Stories Have A Power Of Their Own

The peaceful town of Whitby, the site of the great medieval Abbey of Saint Hilda, also has a dark role in literature. It is Whitby where the vampire Dracula comes ashore in Britain. Bram Stoker picked this sea-side town with it’s 199 steps from the Churchyard of Saint Mary’s Parish to the town as powerful atmosphere for his novel.

Whitby is a place of pilgrimage for Christians coming to pray at the place where Saint Hilda ruled the double-monastery but also people come drawn by the Stoker story of evil and shadow. The town has more occult shops than any place I saw in Britain and the “gothic tourists” are the ban of the existence for the clergy of Saint Mary’s who are forever having to run them out of the church-yard where they want to dig or hold seances. Natually the church-yard filled with tomb-stones tilted in various drunken angles certainly give a certain atmosphere for the imagination.

It does speak to the power of story to grab us and even to change us for the worse and perhaps for the better. If people come to Whitby because of a passage in a novel, how much more (to use a phrase of Jesus) can the soul be transformed by the story of God’s love for humanity and the sending of his Son to redeem the word. What we really need is not more doctrine but more story.

At the Top of 199 Steps


One unusual feature of Whitby is the Dracula Museum. Part of Bram Stoker’s famous novel was set in Whitby, describing Dracula’s arrival in Britain on a ship washed ashore in the harbour, and how Lucy watched from the churchyard as the sun set over the nearby headland of Kettleness, but did not know how many steps shSaint Mary's Church Yard and Whitby Abbey by nighte climbed to get there. Stoker’s story incorporated various pieces of Whitby folklore, including the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri, which became the basis of Demeter in the book. Furthermore, it was at the public library in Whitby that Stoker discovered the name “Dracula.

Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition by Robert Eighteen-Bisang & Elizabeth Miller (McFarland, 2008), p. 244-46.