Whitby’s Haunted Past & Present

Whether you are looking for a spooky evening of ghost hunting, or you want to experience the Goth culture, Whitby has plenty to offer any tourist who dares to stay the night.

The small town of Whitby in Yorkshire was the setting for the famous Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and its cobbled streets and quaint cottages have helped it to become one of the most well known gothic towns in the world. Whitby was once a successful whaling and fishing town, and still earns most of its income from fishing and tourism. While Whitby seems a quiet fishing town by day, at night it has become known for its many ghostly apparitions.

Whitby offers several ghost walks that will take tourists along a harrowing journey of the most haunted places in Whitby’s history.

The Whitby Abbey ruins are a reminder to all of the power of the medieval church. The Abbey was built in 657 AD and founded by St. Hilda, whose ghost is rumoured to roam the Abbey, where she peeks from one of the highest windows. This ghost also gained fame with her mention in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but she is not alone in her ghostly haunting. She is joined by Constance de Beverley, who was a nun who broke her vows of chastisty. When this was brought to light, she was bricked up alive inside the Abbey walls, and her ghost is still heard today pleading for her release.

There are more of Whitby’s ghosts found in one of the two lighthouses on its coast. One lighthouse is said to be visited by a one-armed ghost of a man who fell to his death onto the rocks under the lighthouse. This entity does much more than simply try to scare visitors to the location, he attempts to trip them so they can join him in his death.

Whitby is also home to the Barguest Hound, which is said to be a glowing eyed hound of hell. This hound is said to roam the streets, and only those who are going to die soon are able to hear it deathly growl.

There are several hotels that are said to be home to many ghostly visitors, the oldest being a Tudor mansion built in 1516.  The Bagdale Hall is said to be haunted by its former owner Browne Bushell, who was executed for his acts of piracy. The ghost of Browne is said to roam the halls and stairways, and has also been blamed for several reports of poltergeist activity within the Hall.

The streets of Whitby are also home to many ghostly apparitions that are said to meander through the streets after dark. One of the ghostly wanderers is the Barguest Coach, which is pulled to the graves of sailors in St. Mary’s Churchyard by a team of headless horses. The passengers are the skeletons of sailors who make the trip on the third day after the funeral to pay their respects and gather the corpses of the fallen sailors so they can join them.

Whitby’s haunted locations and its role in Dracula have made it a prime location for the goth crowd. Whitby is home to the Whitby Goth Weekend, which is a twice per year gathering of those who consider themselves to be goths. This bi-yearly festival was began by a Jo Hampshire in 1994, and has grown to accommodate all of the alternative lifestyle followers, including Goths, Punks, Emos, and Steampunks from all over the world. The festival weekend consists of drinking, music, dancing, and shopping, and has become one of the most popular goth events in the world.

5 thoughts on “Whitby’s Haunted Past & Present”

  1. Hi I just wanted to tell you about my ghostly encounter which happened in Whitby in roughly 1982 I was about 18. We had a flat as a holiday home on Flowergate it belonged to my great uncle John Shepherdson who had a jewellers shop there.
    I was there with a friend and it was around 11pm at night we were walking down the hill on Flowergate and I looked across the road and saw a middle aged man wearing dated clothes roughly from the 1800s…he was carrying a small suitcase and was walking in the opposite direction. I remember thinking at the time he looks odd….and he saw me….I didn’t say anything to my friend and we carried on walking.
    Across the bridge …we were on our way to the Abbey steps on the cobbled streets I looked back and through the bustle I saw him again and he appeared to be following us….I still didn’t say anything and on we went…up the 199 steps and to the Abbey…we had to climb the wall over the then glass on the top of the wall and into the floodlit Abbey grounds. We mooched about taking in our surreal surroundings …I then heard the clock strike not sure if it was midnight or 1 am and then out from behind one of the Abbey walls he appeared again in the Abbey grounds with us complete with suitcase…I saw him and he saw me ..then the floodlights went out. We freaked! And ran out the back way through the cow paddocks and home the long way …with much explaining to do to my friend….it was years later that she suggested he was most likely a ghost…I had never thought of that but I have never forgotten that night and my kids have retold the story many times for story writing at school. I thought now 40 years later has anyone else heard of any other sightings of this gentleman in Whitby?

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  2. On holiday in Whitby 2017, we stayed in a large 3 storey house. My 12 year old son was to stay in the loft bedroom which was huge. When we were all getting changed on the first night to go out, my son came down, white as a sheet and shaking, he said that he saw a dark child size shape walk past him in the reflection in the mirror.
    That night he would not sleep on his own, I went up to sleep in the loft, but he was terrified, even when I put the mattresses together, so we ended up sleeping downstairs.
    Throughout the holiday, we very often got the feeling of being watched in the house.
    We actually found out that the house used to be part of a children’s hospital.

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  3. Between the ages 0f 3 – 18 I grew up in Whitby, 1977 – 1991. One late Winter evening (1989) a group of us (8 in total) they were Paul U., Paul D., Paul B., Ryan G., Ian W., 2 girls & myself, all aged around 15.
    We went to go & ‘mess about’ up in St Mary’s church graveyard. It was night time, but still fairly early, about 7pm on a mild, dry evening, we began the climb up the 199 steps.
    About halfway up we encountered what I now believe was an omen of the nights events & a more experienced soul may have recognised at the time, that it was in fact a warning. There was a large white cat sat in the middle of the steps, me being a cat lover immediately approached to stroke him, but he gave a hiss & struck out, just catching my hand, but not enough to draw blood, either way I knew not to push it & left it alone as we walked passed continuing up to the graveyard.
    We decided to play a sort of hide n seek game, splitting into 2 groups, one went & hid while the other group did the searching. The idea was, there was a safe area or base for the hiders to try & get to, whilst evading being physically ‘tagged’ or by simply being spotted by a searcher who then runs back to ‘base’ first & calls them out. The designated ‘base’, was the main door to the church, I remember some steps & a porch at the entrance, which faces South, on the northern side is the main expanse of the graveyard.
    On this occasion, myself & Paul U. had joined forces to search for the final member of the other group, Paul D, still in hiding. We were on the north side of the church, we began the search walking north, I stepped over a gravestone which had a raised peak running the length, which caught my foot as I stepped & fell over. I believe this to be the triggering moment, as I stood back up was when I first sighted the dark shape, that I presumed was Paul D., crouched in hiding. The dark mass was about 250ft away from us, near the boundary wall, directly north of the church & on the far left, about 10ft from the cliff, where there’s a path which continues passed the wall. I let my friend Paul U. know that I could see ‘him’, so we casually walked in that direction, careful not to alert our hidden friend that we had him spotted.
    As we approached, we were talking to each other, again still keeping our eyes from looking directly at our mate, we got to within ‘striking distance’, approx 5-6ft away before finally setting eyes on the spot. As we did so this dark shape ‘animated’ into something like the shape of ‘Death’ or the ‘Grim Reaper’, minus the scythe. Standing about 7ft tall (my fear could have exaggerated it’s size), completely black, absence of any light, this thing was made of pure ‘void’, it was not of this world, it took me no more than 1 second to figure all this out & I was outta there, Paul U, not far behind, we ran down the path back towards the church, around on the south side where all our friends were, including Paul D.
    We quickly explained what we had just seen, given our obvious state they were convinced enough to investigate, we moved ourselves due west from the church in order to be able to look north along the cliff path, our tall dark stranger was indeed still there, but had more than halved the distance from when myself & Paul U. first saw it. All 8 of us could see it, at this point about 150ft from us.
    Our immediate reaction was ‘flight’, we ran down the 199 steps & halfway down the cobbled part of church street, at the Market Square before we caught our breath. My mum learned later, after telling this story to a guy who guides tourists around looking for a spooky experience, that this apparition is a regular sighting up on that East Cliff & supposedly it’s a ‘Graveyard Guardian’ – the first person interred there, as the lore goes.

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  4. Stayed at the Dolphin Hotel a few years ago, woke up about 3, sure I saw a lady sat at the dressing table, looked again and she was gone. Anyone else seen anything.

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