Dracula’s Whitby by Ian Thompson
Sharpen your fangs and prepare to bite into this this new book focussing on the Whitby that Bram Stoker would have been more than familiar with. In this new book by author Ian Thompson, and published by Amberley Press, we are invited along on an exploration of old Whitby town and discover for ourselves the places and locations that Stoker, and indeed his Dracula, frequented.
There have been so many books written on Dracula over the years, as an iconic figure he has appeared in over 215 films and I hadn’t realised that since its publication in 1897 Dracula has never been out of print. Fans of the vampire have a very strong image who Dracula is and as Ian points out, this includes the bustling seaside town of Whitby. Ian Thompson has had a lifelong interest in horror films and scary stories, and Dracula is a story that has fascinated him. Whitby holds a particular place in Ian’s heart, as the home town of his mother, he regularly visited there and each trip became a pilgrimage taking in the sights and locations that featured within the story. Ian mentions in his introduction, ‘I visit Whitby at least once a year. The mystique of the ultimate vampire legend still holds me in its grip like other story can. Indeed I have not yet read a vampire story that comes close to the Dracula.’
So, onto the book itself, Ian starts by taking us through the history of Whitby and how Bram Stoker came to use the town within his book, he then cleverly recreates scenes from Dracula within his book, and gives the reader an opportunity to actually follow in the characters footsteps. For instance, we are invited to follow Mina on 11 August 1893, It is past one o’clock in the morning and Mina is looking for her friend Lucy Westenra who is sleepwalking.’We trace our path from Tate Hill Pier and must catch up with Mina as she frantically runs up the 199 steps. As we reach the Duke of York pub, to our left you will see the foot of the 199 steps – The time and distance seemed endless, and my knees trembled and my breath came laboured as I toiled up the endless steps to the Abbey. I must have gone fast, and yet it seemed to me as if my feet were weighted with lead…When I got almost to the top I could see the seat and the white figure… There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, ‘Lucy! Lucy!’ and something raised its head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes.’
Reading the book in this way it acts a great tourist guide, and a perfect way to discover parts of the town that perhaps get overlooked on the normal tourist paths.
In searching for Dracula’s grave Ian is able to include more about the other unusual attractions within Whitby, including within the graveyard of St Mary’s is the supposed last resting places of Tom Thumb and Humpty Dumpty! Many visitors suppose the graves with the skull & crossbones carved in the side are that of pirates, however they are more likely to be the graves of Master Freemasons who often used the skull and crossbones to symbolise the Skull of Sidon.
Ian also includes in the book a chapter on Whitby’s other ghosts and legends, quite appropriately as they all add to the mystery and atmosphere in the town. Bram Stoker talked extensively to locals and listened to their tales so he might well have heard some of these for himself. Of course a book on Dracula wouldn’t be complete without a look at Vlad Tepes, later known as Vlad the Impaler, an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II
Finally Ian concludes with a look at Vampires in popular fiction and a closer look at the background of Bram Stoker and what drew him to use Whitby as a location, and also how this town gave him the inspiration for the name Dracula.
My wife is from North Yorkshire and visited Whitby regularly when she was younger with her family, one evening in October she climbed the steps up to St Mary’s with her friend, it was getting dark and when they reached the top a group of ‘Vampires’ jumped out at them from behind the graves, needless to say Alison and her friend ran hell for leather down the steps again, being chased by a couple of the dressed up vampires desperate to apologise for scaring them!
I’m sure that this book will not only be welcomed by fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but also by tourists, visitors and hopefully residents of Whitby who want to explore the literary history and connection to the town. I have to say I’m very impressed with this book, it’s a great source of reference and also very enjoyable to sit and read. I’ll be using it on my next trip to Whitby and following in Bram Stoker’s footsteps for myself.
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (12 Jun 2012)
Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.2 x 1 cm