Yorkshire’s Spookiest People

by Jim Coulson


As we head towards Halloween, it is time to explore our fair lands and find the spookiest folk ever to inhabit these northern counties. Those people whose role in life was to creep us out and strike fear into the hearts of northerners through their words, actions, suggestions and more.

Author of Dracula, Bram Stoker

Although a Dubliner by birth and Londoner by choice, author Bram Stoker’s most famous character was inspired by Yorkshire. The Victorian novelist liked to travel and it was whilst on a stay in Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast that he was inspired to tell the tale of the leader of the vampires. Whilst holidaying in Whitby in 1890, Bram headed to the public library and came across the word ‘dracula’ in his reading. It literally means ‘son of the devil’ in Romanian, and that seemed fitting for the undead super villain that he had begun developing in his mind. He located his main character initially in Transylvania, the noble Count Dracula, but ensured that he would visit the town in which the idea originated, washing up on the shore and plaguing Whitby with his thirst for blood. The ruined abbey, windswept headland and abundance of black jet used in mourning jewellery set the scene perfectly for this Gothic masterpiece and ensured Whitby was the perfect inspiration and location for Stoker’s major contribution to the vampire myth. He may have only been on his jollies in Yorkshire, but it was a trip that helped birth one of the spookiest characters ever to appear in literature, television and film. Not bad, right?

The lost drummer boy of Richmond

Whilst routing around Richmond Castle at some point in the 18th century, a group of soldiers found an old tunnel. They thought that it might provide a route to Easby Abbey and so they headed down underground to investigate. No one really knows why they were interested in making the mile-long journey underground rather than in the open air, but we can guess that, it being Yorkshire, they probably wanted some respite from the rain. Before realising that it was too small and filled with rubble for grown adults to explore. Not wanting to spend time and effort digging it out if it didn’t travel in the direction they wanted it to, they hatched a plan. Get a child to walk through the dangerous passageway. They were different times. The idea was to have a drummer boy walk the tunnel, banging away, and they would walk on land, following the beat emanating from below. And it worked. For a bit. They followed the drum to Easby Woods and then it went quiet. Rather than attempting to dig out the lad, the soldiers instead assumed he’d been eaten by some kind of subterranean beast and so decided not to investigate further. Other theories were that he had discovered a huge chamber filled with the bodies of King Arthur’s soldiers and the slightly more realistic suggestion that the tunnel collapsed and killed him. But they never found out because they didn’t bother investigating. However, the little drummer boy has the last laugh now as he is said to revel in freaking out visitors to this gorgeous part of North Yorkshire by mournfully banging his drum occasionally. So, if you’re exploring the beautiful countryside in the vicinity and you hear a petrifying paradiddle, spare a thought for the lost drummer boy and the cowardly soldiers.

Craven&ValleyLife Autumn 22