Doyle: [Paul S. McAlduff], “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” Bram Stoker, n.d., accessed August 8, 2016, http://www.bramstoker.org/nonfic/doyle.html. archive.is link: http://archive.is/6qdV0.
- “When Bram Stoker managed The Lyceum Theatre in London”: “Bram Stoker,” The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.
You can download copies of Stoker’s original interviews with Doyle in 1907 here and 1908 here.
“Houdini & Doyle,” the TV show which inspired this article, will not be renewed for a second series. Its final episode screened on July 4, 2016 (May 12, 2016 in the UK).