For the month of October, I will feature monsters and legends that have fascinated me. This week it’s the Black Dog.
I sprang to my feet, my inert hand grasping my pistol, my mind paralyzed by the dreadful shape which had sprung out upon us from the shadows of the fog. A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
Black Dogs are ghostly hounds that haunt the rural lanes of the night. Most countries have a legend of a spectral dog with glowing red eyes, but the Black Dog is mostly associated with Great Britain. They are believed to be spirits, there is evidence that at least one of the stories may have been inspired by a living canine. Legends of Black Dogs appearing at the notorious Squire Cabell’s crypt are believed to have inspired the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Black Dog may be an offshoot of the tales told of mythical hounds such Cerberus, the Cŵn Annwn, and Garmr. All three were connected to the underworld of their cultures. While there are examples of the Black Dog being a benevolent protector, mostly he is seen as an omen of death or sickness. They are most often seen in old lanes, crossroads, churchyards, and other places of power. The paths they run are said to be mystical ley lines. They are also associated with storms.
One of the most infamous Black Dogs is Black Shuck. He was said to have appeared at the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh in Suffolk, England. On August 4, 1577, Old Shuck burst into the Holy Trinity Church and ran amok, causing the deaths of two men and the steeple to collapse through the roof. He left scorch marks that can still be seen today. The same day, he was spotted at Bungay, killing another two men in his rampage through their church.
There is no known way to ward off the Black Dog. All you can do if you hear his mournful howl is go inside, lock your door, and pray he passes you by.