Halloween is coming!
Here at the Riviera Guesthouse, we are fascinated by ghosts, ghouls and other spooky happenings in Whitby.
Count Dracula is probably our most famous ghoulish character so we’ll start with this famous fictional vampire.
And sometimes, facts and fiction tend to get confused, including any Dracula related ones.
The Dracula Trail
Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, published in 1897, was born in Dublin in 1847.
Following a holiday in Whitby, Stoker researched and later wrote his iconic novel.
The book is still in print and is downloaded as an ebook and audiobook.
There have been numerous film adaptations, too.
Dracula’s connections to Whitby helped make the town a popular tourist destination
Various locations in the town are connected with the vampiric narrative.
Bram Stoker Memorial Seat
You will find this situated around the corner from our guesthouse on Spion Top.
The bench isn’t too far from the Whalebone Arch and has includes a plaque with this wording:
“The view from this spot inspired Bram Stoker (1847 – 1912) to use Whitby as the setting of part of his world-famous novel DRACULA.
This seat was erected by Scarborough Borough Council and the Dracula Society to mark the 68th Anniversary Of Stocker’s death – April 20th 1980.”
Behind this seat is East Crescent (once known as The Crescent).
In Stoker’s novel, Lucy and Mina stayed in one of the houses here.
In addition, Dracula’s lawyer, Mr S F Billington, also lived in a house on The Crescent.
Whitby During Dracula’s Visit
In Chapter Six of Dracula, Mina Murray describes our town in detail, a section of which reads:
“A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is … The houses of the old town … are all red-roofed and seem piled up one over the other anyhow … Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes … It is a most noble ruin … there is a legend that a white lady is seen from the windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness stretches out into the sea.”
Mina goes on to describe other parts of Whitby and as you read it, you get a sense that many parts of our lovely town haven’t changed much at all.
Her description of the harbour includes a mention of “one long granite wall stretching out into the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of it, in the middle of which is a lighthouse.”
Don’t forget this October, the Illuminated Whitby Abbey event takes place 21st to 31st October. Details here.
The Great Storm
Chapter Seven in the novel features a fictional news account of a violent storm to hit Whitby.
This is followed by a “rush of sea-fog” which clears to reveal “the strange schooner … with all sail set … a shudder ran through all who saw her, for lashed to the helm was a corpse, with dropping head, which swung horribly to and fro at each motion of the ship … the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour unsteered by any hand of a dead man!”
In the novel, the vessel pitches at Tate Hill Pier and the moment the ship stopped, an immense dog jumps ashore.
Of course, the ship is the Demeter, filled with the strange cargo of silver and of “great wooden boxes filled with mould.”
The Voyage of the Demeter
Chapter Seven includes the log of the Demeter, detailing a horrendous voyage.
The captain notes his cargo is invoiced as clay as he sails towards Whitby.
He has the foresight to put the ship’s log into a glass bottle, which is attached to his wrists.
If you wander along North Terrace, near the Royal Hotel, then a key moment in the novel takes place here.
Lucy goes missing, and Mina sets out to find her.
From this point, Mina sees Lucy near the Abbey with a dark form near her.
Mina rushes to the St Mary’s Churchyard, bounding up the 199 Steps, and finds Lucy with a creepy companion with a “white face and red, gleaming eyes.”
Mina’s rushed mercy mission would have taken her past The Fish Market, which you can still see today.
She also crosses the Swing Bridge (referred to as the Drawbridge in the novel).
Mina’s nocturnal run also takes here along the top of Bridge Street into Church Street, which has changed little over the years.
We can imagine Mina running past the Market Place and the Old Town Hall and close to Henrietta Street.
In the novel, this tense part of the narrative describes Lucy leaning back on her favourite seat.
Whitby Railway Station
Count Dracula, who takes the form of bat, dog and human, still needs modern transport to move about and of course Whitby has a stunning Railway Station.
You can visit the Railway Station today, which is little changed since Stoker’s time.
There is a blue plaque indicating where Stoke stayed in the 1890s at number six.
Mrs Veasey’s guesthouse as it was then known as, was used by Stoker in July 1890.
Stoker’s room was cleaned daily by its fastidious landlady, giving Stoker ample time to take lots of walks around the town.
During his stay, he would doubtless have heard about a famous shipwreck five years before.
The Dmitry from Russia, ran aground at Tate Hill Sands.
During his visits, Stoker visits Coffee House end and the public library.
Other Ghostly Tales
Barguest Coach and the Barguest Hound are two famous spooky stories.
The coach is pulled to the graves of sailors by headless horses.
Other haunted places in Whitby include Bagdale Hall, Grape Lane and the Western Lighthouse
You can find out more here.
How Whitby Celebrates Its Ghostly Connections
One of the key ways in which Whitby celebrates its many supernatural connections is with the Whitby Goth Weekend.
This is due to take place on 27th to 29th October 2023 and then 26th to 28th April 2024.
Find out more here: https://www.whitbygothweekend.co.uk/
Of course, there is the Dracula Experience, various ghost tours, and lots of Dracula related merchandise.
There’s even been a world record achieved in our town, in which we took part, inspired in part by Dracula!
If you’re a fan of the novel, or simply love the gothic feel of Whitby, book your stay with us today!