Gazette readers will have seen recently how research has shown that it is possible that some of the inspiration for the Dracula novel came from a village in Scotland.
A member of the heritage group in Port Erroll, now Cruden Bay, claimed that fresh research shows that Bram Stoker was partly inspired by the village and wrote the first few chapters of Dracula there.
In light of the new research, this week we’re taking a look back at Whitby’s role in the book and how it contributed to the iconic work and one of the best-known horror stories ever written.
Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Clontarf, Ireland. He stayed in Whitby between 1890 and 1896 and it is believed he heard about the wrecking of the Russian ship Dmitri in a storm.
In the book this becomes the Demeter and is shipwrecked on Tate Hill beach allowing Dracula to reach land.
It is also thought that Stoker learnt the name Dracula from Whitby library after reading about a 15th Century Romanian prince called Vlad Dracula – otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler.
The town features strongly in Stoker’s book.
When Dracula, in the form of a dog, leaps from the Demeter he heads up towards St Mary’s Church while Mina Harker’s diary of 24 July is written while she is on holiday in Whitby. She describes the beauty of the ruins of Whitby Abbey and the churchyard of St Mary’s where she finds her friend Lucy in her nightdress with a dark figure looming over her.
There is also a mention of the abbey being haunted a “white lady” which could be a reference to the legend that the abbey is haunted by the ghost of St Hilda. And in her diary Mina cuts out a newspaper article about the storm which wrecks the Demeter in which villages like Runswick Bay and Kettleness are mentioned.
Dracula was eventually published in 1897 and a blue plaque marks the house Stoker stayed in.
Dracula has long had his fans and the novel is even to thank for the boost to the town given by the goth festivals.
Earlier this year, the great grand nephew of Bram, Dacre Stoker, visited Whitby to reveal some of the less-known links between the novel and town.
He told the Gazette how he experienced the same feeling Bram would have felt when he first visited. “I have to say it sounds corny but the first time I went to Whitby, it was dark, cold and misty, we went to the Duke of York pub and I immediately got the feeling that Bram would have got, with the slick cobble stone streets and the mist rolling in from the sea,” he said.
“The town is just the perfect setting for a gothic story, but by the daytime it’s beautiful and friendly. It’s deceptive at nighttime and feels like something will jump out around every corner.”
He added: “Bram came to Whitby to relax, when he wasn’t burdened by pressure. My research shows he got creative around water – he was inspired by that.”
Mike Shepherd from Cruden Bay in Scotland also claims that Whitby played a big role in the development of the novel, along with Cruden Bay, saying: “My research for a new book about Bram Stoker in Cruden Bay makes it clear that there is very little of the village in Dracula.
“The reason is clear, most of the novel was planned before Bram Stoker first visited this part of Scotland in 1893.
“Nevertheless, it appears that much of the book was written in Cruden Bay in 1895 and 1896.
“Something appears to have happened in the village to get the writing process going, some five years after he first thought about his vampire project.
“Bram Stoker was a part-time writer and used his regular monthly holidays to write his books. He returned to the Aberdeenshire fishing village at least 13 times.
“In my opinion, both Whitby and Cruden Bay can consider themselves very proud to have been associated with Bram Stoker’s famous book.”