In honor of the new spin-off series, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (2020), we took a nostalgic look back to the awesome Showtime series that started it all. RIP Original series, you were cancelled all too soon.

Penny Dreadful is a British-American horror drama television series created for Showtime and Sky by John Logan. It ran for three seasons from 2014-2016.

Penny Dreadful is an old term used during the nineteenth century to refer to cheap popular serial literature. Sort of like pulp fiction. It was also called penny blood, penny awful, or penny horrible. It means a story published in weekly parts, with the cost of one (old) penny. The main plot of these stories were typically sensational, focusing on the adventures of detectives, criminals, or supernatural entities.

This is exactly what Penny Dreadful was, and what it payed homage to. So we found some old stuff the series borrowed or was inspired by. And there is A LOT. So get your cigarette on a stick and let’s go on some vampiric monster hunt with out pals.



Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a hideous sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. 

Harry Treadaway played Victor Frankenstein, an arrogant, reclusive young doctor whose ambition and research involve transcending the barrier between life and death. In this show, Dr. Victor Frankenstein likes to quote the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley’s second wife was Mary Shelley.


Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a Gothic and philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde, first published complete in the July 1890 issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. Fearing the story was indecent, the magazine’s editor deleted roughly five hundred words before publication without Wilde’s knowledge. It is Wilde’s only novel.

In the series he was played by Reeve Carney. A charismatic man who is ageless and immortal. And this Dorian Gray had a great, but utterly confusing story line. Where his purpose in the show was to throw great balls and parties and have sex with absolutely every character.


Frankenstein’s bride

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, Victor Frankenstein is tempted by his monster’s proposal to create a female creature so that the monster can have a wife: “Shall each man,” cried he, “find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone?”

In Penny Dreadful, the bride of Frankenstein is Brona Croft (portrayed by Billie Piper), an Irish immigrant with a dark past who dies of tuberculosis at the end of Season 1. In season 2, she is brought back to life with no memory after Frankenstein’s monster demands a bride and given the new name “Lily Frankenstein” by Victor. That last scene of her speech will haunt television forever.


The creature

Often called John Clare. He was a labour poet in the mid 1800’s England. But if it is a reference to the creature is unclear. What is clear though is that the creature often is called Caliban as well, a character from Shakespear’s The tempes. Half human, half monster. In some traditions he is depicted as a wild man, or a deformed man, or a beast man, or sometimes a mix of fish and man, a dwarf or even a tortoise. Another connection from the creature to penny dreadful is Dorian Gray. In the preface of The Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde muses: “The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass. The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.”

In the series he was played with Rory Kinnear, and had long storylines without many of the characters, alone.



Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Dracula was a big influence from the start. From Mina being taken by him, the chase after Dracula and several character that appears in the series. Van Helsing included. But the series managed to make a twist of it all, and the influence of Dracula is almost as if just a eerily familiar setting and feeling of the series. He did however show up in series three in the flesh. Christian Camargo as Dracula, the brother of Lucifer who fell to Earth to feed on the blood of the living as the first vampire. In London, he takes the guise of kindly zoologist Alexander Sweet to captivate Vanessa.


John Seward

In season 3 of TV series Penny DreadfulPatti LuPone portrays Dr. Florence Seward, a female version of the character. It is originally a character from Dracula, a doctor in the insane asylum, He calls in his mentor, Abraham Van Helsing, to help him with her illness, and he helps Seward to realize that Lucy has been bitten by a vampire and is doomed to become one herself. He was in love with her and proposed to her, but was rejected. After she is officially destroyed and her soul can go to heaven, Seward is determined to destroy Dracula.


Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a gothic novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886. It is about a London legal practitioner named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll (Shazad Latif) as a former classmate of Dr. Frankenstein’s.

Varney the vampire

Abraham Van Helsing gives a copy of Varney the Vampire to Victor Frankenstein, explaining that the story is more truth than fiction and that the mysterious creature the series’ characters are pursuing is a vampire.


Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue is a 1791 novel by Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, better known as the Marquis de SadeJustine is set just before the French Revolution in France and tells the story of a young girl who goes under the name of Thérèse. Her story is recounted to Madame de Lorsagne while defending herself for her crimes, en route to punishment and death.

In Penny Dreadful she is the a homeless, brutalized young prostitute who becomes an acolyte to Lily played by Jessica Barden. In an interview with John Logan from the show, he also said the relationship between Justine and Lily was inspired by th Novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu



Larry Talbot was the main character in the movie series the Wolfman from 1941 and onward. There are sequels, reboots and several other medias tied into this franchise. He has his own interaction with all the Penny Dreadful characters from Dracula, Frankenstein and so on in his own franchise as well.

In the TV series Penny Dreadful, Ethan Chandler’s real name is revealed to be Ethan Lawrence Talbot, and he suffers from the curse of lycanthropy. This version of the character is played by Josh Hartnett.


Hecate Poole is the witch played by Sarah Greene and is Evelyn Pool’s eldest daughter. She is the witch who pursues Ethan Chandler in seasons two and three. She shares her name with the ancient Greek goddess of witchcraft and the moon. Like Ethan’s relationship with the moon and her witchcraft ability as a Nightcomer witch.

The unquiet grave

The Unquiet Grave” is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400. It is heard in the mansion of the Nightcomer witches.


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