Many years ago would you believe that Oysters weren’t a delicacy of the rich? Considered a poor man's food the working class along the coast relied on oysters. Here's Whitby's tale of the Oyster Man…
In a time where oysters were a quick meal for the poor, a scruffy gentleman known as the ‘Oyster Man’ would do his rounds and sell his latest catch to punters in the pubs in Whitby. Staggering around with a heavy oyster sack on his back and a large oyster back on his head. The old man would yell “Oysters alive-oh!” and people would recognise his call and rush to get their cheap dinner.
One cold November evening the man entered the Golden Lion Inn, a pub that was always on his route but this time it was different, John Smith was in town and was looking for a fight, he zoned in on the poor Oyster Man.
John was well known to disappear for weeks on end but he would always return to Whitby. Rumour suggested he was a highwayman, or a smuggler, few believed he was a millionaire who had sold his soul to the Devil. What people knew for sure about him was that he was to be kept away from at all costs.
John began making fun of the Oyster Man and his oysters, he was yelling some insults so the Oyster Man packed up his oysters and began to leave. He couldn’t stop himself from grunting some insults of his own to John, John heard and a fight ensued. John grabbed the sack of oysters and threw them into the fire and was about to do the same to the frightened Oyster Man. In self-defence the Oyster Man pulled out his knife and stabbed John, killing him.
He was never convicted of any crime as it was considered a self-defensive act but he did live with the guilt for the rest of his life.
On cold November nights, you can still hear the Oyster Man with his call “Oysters alive-oh!” as his ghostly remains still walk the streets of Whitby…. though it is said the old Oyster Man avoids the Golden Lion Pub.
Let us know if you have ever heard his cries in the comments!
Want to hear more Whitby tales, legends and ghost stories?
Whitby is surrounded by myth, legend, unexplained tales and spooky stories. The following books are a great place to learn more about these fascinating local stories.