Hell Hounds On The Prowl: Black Dogs in England

The teeth of the black dog baring its fangs.

We sure love our dogs, don’t we? We lovingly raise them from pups and make them an integral part of our families. 

Looking back upon cultural folklore, it becomes apparent that dogs weren’t always man’s best friend. In ancient Greek mythology, Cerberus, a nightmarish three headed dog, guarded the gates of Hades and it was his job to make sure souls did not escape. In the folklore of Britain, canines were feared and regarded as harbingers of doom and stealer of souls. 

The folklore concerning diabolical black dogs can be traced back centuries and were considered a manifestation of untold dread. Those unfortunate enough to cross paths with one of these monstrous hounds, describe them as a being born from their darkest nightmares. The beast is described as a coal black dog that was the size of a bull with fiery eyes and dagger-like teeth. They also appear to possess the ability to see into the darkest recesses of the human soul. Every report shared by witnesses agreed that the black dogs were truly terrifying to behold.

Stories of demonic black dogs were introduced to the literary world when Sir Author Conan Doyle released his mystery novell The Hound of the Baskervilles. Doyle pitted his sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, against a giant black dog that threatened to wipe the Baskerville family out. Holmes masterfully solved the case and saved the last of the Baskerville line from suffering the fate of his ancestors. 

Apart from fictional detective stories, are there any verifiable accounts of these monstrous dogs? According to some, there is.

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A curious and horrific tale of a bloodthirsty spectral black dog comes from Newgate Prison, one of Britain’s oldest and cruelest prisons. 

In 1596, a man named Scholler was arrested and found guilty of the unforgivable crime of witchcraft and consorting with the devil. Following a swift trial, Scholler was sent to Newgate Prison where he would await his appointment with the gallows. Shortly after arriving, Scholler’s fellow inmates attacked the man and brutally murdered him which was not an uncommon occurrence in Newgate. The prisoners took it a step further and roasting Sholler over a fire, and then they consumed the accused witch in an attempt to gain his magical ability.

When the guards discovered the grisly scene, they were going to severly punish the cannibals. The inmates were wise to this and ambushed the guards ultimately killing them. Once the gaurds were no more, the prisoners managed to escape their bondage and ran amok over the countryside, raping and killing anyone who crossed their paths.

Although the prisoners were confident of their escape from Newgate Prison, they never once considered the witch they murdered would have his vengeance from beyond the grave. One morning, before the sun peeked over the horizon, a monstrous black dog with burning eyes of fire appeared before the criminals. When they fled, the beast relentlessly hunted them down and ate every one of them, bone and all. Those who witnessed it declared they had never seen such a beast. When the last inmate was dead and gone, the creature believed to be the witch Scholler, faded into nothingness.

Staying in England, a vicious black dog known as Black Shuck haunts the crossroads of Hertfordshire. He guards a lonely place where a chimney sweep was unjustly executed for a crime he didn’t commit. The apparition of Black Shuck appears to weary travelers as they pass through the crossroads at the hour of the chimney sweep’s untimely demise.

Those who have witnessed the phantom say it appears out of a puff of smoke as an unearthly howl fills the air. It then chases people before vanishing.

Of all the legends concerning the hounds of hell, the record wouldn’t be complete without the attack on a church in Bungay, England, on August 4, 1577. 

According to folklore, as the people of Bungay congregated in the church on a sunny Sunday morning, thunder sounded over the church and lightning flashed through a clear sky. This made the parishioners believe that something devilish was afoot.

As they sat in silence, a nightmarish beast materialized near the altar. A great black dog with eyes burning of fire and malevolence appeared. According to the historical record, it raced around the church letting out a roar that shook the very foundations of the building. Several churchgoers were injured and three were killed by a single swipe of the beast’s giant paw.

After causing chaos and destruction, the beast vanished. The people of Bungay church believed the dog was a manifestation of Satan who had come to purge them of sinners. Black scorch marks allegedly left by the beast can still be seen today on the altar and door of the church.

Proof such entities exist and mean us harm.

The majority of black dog stories have an air of the diabolical, but not all. Giant black dogs have been known to protect children as they travel. They have also been known to protect families who are pure of heart. Encounters with sinister black dogs have been told in movies, books and around campfires for countless generations. And if these stories continue, the mystery surrounding their existence will always be with us.

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About Rick Hale 106 Articles
Rick Hale became interested in anomalous phenomenon at an early age after encountering an apparition in his grandparent's home. Rick is the author of "The Geek's Guide To The Strange and Unusual: Poltergeists, Ghost and Demons," and "Behold! Shocking True Tales Off Terror...And Some Other Spooky Stuff." Rick has been published in Haunted Times Magazine, Paranormal Underground Magazine, The Supernatural Magazine, Spookyisles.com and Legends Magazine. Rick appeared in Ghost Tapes 2 and Ghost Tapes: The Series found at YouTube.com.

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