Three Grim Ghosts in Whitby

View of Whitby West Cliff by Helen Sant

Haunted as people are by Whitby’s quaint cobbled ginnels, dramatic cliffs and Gothic abbey, this bewitching resort has its fair share of ghostly hauntings too. Here is just a sample of Whitby ghost stories:

1. An Unfortunate Accident in the Lighthouse 

Whitby Lighthouse by Helen Sant

By day, a stroll on the West pier to climb this 25 metre high lighthouse affords a splendid view of Whitby. By night, beware! The lighthouse is haunted by the tragic ghost of the former keeper…..

One night he realised the light was faulty, so braving a terrible storm, he hurried to set things right and help save lives out at sea. Battling against gusts of wind he made it to the lighthouse and mounted the long staircase, only to slip on its rain-soaked surface.

 Bump, bump! He fell right to the bottom and broke his bones. His cold wet body was discovered next morning.

Witnesses after dark, have seen the ghost re-enact his demise, by losing his balance and tumbling a step at a time.


  2. The fearsome pirate
Bagdale Hall is the oldest building still standing in Whitby, dating back to 1516. Now a hotel, it was once home to a terrible pirate known as Browne Bushell.  

Bagdale Hall by Helen Sant

During the English Civil War, (1642–1651) Browne couldn’t decide which side to fight on. First he fought with the Parliamentarians, capturing the Royalist ship Henrietta Marie, without a shot being fired, then he switched sides to fight with the Royalists. Known for such death defying stunts as defending Scarborough Castle from attack, Bushell was eventually beheaded for piracy in 1651. The axe used to sever his head from his neck, was the very same used to execute Charles I.

Original artist’s impression of headless coachman and carriage

3. The Headless Horses and the Coach of Dead Souls

But the most terrifying tale of all in Whitby, concerns the coach of dead souls, drawn by headless horses no less, and a headless driver through Haggersgate, up the Donkey path by the 199 steps into the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, a stone ‘s throw from Whitby Abbey. From inside the coach, the skeletal spirits of dead sailors seek their ghostly comrades who were denied a burial at sea and whose bones were laid to rest in the churchyard.

The coach speeds up the steep path, its headless horses kicking wildly, the phantom driver hurling it towards the graves. The skeletons writhe ​and murmur, reaching out bony hands to welcome fellow sailor spirits. As a ghost rises from the grave to join them, the whole coach shudders and crashes along the cliff, past the Abbey and down, down with a noiseless splash into the North sea.
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