Whitby | The Horror, The History, The Home of Dracula

Many of you will be completely oblivious to the fact that I live not too far from Whitby (The one in the UK, not the one in Canada). A place most people know from Dracula. Cobbled streets, tiny fisherman’s cottages, and a harbour filled with boats. The pier points due north and in 1890 Bram Stoker paid the little fishing village a visit.

The ruins of Whitby Abbey and St. Mary’s Church stand on East Cliff along with a graveyard teetering on the edge and where not all the graves have occupants. The ship carrying Dracula to England runs aground beneath East Cliff with only the Captain left on board, tied to the ship’s wheel. 


A Little History

The Abbey was the founding point of the town, making the east side the oldest part of the town. The Abbey dates back to 656 AD. And on the same land, there’s evidence of a Roman lighthouse and settlement that predates the Abbey. Church Street is at the bottom of the steps, evidence of people living there has been found from as far back as 1370, with many of the current houses standing since the 15th Century. 

Imagine as you walk the cobbled streets, smugglers running from customs men, and youths from press gangs. 

Whitby Jet was made fashionable by Queen Victoria who wore it whilst mourning Prince Albert, who died of Typhoid Fever in 1861. You can find some of the most beautifully crafted Whitby Jet, in the towns jewellery stores – very difficult to resist. 

Once a port with a thriving whale trade a set of whale jaw bones, standing since 1853, greats visitors on top of West Cliff. Alongside a statue of Captain James Cook, who once lived on Grape Lane. 

Whitby has it’s fair share of ghosts

They say that if you walk up the 199 steps and stand near St. Mary’s Church late at night, with only the moon to guide you, you may hear the faint sounds of a swiftly approaching horse-drawn carriage. And if you’re brave enough to stick around, you might catch a glimpse when it comes to a stop outside the Church. 

Whitby Abbey has two ghosts, one of which could have been the inspiration for the Grey Lady mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula in Mena’s diary. The first is a lady who is said to come out during the day, appearing in a particular set of windows who some say is St. Hilda, an Abbess. The other was a nun who fell in love with a knight and turned her back on her vow of chastity. When she was found out they bricked her up alive in the walls of the Abbey. They say you can still hear her begging to be freed. 

Grape Lane is said to be haunted by a little girl whose hair caught fire in the baker’s oven when she went to warm her father’s dinner. The flames engulfed the little girl, and she died on arrival at the infirmary. They say you can smell burning hair when her flame engulfed ghost appears in front of you. 

Thinking about staying?

For a spooky stay, you might consider Bagdale Hall, an old Tudor manor house. Where spirits are said to scare guests and staff alike. And if you experience a feeling of dread and doom whilst walking the grounds you may have just encountered the pirate Brown Bushell. 


More Than Ghosts

The Barghest

One cold winters evening, I travelled in the cab of a steam engine returning from Pickering to Grosmont. The fire seamed the only light as there was no moon. And as I peered out at the North Yorkshire Moors I saw a big black shape amongst the sheep, slinking down into the shadows. Could this have been The Barghest? A dog-like beast that stalks its prey on the moors. Luckily, I didn’t hear its blood-curdling howl, or else I’d not be here today. 

Cave Dwelling Goblins

Known as Hobs, Boggles, and Boggarts, these creatures were said to dwell in the caves around Whitby. Some could be mischievous and cause damage in people’s homes. Whilst others would heal sick children brought to them. Some places have been named after the creatures, and many have inspired writers to include them in their books. 


Of course, Dracula wasn’t the only horror novel to include Whitby in its pages. The old buildings and cobbled streets fertile ground for the imagination. And if you can’t make it to Whitby in person there are plenty of stories to take you there in mind.

Dracula by Bram Stoker. A story of love, sin, and redemption and a vampires journey from Transylvania to first Whitby and then London. 

The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis. A gorgeously spooky children’s story about two children who come to live in Whitby with 92-year-old foster Mum Alice Boston. Discovering a darkness stalking the streets of Whitby, the fisher-folk who live under the cliffs, and that their foster mum and her friends may not be exactly what they seem. 

Whitby Vampyrrhic by Simon Clark is set during the winter of 1945 in wartime Briton. There’s a subterranean tunnel, a Viking curse, and vampires for the three friends to contend with as they stay in the eerie seaport hotel. 

What say you?

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