The Black Dog is a terrifying apparition which has been sighted repeatedly, and often with dire consequences, throughout the British Isles over the last millennium. Unlike many legends, there are still many accounts of Black Dog sightings even today.
What Are The Black Dogs?
Black Dogs are spirits which have been recorded in thousands of anecdotes, over the last 800 years, from nearly every area of Britain and Ireland. The physical appearance of the dogs can differ greatly, and they also have different names according to various local legends – for example, the Padfoot in North England has feet that turn backward, the Black Shuck in East Anglia has one eye, which is a wicked, flaming red, the Mauthe Doog, from the Isle of Man, is said to have extraordinarily large eyes, and the Lamper, in Scotland, is white and has no tail.
Contrary to popular belief, the appearance of a Black Dog is not always a portent of doom. There are accounts of Black Dogs helping farmers herd animals, and other tales of Somerset’s Gurt Dog, which would protect children and lone travelers. However, many Black Dog encounters are incredibly horrifying experiences and/or harbingers of tragedy – an omen of either the death of the witness themselves, the death of a loved one, or a great personal loss.
Black Dogs are nocturnal and have nearly always been encountered in remote and desolate places, on ancient roads, or around areas associated with death. Crossroads, old paths, graveyards and execution sites are all prime locations for sightings. However, sightings are not completely limited to any one type of place and individual anecdotes can be read which cover nearly any environment.
Perhaps the most famous and well documented sighting of this phenomenon occurred in the town of Bungay during a thunderstorm in 1577. On that night, a Black Dog (or the devil in disguise as it was assumed) tore through the church and wrought complete havoc upon the place, causing 2 parishioners to drop dead as it ran between them, then touching another man who shrivelled up, according to Abraham Fleming’s 1577 pamphlet, ‘A Straunge and Terrible Wunder: Wrought Very Late in the Parish Church of Bongay’, ”as it were a peece of leather scorched in a hot fire; or as the mouth of a purse or bag, drawen togither with a string”.
This same dog, on the same night, then made an appearance at another church in the neighboring town of Blythburgh where it killed 2 other people. Over 400 years later, a scorch mark from that ill-fated night is still visible on the door of the Blythburgh church, and the weather vane on the Bungay church features a black dog riding a lightning bolt instead of the customary rooster.