Whitby Abbey, an essential guide to its hauntings

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Whitby Abbey is famed for its role in Dracula, but the Yorkshire ruin is also haunted with ghosts and apparitions, says RICK HALE

Whitby Abbey
Abbey Lane, Whitby YO22 4JT

Overlooking the North Sea on the windswept east cliff in Whitby, North Yorkshire is Whitby Abbey.

This 7th-century Christian monastery, a Grade I listed building is a legendary monastery that has sat in silent ruin for centuries.

The impressive example of early ecclesiastical architecture is safeguarded by the English Heritage.

And apart from being home to 3 terrifying spectres, dating back to Saxon times, the eerie setting of the ruined abbey inspired Bram Stoker to pen his immortal novel of horror, Dracula.

Whitby Abbey

History Of Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey was founded in 657 CE by the Anglo-Saxon Monarch, King Oswiu of Northumbria.

When the Abbey was completed, Oswiu appointed Lady Hilda as the first Abbess.

Several miracles have been attributed to Lady Hilda, including her banishing a plague of serpents from Whitby using a magic whip.

Due to these miracles, Hilda was canonised by the church and elevated to sainthood.

Two centuries later in 867, the abbey was plundered and destroyed by Vikings.

And following the Norman conquest, was rebuilt by Reinfrid, a soldier in service to William the Conqueror.

Trouble has followed Whitby Abbey down through the centuries eventually ending in 1540.

During the dissolution of the monasteries, the abbey was raided and destroyed by the forces of King Henry VIII. Since then the abbey has remained in ruins.

Perhaps due to its isolated location, and the adversity it has known throughout its history, Whitby has gained the reputation of being haunted.

Hauntings Of Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey has become a popular tourist attraction in North Yorkshire. For those who have an interest in history and architecture. But a history of hauntings as well.

The ghosts of Whitby Abbey carefully watch the living with curious dead eyes and manifest when the living least expect it.

Haunted Whitby Abbey

The First Abbess

Considering its long history of hauntings, it’s only fitting that Hilda, the first Abbess haunts the building.

On dark nights, when the wind blows in from the sea, Hilda appears in the highest window on the north side of the Abbey.

She only manifests for a few moments forlornly gazing out of the window and vanishes.

The Walled Up Nun

Hilda isn’t the only former Bride Of Christ that haunts the ruins of the Abbey.

According to legend, Constance De Beverley, a young nun broke her vow of celibacy when she carried on a secret affair with a young knight.

When her indiscretion was revealed, Constance was walled up alive in the Abbey by her sisters in Christ.

Visitors to the Abbey have reported the eerie screams of a woman in agony being carried on the breeze.

Others have reported witnessing the fleeting image of a young woman running through the Abbey.

It’s believed the phantom of Constance De Beverley is attempting to flee her captors before judgement was carried out.

The Guardian Of The Lost Treasure

Ever since the abbey was closed there have been rumours of a vast treasure buried somewhere on the grounds.

A rumour that has brought many treasure hunters to the abbey’s front door.

One of those treasure hunters learned the hard way that the treasure has a guardian.

A number of years ago, a local minister and his daughter went to the ruin late one night with a shovel in hand and avarice in their hearts.

While digging, the daughter felt a tap on her shoulder. Believing it was her father she turned to look and a horrifying sight met her eyes.

Whitby is a wonderful place for a haunted holiday
Whitby is a wonderful place for a haunted holiday

She let out a bloodcurdling shriek of fear and fainted dead away.

When her father discovered her, she was just coming to and a crazed look filled her eyes.

When she regained her senses, she told her father that she saw a towering, headless apparition commanding her to leave or die.

Since that night, all searches for the treasure has all but ceased. And understandably so, no one wants to anger the treasure’s eldritch guardian.

Whitby Abbey is open to the public and is a popular destination for locals as well as international tourists.

English Heritage attempts to downplay the stories of hauntings at the Abbey.

But to no avail. The stories of the spirits have become an integral part of the folklore of North Yorkshire.


  1. The nun walled up to die is a common trope but is about as grounded in reality as the blood libel. It’s probably based on the late medieval practice of anchorites having themselves walled into their cells, a window left open for food, conversation and religious observances.


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