Warning: contains spoilers for The Deathly Hallows, One Piece, Game of Thrones, Torchwood, Breaking Bad, Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4) and House of Cards.
As messages to the public go, the one taped to the door of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, next door to Whitby Abbey in the UK, is polite but conveys a muffled sense of exasperation: “Please do not ask staff where Dracula’s grave is as there isn’t one. Thank you.” In August, writer Kevin Meagher posted his widely shared photo of the sign on Twitter, from where it was picked up by local and national press. What kind of idiots think Dracula has an actual grave, was the general response. Don’t these people understand what a fictional character is?
Perhaps the Dracula grave-hunters are idiots, or perhaps not. Maybe they just know about the many real-world burial sites of book, film and TV characters to which fans can come and pay their respects…
Dobby the Elf – Harry Potter
Along the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline in Wales is surfing beach Freshwater West, where the Shell Cottage scenes were filmed for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1.That’s the site Harry dug the grave of Dobby the Elf, who was killed after jumping in front of a knife Bellatrix Lestrange intended for Potter. In the film, the grave was marked by a simple stone inscribed with the words “Here lies Dobby, a free elf”. In the decade since that film was released, fan Kaiya Nazer has maintained an unofficial tribute on the site in the form of a stone bearing those very words. It’s been regularly visited, sometimes stolen but always replaced, ever since.
Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol
Scenes filmed for Clive Donner’s 1984 A Christmas Carol adaptation in St. Chad’s Church in Shrewsbury left a memento that stands to this day. Fans of the Dickens morality tale will be familiar with the moment in the story in which the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (played in the Donner film by George C. Scott) is confronted with a vision of his own grave. A headstone inscribed with Scrooge’s name was left behind in the churchyard after filming and is still visible halfway along the path, overlooking the quarry.
Walter White – Breaking Bad
Up until July 2021 when the memorial was removed, Breaking Bad fans could make a pilgrimage to Vernon’s Steakhouse, Albuquerque, New Mexico to say a few words for local boy Walter White. The headstone was originally placed in the city’s Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery following an extravagant mock funeral arranged by fans, but complaints from those with real loved ones buried at the site led to it being moved to a strip mall on the edge of town, and affixed to the wall of a fan-owned steakhouse. The stone featured an extract from Percy Bysshe Shelly’s poem ‘Ozymandias’, the title of Breaking Bad’s penultimate episode.
The idea of paying tribute to fictional characters with gravestones isn’t a new one; this monument and inscription to folkloric hero Robin Hood date back centuries. The ‘grave’ is in private woodlands in the grounds of Kirklees Priory in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, where it’s told that Robin Hood spent his last days before firing an arrow to mark the place he should be buried. It may be historically spurious, but it’s a local landmark considered real enough to have made its way onto the official Ordnance Survey Map.
Whitebeard and Portgas D. Ace – One Piece
Introduced to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka as part of its annual One Piece Premier Show – a celebration of all things Straw Hat Pirates from the huge manga series that spawned a enormous franchise – were two monumental graves. One featured the iconic white coat of Edward Newgate aka Whitebeard, the Strongest Man in the World, and the other the distinctive hat, goggles and weapon of Ace, adopted brother of Monkey D. Luffy. Unfortunately for fans, the grave tributes were seasonal, but the yearly celebration event remains.
Various – Game of Thrones
In April 2019, Australian channel Foxtel pulled off a magnificent campaign to mark the arrival of Game of Thrones’ final season. For three days, fans could pay their respects to some favourite departed characters by visiting their graves, an expert collaboration by DDB Sydney, Revolver/Will O. Rourke and The Glue Society. The 2000 square metre cemetery was located outside Foxtel’s Maquarie Park in New South Wales, and featured Stark, Baratheon and Tyrell family mausoleums, along with specially personalised graves for Tywin Lannister (embedded with a crossbow arrow) and – sob! – Hodor, whose hands are shown holding the door, and many more.
Ianto Jones – Torchwood
It’s fair to say that Torchwood fans struggled to get over the death of Ianto ‘Coffee Boy’ Jones in 2009’s Children of Earth. That grief found expression in multiple ways, from campaigns to bring the character back, to fan fiction, social media tribute accounts, and this: Ianto’s shrine on Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay. For years, devotees have visited the site and left their own messages to Jack’s lover, who was taken far too soon.
Frank Underwood – House of Cards
In late 2018, Netflix launched the sixth and final season of political thriller House of Cards with a teaser announcing the death of Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood. Spacey had been written off the show following multiple allegations of sexual assault that came to light between the making of seasons five and six. The streaming network followed up the teasers with a prop gravestone for Underwood located in Oakland Cemetery next to the grave of his father Calvin Underwood in the character’s hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina. Wonder if anybody ‘watered’ Frank’s grave like he did his father’s, eh?
Uncle Ben and Aunt May – Marvel’s Spider-Man
Okay, strictly a virtual rather than real-world location, but it’s a cool Easter Egg all the same. Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4 has a side quest in which you can visit the Harlem cemetery in which Ben and May Parker, uncle and aunt of Peter, are buried. May’s simple headstone is inscribed “When you help someone, you help everyone,” and Ben’s reads “Beloved husband and uncle.” Pay your respects to unlock the ‘With great power…’ trophy. While we’re on the subject of videogame graves, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla similarly has a side mission to discover the final resting place of Ragnar Lothbrok, which leads to some loot.
Adrian Balboa and Paul Pennino – Rocky
Featured as part of tours of Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia are the headstones of Adrian Balboa and her brother Paulie, as featured in 2006’s Rocky Balboa and revisited in 2015’s Creed. The cemetery was the filming location for Adrian’s interment in the earlier film, and the prop headstones remain and are still available to visit near the front gate.
Real people’s graves mistaken as fictional by fans
Sometimes, grave tourists are so keen to pay tribute to beloved fictional characters that they impinge on the resting places of real people who’ve passed away and appear to fit the bill, including:
- The Fraser Clan stone on the site of the bloody Culloden Battlefield is regularly visited by Outlander fans looking to pay tribute. Not everybody’s happy about that.
- In Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard, Harry Potter fans visit the gravestones JK Rowling used as inspiration for multiple character names, including McGonagall and Tom Riddle. The same apparently goes for a real-life Harry Potter who’s buried in Israel.
- There’s a Frederick W. Krueger buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Alpena County, Michigan who is mistakenly visited by fans of the Nightmare on Elm Street character.
- In Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Titanic fans come to pay their respects to a J. Dawson who died on the 15th of April 1912, the day the Titanic sank.