Bram Stoker's Spot


I heard a while ago that there was a bench in Whitby, England celebrated as being the spot where Stoker was sitting as the eerie saga of Count Dracula coalesced in his mind. It was from this spot that his imagination transformed the ruined Whitby Abbey into crumbling Carfax and the shoreline below to the crash site of the Demeter transporting him and his soon-to-be bloodless crew from Transylvania to England. This bench, certainly not the same one he sat upon, is said to don a commemorative plaque identifying the literarily scared spot. Step one, get to Whitby and take in the ruins. Step two, find the point of vampiric conception. Sounds easy. You'd be surprised.

My impression was that the spot would be in close proximity to the abbey itself. But a little research - thank you Atlas Obscua - made it clear that was not the case. They had a picture of the abbey taken from the bench's vantage point, clearly across the harbor from the ruins. So Stoker had been observing it from a distance. I was dining at a local fish restaurant (Whitby has the absolute freshest seafood) and asked the waitress what she knew. To her surprise and mine she had no idea what I was talking about. She asked around the staff, all Whitby lifers, and found that this was news to everyone. Wow.

But fortunately a lot can be gleaned from a photo, thus about where to look was made fairly clear from Atlas Obscura. Shortly after dinner we found the general area, all I needed was a bench. Again, sounds easy. I stopped counting benches at 80. They are everywhere, the site serves to recognize whalers, Captain Cook and a long list of locals who had funded a bench overlooking the sea. So every one of the bazillion benches populating that overlook had a small plaque commemorating someone. Yikes. Full, a bit drunk and under dressed for a blustery February night I gave it 10 minutes before folding. Try again in the light of day.

Act 2, I got lucky and found it in 10 minutes. Should you be so driven to perform a similar pilgrimage here is what you need to know...

These benches seem to have gone up over time, there are newer looking brown ones and others slated and green. The statue of Captain Cook and the whale bone arch are easy to find, start there. Standing under the bone arch facing Whitby harbor you need to go right. The road is East Terrace, but it’s not on the road. There is a footpath closer in to the harbor that has maybe a dozen benches along its length and all the green benches look the same - except one. The very last bench along the foot path stands out, it appears to have been put in place decades earlier in observance of the 60th anniversary of Stoker's passing. The seat and backing are not made of 10 or 12 slats, instead there is one wide plank for the seat and another for backing. It is on that backing plank the commemorative plaque can be found. Take a look, have a seat and thank Bram Stoker for the ride.

Two other Whitby points, I also saw reference to the "Dracula tunnel". There is a back-alley way to get up to the benches that brings you through a short tunnel which saves you walking along the street. The inside of the tunnel is not lit and its made of stone, so it could be said that it's the slightest bit spooky. Maybe because it gets you close to the Stoker bench it was dubbed by someone to be the "Dracula tunnel", but that is just a made-up thing to get people all the more vamped up. It isn't worth going out of your way to find.

But even sillier than the Dracula tunnel, someone in Edinburgh asked if I knew that the real Dracula was buried in Whitby. Ahhh, huh? Somebody started the story that the Impaler fled Romania after falling to the Ottomans and shipped out to England, landing in Whitby. Seriously. Although I visited the abbey, sadly, the grounds were closed. I did not get to see what some seem to call his grave. It’s a stone depression that small people can lay in, in at least some versions of this ridiculous historical fabrication the depression was supposed to have been a resting spot for Vlad's remains. I guess people lay in it and get their picture taken. I read a more reasonable accounting of the character alleged to be Vlad which speculated that he was likely just some pirate. Whitby is a neat postcard place with great literary relevance and I'm glad I got to, but sorry - if you're interests are Impaler related you need to go to Romania.

Bram Stoker's Spot