I love pottering in the greenhouse and garden and listening to classic rock with my Labradoodle, Florrie.
Ghost Story Tradition
There is a long-standing British tradition going back centuries of telling scary ghost stories around the fire on Christmas Eve. Similarly, in the heart of summer, sitting around a campfire in the dark is a perfect time for telling a spine-chilling tale! Perhaps it is the long shadows that a fire casts that creates the perfect atmosphere for an eerie story. Or possibly having a captive audience makes you gaze into the flickering flames and lean in to listen a little closer. And, of course, a few sips of beer or wine never hurt a good ghost story.
Ghost Stories Featuring Dogs
The presence of dogs can heighten the drama of storytelling around a fire. The way that dogs can suddenly raise their heads and bark at nothing can unnerve even the hardiest of souls! At times, they seem to have an uncanny sense of the supernatural.
Dogs themselves are frequently the central character in a ghost story. Phantom dogs reputedly haunt many parts of England. Some of these legends go back hundreds of years. Here are three such tales to send a chill down your spine!
1. Black Shuck
According to folklore, “Black Shuck”—a giant, ferocious hell-hound with flaming red eyes and savage claws—has roamed the countryside of East Anglia for centuries Spreading death and terror, the name “Shuck” is derived from the old English word “scucca” meaning devil or demon. In the book Highways & Byways in East Anglia, published in 1901, W. A. Dutt describes Black Shuck as follows:
”He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer's blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound.”
Black Shuck Sightings
The most well-known Black Shuck sightings occurred in two Suffolk churches in August 1577 during a raging thunderstorm. Disturbing the congregation at prayer in Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, Black Shuck is alleged to have burst through the doors amid a flash of lightning. The giant hound galloped up the main aisle killing a man and a boy on the way. Simultaneously, the church steeple collapsed. On the way out of the church, Black Shuck left scratch and burn marks on the north door. These are known locally as the “devil's fingerprints” which can still be seen today.
The second encounter was in St Mary's Church, Bungay, where Black Shuck killed two more people who were kneeling at prayer. The hound continued attacking many in the congregation with its sharp teeth and claws. Locals that day considered the hound to be an apparition of the devil.
Is Black Shuck Real or a Myth?
There are still reports of sightings of Black Shuck in the East Anglia region to this day. So beware—the legend of Black Shuck states that to look into the hound's red eyes during an encounter is fatal and that death in your family will follow within a year!
At this point, you may believe Black Shuck to be just a myth. However, during an archaeological dig at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk in 2013, the skeletal remains of a very large dog were found amongst the ruins! Just seven miles from Blythburgh, the skeleton was the size of a Great Dane or Mastiff and appeared to be centuries old. Were these the bones of Black Shuck?
2. Moddey Dhoo
My second tale is of the “Moddey Dhoo”, a phantom black dog found in folklore from the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is a small island just 30 miles long situated in the Irish Sea midway between England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Peel Castle was built on the western coast of the Isle by Vikings in the 11th century. Back in the 17th century, the castle was occupied by soldiers. The guard room for the castle was close to the main entrance, and a passage led through an old church from the guard’s room to the Captain’s room. Every evening, the soldiers would take turns in pairs to lock the castle gates and carry the keys through the dark passage to the Captain.
It is said that an apparition of a big, black spaniel with rough curly hair was often seen in the guard’s room. At night, when the candles were lit, the dog would come down the dark passage and lay down in front of the fire in the presence of the soldiers. The following morning, the dog would disappear back into the passage.
The soldiers were terrified of the phantom dog at first, but soon got used to its frequent visits. However, when the time came to carry the keys to the Captain, they would always go in pairs—no man would face the dark passage alone. One night, however, a particular soldier had a little too much to drink. He boasted that he was not afraid of the dog and snatched up the keys and headed down the dark passage on his own. The black dog slowly got up from the fire and followed him.
Soon after their departure, terrible blood-curdling screams were heard from the passageway. A few minutes later, the soldier returned. His face was twisted in fear, and he could not speak of what had happened. Three days later the soldier died, and the black spaniel—the Moddey Dhoo—was never seen again.
3. The Black Dog of Newgate
Newgate prison in London was originally built in the 12th century. It remained in use for over 700 years before finally being demolished in 1904. The “Old Bailey” Crown Court was built in its place.
Conditions in the prison were always grim and appalling, particularly in the 13th century when a terrible famine swept through England. The famine was so bad that some inmates of Newgate resorted to cannibalism.
During this time, a scholar accused of sorcery and witchcraft was sent to Newgate to await trial. The scholar soon fell victim to the depraved inmates—he was killed and became “dish of the day”!
Revenge of the Black Dog
Shortly after this crime was committed, the inmates responsible began seeing the apparition of a monstrous black dog within the prison. They were convinced the dog was the sorcerer's spirit returning to gain revenge on his murderers. One by one, the prisoners were attacked and killed by the black dog. The last survivors were ultimately driven mad by fear and broke out of the prison.
Even though they were free of Newgate prison, they were not free of the beast. It is said that the terrifying black dog sought them out and killed them all. Once all those implicated in the sorcerer’s death had been slain, the dog simply disappeared.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.