Church where 'Dracula is buried' tells goths: It's all fiction

Fangs for nothing! Tourist trade uproar as church where ‘Dracula is buried’ tells visiting goths: It’s all fiction

  • Goths normally descend on the seaside town of Whitby twice a year for a festival
  • Dracula’s grave is wrongly thought to lie in cemetery in the North Yorkshire town
  • Churchgoers are telling those searching for a 12th Century grave that it’s fiction

Count Dracula and his terrifying exploits have helped to sustain the economy of a seaside town for decades.

So it did not go down well when the local church tried to give goths visiting Whitby the unvarnished truth about a cemetery where Dracula’s grave is wrongly thought to lie.

Those searching for the grave at the 12th-century St Mary’s Church in the North Yorkshire town have been handed leaflets saying: ‘Sorry it’s not here… in fact it’s not anywhere because Dracula is fiction.’

The goths, who arrive in force twice a year for a festival to celebrate the culture surrounding Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, are also bluntly told they are ‘standing on hallowed ground’ at a place of worship. A goth is pictured above at the grounds in July last year

The leaflet, given out by churchgoers and pinned up near the cemetery, adds: ‘So even if there are bats in our belfry, no vampire is going to come and suck your blood.’ 

The goths, who arrive in force twice a year for a festival to celebrate the culture surrounding Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, are also bluntly told they are ‘standing on hallowed ground’ at a place of worship.

Father Michael Gobbett, the priest, believes Hilda the saint and founding abbess of Whitby’s 7th-century monastery is far more significant. 

‘We are doing our best to persuade people that Dracula is just a story,’ he said.

‘There are more important things associated with Whitby such as St Hilda, and the worship that goes on in the church and what the abbey originally stood for.’

Father Michael Gobbett, the priest, believes Hilda the saint and founding abbess of Whitby’s 7th-century monastery is far more significant. ‘We are doing our best to persuade people that Dracula is just a story,’ he said

Artist John Freeman, whose official Visit Whitby guide celebrates the connection, said: ‘I do have sympathy with the church when people are posing in the cemetery and being inappropriate’. A goth is seen above in the cemetery in October last year

But the move was about as welcome as garlic bread at a vampire convention with the local businesses that play on the Stoker legacy to attract visitors – as well as English Heritage, which looks after Whitby Abbey ruins.

Stoker drew inspiration from Whitby after a stay in 1890 – Dracula is shipwrecked and comes ashore to wreak havoc in the form of a giant dog. The 199 steps up to the abbey also feature

Artist John Freeman, whose official Visit Whitby guide celebrates the connection, said: ‘I do have sympathy with the church when people are posing in the cemetery and being inappropriate. I think there could be another way round it because the leaflet is maybe a bit over the top. This year with lockdown we have desperately missed the influx of goths.’

Graham Taylor, the former rector of St Mary’s turned horror writer, who has just written a book about Stoker, said the church should be celebrating the link and putting on guided tours.

He added: ‘My first day as priest there, I had a kid come up to me and say, ‘Hey vicar. Where is Dracula buried?’ I said, ‘You’ve got more chance of finding Bugs Bunny buried up here’ and he said, ‘Don’t be silly – Bugs Bunny is not real’.

‘We cannot get away from this story as residents of Whitby. It is part of our cultural heritage.

‘If it was not for Dracula, visitors to the church would be far fewer. Sadly, it is the case, but we have to live with it.’

Mr Taylor, who said he took services for 500 goths and vampire hunters in his time as rector, believes the church should exploit the story to convey a Christian message, also a theme in Dracula, that ‘evil is defeated by the cross’.

Stoker’s great-grandnephew, the author Dacre Stoker, 62, said: ‘There have been goth weekends where people lie on top of the graves to get their pictures taken.

‘It is a little disrespectful. People are taking advantage. Some are offended by this and the vicar has a good point.’

Stoker drew inspiration from Whitby after a stay in 1890 – Dracula is shipwrecked and comes ashore to wreak havoc in the form of a giant dog. The 199 steps up to the abbey also feature.

In 2016, 1,000 people backed a petition to shut the churchyard at the next goth festival to stop ‘damage’ and ‘undesirable behaviour’.

The leaflet, given out by churchgoers and pinned up near the cemetery, adds: ‘So even if there are bats in our belfry, no vampire is going to come and suck your blood’

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