Kettleness, near Whitby

Kettleness Point

Looking out towards Kettleness Point

Reverend Dr Omand’s biography, To Anger the Devil by Marc Alexander, describes how Reverend Omand, an exorcist, received a letter in the 1950s from a schoolmaster outlining his encounter with a spectral hound in Kettleness:

"On visiting Kettleness they [a schoolmaster and two friends] all experienced a wave of terror when, looking over the shore to the misty sea, they had seen a huge hound—so large it could not be mortal—appear out of thin air. Silent with shock they watched it move towards them before disappearing as silently and mysteriously as it had come. All three were left with such a strong sense of evil that the schoolmaster believed it was a case desperately in need of exorcism." (Alexander, 1978, p. 48)

The schoolmaster asked if Reverend Omand would accompany him there again to conduct an exorcism. Reverend Omand sent a telegram arranging to meet the schoolmaster at Scarborough station and set off immediately. It was nightfall as the two of them walked the shore at Kettleness (it is not absolutely clear from the account whether they were walking along the beach or the cliffs above but a photograph of Rev. Omand in Alexander’s book shows him apparently pointing to the beach below Kettleness Point):

     ‘All we need now is for Dracula to come bounding ashore in the form of a great black dog,’ muttered Donald with a smile. But the smile froze as his companion suddenly gripped him by the arm….
     ‘What we saw looked like a huge black hound, but bigger than any member of the canine species, known to man. It was moving straight in our direction and the schoolmaster’s nerve gave way completely. He rushed back to the car.
     ‘Uncorking the bottle [of Holy Water] which I was carrying, I commanded the spectre as follows: “Be gone in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be gone to the place appointed for you, there to remain for ever. Be gone in the Name of Christ.”
    ‘As I spoke the last words, I splashed Holy Water in the direction of the apparition, and the latter disappeared as suddenly as it had materialised. Then I exorcised all the ground which the spectre had covered and a great heaviness went out of the atmosphere. The menace of Kettleness was ended. (Alexander, 1978, pp. 49-50).

Sadly, Omand reported that the schoolmaster never got over his experiences at Kettleness and soon after had a breakdown and ended up in hospital suffering from mental illness. Unfortunately, there is no mention of whether the schoolmaster already had a history of mental illness, which could have had some bearing on his experience, and there was apparently no attempt to corroborate the original experience with the schoolmaster’s two friends. However, the schoolmaster’s second encounter with the dog was witnessed simultaneously by Dr Omand though, given his knowledge and beliefs, there might have been a certain degree of expectation on his part.

The desolate Kettleness Point and stories of encounters with a Black Dog were not new to Donald Omand as he had visited there as a small boy and later, whilst working as a newspaper reporter on the Northern Echo at Darlington, he had interviewed a local fisherman who had seen a huge black dog appear and disappear there a few seconds later on more than one occasion.

Whitby harbour

A view of Whitby harbour looking out towards Whitby Abbey and the sea

As a teenager Omand had been profoundly affected by Bram Stoker’s Dracula – it is worth noting that in the book Dracula comes ashore at Whitby in the form of a dog:

But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand.

Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight.

Omand believed that Stoker must have visited Kettleness and seen the phantom hound himself and that this later inspired part of the book.

References

Alexander, M. (1978). To anger the Devil: Exorcist extraordinary The Reverend Dr Donald Omand. Suffolk: Neville Spearman.

Stoker, B. (1897/2000).  Dracula. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited.