The shadow of Count Dracula still looms 125 years on

One historical figure undoubtedly casts a shadow larger than any other over Whitby – and he was only ever a work of fiction.

While Captain James Cook remains famous for seafaring endeavours, his reputation is overshadowed by that of Count Dracula.

He was, of course, a product of Bram Stoker’s imagination, a very real author whose experience visiting the town resulted in a novel so popular it has never been out of print.

This month it is 125 years since the novel was first published, sparking the birth of a legend that owes much to the haunting majesty of the ruined Whitby Abbey.

That structure was an inspiration to Stoker and, now in the stewardship of English Heritage, will be central to months of celebrations and events this summer.

These begin with a world record attempt on May 25, the anniversary of the book’s publication, where English Heritage will attempt to gather more ‘vampires’ together in one place than ever before, with help from the public.

Dracula at Whitby Abbey

A new outdoor exhibition has been created to help draw in visitors over the summer, featuring a rare first edition of Count Dracula as a centrepiece, to tell more of the story around both the novel and its impact on the town.

The celebration will culminate with an ambitious new light show – promised to be more impressive than previous examples – to coincide with the autumn Goth Weekend.

Since the 1990s, Whitby has become synonymous with the Goth movement, attracting large numbers to the twice-a-year weekend events and Mark Williamson, property manager at the Abbey, believes the Dracula phenomenon and the Goths act as complementary entities.

“It is really a tapestry, it feels very natural that people want to gravitate towards Whitby to do Goth,” he said. “Whitby is largely unchanged, so things which appealed to Bram Stoker are largely still there.”

While English Heritage is unable to recreate the shipwreck that brought the vampire to Whitby, the boxes of soil from his homeland, washed ashore in the story, have been recreated as part of the outdoor exhibition.

“We kick off with the outdoor exhibition and it is also the launch of the outdoor exhibition, talking about the book and its significance to Whitby,” said Mark. “Throughout the season we will have events, performances of the Dracula play and other things like trails.”