As a child and visiting Whitby my parents were always telling me horror stories of Dracula
and how he was buried in St Mary’s church, and it’s a story that was passed down to them from their parents. I had a deep fascination with anything macabre (and still do) so wondering around St Mary’s cemetery was a treat, I’d always try and search for Dracula’s apparent grave, I always believed it was the big tomb that sat close to the church.
But as I got older I discovered Bram Stoker’s Dracula and realised that all of those stories were just folklore that had stemmed from this brilliant novel, and probably just tales my parents taught me in an effort to have me behave “If you don’t stop messing about Dracula will come and get you!” and so forth.
When Bram Stoker visited Whitby it was very much different; Whitby was brimming with industries; the whaling industry, Whitby Jet, and fishing were all booming – making Whitby a rich town that the middle-class would often frequent.
Stoker was incredibly impressed by St Mary’s church, which won’t have changed much since he visited, though the tombstones will have been easier to read. Stoker threw himself into Whitby’s folklore and used it for much of the inspiration behind Dracula, such as the Barguest; as Count Dracula first arrives in England disguised as a large black dog.
Stoker would make many notes as he travelled around Whitby, his favourite place to sit and make plans for his book was in the churchyard on East Cliff, looking out to sea. It was where he made a lot of the observations that would form Mina Murray’s view of Whitby, this is also where Mina’s friend Lucy was attacked by Dracula. The famous wrecking of the Russian ship Dmitry even made it into the 1847 novel, the wreck impressed Stoker so much that he named the ship Dracula entered Whitby in after it (sort of).
From the whalebones in Whitby you can stand and almost see the whole tale of Dracula set out in front of you, as Bram Stoker’s imagination bounced off each of the sights he saw. Whitby was made famous by Dracula, though it’s a shame that Whitby isn’t ever mentioned in Dracula films (and there has been a lot of them!). Still, Whitby will forever be remembered as the town that influenced one of the greatest horror stories of all time.