The Ghosts of Haunted Whitby

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey | Source

About Whitby

Whitby is an old port on the North Yorkshire coast that is nestled among towering cliffs and where the River Esk meets the sea. It is an ancient town of winding cobbled streets, old red-roofed cottages, hotels and shops. These days it derives most of its income from fishing and tourism, but in the past whaling was one of its major industries.

The Whitby Whaling Company was founded in 1753 and the massive jaw bones of a whale stand on the West Cliffs as a reminder of the times when the town had a successful fleet of 55 whaling ships. Whitby is a busy town, and its population grows hugely during the summer months when the tourists arrive. However, it also boasts an altogether different type of resident; one that walks the streets and old buildings at night putting fear into the hearts of those unlucky enough to see them. For Whitby is a haunted place, and is home to many ghosts, apparitions and old folktales.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

On the crest of the East Cliff stand the dramatic ruins of Whitby Abbey, a reminder of the power and dominance once wielded by the Church in medieval times. The building of Whitby Abbey was started in 657 AD and was a religious foundation for both men and women. It was destroyed by the Vikings in 870 AD and then rebuilt after the Norman Conquest in 1067. The Abbey was founded by St Hilda, who regarded climbing the 199 steps that lead up to the building as a test of faith.

St Hilda is also believed to have rid the local area of snakes by chasing them to the edge of the cliffs and striking off their heads with a whip. Not surprisingly, in view of Whitby Abbey’s great age, there are several ghosts that are associated with the ruins. It has been said that St Hilda’s ghost, wrapped in her shroud, still roams the Abbey that she founded. Her ghost has been seen frequently in one of the Abbey’s highest windows, and the story of the apparition even made it into Bram Stoker’s famous novel Dracula.

Another ghostly denizen of Whitby Abbey is the pitiful wraith of Constance de Beverley. She was a young nun at the Abbey, but fell in love with a handsome young knight and broke her vows of chastity. Her transgression was discovered and she was cruelly bricked up alive in a wall of the dungeons, where she screamed for days until she eventually died. Her ghost has been seen by many people on the stairs leading up from the dungeon, still screaming and pleading to be freed from her prison of a tomb.


Haunted Lighthouses and Old Hotels

Whitby is also home to two lighthouses that were built in 1833. The tallest of the lighthouses stands on the West Pier and is now open for tourists to climb the steep, winding stairs. Unfortunately, the stairs of the lighthouse are supposedly haunted by a one-armed ghost. This phantom is the ghost of a Whitby man who is said to have fallen from the nearby cliffs to his death on the rocks below. He grins at unwary visitors and attempts to trip them on the steps, trying to get them to join him in death by falling just as he did.

The oldest building in the town is Bagdale Hall which was built in 1516. This old Tudor mansion is now a hotel, but as well as the usual amenities offered by a hotel the guests also have the chance of experiencing a ghostly encounter in its corridors. A former owner of Bagdale Hall was called Browne Bushell, who was apparently a dastardly character who ended up being executed for piracy. His ghost has been seen on the stairs of the hotel and been heard by many of the hotel guests. Bagdale Hall is also said to have been a centre of poltergeist activity in its time.

Whitby Harbour

Whitby Harbour
Whitby Harbour

The Barguest Hound and the Barguest Coach

Whitby also is haunted by a spectral hound called the barguest. The barguest was a hound of hell, with fiery, glowing eyes, that prowled the streets of after dark. Any poor soul that heard the fearsome howls of the barguest would have been instantly stricken with terror, as only those who were soon to die could hear the unearthly calls of the hell hound. Whitby’s streets are also walked by other ghosts. At the Fitzsteps a ghost is seen wandering the path between Prospect Hill and Ruswarp, with his severed head neatly tucked under his arm. There is also an elemental spirit like a goblin called hob that is said to roam the back lanes of nighttime Whitby.

In Whitby sailors who had the misfortune to die on dry land and are buried in the earth rather than at sea, find that their graves are visited on the third night after their funerals by the ghostly Barguest Coach. The Barquest coach is pulled by headless horses and its passengers are a group of skeletal sailors who come to pay their respects to their fellow deceased seafarer. The ghostly coach travels through St Mary’s Churchyard and takes three turns around the grave which summons the corpse from the grave to join the phantom crew. The coach and its ghostly crew then drive off to be swallowed up in the darkness of the night.

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey | Source

Hand of Glory - Whitby Museum

One of the most grisly exhibits in Whitby Museum, and one of the most popular, is a ‘Hand of Glory’. A ‘Hand of Glory’ is a severed hand that was reputedly cut from the arm of an executed criminal while the body was still hanging from the gibbet. A ‘Hand of Glory’ was used by burglars as a light as it was believed that the ‘Hand of Glory’ would prevent the inhabitants of a house being burgled from waking up.

The preparation of the ‘Hand of Glory’ involved getting rid of all the blood from the hand, then embalming it in a shroud and immersing it in a mixture of saltpetre, salt and pepper for a fortnight. The ghastly hand was then dried out in the sun. The light was created by making a candle from the fat from the corpse of a man who had been hanged, wax and sesame from Lapland, which was then placed between the fingers of the hand and lit when the burglar broke into a house.

Bram Stoker and Dracula

Ironically, Whitby’s most famous supernatural association comes from between the pages of a book, rather than from the recollection of a ghostly encounter or gleaned from local folklore. Bram Stoker based part of his famous vampire novel ‘Dracula’ in Whitby. Bram Stoker spent time researching in the library to learn the history of the old harbour town and talking with the old sailor’s and hearing their yarns. He would have been told the story of the ship called Demetrius; a Russian schooner that a few years earlier had been wrecked on the rocks surrounding Whitby.

The Demetrius had been carrying a cargo of coffins and for some time afterwards, decaying corpses would be found washed up on the shore. In the famous novel, Dracula arrives in Whitby on a ship called the Demeter that was also carrying a cargo of coffins and it was in the town that Dracula turned Lucy Westenra into a vampire. The Bram Stoker Memorial Seat was erected in 1980 on the spot on the southern end of the West Cliff where Bram Stoker is believed to have received his inspiration for the part of the novel that is set in Whitby.

Whitby has a wide range of tourist accommodation, so if you want to go ghost hunting there are many hotels and guest houses to choose from. If you want to retrace the steps of Dracula around Whitby or go on a Ghost Walk, try one of the walks led by Harry Collett who very aptly wears a long black frock coat, black top hat and black sunglasses to take you on his spooky strolls. However, beware of hearing the howling of the barguest hound or of being tripped up on the steps of the West Pier lighthouse, or your holiday might be the very last break that you ever take!





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Comments 37 comments

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 24 months ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Thank you for reading the hub and I am glad it gave you information to help you with what you saw and experienced. I have never met someone who has seen this apparition, but you could try asking on the Whitby Online Forum - http://www.whitbyonline.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php...


Catherine Carreno 2 years ago

Hi hypno

I have just discovered your website. I am French and spent a few months in Leeds many many years ago. (1986). I will never forget that night on the 25th of November. I was in Whitby that evening with a friend. We were on the Abbey car park and I swear I saw the goblin or hob as it is called. It was on a kind of bike and rode down the stairs. Very few people believed me and I spent many years searching about what I saw and then today I see your article and I am under a shock !!

Do you have details ? Do you know other people who have seen it ?

Thank you so much !


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Hi Paul, thanks for reading the hub and leaving a comment. I hope your website update goes well and I will definitely be popping in to check it out. It must have been fascinating to have a historic job like that in a place like Whitby - no wonder you collected so many great stories!


Paul Fitz-George 3 years ago

Hi Hypno - Just to let you and your readers know I am updating my site www.nglishghosts.com on which happens to me my book The Whitby Ghost Book, which I wrote way back in the 80's when I was a Harbour Officer know as The Collector of Dues for Whitby Harbour, a title that went back to Georgian times and which allowed me to arrest ships!

The book is a collection of stories I picked up whilst there that may be of interest to you and your readers. I found your post on Whitby interesting and entertaining and look forward to reading more of your discussions.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

One of the things that I love about the UK is that you get so much history mixed up with spooky hauntings. Thanks for reading about haunted Whitby and leaving a kind comment, Alicia


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a fascinating hub, CMHypno! I love the combination of English history and ghost stories. I've been to Yorkshire, but not Whitby. I'll keep this town on my travel list. I'm looking forward to reading your other ghost hubs!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad that you enjoyed your trip to Whitby Ingenira. Sorry that you didn't see any of the ghosties, but you never know when or where you will see one!


Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

I have also visited whitby recently, and love the beautiful scenery there. We didn't have any paranormal experience there. Nevertheless, it is interesting to read the eerie stories behind the picturesque town. Great hub !


clarabell 5 years ago

Hi there just came back from Whitby and stayed in a flat on Crescent Place the second night i woke at 2am and heard our front door slam and heard fast footsteps down the street steps very odd as door locked third night my sister woke up screaming she'd had a nightmare and never does, on the last night my mum woke at 2am and also heard the door slam and running steps seemed really odd. We thought maybe it was a ghost of a lifeboatman running for the lifeboat and never made it back if anyone knows about this let me know thanks


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Hi Fletch, thanks for reading about the ghosts of Whitby and leaving a great comment. Why don't you sign up for a HubPages account and write a hub about your spooky Whitby experiences?


fletch 5 years ago

hi guys.

as someone that comes from whitby i can say i have my own storys from growing up in the town. and storys of my own expiriences in some of the old houses in the town. it is a very active area for the paranormal. and a great place to visit if you are interested in the paranormal.


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

Please sir I want some more.. HAHA early am humor...


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad you enjoyed the ghosts of Whitby, Mrs J B. Thanks for reading the hub and leaving a comment


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

I really enjoyed this hub. It was written with ease, right on point and very interesting.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Hope that you have a great trip to Whitby Studio RB and I hope that you meet some ghosts! Thanks for reading the Hub and for leaving a comment


Studio RB profile image

Studio RB 5 years ago

Great article. Visiting Whitby on Monday, will use this as a reference for places to visit - thanks very much :)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Will look forward to an update on your Whitby ghost, Lisa. I hope that your mother has recovered from her experience and that you get a nice, spook-free cottage next time that you go away


Lisa 5 years ago

Thanks CMHypno, i think i will contact the owners for any clues! My mum kept it to herself because she was knew i would have left and didn't want it to spoil the weekend. I really do believe her because she never believed in the paranormal, and she told me that she was left shaken and felt sick by it. When i look back, she was very quiet and acting strange. Also, one afternoon, before the 'experience', she had a lay down on the sofa while we had a walk around whitby and she was startled by an apple falling off the kitchen work surface and into the lounge! Bu that could happen i suppose but you never know eh! If i find anything out, i will post it on here!Regards :)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Wow Lisa what an amazing ghost story. I am surprised that your Mum managed to keep quiet about it until you all got home. You could try contacting Whitby Museum or a local historical society to see if they have any information on the cottage you were staying in, or maybe ask the owners if any other visitors have had similar experiences. Another option is to call in a local medium, but this probably isn't practical as you were only visiting. Good luck with your search!


Lisa 5 years ago

Hello, Thought i would post my ghostly story for you, even though i still get goosebumps when i think about it! I took my family to Whitby for a long weekend back in 2007. We stayed at The Paddock Cottage. Now i never saw anything ghostly but my mother told me her story AFTER we got home, because she knew i would have been heading home! She slept up in the attic which was basically a bed at the top of the attic stairs and my children stayed in the attic bedroom. She was trying to get to sleep when she saw a dark figure of a man walking up the stairs! She hid under the blanket pretty scared, then she had this overwelming morbid, sad feeling and her body felt heavy. At this point, she couldn't stand it anymore, she dived out of bed and ran into the girls bedroom and stayed in with them! Can i say, my mum wasn't a believer of ghosts up until then but this encounter freaked her out and she didn't tell me until we got home as she knew i would freak out! Would love to know who this spirit was, any ideas how i could find out? Lisa


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Hi Mike, glad that you enjoyed reading about the ghosts of Whitby. I'm not sure when the last recorded sighting of the ghost of St Hilda was, but sightings have been quite frequent, especially in the 19th century when Bram Stoker heard about them.


Mike Adamson 6 years ago

Hi CMHypno, this is a marvelous page! I used to visit Whitby as a small child before my family came to Australia, and I've been back a couple of times recently -- I'll be there again in November. Do you know when the last recorded sighting of the apparition of St Hilda was? Are we talking a long time ago or is she still glimpsed from time to time? I'm most interested in the paranormal of Whitby!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad that you enjoyed reading about the ghosts of Whitby Asp52. We are really lucky that we have such a varied and beautiful coastline in th UK, with such an interesting history


Asp52 profile image

Asp52 6 years ago from England

Great hub been an exiled yorkshireman i forget how beauiful but dark the Yorkshire coastline is- excellent hub


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hiya, that is a great idea! cheers nell


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Hi Nell, what a fascinating story! Maybe we should get together a group of Hubbers and go to Whitby with you. We could film a documentary about your story and how you know your way around the streets and see if we could dig up any historical info.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hiya, I have always wanted to visit Whitby, because I have rather a strange story about it. At least I think it is located there. Years ago, I used to have this dream of a second life in a place that resembled Whitby, night after night I was living in this place, I knew every road, and especially up to the castle. I have over the years tried to figure out where I am in my dream, and as I said, this is the nearest to it! I actually got my story about it published in a magazine years ago, and received a letter from a lady saying she had the same nighttime experiences, only hers was in Scotland! Maybe it is a genetic memory, as I didn't know my Canadian grandfather, but obviously being Canadian, he may well have come from there, before emigrating! whoo spooky! thanks nell


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad you liked the ghosts of Whitby, hypnodude, and thanks for the stumble and leaving a great comment. It won't be the last in the Paranormal Britain series.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

I love this series, and either I didn't know or I forgot about Dracula. Great hub CMHypno, rated and stumbled. Great Britain and ghosts, what a wonderful mix. :)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad you enjoyed reading about Whitby's ghosts, Hello, hello, and thanks for leaving a comment. Luckily for me, Britain has lots of ghosts, so hopefully I will be writing about them for some time to come!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for such a comprehensive lesson about Whitby.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Glad that you enjoyed reading about haunted Whitby, AEvans and thanks for leaving a great comment. I hope that you get to see Yorkshire one day.


AEvans profile image

AEvans 6 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

This capture my attention when I was hopping I enjoy reading about the History of England. I hope that one day I can visit Yorkshire. Thanks for drawing me in and what a great read! :)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

The part of Hertfordshire I live in isn't too scenic, but there is some lovely countryside not too far away. The only part of Britain that I have never been to is Northern Ireland. You live in a lovely part of the world, frogdropping, and I envy you all that sunshine!


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago

Well for sure you live in a lovely part of the UK. Been to Hertfordshire a time or two. The only place I haven't spent much time in is Scotland. Made it up there once and unfortunately ended up stuck in the back of beyond, surrounded by miles of bog. Bit like Yorkshire really ;)


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun Author

Sorry you didn't get to see any ghosts in Whitby, frogdropping, but I am glad that you enjoyed reading the Hub. As a typical Brit I tend to head to the sun for my holidays, but the UK has some beautiful places to visit, like Whitby, with lots of interesting history, beautiful countryside, great beaches and even a few ghosts!


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago

You know Hypno - I was born in Yorkshire. And spent many a happy hour in Whitby. My daughter was there recently. It's a beautiful example of 'olde worlde' Yorkshire and well worth a visit.

Whether or not it's haunted, I don't know. It certainly has an eerie feel to it when the dark draws in!

Great hub - you captured the town most beautifully.

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