Revisiting Hera’s Whitby in Second Life

Whitby, April 2022 – click any image for full size

In October 2021, Hera (zee9) opened a setting inspired by the historic English port of Whitby, Yorkshire and the role it played in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was a rich setting, deeply evocative of the tale of Stoker’s Dracula, Victorian Gothic horror and the period’s fascination with death, the afterlife and immortality; and I wrote about it at the time (see: Visiting Dracula’s Whitby in Second Life), although such is Hera’s creativity, the town folded into the mists of time to make way for another of her designs.

However, for those who missed it back then, I’m pleased to say that Whitby is back once more, and Hera is hoping to leave it and Goatswood standing for longer this time around whilst she works on another setting. As I visited Goatswood a few days ago (and writing about its return in Hera’s Goatswood returns to Second Life), I hopped back to have another tour of Hera’s Whitby, keen to see what had changed.

Whitby, April 2022

As I noted by in my 2021 article, Hera’s Whitby is not so much drawn upon from the real place – although it does touch upon aspects of the town (such as its history as a whaling port, the presence of the great abbey ruins, the long climb up to its location overlooking the Esk river valley, and so on) – but more from the fictional world of the legend of Dracula.

However, what I perhaps hadn’t appreciated at that time was the manner in which Hera’s build had been influenced by Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula. The fault in not noting this back in October 2021 was purely mine rather than any lack of clarity on Hera’s part; I confess the film is something I’ve largely blotted from memory due to the complete miscasting of Keanu Reeves in the role of Jonathan Harker.

But Reeves’ performance aside, the slant towards the film gives the setting an interesting twist, as do the ways in which Hera has altered this iteration from her October 2021 build.

Whitby, April 2022

Take for example, the manor house occupying the hilltop near the abbey ruins. In the first iteration of the setting, this leant more towards the actual manor house said to have been built from stone taken from the ruins of the abbey; here it has been replaced by a structure intended to evoke Boleskine House, the one-time residence of Aleister Crowley. Also, the famous church sitting alongside the Abbey ruins has completely gone, now replaced by a Saxon ship burial mound.

Whilst the original Boleskine House once stood on the south-east side of Loch Ness, its relocation to Hera’s Whitby is not entirely out-of-place. In his time Crowley was (among other things) a noted occultist and ceremonial magician – themes not entirely removed from the ideas of mysticism, immortality, black arts and magic that tend to get bound up with stories of Dracula and vampires. Similarly, the ship burial cavern isn’t entirely out-of-place given the Esk estuary was home to an Anglo-Saxon community (and indeed, the town was the home to the first known Anglo Saxon monk, Cædmon).

Whitby, April 2022

Elsewhere, this version of Whitby maintains direct links with the original build. Down on the waterfront one can still find the Spouter Tavern (celebrating Whitby’s links to whaling), and just down the street from it still sits the funeral parlour named for Madame Helen Blavatsky, whose thinking and writing did much to elevate matters of the occult, spiritualism and life and death amongst Victorians, and so may have indirectly influenced Stoker in his writing.  Meanwhile, at the back of the manor house and through its gardens, what might have been Lucy’s tomb once again awaits visitors.

The setting also retains its atmospheric EEP settings – although I’ve intentionally used day settings here, so please make sure you have your viewer set to Use Shared Environment to fully appreciate Hera’s work. As well as suiting the vampiric theme of the setting, it gives Whitby a touch of the Lovecraftian; a rich mysticism with and added sense of the unknown.

Whitby, April 2022

There is also a wealth of detail awaiting discovery here, from the streets of the town to the catacombs beneath the Abbey ruins. In this, visitors should pay particular attention to the manor house, which has a wealth of detail that both builds on the setting’s theme and reflects the life of Aleister Crowley (up to and including his presence on the dining room wall). Do note that these touches are not limited to the rooms within the manor; there are also some to be found under it and within the gardens to the rear of the house.

As with Goatswood, this iteration of Whitby is reached from the region’s landing point, dressed now as a railway station. Just take the red train by clicking in the open carriage door, and you’ll be whisked to Whitby’s little railway station. From here it is possible to either walk down into the town or up to the abbey and manor. While it is not required, I would suggest going to the former first, then climbing the steps up to the abbey from there; it helps capture some of the feel of the physical Whitby, and allows you to become more immersed in Hera’s setting.

Whitby, April 2022

Those visiting are further invited to dress for a visit if they so desire – Victorian, vampire or steampunk (Whitby town is home to regular Steampunk Weekends) – but this is not mandatory.

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