Story by Raphael Kadushin; Photographs by John Kernick

Just about 15 minutes west of York, at the start of my drive across Yorkshire, I realize I have entered deep English country.

The hints are hard to miss. There is the billboard advertising the local chimney sweep. There is the lamb, the sheep, and eventually the whole flock wandering across the road. And then there are the signs I pass for Gordale Scar ravine and Stump Cross Caverns, brooding place-names that seem to telegraph a spooky world ahead.

In fact, that is exactly what I am hoping for. Yorkshire played haunted muse to the Brontë sisters and Bram Stoker, whose 19th-century gothic fiction remains fixed in our collective imagination. Scratch the surface of any popular contemporary fantasy, from the Twilight saga to True Blood, and you find the direct descendants of Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff, Stoker’s Dracula, and all the vampires, wraiths, and undead that materialized on Yorkshire’s moors.

So I have come to England to drive from the Yorkshire Dales, through the North York Moors, and on to the east coast for the pure fun of scaring myself a little. I’m also here to understand why some of our deepest nightmares took hold in this homey shire of tearooms and follies.

Highland cows amble a country road (Photograph by John Kernick)
Highland cows amble a country road. (Photograph by John Kernick)

My first stop is Haworth, 50 miles west of York. Here in the first half of the 19th century, the three Brontë sisters imagined a world of demonic villains, madwomen in the attic, and dispossessed spirits in such novels as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

The Brontë family parsonage sits at the top of the hilly town. Once I park my rental car and climb the stony spine of Haworth’s main street, what immediately strikes (Read more...)

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