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The Mystery of the Sea

By: Bram Stoker

The Mystery of the Sea contains supernatural elements, but is in many respects a political thriller. Stoker draws from personal experience and incorporates historical strands from the Spanish–American War as well as the sixteenth-century conflict between Spain and Elizabethan England, using these events to explore important themes of his time such as national identity and changing concepts of womanhood. Although The Mystery of the Sea received many favorable reviews when it was published (and many of the criticisms it received could be equally well applied to Dracula), it has been significantly overshadowed in scholarship and criticism by Dracula.

Archibald Hunter, a young Englishman, is passing his leisure time near Cruden Bay in the small Scottish village of Whinnyfold when he has a vision of a couple walking past him, carrying a tiny coffin. Archibald also notices a strange old woman watching him. Later, he finds out that his vision has come true, and a child in town has died. Archibald encounters the bizarre old woman again on the seashore; this woman, who introduces herself as Gormala MacNeil, knows that Archibald saw something out of the ordinary. She proceeds to explain that she has "Second Sight"—a sort of psychic ability for premonition that comes and goes at random—and that she can tell that Archibald, too, is a Seer. Fluctuating between skepticism and uneasiness over his newfound abilities, Archibald listens to Gormala's insights and sees one of his visions fulfilled at Lammas-tide, when he and Gormala witness Lauchlane Macleod, a local fisherman, wreck his boat on a chain of sharp rocks known as the Skares. Archibald sees a procession of dead spirits emerge from the water near the Skares and make its way up the cliffs.

About a year later, Archibald has returned to Cruden Bay and is preparing a permanent residence there. He buys a trunk from an auctioneer on the street (where he again encounters Gormala) and finds that the trunk contains letters from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. While near the seashore, Archibald notices two ladies stranded on a rock out in the ocean. He helps them get back to shore, and learns that one of the ladies is an elderly woman named Mrs. Jack, and the other a young, beautiful woman named Marjory, an American who has a strong aversion to Spaniards. Archibald feels himself falling in love with Marjory instantly. Later, Marjory helps Archibald decode the letters that he found in the trunk, which are written in a complicated cipher (Bacon's cipher). Archibald soon proposes marriage to Marjory, but she declines with the excuse that she does not know him well enough.


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Abraham "Bram" Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal a...

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