York & North Yorkshire

Dracula dog Whitby walking tour app launched

Christopher Lee as Dracula and a black dog Image copyright Getty Images/Thinkstock

An app exploring the legend behind the black dog in Bram Stoker's seminal horror novel Dracula has been launched.

Developed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Stoker's visit to Whitby it takes visitors on a tour of places linked to the mythical dog, known as the Barghest.

Stoker is said to have been inspired to adapt the tale for use in the novel.

The app takes visitors on a six-mile walk along the Cleveland Trail from Kettleness to Whitby.

Image copyright North York Moors National Park Authority
Image caption The Barghest Trail app features 13 landmarks on a six-mile stretch of the Cleveland Way

The route takes in a cliff top location exorcised in the 1950s following a number of sightings and Tate Hill, in Whitby, where the wreck of a grounded ship, The Dmitry, inspired Stoker to create the shipwrecked Russian schooner The Demeter, from which Dracula jumped ashore in the guise of the black dog.

The app uses sound, images and dialogue to relate haunting stories attached to 13 locations in total.

It was created by the Bram Stoker International Film Festival with funding support from the North York Moors National Park Authority.

  • The Exorcism at Kettleness Point


    Geograph/Scott Robinson

    In the 1950s Reverend Donald Omand was called to investigate the various sightings of the Barghest in the area around Kettleness point.

    Near to this spot he saw a huge black hound materialise and start heading towards him.

    Keeping his nerve Reverend Omand uncorked his holy water and shouted: 'Be gone in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be gone to the place appointed for you, there to remain forever.'

    With this the beast disappeared and the ground was blessed and exorcised.

    However, a schoolteacher who attended the exorcism reportedly died in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s having never recovered from the experience.

  • The disused railway tunnel


    Geograph/Gordon Hatton

    The disused railway tunnel near Kettleness was built in 1871 and closed in 1958. Though not directly linked to the Barghest myth legend has it that bloodcurdling screams and howls can sometimes be heard coming from the depths of the pitch black tunnel and there are frequent sightings of ghostly figures nearby.

  • Tate Hill Pier, Whitby


    Geograph/Derek Harper

    The town of Whitby is replete with stories of the Barghest.

    The hound was regarded as an omen of doom by local fishermen who are reported to have seen a huge black dog, pacing up and down the shore during stormy weather.

    Such a vision was seen as a sure sign that death would await should they venture out to sea.

    It is here at Tate Hill Pier where Bram Stoker's Dracula, taking the form of a black dog, leapt from the wreck of the Demeter and disappeared into the town.

  • The 199 Steps, Whitby


    Visit England

    According to local legend as an elderly woman left the graveyard at the top of Whitby's 199 Steps she came face to face with a snarling black dog.

    As the hound bounded towards her she lost her footing and tumbled to the bottom of the stone stairs.

    As horrified passers-by gathered around the woman she recounted the frightful meeting with her dying breath.

  • Whitby Abbey



    Close to the ruins of Whitby Abbey lies the church of St Mary's.

    It was once believed that when a local sailor died at sea three nights later a phantom coach pulled by headless black horses would appear in the graveyard.

    Several ghostly apparitions were then to see to disembark and circle the coach before getting back inside as the coach hurtles over the clifftop.

    The Barghest myth is further linked to churchyards as early Christians believed the first person buried in a plot of land would return to watch over the area, so, in order to avoid the grisly fate, they took to burying a fierce guard dog to protect the area instead.

Image copyright Getty Images

What is the Barghest?

Diane Purkiss, professor of English Literature at Keble College, Oxford, said: "It's a term given to the apparition of a great, black, generally thought to be a supernatural, dog.

"Barghest is the name for it in the north of England and the border country. In other parts of England it is known as simply 'The Black Dog' or just 'The Dog'.

"It is believed to be the Devil but in dog form.

"It is seen as a predictor of death; if you see it you will die soon."

Variations of the Barghest myth have featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles and in J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in which Sirius Black first appears as a black dog.

The team behind the app has also devised a second walking tour based on the plot of Dracula.

Mina's Trail retraces the route taken by one of the novel's heroines Mina Harker from a guest house on the West Cliff to Whitby Abbey.

Mike McCarthy, director of the Festival said: "While the Barghest Trail is more for those who like a good walk along a beautiful part of the National Park coastline, Mina's Trail is shorter and easier and will be a family-friendly way of introducing this classic tale to a new, younger audience.

"It will enable them to take part in the haunting drama by experiencing the journey from Mina's viewpoint and encourage them to take photos to see how their experience matches up to the original Dracula plot."

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