Gothic Mysteries of Whitby

Historical Facts

Where: Whitby, Yorkshire, Northeast England
When: Ruined since the 16th century
History: Destroyed by Henry VIII’s purges and the inspiration for Dracula and countless other gothic imitations
Go there for: A spooky halloween

The history and myths surrounding Whitby, on the northeast coast of Yorkshire, is eerier than the casual visitor to this picturesque little town would dare to imagine.

What’s the history here?

The ruined gothic Whitby Abbey towers over the town. It was founded by an abbotess called St Hilda but ever since Henry VIII ran amok through the country’s monasteries and stripped them of their wealth, it has remained in ruins. The ruins were the inspiration behind one of the greatest gothic horrow novels ever written, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, who actually wrote the book while staying in Whitby.

– In the eighteenth century the fortunes of the tiny fishing community were transformed in the great whaling boom that swept through the north of England.

 Captain Cook, the explorer who became a national hero when he discovered Australia, began his seafaring career in Whitby where he was an apprentice. All four of the ships for his expedition were built here.

– One of England’s first textile factories was in Whitby, at the time of the industrial revolution. Labourers used to pay their landlords with urine, as the toxins were used to hold the dyes together in the fabric. The expression ‘taking the piss’ originated from taking buckets of pee down to the factory.

What’s there to see and do?

 Look out over the town from the top of St Mary’s Church

There’s 199 steps to the top but the exertion is well worth it for the panoramic views of the town.

– Take a Dracula Tour

See the place where Stoker wrote his best-seller, learn how the own inspired him and hear the strange stories of vampire happenings ever since.

– Hang out with the horror fans

Whitby is the place to spend Halloween. The streets are overrun with pasty faced goths in costume, on their way to the Vampire’s Ball. Lurid goings on in the churchyard, reputed to be the final resting place of Count Dracula have been curtailed but a special service for the Goths takes place in the church.


Whitby Live
An on-line introduction to Whitby

Whitby Dracula Society
Guide to the ghoulish events in town throughout the year.

By Jess Halliday