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"Bram Stoker's Whitby"

Whitby"The houses of the old town...are all red-roofed, and seemed piled up one over the other..." So wrote Bram Stoker in his famous novel Dracula.

Whitby is a town of about 14,000 located on the North Sea about 50 miles northeast of York, England, on the edge of the famous North York Moors. The town, a fishing port and a vacation resort, is on a rugged coastline at the mouth of the River Esk. The river mouth as it opens into the North Sea provides an excellent harbor which divides the town into two parts (East and West) connected by a bridge. Whitby is famous as the place from which Captain Cook sailed, on ships built in the town. A monument to Cook is a prominent feature of the town.

What is the connection between Whitby and Dracula? First of all, Whitby figures quite centrally in a significant section of the novel Dracula (Chapters 6-8). It is where the Russian ship "Demeter" comes ashore and is the location of the first encounters between Dracula and Lucy. Today, there are many points of interest for the Dracula enthusiast in Whitby.

One of the highlights is the Bram Stoker Memorial seat. It was the view from this spot that inspired Stoker's Whitby scenes. One can look straight across the harbor and can see the ruins of the Abbey, the Church, and the stone steps. And just to the left is the cliff where the "Demeter" came ashore. There is an inscription on the bench which reads as follows: "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 Stoker's death - April 20th 1980".


The most prominent landmark in Whitby is the ruin of Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes. As Stoker writes, "It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits.... Between it and the town there is another church, the parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones".

It was at Whitby that Stoker "discovered" the name "Dracula." While vacationing there in the summer of 1890, just months after he began writing his vampire novel, he visited the local library and borrowed a book entitled An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820) by William Wilkinson. He took several notes from it (now part of his papers housed at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia.) Wilkinson's book includes a short section on a "voivode Dracula" who fought against the Turks. Though the information was sketchy, one item attracted Stoker's attention (he copied it verbatim into his notes): a footnote that "Dracula in the Wallachian language means Devil." Stoker decided to change the name of his vampire Count from "Wampyr" to "Dracula". An inspired decision!

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COPYRIGHT©2005 Dr. Elizabeth Miller