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The Whitby Goth Weekend cloaks this Yorkshire seaside town in darkest black for Halloween, says Laura Chubb

 Goth-spotting: like train-spotting, but infinitely more entertaining. For this spectator sport, you are not required to jot down the passing models’ numbers; rather, the trick 
is to spot the subgroups. Steampunks are the ones that look like time-travelling cyborg-cowboys. Victorian goths are more traditional top hat and long billowy coat types, while cyber goths eschew the all-black rule and weave day-glo into their dreadlocks.

The best place for goth-spotting? Undoubtedly the upcoming Whitby Goth Weekend, which strikes me as a pretty unbeatable setting for a Halloween holiday. While the peaceful Yorkshire seaside town might not seem the most obvious site for a goth festival, Whitby’s creepy credentials go way back – it’s the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The novelist is said to have come up with the Count’s story after a visit in 1890, and was possibly inspired by the imposing spectre of St Hilda’s Abbey, the dark outline of which still dominates the town from the headland today.

Of course goth-spotting isn’t all Whitby Goth Weekend offers. Though it largely started out as a music festival – and bands playing the likes of emo and industrial dance still take the stage – comedy shows and fringe events now draw both goth and non-goth visitors. It’s seen more as a mass celebration of diversity nowadays, where anything goes and everyone is accepted. Fancy dress is a huge part of it; you’re as likely to see an Ewok climbing the town’s famed 199 steps to St Hilda’s as a pale-faced teenager with a tragic haircut.

An accidental 'goth mecca'

Jo Hampshire, the woman who styled Whitby as a “mecca for goths”, tells me that she did so by mistake.

Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, Jo says there weren’t many fellow goths around the small industrial town where she grew up in the Nineties. After putting an advert in NME to find some black-clad buddies, she got 120 replies, and organised a meet-up in Whitby, which she chose for the Dracula connection. Word got out and 200 people turned up.

“The locals wondered what was going on,” she laughs. But that day grew into a twice-yearly festival, which has only got bigger since. “The town has taken us into their hearts,” Jo adds. “Locals love talking to the goths. You see pensioners getting their photos taken with them all the time!”

About 7000 people are expected to flood Whitby’s maze of cobbled alleyways for the latest feast of fancy dress. Far from bringing a cloud of doom and gloom to the Yorkshire coast, the goths create a carnival atmosphere, and it is just as welcoming to those dressed in jeans and a T-shirt as those promenading around town in capes. As if to prove the good-natured feel of proceedings, this year’s fringe includes a football match that pits goths against a team of piss-taking local journalists. 

Fear over fun

But if this all sounds like too much fun and not enough fear, Whitby does a decent line in horror for Halloween, too. While The Dracula Experience is more likely to elicit giggles than screams (animations, dubious special effects and live actors guide tourists through the Dracula story in Whitby), the outfit also runs ‘paranormal nights’ where you can take part in all-night séances with mediums at a haunted property, 9 Marine Parade. The Dracula Experience promises no special effects and reckons that “sightings of a ghost of 
a young girl with ringlets in her hair are not uncommon”.

Greedy for more gore? Whitby’s Bram Stoker Horror Film Festival screens four days of frightening films over Halloween. The schedule looks to be a mixture of sick stuff and kitschy classics. The UK premiere of Hard To Do – which comes with the tagline ‘breaking up is hard 
to do… especially if your boyfriend is holding 
an electric drill to your forehead’ – I imagine it can be filed under 
the former.

Whatever it is that you 
decide to do this Halloween, chances are you won’t go wrong if you do it in Whitby.

The next Whitby Goth Weekend is on November 4-6. 
See whitbygothweekend.co.uk Whitby’s grisly Bram Stoker Horror Film Festival is on October 28-31. See bramstokerfilmfestival.com More on The Dracula Experience at draculaexperience.co.uk

Getting there

Trains from London King’s Cross to Whitby take approximately five hours and can cost as little as £12.30 for advanced bookings (nationalrail.co.uk).

Where to eat

Whitby’s most famous spot for fish and chips, The Magpie Cafe in Pier Road sources fresh food from the fish market opposite. Expect to queue! (magpiecafe.co.uk)

The Board Inn in Church Street offers traditional pub grub with great views over the harbour. Classics include breaded scampi and fish pie. (theboardinnwhitby.co.uk

Where to drink

The Black Horse Inn in 
Church Street is one of Whitby’s oldest pubs. There’s an impressively wide selection of local ales and ciders to choose from. (the-black-horse.com)

Beez Bar in Wellington Street hosts open mic nights with music, poetry, and comedy acts taking the stage. 

Where to sleep

One of the cheaper town centre options, Prospect Villa Guest House on Prospect Hill is a cosy B&B serving up a monstrous full English. Single rooms from £40pn. (prospectvillahotel.co.uk)

Situated in an elegant Victorian terraced house, Seacrest Guesthouse on Crescent Avenue is only a short walk from the seafront, harbour and town centre. Two of the rooms have sea views. Ensuite doubles from £67pppn. (seacrest.org.uk)




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Whitby Goth Weekend: UK Trip
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