Thursday, November 21, 2013

Whitby by the Sea

The year was 1893 when a Russian vessel known as the Demeter was cast ashore by the fury of a powerful storm. When the locals arrived to investigate, they found no personnel on board save one, for lashed to the helm was the corpse of of the ship's captain. The rest of the crew was presumed dead or otherwise, lost at sea. The captain's log told of a series of strange occurrences, which slowly but inexorably led to the disappearance of the entire crew during the vessel's long journey from the coast of the Black Sea. The ship's cargo was equally baffling as it consisted of boxes filled with silver sand and soil from the east. Only one large dog seemed to survive the long journey, as it was spotted jumping ashore from the wreckage. At the time, those who had arrived at the wreckage could not fathom the gravity of the situation at hand, for Count Dracula had just arrived at Whitby.

By all accounts the town of Whitby is a place that inspires the imagination, as it certainly did for Bram Stoker during his time spent there. Although I have never been there, I find that historic community compelling nevertheless. Of course, Bram Stoker was not the first writer to be inspired by Whitby. He is in fact, just a part of the town's literary history. It is believed that the very first pieces of English literature were created there by the monk and Anglo Saxon poet, Cædmon.

Whitby is a seaside community that lies at the mouth of the River Esk where it empties into the North Sea on the east coast of North Yorkshire. Streonshal, as the town was once called, dates back to around the year 656, when Oswi, the Christian King of Northumbria, founded the area's first abbey. Around the year 867 Streonshal's original abbey and monastery were destroyed during the Viking invasion but was rebuilt and reestablished in the year 1078, just 12 years after the Norman invasion. It was at this time that the settlement took on the name of Whitby.

Perhaps even more attractive to Whitby's visitors is the town's ambiance. It's a rather isolated community that to a very great extent, still resembles the Whitby that inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. An acquaintance who recently attended Whitby Goth Weekend described the community's atmosphere this way: 

"Such is the nature of transport in the UK that, even though only at the northern end of the very county in which I live (in old terms, anyway) getting there takes as long as it would to reach one of the major cities north of the border; the journey - particularly on the last leg, along the North-Eastern coast between Scarborough and Whitby - is distinguished by wild moorland and steep rises and falls. I can easily imagine that Bram Stoker, making the journey, would have found inspiration there for the scenes in "Dracula" which take place in Transylvania."

Of course, Stoker also took inspiration from a Hungarian writer he befriended named Arminius Vámbéry, who excited Stoker's imagination with dark tales from Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains. Still, there is little doubt that Whitby had a major influence on the creation of Mr. Stoker's best known novel.  

The Whitby Goth Weekend attendee continued describing the atmosphere there: 

"Once within Whitby itself the effect of the Moors journey continues to weigh heavily; the town itself has changed little since the late 19th century (a fact I discovered looking at comparative photos of Whitby then and now), and the winding, narrow streets only add to the sensation..." 

Landmarks such as the Whale Bone Arch and explorer Captain Cook's statue only add to the municipality's personality. Further, having personally seen photos of the local churchyard cemetery, I can easily conjure up in my mind's eye a vision visions of the graveyard and its surrounds late on a cloudy, gloomy afternoon/ What a wonderful setting! 

All things considered, I cannot imagine a more fitting place to hold an event such as Whitby Gothic Weekend than in this community by the North Sea. But whether you travel there for WGW or not, Whitby most certainly sounds like a most compelling place for those of us of the Gothic persuasion to visit. I don't know if I'll ever make it there myself, but I'd certainly love to do so and am already dreaming about it. 

By the way, there is a person I see from time to time that is originally from Yorkshire. He has assured me that anyone visiting Whitby simply must stop by The Magpie Cafe, which is right by the harbor. "They have the best fish and chips in all of England," he told me. Now I really, really want to go! 

The above photo, Whitby Abby at Night, appears courtesy of Minnie d'Arc. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Odds and Ends

Another Halloween has come and gone and I'm finding myself in the lull that exists between All Hallows Eve and the holidays, which I don't particularly look forward to. For the most part, I've been involved in mundane activities such as cutting into firewood a couple of large locust trees that came down in the nearby woods during the summer as well as watching the continuing episodes of Dark Shadows and the occasional horror movie at night. As expected, no trick or treaters braved the darkness to visit here on Halloween night, so I'm still enjoying the occasional leftover chocolate bar when the urge strikes me.

On Friday, November 1 we had the final Darkness Resurrected Dance Night of the year and this one was wisely chosen to serve as The 2013 Halloween Ball. Sure, we missed Halloween proper by a day because it fell on a Thursday this year, but no one was complaining that our event was held on during the nighttime hours on the Day of the Dead. Further, I'm happy to report that this event attracted the largest crowd yet. That's good news because we all appreciate DJ Durandal's efforts at organizing these events and want them to be worthwhile for him.

I didn't bring a camera that night and the photos I took with my phone didn't turn out very well. Fortunately, others did better than me and posted their pics on our Facebook page. The photo on the left should show you what an attractive crew we have at Darkness Resurrected. Pictured from left to right are Lexzy, Katrina, Vixx and DJ Axis.  

On a different note, one or two of you asked for more photos of our fall colors around the cemeteries. Truth be told, it's been a very picturesque autumn here in the Ozarks. Further, the beautiful foliage has been a bit slower than usual in disappearing. So, even though we're past our peak there are still some neat sights to behold.


I took this one yesterday, November 11. As you can see, the leaves are turning to more of a golden brown, but they're still colorful enough to make photographing them a worthwhile endeavor.

Well, that's about it for now. I hope you're all enjoying your fall as much as I am. And don't forget, there are only 352 days and 4 hours until Halloween; at least, for those of us here in the States!