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.