The Ghost-Obsessed Professor Who Became Haunted By the Living

James Hervey Hyslop was not a superstitious man. His was a life dedicated to research and education, and he served as Professor of Logic and Ethics at Columbia University in the 1890s. Hyslop hated myths so much that he refused to read a novel until the age of 30, and when he finally did he came away agitated that something would serve a purpose beyond the establishment of facts. “His life,” said H.N. Gardiner, Chair of Philosophy at Smith College, “was one of arduous and unselfish devotion to truth.”

For him, the truth to which he was so devoted was inarguable, though he spent his life feverishly arguing for it just the same: He believed with all his heart that our spirits live on after we die, and that certain members of the living can speak with the dead.

The fiercely intelligent professor spent almost all his days hunched over various texts, mustache tips pointing outward like curious antennae (he had a noteworthy mustache, even for the mustache-rich era in which he lived). His lonely search for an imagined truth made him, in the words of a friend, “somewhat of a Don Quixote.”

It may seem ridiculous now, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was common for respected intellectuals to believe in spirits and life beyond the grave. W.B. Yeats, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Upton Sinclair, Sir Oliver Lodge ... they all, like Hyslop, were convinced of it. The key difference, however, is that Hyslop was a full-time believer. He did not hedge one bit, and this dedicated stubbornness would come to define—and end—his life.

When he died in 1920, Hyslop was, in the words of an acquaintance, “worn out, wearied, and completely exhausted from his long and continuous efforts, alone and unaided by but a few.”

While Hyslop’s life and work are essentially unknown to the modern public, his legacy still stands in plain sight in the form of a large mansion on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, half a block from Central Park. The American Society for Psychical Research operates out of that building, and a portrait of Hyslop, the Society’s “Father,” hangs in the foyer.

While the mansion is large, the society's operations are modest nowadays. I visited in an attempt to learn more about the professor after finding repeated mention of him in old press clippings while researching New York’s psychic craze of the early 20th century. Hyslop seemed to be, by all accounts, one of the most miserable men in modern history. I liked him immediately.

For evidence of his temperament, one only has to look as far as the posthumous tributes written by his few remaining friends in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, a publication he ran throughout his life (and contributed to so heavily that he had ten new articles appear in his own memorial issue).

“With his high strung temperament he did at times get angry,” remembered one eulogizer, and, according to another remembrance, “Hyslop would have gained a wider and more respectful hearing had he cultivated a better and more restrained style of writing, and been less dogmatic and combative in the expression of his opinions.”

For him, the phrase “he’s happier now” is not a banal platitude—this was a man who became haunted by the living. A life now forgotten, Hyslop’s is the post-industrial American ghost story that should haunt anyone who believes hard work and honesty will be rewarded in both this life and the next.


Having been born poor in rural Ohio in 1854, James H. Hyslop spent much of his early life surrounded by death. His twin sister died shortly after their birth, and an older sister passed away a few years later. When he was ten years old, scarlet fever took James's younger sister and his younger brother, Charles.

“Their deaths made a profound impression on me,” Hyslop wrote in his unpublished autobiography, now housed in the ASPR archives. He describes his childhood in the “primitive forest” of Xenia, Ohio as one surrounded by dogmatic religious devotion. His first memory, from when he was five years old, was of a preacher preaching so fiercely that it frightened him to tears. His parents, he recalled, laughed at him.

Hyslop suffered from croup and other ailments as a child, and he spent two straight years living in terror that he would die from consumption and go to hell. “I became unable to smile or laugh,” he wrote of that time. He had to invent a fake laugh so he could fit in with his peers.

Hyslop’s father wanted his son to become a minister, so a college-aged James moved to Edinburgh to pursue this line of study. He didn't make it to Divinity School because, while in London, Hyslop had a crisis of faith. He had already harbored doubts about religion, so he taught himself ancient Greek in order to read the New Testament in what he thought would be its truest form—no matter the subject, Hyslop was always the consummate researcher. The Bible, he found, didn’t hold up to examination. He remembered the epiphany, when he was compelled to say, out loud, “Well, I cannot believe it. I shall give up and take the consequences.”

A sense of relief flooded his body, and he “walked the floor crying like a child and perspiring like a horse.” Even though he knew his father would be crushed, he was free to pursue the life of the mind, and he fled to Austria to study philosophy at the University of Leipzig. There he met his wife, Mary Hall Fry, a music student and fellow American. “There were no excitingly romantic incidents in my love affair,” he wrote, “We both took a cool and rationale view of our situation and calmly abided the issue of events.” They were perfect for each other.

Hyslop returned to the States where he won a fellowship to Johns Hopkins. He earned his Ph.D in psychology, writing a thesis on space perception (a subject he would write more about while he was a professor). Throughout this time, spiritualism didn't really cross his mind—he was focused on the schools of philosophy that he encountered in Europe.

Hyslop bounced between teaching gigs and built an impressive resume before being appointed Professor of Logic and Ethics at Columbia University in 1895. According to a colleague, he was "an agnostic and materialist" at the time, but, in an effort to explain dreams, he started to conduct tentative research and experimentation of spiritism. He befriended the famous William James, an outspoken believer in psychical phenomena who was also the first psychology professor in America, at Harvard.

Hyslop was invited to attend meetings of the Society for Psychical Research, whose American branch was founded by William James and a host of other highly regarded men. Hyslop came away impressed not by the incredible stories of séances and ghosts, but by the group's astute research and prudent bookkeeping. This was his kind of party.

His curiosity piqued, Hyslop visited Leonora Piper, a medium living in Boston who was known amongst William James and his SPR colleagues to be the real deal and totally uncrackable. Hyslop wanted to subject her to the rigors of his brand of scientific analysis, and, for his first visit, he showed up at her door wearing a hood and a mask. He also presented to her a false name, all part of his efforts to test her abilities on an anonymous participant.

During séances, Mrs. Piper would send herself into a trance while holding a pencil, inviting the “spirit” to communicate through her hand. The pragmatic Professor Hyslop was thrilled—this method meant his subject would be taking his notes for him. During Hyslop’s first visit, Mrs. Piper’s scribbling was unconvincing and showed “a good deal of confusion.” But during a subsequent reading, a name flowed from Piper’s pencil that rooted Hyslop to his chair:


Could the younger brother who died when Hyslop was 10 years old really be communicating with him? Intimate details about Charles' short life and abrupt death emerged:

“Is scarlet fever a bad thing to have in the body?”

Soon, the supposed spirit of Hyslop’s recently deceased father joined the conversation. Through Mrs. Piper his father asked if Hyslop remembered their conversations before he died, about how he promised to return to his father. He remembered.

Whatever the explanation, be it trickery, an informant (Mrs. Piper's friendly and talkative housekeeper was rumored to leak info to her boss), or something genuinely aetherial, the man of science was hooked.

By 1898, Hyslop had became convinced of the “spiritistic hypothesis,” as he called it. He continued his teaching duties at Columbia, though he was now regularly conducting research with various mediums, which took up a considerable amount of time. Wary of his behavior, the president of Columbia and the dean of the philosophy department moved him from Logic and Ethics to Epistemology and Metaphysics.

In 1902, during a period of immense stress and constant work, Hyslop developed tuberculosis. After taking a sabbatical to recuperate in the mountains, his wife Mary contracted meningitis and died suddenly. “It was a shock,” he wrote, describing the time he spent with Mary in the mountains as “one of the happiest in our lives.” He suffered a mental breakdown soon after and was forced to resign from his post at Columbia.

It was during this period of introspection that he typed out his 59-page autobiography (for no one in particular, he asserts). It is dated March 6, 1904. The ASPR kindly granted me two hours to examine it. In their early days, the society routinely and flamboyantly courted press coverage, but that was an era more friendly to all things psychical, hence my short time limit. In fact, Hyslop had much to do with the media's initial and lasting perceptions of the society (and spiritism in general).

James H. Hyslop’s life could be divided into two chapters, and what the autobiography covers amounts to part one. Part two would contain 16 of the busiest years of his life. No longer was he hampered by his position at the university (though he would keep the honorific "Professor"). Rather than retire, he would dedicate his life to the psychic research that had touched him so dearly.

After the Society for Psychical Research's American branch went bankrupt in 1905, Hyslop disputed with the SPR and rescued and re-established it under his own, total control in the States. Its purpose and success became inexorably tied to his own.

Men usually respond to newfound purpose in one of two ways: They either treat it as a gift that grants perspective, or it becomes a treasure that demands protection. You can guess which route Professor Hyslop took, and the rest of his life can be viewed as a series of bitter fights in the name of psychical research. Much to his eventual frustration, most of these battles played out in the press.


James Hyslop was astonished that people weren’t as impressed with Mrs. Piper’s feats as he was. In his mind he had tested her as carefully as any scientist could hope to, and he had boxes upon boxes of séance transcripts—hard data!—to prove it. While he managed to earn a few write-ups in the papers, his PR push was failing, as was the financial health of his new research society. He felt he was on the cusp of a groundbreaking discovery—that these spiritual phenomena could be responsible for psychological issues like multiple personality disorder and obsession—and no one cared.

Hyslop knew the public had its doubts, so to grab their attention and earn their trust he would have to play to this skepticism. What better way to do this than by bringing down psychic frauds?

Lily Dale was an upstate retreat hailed as "the most famous and aristocratic spiritualistic camp in America.” Wealthy New Yorkers vacationed at the lavish campgrounds where they'd get their palms read and sit in on dramatic séances. While it was established by die-hard spiritualists, Hyslop discovered that Lily Dale had been taken over by money-hungry charlatans. Exposing the sham turned out to be a righteous breeze.

Hyslop sent his assistant, the charming and eager Hereward Carrington, to Lily Dale for an undercover investigation. Carrington, who gave a fake name, took in all the retreat had to offer and reported his findings back to Hyslop. The two debunked these so-called phenomena, and the New York Times featured their report as part of a full-page spread on March 8, 1908: "INGENIOUS FRAUDS AT LILY DALE SEANCES."

In the article, Hyslop and Carrington relate how the "mystics" of Lily Dale took "spirit photographs" that featured “ghosts” floating in the background. A quick cut-and-paste job was thoroughly convincing in the early days of photography, but the psychic investigators were able to prove that the pictures were doctored by magnifying them. During a séance in which bells and tambourines appeared to move and shake on their own, Carrington coyly observed a thread tied to both. "Materialized" little girls who fluttered about the camp were found to be actresses dressed up in different clothing from séance to séance>.

“The professional fakers have all along been the greatest obstacle in the path of psychic research," Hyslop said in a Times story published a few months after the Lily Dale exposé. "These are the imposters whose juggling must be swept away before any progress toward true enlightenment in spiritism can be made.”

But pulling the curtain back on the psychic world's most notable fraudsters revealed unintended consequences for Hyslop. He had fueled the skeptics rather than satiate them, and he helped create a new fad of ghost-busting that would side-track and annoy him all the way to his grave.


A new group called the Metropolitan Psychical Society had been making lots of noise ever since the frauds at Lily Dale were exposed. Unlike Hyslop's American Society for Psychical Research, the MPS didn't believe in ghosts or spirits. Inspired by Hyslop and Carrington's work, they wanted to take down the world of clairvoyants and mediums, and they made an offer they thought any real psychic couldn't refuse: Prove yourself by reading from a book opened at random without looking and we'll pay you $3500.

The offer—which was originally set at $1000 and dramatically raised in a series of announcements to the press—was heavily publicized by W.S. Davis, Hyslop's counterpart at the MPS. Davis wasn't afraid to use smug schoolyard rhetoric—or worse—in his quest to expose charlatans. As he wrote in a 1909 New York Times editorial: “We must pretend to be friendly and sympathetic with the medium when we are really planning her downfall; and we must frequently resort to violence."

Davis and the MPS aimed their challenge at Hyslop, and he diplomatically deferred while speaking to a New York Times reporter. “I am not disposed to treat lightly the challenge that has been made in a general way by the Metropolitan Psychical Society," he said. “The trouble with the test spoken of by Mr. Davis is that no reputable medium would take it up saying that she could carry it out."

Offering a cash prize, Hyslop argued, made the whole enterprise moot. "No respectable medium—and I try to associate myself with none other—would accept any such gratuity, no difference how successful the test.”

No one ended up taking the challenge, and Hyslop continued his own research. He had recently started working with a medium—"Mrs. Quentin," as she was pseudonymously known—who had shown great promise (and who happened to be a wealthy benefactor to his society).

Hyslop managed to spin the situation into PR buzz for his own work. The Times included some of Hyslop's transcripts from Mrs. Quentin's séances in their breathless coverage of the Metropolitan Society's challenge, most notable being an instance where the medium revealed the definition of hell—“Hell is a condition,” she said. Hyslop didn’t even have to die of consumption—his greatest fear as a child—to find out he had nothing to worry about.

While Hyslop plucked away, members of the Metropolitan Psychical Society worked to devise a more effective publicity stunt. On November 15, 1908, some five months after their first offer was largely ignored, they finally had some takers with a new psychic test: Count the oranges dumped onto a table behind you, and $5,000 is yours.

This new challenge was far simpler and easier to convey to prospective contestants. Once desperate for attention, the Metropolitan Psychical Society had mystics and mediums lined up outside their Manhattan offices, including, notably, a 300 lb. man "filled with the spirit of Shakespeare" who insisted that "Mr. Shakespeare will help me count those oranges all right if you will give me a chance." He acted the part of Macbeth ("giving the lines perfectly") with such fervor he had to be led outside, lest he "have a stoke of apoplexy."

The MPS received thousands of applications, so many that they said they had to screen the prospective orange-counters with an initial test to separate the "spirit fakers and guessers ... from those who sincerely claimed supernatural powers." No one could pass the insanely difficult entrance test which required, in part, detailed descriptions of mystery items locked in a box. Not a single orange was spilled.


As the Metropolitan Psychical Society faded from relevance, a tantalizing letter to the editor appeared in the pages of the New York Times. Titled "A HINT TO PALLADONO [sic]," the November 22, 1908 note read:

"In the event of a failure to secure decisive mental phenomena cannot the Metropolitan Psychical Society be induced to offer its reward of $5,000 to Mme. Eusipia Palladono [sic], the famous physical [sic] medium who is now demonstrating for some of Europe's most noted scientists?"

The scientists mentioned were members of the English Society for Psychical Research, the group Hyslop's American Society had splintered away from. Among those visiting was none other than Hereward Carrington, Hyslop's former assistant and charlatan-debunker nonpareil.

The letter to the editor was signed "T.B. Curtis," though the conspiratorially minded could be forgiven for believing it was sent by Carrington himself. He had plenty of reason to sow the seeds of excitement for this mysterious Italian medium: Carrington was Madame Esusapia Paladino's manager, and he was planning her American tour for November 1909.

Sketch of Paladino from a October 17, 1909 New York Times Story

Carrington was an expert hype man, and the press whipped up Paladino-Mania before her tour even began. Strange happenings were coyly leaked to the Times as she made her sea voyage to America. An article, headlined "AWESOME WONDERS BY THE NEW MEDIUM" told incredible tales of glowing limbs and levitating tables aboard the German liner Prinzess Irene. Esusapia Paladino had been performing her famously dynamic séances in her cabin, and the "manifestations were so sudden and awful that a ship’s passenger, a young woman, was sent into hysterics, from which she didn’t recover for the rest of the voyage.” Who could resist?

The trip's purpose, the Times reported, was so that she could "give private séances [for] Prof. William James of Harvard [and] Dr. James H. Hyslop." But, in reality, Carrington had no intention of letting his former boss sit in on these séances. Hyslop’s requests to examine Paladino's methods were briskly rejected.

Carrington's traveling show became the talk of the town, and society types were paying up to $100 for the chance to sit in on Paladino's séances. The last thing Carrington wanted was for Hyslop to spoil the lucrative fun, though the professor still tried. “Eusapia Paladino is a hysteric" and not the real deal, Hyslop explained to a class at the Calvalry Baptist Church. "It strikes me that all the excitement which has been aroused over her is uncalled for."

Her act was further exposed when a shop owner came forward and said that Carrington had bought phosphorescent paint from him to create the illusion of Paladino's famous glowing limbs. Disappointed, Hyslop called out his old protegé. How could such a trusted ally in the fight for truth throw away his principles for profit?

Carrington defended himself in the press and ruthlessly attacked Hsylop, asserting that his former friend was nothing but a "dog-in-the-manger" who was "simply jealous" of Carrington's success.

Hyslop responded to these attacks with a somber editorial of his own. “I represent a society which is struggling to interest the intelligent and respectable public in a very serious problem," he wrote. "[Mr. Carrington] took a course which was opposite to the one taken by all scientific men when they introduce a new group of phenomena to the public."

Many saw the Paladino affair as yet another example of psychic fraud. Much to Hyslop's chagrin, the press focused on these famous charlatans, not the mediums he and the ASPR were working to prove as genuine through hours of extensively recorded testing. Though he would never relent in his work, Hyslop was running out of sympathetic ears.


By 1909, the media had become stingingly cruel to James Hervey Hyslop. The New York Times ran a gossip article that said he had called off a second marriage because he thought his dead wife and father had told him to. The article, "AN UNKNOWN LADY'S LUCKY ESCAPE," gleefully poked fun at Hyslop, who was now portrayed as a superstitious boob by a paper that had once considered him an intelligent man of science.

The un-named author asserted Hyslop and his life's work were one big joke, and that no woman in her right mind would even entertain the idea of marrying him:

”It needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that a healthy, sensible woman, of marriageable years, is not likely to sympathize with spook hunting and the investigation of the unseen world as an occupation for a husband…We have a sort of dim suspicion that the lady this psychic investigator did not take for his second wife had made up her mind to refuse him long before.”

Hyslop wrote to the Times to issue a series of corrections, informing them that his relationship had ended for reasons other than his job. "The lady, contrary to your statement, was deeply interested in ‘spook hunting,’” he wrote.

Though he shows his trademark defiance, there is a sadness that permeates Hyslop’s letter: “I should not have mentioned the matter at all."


While the press mocked him, the general public didn't treat Hyslop much better. Ironically, the culture of healthy skepticism he had helped create no longer had room for him or his ideas. He was nearly heckled off the stage at a 1910 lecture in Brooklyn about the prospect of life after death. "What's a spirit, anyway?" a man screamed. "Show us the goods!"

The audience erupted in applause, and a woman taunted him, "What do you know about that? He's got him on the run!"

Hyslop tried his best to reason with the unruly crowd. "Scientific men in this country don’t pretend to understand just what is going on in these spirit manifestations,” he pleaded, but he could not calm them down. Audience members took turns mocking Hyslop, and he didn't get a break until a man stood up to ask why they were talking about ghosts and not labor issues. The crowd accused this man of being a socialist and re-directed their ire at him, much to Hyslop's relief.

At the end of the contentious lecture, the chairman of the Brooklyn Philosophical Association took the stage to vouch for Hyslop, saying he had known him for years and, while they didn't agree on these specific matters, the psychical researcher was an honorable man who came to his conclusions carefully. The chairman then offered Hyslop $500 if he could find a medium capable of reading a locked-away letter written by his dead friend.


In 1914, psychologist Dr. Amy Tanner published Studies in Spiritism, a book that closely examined the major figures of the psychical movement and aimed to expose them as gullible simpletons.

Tanner's book focused heavily on Professor Hyslop's well-documented experiences with mediums. Tanner asserted that Hyslop was overly suggestible, and that he allowed his research to be skewed by his own eagerness and lack of detachment.

It's a brutal take-down, one that was helped immensely by the professor himself. "Hyslop made it a special point to get down every word spoken in his sittings, even the most casual ones," she wrote. Tanner used these words to pick apart Hyslop’s early séances, the ones with Mrs. Piper that had sparked his obsession and changed his life forever.

Tanner scornfully dismissed these intimate meetings where Hyslop believed with all his heart that he was talking with his deceased brother and father. These moments were, Tanner argued, "inexpressibly trivial and stupid."

Hyslop responded in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research with a fiery 98-page defense that accused Dr. Tanner of “lying,” “distortion,” "falsification," "misrepresentation," "pure fiction," and "misstatement of facts."

Hyslop returned to his work, as he always did, filling books with new research on the matter of spirits. However, his communications outside his circle of faithful spiritualists shrank (as did the circle itself), and his patience with non-believers had run its course. "I regard the existence of discarnate spirits as scientifically proved and I no longer refer to the skeptic as having any right to speak on the subject," he wrote in his 1918 book Life After Death. "Any man who does not accept the existence of discarnate spirits and the proof of it is either ignorant or a moral coward." This anger would go on to define him in the eyes of the few people who stuck around long enough to write eulogies.

Hyslop rarely spoke with reporters after the publication of Dr. Tanner's Studies in Spiritism, and if he did, it was to issue corrections. An exception came on January 30, 1920, after a man who called himself the "ghost breaker" offered Hyslop $5,000 to prove the existence of spirits.

"The public has no sense," Hyslop responded in the Times. "I advise them to let mediums alone."


In June 1920, Professor James H. Hyslop died from thrombosis. In their remembrances, Hyslop's peers at the ASPR blamed his demise on overwork and stress.

Two days later, an anonymous member of the society leaked to the press that a medium had made contact with the deceased professor, saying, “He seemingly has found it easy to make himself understood clearly across the gap between time and eternity.”

One year after Hyslop's death, the New York Times published a story about how the popularity of spiritualism and psychic research was on the rise due to endorsements from influential men like inventor Sir Oliver Lodge and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is but one brief, inglorious mention of Hyslop in the article:

"Dr. Hyslop is not one of the great names with the professionals or members of the Spiritualist Church because he frequently attacked the professional or commercial spiritualists."

Hyslop followed the course we demand of our intellectual heroes, the path of the stubborn genius who bucks conventional wisdom and works ceaselessly against the grain. But for every Conan Doyle or Oliver Lodge, there is a James Hervey Hyslop whose tireless efforts wind up being forgotten.

This makes for a rather dire conclusion, one that is probably fair given the frustrating life that preceded it. However, there is a counter-argument, and because his life was full of ironies, it's only fitting that this rebuttal comes from James H. Hyslop himself. In 1908, before his many impassioned battles turned him bitter for good, Hyslop reminded his colleagues about the role levity should play in their otherwise serious work. Paraphrased, the message works as a suitable epitaph for the man who wrote it but eventually forgot its meaning:

"Life is not a tragedy. I wish it were. We might then hope that man would get his deserts. It is merely a comedy in which idealism has no functions. When the psychical researcher realizes this he will laugh at the humorous helplessness of his own situation."

He has a point. From a ghost's perspective, life really must look pretty funny.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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The Charming English Fishing Village That Inspired Dracula
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Whitby as seen from the top of the 199 Steps

The train departed King's Cross at 10:25 a.m. on July 29, 1890. Bram Stoker settled wearily into the carriage for the six-hour journey to Whitby, the fashionable and remote seaside village in North Yorkshire. The sooty sprawl of London gave way to green grids of farmland and pasture, and then windswept moors blanketed in heather and wild roses.

Stoker needed this holiday. The 42-year-old manager of London's Lyceum Theatre had just finished an exhausting national tour with his employer, the celebrated but demanding actor Henry Irving. The unrelenting task of running the business side of Irving's many theatrical enterprises for the past decade had left Stoker with little time for himself. When the curtains fell at the end of each night's performance, he may have felt that the energy had been sucked out of him.

Now he looked forward to a three-week getaway where he would have time to think about his next novel, a supernatural tale that harnessed the sources of Victorian anxiety: immigration and technology, gender roles and religion. In ways he didn't foresee, the small fishing port of Whitby would plant the seeds for a vampire novel that would terrify the world. Stoker started out on an innocent and much-deserved vacation, but ended up creating Dracula.

A photo of Bram Stoker
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As Stoker emerged from the train station in Whitby, the sounds and smell of the sea would have restored him after the long trip. He loaded his trunk into a horse-drawn cab for the journey up the West Cliff, where new vacation apartments and hotels served the crowds of holidaymakers. He checked into a flat at 6 Royal Crescent, a half-circle of elegant Georgian-style townhomes that faced the ocean.

He often felt invigorated by the seashore: "He's finally on a holiday, away from the hustle and bustle of London, the Lyceum Theatre, and Henry Irving's dominance over him," Dacre Stoker, a novelist and the author's great-grandnephew, tells Mental Floss. "The ocean and the seaside play into Bram's life, and, I believe, in stimulating his imagination."

Stoker's wife Florence and their 10-year-old son Noel would join him the following week. Now was his chance to explore Whitby on his own.

The East Cliff with Tate Hill Pier in the foreground

"A curious blend of old and new it is," wrote a travel correspondent for the Leeds Mercury. The River Esk divided the town into two steep halves known as the West and East Cliffs. Down a tangle of paths from the brow of the West Cliff, Stoker found himself on the town's famed beach, where people gathered to watch the many vessels at sea or walked along the gentle surf. At the end of the beach was the Saloon, the nucleus of Whitby's social whirl.

"The enterprising manager engages the best musical and dramatic talent procurable, whilst on the promenade a selected band of professional musicians gives performances daily," wrote Horne's Guide to Whitby. Holidaymakers could purchase a day pass to the Saloon and enjoy afternoon tea, tennis, and endless people-watching.

Next to the Saloon, the West Pier featured a long promenade parallel to the river and a three-story building containing public baths, a museum with a collection of local fossils, and a subscription library. Shops selling fish and chips, ice cream, and Whitby rock lined the winding streets. Visitors could watch all kinds of fishing vessels discharging their daily catch, and even hop aboard a boat for a night's "herringing" with local fishermen.

Whitby's East Cliff had a more mysterious atmosphere. Across the town's single bridge, tightly packed medieval cottages and jet factories leaned over the narrow cobbled streets, "rising one above another from the water side in the most irregular, drunken sort of arrangement conceivable," the Leeds Mercury reported.

Above the ancient Tate Hill Pier, a stone stairway of 199 steps (which pallbearers used when they carried coffins) led up the cliff to St. Mary's parish church and its graveyard full of weathered headstones. Towering over the whole scene—and visible from nearly any spot in town—were the ruins of Whitby Abbey, a 13th-century pile of Gothic arches that had been built upon the remains of a 7th-century monastery.

"I think [Stoker] was struck by the setting. He's thinking, 'This is perfect. I have the ships coming in, I've got the abbey, a churchyard, a graveyard'," Dacre Stoker says. "Maybe it was by chance, but I think it just became that perfect scene."

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey

In Dracula, chapters six through eight kick the narrative into frightening action. By then, real estate agent Jonathan Harker has traveled to Transylvania to negotiate Dracula's purchase of a London property and become the vampire's prisoner. His fiancée Mina Murray, her friend Lucy Westenra, and Lucy's mother have traveled to Whitby for a relaxing holiday, but Mina remains troubled by the lack of letters from Jonathan. She confides her worries and records the strange scenes she witnesses in her journal.

On the afternoon of his arrival, according to a modern account compiled by historians at the Whitby Museum, Stoker climbed the 199 Steps to St. Mary's churchyard and found a bench in the southwest corner. The view made a deep impression on Stoker, and he took note of the river and harbor, the abbey's "noble ruin," the houses "piled up one over the other anyhow." In his novel, Mina arrives in late July on the same train as Stoker, mounts the 199 Steps, and echoes his thoughts:

"This is to my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a full view of the harbor ... It descends so steeply over the harbor that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed. In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard; and people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze. I shall come and sit here very often myself and work."

The churchyard gave Stoker a number of literary ideas. The following day, Stoker chatted there with three leathery old Greenland fisherman who likely spoke in a distinct Yorkshire dialect. They told Stoker a bit of mariner's lore: If a ship's crew heard bells at sea, an apparition of a lady would appear in one of the abbey's windows. "Then things is all wore out," one of the sailors warned.

Stoker ambled between the headstones that sprouted from the thick carpet of grass. Though most of the markers' names and dates had been erased by the wind, he copied almost 100 into his notes. Stoker used one of them, Swales, as the name of the fisherman with a face that is "all gnarled and twisted like the bark of an old tree," who begins talking with Mina in the churchyard. Mina asks him about the legend of the lady appearing in the abbey window, but Swales says it's all foolishness—stories of "boh-ghosts an' barguests an' bogles" that are only fit to scare children.

St. Mary's churchyard
St. Mary's churchyard, which Mina calls "the nicest spot in Whitby."

For the first few days in August, Stoker was occupied by the summer's social calendar. He likely enjoyed dinner with friends arriving from London, and went to church on Sunday morning. On the 5th, Stoker's wife and son joined him at 6 Royal Crescent. The next several days may have been spent at the Saloon, promenading on the pier, and making social calls, as it was the custom for newly arrived visitors to visit with acquaintances in town.

But Whitby's infamous weather had the ability to turn a sunny day somber in an instant. August 11 was a "grey day," Stoker noted, "horizon lost in grey mist, all vastness, clouds piled up and a 'brool' over the sea." With Florence and Noel perhaps staying indoors, Stoker set off for the East Cliff again and chatted with a Coast Guard boatman named William Petherick. "Told me of various wrecks," Stoker jotted. During one furious gale, a "ship got into harbor, never knew how, all hands were below praying."

The ship was the Dmitry, a 120-ton schooner that had left the Russian port of Narva with a ballast of silver sand. The ship encountered a fierce storm as it neared Whitby on October 24, 1885, and aimed for the harbor.

"The 'Russian' got in but became a wreck during the night," according to a copy of the Coast Guard's log, which Petherick delivered to Stoker. The crew survived. In a picture taken by local photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe just a few days after the storm, the Dmitry is shown beached near Tate Hill Pier with its masts lying in the sand.

'The Wreck of the Dmitry' (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
The Wreck of the Dmitry (1885), by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
Courtesy of the Sutcliffe Gallery

Petherick's account gave Stoker the means for his vampire's arrival in England, the moment when the mysterious East disrupts the order of the West. Mina pastes a local newspaper article describing a sudden and ferocious storm that hurled Dracula's ship, the Demeter from Varna, against Tate Hill Pier. The Coast Guard discovered the crew had vanished and the captain was dead. Just then, "an immense dog sprang up on deck and … making straight for the steep cliff … it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight," the article in Mina's journal reads. The dog was never seen again, but townsfolk did find a dead mastiff that had been attacked by another large beast.

Mina describes the funeral for the Demeter's captain, which Stoker based on scenes from an annual celebration he watched on August 15 called the Water Fete. In reality, thousands of cheerful spectators lined the quays as a local band and choir performed popular songs and a parade of gaily decorated boats sailed up the river, with banners fluttering merrily in the breeze, according to the Whitby Gazette's report. But through Mina, Stoker transformed the scene into a memorial:

"Every boat in the harbor seemed to be there, and the coffin was carried by captains all the way from Tate Hill Pier up to the churchyard. Lucy came with me, and we went early to our old seat, whilst the cortege of boats went up the river to the Viaduct and came down again. We had a lovely view, and saw the procession nearly all the way."

The final week of Stoker's holiday elicited some of the most important details in Dracula. On August 19, he bought day passes to Whitby's museum library and the subscription library. In the museum's reading room, Stoker wrote down 168 words in the Yorkshire dialect and their English meanings from F.K. Robinson's A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighborhood of Whitby, which later formed the bulk of Mr. Swales's vocabulary in his chats with Mina.

One of the words was "barguest," a term for a "terrifying apparition," which also refers specifically to a "large black dog with flaming eyes as big as saucers" in Yorkshire folklore, whose "vocation appears to have been that of a presage of death," according to an account from 1879.

"I do think Stoker meant for that connection," John Edgar Browning, visiting lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and expert in horror and the gothic, tells Mental Floss. "Moreover, he probably would have meant for the people of Whitby in the novel to make the connection, since it was they who perceived Dracula's form as a large black dog."

Downstairs, Stoker checked out books on Eastern European culture and folklore, clearly with the aim of fleshing out the origins of his vampire: Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, a travelogue titled On the Track of the Crescent, and most importantly, William Wilkinson's An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldovia: with Various Observations Relating to Them.

The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
The library building where Stoker discovered Dracula
Courtesy of Dacre Stoker

From the latter book, Stoker wrote in his notes, "P. 19. DRACULA in Wallachian language means DEVIL. Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous by courage, cruel actions, or cunning."

The Wilkinson book gave Stoker not just the geographical origin and nationality for his character, but also his all-important name, redolent of mystery and malice. "The moment Stoker happened upon the name of 'Dracula' in Whitby—a name Stoker scribbled over and over on the same page on which he crossed through [the vampire's original name] 'Count Wampyr,' as if he were savoring the word's three evil syllables—the notes picked up tremendously," Browning says.

By the time Stoker and his family returned to London around August 23, he had developed his idea from a mere outline to a fully fledged villain with a sinister name and unforgettable fictional debut.

"The modernization of the vampire myth that we see in Dracula—and that many contemporary reviewers commented upon—may not have happened, at least to the same degree, without Stoker's visit to Whitby," Browning says. "Whitby was a major catalyst, the contemporary Gothic 'glue', as it were, for what would eventually become the most famous vampire novel ever written."

Bram Stoker visited Whitby only once in his life, but the seaside village made an indelible mark on his imagination. When he finally wrote the scenes as they appear in Dracula, "He placed all of these events in real time, in real places, with real names of people he pulled off gravestones. That's what set the story apart," Dacre Stoker says. "That's why readers were scared to death—because there is that potential, just for a moment, that maybe this story is real."

Additional source: Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition, annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller


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