You might have heard that Whitby is home to plenty of ghouls and ghosts but it is also rumoured to house a few legendary beasts too!
Real or just stories? whether you're a believer or not, here is a list of five legendary beasts you may find on your travels around Whitby.
The Hob of Hob Hole
‘Hob’ is a generic term given to goblins, boggles, or brownies. It is said that the word ‘hob’ is another name for the Devil which leads one to believe that they are malevolent spirits, they’re usually more of a pesky nuisance than anything untoward.
One Hob that differs from old fairy tales and folklore is the Hob of Hob Hole. The Hob was not a nasty spirit rather a helpful healing one.
Just outside of Runswick Bay is the hole where the Hob is said to live. Many years ago the villagers believed that the Hob could cure children of whooping cough, whilst the fishermen were too frightened of the awful stench and look of the Hob, mothers, fearing for their children’s lives, would do just about anything to make their children better, which included going to see the Hob for a miracle cure. They called upon the Hob to use his healing powers to make the poorly children better, and he always did so.
Nobody knows what became of ‘The Hob of Hob Hole'. To this day locals still claim to see him around Runswick Bay, although modern medicine ensures mothers no longer have to visit him to cure their child's whooping cough!
The Barguest of Whitby
Pronounced ‘bar ghost’ the barguest is a famous beast that lurks among the North York Moors. In many different countries and religions, the hell hound makes an appearance. There are many legends regarding the infamous Barguest of Whitby.
The name Barguest is simply just a Yorkshire term for the Devil’s dog. It is believed that if you hear the hound’s howl death is imminent, at a time where most men were off to sea, the sound meant dread for the wives of seamen.
They are described as large, black dogs with red eyes as big as saucers. Back in 1951, in Kettleness, there was apparently documented proof of the Barguest.
Whilst excavating a Roman signalling station archaeologists uncovered something that they could not believe, it was the skeletal remains of a man and a large dog, they were curled together, but judging by their positions they had obviously died whilst fighting each other.
The Barguest is usually never sighted up close, usually, he just passes by or stares menacingly before howling and signalling that you or a loved one will soon pass.
Jeanie of Biggersdale
Jeanie is a monovalent spirit in the form of a fairy, she lives in Hob’s Cave which is nestled into Mulgrave Woods. It is said that she is very ill-tempered especially to those who come to disturb her. She likes to be left alone and live in solitude, those who disturb her will be cursed or killed.
One lucky farmer managed to escape her though, the farmer was drunk and full of adrenaline when he was talked into going into Mulgrave Woods and disturbing Jeanie. He went on horseback and when he was at Hob’s Cave he began calling Jeanie out, demanding she reveals herself, which annoyed Jeanie so much that she went out to confront the farmer. The farmer, petrified, jumped on his horse and began riding away, but Jeanie wasn’t far behind as she chased him through the woods. The farmer had one chance to escape, to jump over a river which he knew Jeanie could not travel through, he escaped but not before Jeanie cast a spell which cut his horse in half.
On a road well-referred to as the Devil’s Elbow stands the legendary Saltersgate Inn, which was once visited by the Devil himself on a stormy night. The Devil, wanting to escape the storm, changed into the form of a man and strode into the Saltersgate Inn. On a normal evening he would have passed as a human with no bother, but this particular night a priest was drinking in the bar and he immediately recognised that there was evil lurking among the people inside.
The priest identified the beast and began attempting to exorcise the evil Devil, but this did not work. When the landlord saw what was happening he decided to intervene with brute force and set the Devil on fire. Some say it was the reason why the fire burnt continuously for 200 years, legend had it that if the fire went out, the Devil would return to Whitby.
Since Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released, Whitby has become a legendary town where some people believe Dracula still resides. Most people who come to Whitby believe he is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard.
As a child, I was constantly threatened with Dracula when being out and about in Whitby and misbehaving. My brother and I would constantly look for Dracula in any cemeteries. My dad used to always spook us when we were at St Mary’s Church by telling us that when the church bells stroked it was a warning to the town to let them know Dracula was coming. Dracula may not live in Whitby, but his legend will always live amongst the seaside town.
Let us know if you know of any more in the comments!
Want to hear more Whitby folklore tales?
Whitby and the North York Moors are well known for mystery, spooky stories and local folklore tales. The following books are a great place to learn more about these fascinating folklore tales.