Christmas is of course a time for tradition and loved ones to be close in all we do; as we celebrate this holiday season. However, one tradition often less realised these days, is that slightly obscure one immortalised by Charles Dickens in his epic ‘A Christmas Carol.’ A story we are all too familiar with these days, but its often forgotten by many that this is also a ghost story. It is this sharing of ghost stories at Christmas that many authors have engaged in over the years, including the wonderful M R James. So, as Christmas fast approaches, and in true Dickens fashion, I decided to try and throw myself into writing a Christmas Ghost Story of my own. And with this being Christmas Eve already, it will have to be a short one in this instance.
I invite you to warm yourself by the fireside, wrap your hands around a seasonal hot chocolate or perhaps a more grown up beverage and discover the chilling tale of Holy Islands horrific Hell hound. It is certainly likely to be a story you were not expecting.
Freddy Scott is a man often said to be out of his own time. He is a rare individual in that he is the single heir to an extensive estate, including a hugely successful business worth billions. A wealth that means he will never need to actually work a day in his life, unless he really wanted to do so. Whilst many in Freddy’s position may have been content with engaging in a playboy lifestyle his wealth allowed him access to, his interests lay elsewhere.
When Freddy was just nine years old he died or that is at least how he explains it when he describes the moment he drowned in a lake. His father pulled his lifeless body from the freezing lake of their Scottish country house and his mother then breathed life back into him. Whilst he had only been dead for probably a couple of minutes, it seemed like a lifetime to Freddy. Especially as during this time he experienced something beyond belief, which he later learnt to be called a Near Death Experience. He had travelled through a tunnel of light to a strange place, where he spoke with his Grandfather. The odd thing being that Freddy had never met his Grandfather, the man had died months before his birth. This was on of two events that changed Freddy’s outlook on the world.
The second occurred a couple of years later when he was nearly twelve years old. This time he was visited by his mother one night, who explained to him that his path in life was to be one that could be considered somewhat unusual. She told him that he was to seek the truth no matter what obstacles he encountered. When Freddy up in the morning and remembered his mother was away in the Americas, he believed it had been a dream. That was until later that day when the family received news that there had been an accident, which resulted in his mothers death. The apparition of his mother visiting him would remain with Freddy until this very day. It would help to shape his choices in life and also his passion to understand the possibility of survival after death.
In fact Freddy Scott dedicated his life to the paranormal, learning all he could about the subject from many wide ranging disciplines. He studied psychology and philosophy at Cambridge, but even learnt physics too. He wanted to know all he could to assist in his personal quest. He also published many papers in notable journals, but became best known for his collections of Ghost Stories that he accumulated on his travels around the world. His thirst for knowledge and understanding of the paranormal consumed his every waking moment to the extent that his father felt it to be unhealthy. However, Freddy’s arguments were always well constructed when it came to convincing his father of his continued research. As such Freddy Scott became one of the only paranormal researchers on the planet that had unlimited funding. Something he took full advantage of during his research of the unexplained.
It was late afternoon on the 23rd December when Freddy found himself mesmerised by the small sign pointing down a narrow lane. He was heading north to spend Christmas at his families Scottish Country house, which was more of a castle than a house. Still, as he continued to fill up the tank of his Jaguar F-Type, he felt drawn to the lane to the point where he could not shift it from conscious thought. As he paid for his fuel, he asked about the lane and was advised that it led to the tidal island of Lindisfarne, better known as Holy Island these days.
Returning to his car Freddy frantically searched his shoulder bag for his leather bound journal. On finding the almost complete journal he thumbed through the early pages until he found the entry he was looking for. He skim read the words on the page, which outlined the concerns that Andrew Kean had regarding a large black dog with piercing fiery red eyes encountered on Holy Island. This brief skim over the details of the case was enough for Freddy and he spared no more time, heading off down the lane towards Holy Island. After all he only had less than an hour to make it across the causeway and into the small town, before the tide would cover the only way onto the island until the next morning.
Now you would be forgiven if you were to think this to be unusual behaviour for Freddy Scott. If anything, I assure you that it was practically common place for him and he was often known to be late for engagements due to his magpie like behaviour towards the paranormal. However, it was this ‘nose for the strange’ that had brought about experiences that had led to three best selling books. Although it could equally be said, that in recounting his adventures he may at times be somewhat overly dramatic. Something his publishers actively encouraged during each and every meeting.
In fact it was the connections that the Scott family business had with the Newspaper industry and various publishers that first helped to bring Freddy’s paranormal adventures to the world. Those same connections and the ones with the council of the Society for Psychical Research, also brought cases to Freddy to investigate in his own enigmatic style.
Arriving late on the island meant that Freddy would have to find accommodation for the night. Rather than spend to much time on the matter he decided to try the first place that caught his eye. As he turned into Crossgate Lane from Marygate, he noticed a ‘Vacancy’ sign in the window of The Open Gate Bed & Breakfast; parked up and headed in for a room.
There was no defined reception, simply a small table near the bottom of the staircase. A note taped to the table asked guests to ring for assistance; and Freddy locating a push button door-bell switch, pushed it two or three times to gain said assistance. There was a brief moment of silence when he wondered if he should try again or if it had worked at all. Then a deep voice from upstairs announced her presence, inviting Freddy to provide her with a moment to descend the stair. Freddy waited as a slightly heavier set women, possibly in her fifties slowly made her way down the staircase. Half way down the woman introduced herself as Mrs Miller and asked if Freddy had booked ahead. He expressed that he had not, but was willing to take what was available. Mrs. Miller reached the bottom step, caught her breath, looked Freddy up and down, then offered him a basic simple room on the top floor. He accepted and paid upfront.
As Freddy began to ascend the stairs, Mrs Miller asked him why he had come to Holy Island so late in the year. He explained that it was to investigate a very strange paranormal encounter with a large black dog with red eyes on the island. Oddly Mrs Miller had heard of the strange animal Freddy was searching for and advised that she believed it had been seen at the end of Crossgate Lane, near the priory ruins.
Freddy found Mrs Miller addition to the story fascinating and it enthused him to get to work right away. He thought he would begin with a little background research on the internet, but this was soon found to be impossible. The strange thing about Holy Island, apart from its large black scary hound, is that at certain points of the day both mobile phone and internet connections would cease. I was almost as if the island would force its way back in time when the technology we hold in such high regard simply did not exist. Whilst many of us that are connected to our gadgets and gizmos might struggle under those kind of circumstances, the residents of Holy Island embraced it. After all they did not live on the island to be a part of the high tech world, but in most cases to be a little disconnected from the world. At least whilst the tide was high.
Realising that it was already dark outside, Freddy decided to take a walk down Crossgate Lane tot he priory ruins and take a look at the very place Mrs Miller had indicated the black hound had been seen.
Half way down the lane, Freddy was hit by a simple understanding. As much as he tried he could not hear a sound. The silence was haunting alone. He was surrounded by houses and even a couple of pubs, but as he stood there looking at the outline of the ruined priory in the dark, he heard literally nothing. He spun around a couple of times on the spot, looking for other people, but there was no one. Taking a deep breath Freddy continued towards the priory ruins. For a moment he looked back up the lane towards the Open Gate, but when he looked back at the priory he saw the silhouette of a short thin man wearing what Freddy believed to be a flat cap.
As he approached the man, Freddy greeted the man, but to his surprise the man responded asking if he was Frederic William James Scott, the author. Freddy said he was and asked the mans name, although he could still not make out his face amongst the shadows. The man advised Freddy that he was Andrew Kean, the man he was seeking. Then just as Freddy thought himself close enough to shake the mans hand, he had turned around and began to walk into the priory ruins.
Andrew Kean appeared to endeavour to make short work of explaining his experience of the hound to Freddy. Always he remained quite rudely two or three steps ahead of Freddy and throughout the meeting he kept his back to Freddy. Something which thoroughly frustrated Freddy, but as too was caught up taking notes on Kean’s experiences he never challenged it.
Kean explained that it was a night that could be considered almost identical to that night. It was also late December when he found himself walking into the ruins of the priory. He had been there a few times previously, but never alone or that late into the evening. Whilst he had heard that a few people had reported seeing the ghost of a monk walking throughout the ruins, it was never something he really believed. However, what he encountered that night was different, it was cold and evil. It filled him with fear from head to toe, so much so that he felt frozen in time. Kean expressed, almost with an essence of anger, that what he had seen that night was no apparition, it was beyond real!
Suddenly, Kean froze, transfixed on a particular area of the ruin. Although Freddy could not see his face, it was evident that the man was obviously terrified. Freddy moved into Kean’s fixed gaze and with slight excitement in his voice, stated that it was there that Kean met the Hell Hound that fateful night. Kean simply nodded, barely enough for Freddy to see in the shadows.
Curious to how the events transpired from that point forward, Freddy pressed Kean for more information. However, Kean became confused now and seemingly unable to move past the point when he came face to face with those fiery red eyes of the hound. Then for the first time Kean faced Freddy directly and as their eyes met in the darkness; an icy cold pulse made its way through Freddy’s body. Kean then spoke softly, but quickly advising that ‘she’ had always known. Freddy barely thought of his next question before the answer presented itself, ‘Madame Raynham.’
Freddy broke eye contact for a moment to scribble some notes down and reach for his mobile phone; he wanted a photograph of where the hound had been seen. However, as he looked up Kean was gone, perhaps the man was a little camera shy. Freddy scanned the dark shadows of the priory ruins, but he quickly realised that even if Kean was there he would never make him out in the dark. The man had clearly shared his story and wanted no more to do with it.
As Freddy walked back up Crossgate Lane from the priory ruins towards the Open Gate, he could hear the water lapping the nearby shore, a car, a dog barking and more. His walk was no longer filled with the silence that had met him on the way down. Perhaps these sounds had been there all along, but he had become focussed on this story of the Hell hound.
He entered the Open Gate and was met by Mrs Miller, who enquired about his evening walk. When he expressed that he had quite by chance met the very man who encounter he was investigating; Mrs Miller seemed to discount the possibility of chance, perhaps reading it as more like divine intervention as it was so close to Christmas. Freddy then explained that he had met with Andrew Kean. Quite unexpectedly Mrs Miller then discounted the whole thing, stating quite simply that it was not possible. As Freddy had indeed believed he had met Kean, he of course argued the point. However, Mrs Miller quickly responded with the simple fact that her maiden name was Kean and Andrew Kean was her father. Freddy’s meeting was impossible because Andrew Kean had died in 1970.
Confused, but now convinced that someone may be playing some kind of joke on him, Freddy excused himself to his room. Once there he grabbed his leather bound journal and found the entry that had brought him to Holy Island in the first place. As he read through his notes, he realised in his excitement earlier that he had misread the entire entry. What he originally believed to be a communication from Andrew Kean regarding his experience with a Hell hound on Holy Island, turned out to be a psychic prediction from the archives of the Society for Psychical Research. The prediction was dated, December 1870. It explained how in 1920 a man named John Kean would encounter the Hell hound on Holy Island and as such be scared to death. The prediction did not stop there though, it went on to speak of how John’s son Andrew would return to the island only to fall the same fate as his father and die from the fear of looking deep into the fiery red eyes of the hound. The prediction ended by stating that the spirit of Andrew Kean would return fifty years later to spare a man who came to help. The prediction was signed by Madame Raynham.
Whilst Freddy re-read the notes he had made previously he found himself caught in a spiral of confusion regarding the events of that evening. He obviously already knew the entire story as he had originally read about it and made the notes himself. Is it possible that he constructed the whole event in his own mind as he walked the priory ruins alone or had the spirit of Andrew Kean been there the whole time, sparing him from the horrific hell hound of Holy Island? Either way he turned to a fresh page in his journal and began to write his story for that night. One thing was for certain though he would not be sharing this ghost story with his readers. At least not before he had a better understanding of his experience on Holy Island.