As It Happens

Why 1,369 people dressed as vampires at the ruins of an old English church

English Heritage hosted 1,369 blood-sucking fiends on Thursday outside the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a seventh-century monastery overlooking the ocean, to break the world record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires.

Whitby breaks record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires — on Dracula's anniversary

A vampire poses for a photograph as she arrives at Whitby Abbey ahead of a Guinness world record attempt. (Oly Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

The British seaside town of Whitby welcomes vampires of all stripes, says Mark Williamson.

In fact, the community hosted 1,369 blood-sucking fiends on Thursday outside the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a seventh-century monastery overlooking the ocean. 

That beats the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires, previously set at 1,039 in Doswell, Va., in 2011.

"Some have come out here because their vampire is maybe Mona the Vampire. Maybe their vampire's Blade. Maybe their vampire's Christopher Lee," Williamson, English Heritage's site manager for Whitby Abbey, told As It Happens guest host David Gra.

"But they've all been inspired, in some way, by Dracula."

A sea of capes and fangs, with the Whitby Abby ruins in the backdrop. The English Heritage site was featured in Bram Stoker's Dracula. (Oly Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

The massive vampire party was held on the 125th anniversary of the publication of Bram Stoker's famous gothic novel on May 26, 1897. 

The book, which helped establish vampires as a pop-culture phenomenon for decades, follows the eponymous Count Dracula as he terrorizes the town of Whitby, until a group of people led by Abraham Van Helsing hunts him down and kills him.

Little kids were among the 1,369 people dressed as vampires at Whitby Abby. (English Heritage)

Stoker is said to have been inspired by Whitby's eerie qualities during a visit in the 1800s.

One passage in Dracula features the vampire turning into a creature resembling a large dog and running up the 199 steps to the graveyard at St. Mary's church in the shadow of Whitby Abbey's ruins. 

"We're the one port in the north of England that faces north. And that means that the sun sets into the sea, which just adds to the atmosphere here at Whitby," Williamson said.

"It's always a little bit more spooky when the sun goes down."

A vampire dives in to take a bite from a helpless maiden at Whitby Abby's vampire gathering. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Williams says people came from all over the U.K. for the vampire party, and at least one participant came all the way from California.

"So we can truly say this is a world record," he said.

Thursday's event featured vampires both young and old, modern and classic.

Many sported black and red capes and fangs. Others stepped it up a notch, with elaborate face makeup, glowing contact lenses, and intricate homemade costumes.

English Heritage now holds the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people dressed as vampires. (English Heritage )

Williams himself sported a black morning suit from the 1840s.

"I certainly tried to play my part and I as well. But I can't say I was quite as good as some of our stars of the show," he said.

"It's been an absolutely sensational effort from everybody involved to make this happen. Least not all of our participants who've come along and joined us. They pulled out the stops with their costumes, brought the family along. They've helped make this night a record breaking night."

Asked how he would get all the vampires to leave now that the record has been broken, Willamson was unfazed.

"Well, I think they turn into bats at some point," he said. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.

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