The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle
This century-old grotesque has a mysterious history and may not actually be a rabbit.
The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle is a mysterious grotesque that has perched above the ornate rear door of the historic Cathedral Buildings, facing the rear of St Nicholas Cathedral for over a hundred years but no one is quite sure why the blood-sucking lepus was created with the rest of the building in 1901.
Locals tell a tale of grave robbers who were running rampant in the area until one dark night the fanged beastie rose on the door opposite the graveyard as if to scare off future robbers. Less superstitiously, it has also been theorized that the vampire rabbit is in fact a hare whose ears were mistakenly put on backwards. If this were the case the bloody little creature could have been installed to reference Sir George Hare Phipson, a local doctor, Freemason, and friend of the cathedral’s architect. Most basically the rabbit could simply be meant to represent the coming of spring, invoking the same symbolic association that created the Easter Bunny.
While the vampire rabbit of Newcastle was originally the same sandy color of the surrounding stonework, in modern times it has been painted a menacing black with droplets of blood staining its teeth and claws.
Know Before You Go
From St Nicholas Cathedral, walk around to the back from either side and you'll find the grotesque in front of you, at the end of St Nicholas Churchyard.
Alternatively, midway down Dean Street is a set of stairs from where you can see the back of the cathedral. The grotesque is just to the right of the top of the stairs.
While you're here, watch out for the bust of Thomas Bewick. Facing the cathedral, it's on the left, above a round plaque.
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