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Vacation with a vampire by Iain Aitch

So, what do vampires do for their summer holidays? This may not be the kind of question that normally troubles you; but this was the one that sprang to mind upon viewing an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where a vampire was burning up after exposure to the sun. And being someone who doesn’t like questions to go unanswered I decided to find out exactly where it was that the undead headed to with their buckets, spades and SPF 500 sun block.

My first problem was where to find vampires and then lure them out to discuss their holiday plans. My scant knowledge of how to find and attract vampires comes from Christopher Lee’s Hammer horror films, where a virginal ivory-white neck combined with a heaving bosom usually does the trick. But, having neither asset, I had to resort to buying goth magazines and perusing chat rooms on the Internet to make contact with the world of bloodsuckers.

I managed to speak to a few self-confessed vampires, but none would arrange to meet me, citing everything from the fact that they only came out after midnight to claims that they would have to kill and eat me to avoid a rendezvous. What did become clear from my research, though, was that there is really just one holiday destination for the discerning vampire or wannabe vampire and that is Whitby, North Yorkshire.

This small seaside town is famed as the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which he wrote whilst living on its West Cliff, looking out at the spooky ruins of Whitby Abbey. As a consequence it also houses a thriving Dracula-based tourist industry and attracts a regular influx of pasty-faced youth who believe that the book has its basis in fact, some of whom claim to be genuine vampires.

Arriving in a fishing port you expect to be greeted with a good whiff of cod or haddock, but the scent in the air in Whitby is very much that of frying chips. Of course this could be a ruse by the local council to cover the smell of the putrefying flesh of vampires and their victims, though I suspect that it may have something to do with the fact that every other building in Whitby is a chip shop. So with bag of chips in hand I set about my afternoon search for vampires amongst the tourist hordes, be they turning into fireballs on the sands or merely skulking in alleys awaiting nightfall.

The delightfully tacky Dracula Experience by the beach looked a likely starting place, so I sauntered in that direction and almost immediately struck it lucky, or so I thought. Wandering towards me I saw the distinctive shape of three cloaked Dracula look-a-likes, complete with slicked-back hair and fangs. But it turned out to be just a family of three out for the day. Mummy vampire, daddy vampire and an eleven-year-old vampire with what was clearly fake blood on his plastic fangs. Odd? Yes. Disturbing? Definitely. But probably not ruthless killers with a lust for drinking warm, rich blood.

Acting on a tip-off from one of the cyber-vamps I had spoken with, I headed up Flowergate to The Elsinore pub, but this goth favourite didn’t give up so much as a crimped hairdo or Marilyn Manson T-shirt. The pickled eggs on the bar looked frightening, but there were no tall, dark strangers with fangs and flip-flops. I was beginning to think that Whitby was a dead loss, rather than a haven for the undead. A search of other gloomy-looking bars and the east side of town proved similarly fruitless, though I did manage to snap up a red fondant-filled chocolate coffin from the sweet shop.

In my quest for vampire links I spent the evening on a guided Dracula walk, where a man in funereal attire pointed out those parts of the town that feature in Stoker’s novel. He was good at what he did, though did have a tendency to spout mysterious babble from time-to-time, taking a disliking to me when I asked him what he was on about.

Despite the obvious historical attraction of the tour for any holidaying vampire, I didn’t manage to spot any fiery red eyes amongst our party as we ambled into town. True, the musty-smelling woman with the salon-fresh pink rinse could have been an incognito vampire, but it seemed unlikely.

With my time in Whitby running out I decided that I would have to think like a holidaying vampire were I to get a chance to see one. I figured that there was only one place that any self-respecting vampire would be as the witching hour arrived, and that was the Abbey ruins at the top of the famous 199 stone steps that feature in Dracula. So I retired to a pub by the river for some Dutch courage and gazed out across the water to pass time until midnight.

As midnight approached I walked across the market square and up to the first step. I strode purposefully upwards, slowing down as my calf muscles began to ache, and hitting the very last step as the town clock struck twelve. I rushed through the graveyard expecting to spot vampires, or at least a courting couple with a taste for the macabre, but nothing stirred.

Disconsolate, I descended the steps, spying a hunched figure below as I reached the halfway point. My heart beat faster. It couldn’t be, could it? Dark clothes and dark hair. Was that a cape or just a trick of the light?
Drawing closer, I could make out a woman. She was wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend ‘naughty’. I assumed this was not a look that The Count would go for under any circumstances, even if he were a master of illusion and disguise. So with my safety assured I carried on down.

The woman was in her thirties with black hair and heavy eye makeup and had obviously spent the evening in one of Whitby’s many pubs.

“Did you see anything?” she slurred, pointing up the cliff.

“Oh, like Dracula?” I asked.

“Yesh, Dracula,” she gushed. “I mean, there has to be something better than this, doesn’t there?”

“What, better than Whitby?’ I asked. “I think it’s quite nice, apart from the smell.”

“No, I mean life. Better than life. There has to be something better.”

Just then her friends came around the corner and I realised why she might be of that opinion. They were two extremely drunken men, both dressed as pirates.

“C’mon,” said one pirate. “We gotta get back.”

“I want to go up there,” she said, pointing upwards again, but her date with Dracula was not to be. The pirates grabbed a shoulder each and guided her away from the steps and back towards her bed, where she could safely dream of vampires, without the risk of falling backwards down a very steep stone staircase.

With my head down I slowly wandered back towards my own bed, tossing my garlic and driftwood stake into the river as I crossed the swing bridge.

All content copyright © 2012 Iain Aitch


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