Whitby is an English town situated on the Yorkshire Coast. To the south lie the coastal villages and resorts of Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington. The nearest city is York. From the old town of Whitby, 199 steps lead up to the parish church of St. Mary, whose churchyard on Whitby’s East Cliff gave Bram Stoker the inspiration to write his world famous book, Dracula.
Stoker found the inspiration for a large part of his most famous work, Dracula (first published 1897), after a trip to Whitby in 1890. While the Eastern European sections of this gothic horror novel were said to have been based upon tales of blood lust and the living dead regaled to him by the Hungarian adventurer and Orientalist Arminius Vambery, it was the realities of the harsh beauty of Whitby that found its way into the author’s heart and became the setting for so many pivotal scenes. It is believed that Stoker spent his time in Whitby staying at the Royal Hotel situated on the town’s West Cliffs. From here the author would have had a prime view down into the town, the harbour and across to the cobbled streets of the older East side, defined by the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey and the dark silhouette of St. Mary’s church which sits brooding atop the winding 199 steps which rise up the cliffs from the streets below. It is easy to see how this vista would have inspired a darkly creative mind. One needs only to experience this view on a day when the mist clings to the town as it rolls off the sea to appreciate the macabre affect this can have on the imagination.
Whitby is the scene for a good section of the novel with the arrival of Count Dracula to England’s shores aboard the Russian ship, the Demeter, which runs aground on the shores of Tate Hill beach in the town’s harbour during a fierce storm. All of the crew are missing, presumed dead, with the exception of the captain’s body which has been lashed to the ship’s helm. When the captain’s log is recovered it recounts tales of the strange events which led to the gradual disappearance of the entire crew and of a malevolent presence aboard the ship. As the ship runs aground an animal resembling a large wolf or dog is seen leaping ashore from its deck. The ill-fated ship’s only cargo is described as silver sand and boxes of mould or earth from Transylvania.
lthough Whitby’s gothic connection was established most strongly by Bram Stoker, the town has also inspired many other authors who have shared Stoker’s’ supernatural fascination. The town also hosts an annual goth weekend and visitors can take part in ghost walks and the Dracula Experience.