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Weird Norfolk: Black Shuck sighting at Gorleston, April 1972

PUBLISHED: 12:02 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:21 12 May 2017

The legendary spectral hound Black Shuck. Picture: Sam Robbins

The legendary spectral hound Black Shuck. Picture: Sam Robbins

It’s one of East Anglia’s most enduring folk tales, that of a midnight black hell hound with eyes as red as glowing coals that roams the countryside and brings death to the door of anyone unfortunate to lock eyes with him.

Tales of the devil’s sidekick have been passed down from generation to generation, with the earliest account in the region appearing to be the infamous event in 1577 in Bungay where, during a ferocious storm, a black dog burst into the local church leaving devastation in his wake.

As he raced along the nave he killed a man and a boy, caused the steeple to collapse and, as he left the church, left scorch-marks on the north door.

But the stories of Shuck aren’t all consigned to history and folklore books: some are within living memory.

In 1972, the Eastern Daily Press reported a strange story reported by Coastguard Graham Grant, who was on duty at the Gorleston rescue headquarters early one morning when he saw something deeply puzzling.

He told reporters: “Looking to the north at about 4.45am, at daybreak, on Wednesday last, April 19th, I saw a large, black hound-type dog on the beach, about a quarter of a mile north of the lookout. What made me look was that the dog was running, then stopping, as if looking for someone.

“I watched it for one to two minutes and then it vanished before my eyes. I kept on looking for a time but it did not reappear.”

Mr Grant added that the beach had recently been flattened by bulldozers so there was nowhere for the mysterious dog to hide and he revealed that having only just moved to Norfolk, he hadn’t been familiar with the local legend when he saw the Gorleston beast.

Indeed it wasn’t until he mentioned the peculiar sighting to his colleagues that the tale of Black Shuck (“he revels in the roaring of the waves and loves to raise his awful voice above the howling of the gale” quotes the article) surfaced.

Despite local lore suggesting that a sighting of Shuck was a foretelling of doom, it appears Mr Grant was very circumspect about what he saw as a north-west gale battered the coast, describing it as “uncanny”. Our coastguards are made of stern stuff.

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