13 November 2008, JellyBean @ 1:01 pm

On Sunday the 4th of August 1577, at between nine and ten in the morning a great storm broke out in Bungay, Suffolk. The parishioners of the local church were terrified when the sky darkened and the storm shook the church.

All of a sudden in the midst of the storm, a large black dog appeared inside the church. Lit by flashes of lightning, the dog ran around causing panic amongst the congregation. People began to kneel in prayer, but at one point the dog passed between two praying people and they dropped over dead. Another man who was close by shriveled up – burnt severely.

At the same time, about seven miles away in the town of Blythburgh, another black dog appeared int he parish church, again in the midst of an almighty storm.

This black dog left three people dead and scorch marks on the north church door. These marks are still visible today!

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If you go to the village of Bungay today, you will see a weathervane in Bungay Market which shows a black dog on a lightening bolt, made so that people will never forget that tragic day.

Large, black, phantom dogs have roamed through folklore of many countries, but are mostly found in the British Isles. Usually seen at night and usually associated with the Devil, its appearance is often  regarded as a portent of death.

These phantom dogs are described as being larger than ordinary dogs, but with glowing eyes. According to folklore, these dogs can be encountered in a number of places: crossroads, places of execution and ancient pathways. In Norfolk it is supposed to be amphibious – emerging from the sea at night to wreak havoc amongst the populace.

Throughout European mythology, the phantom dog has been associated with death and the afterlife. It is believed that the origins of this come from C?n Annwn, Garm and Cerberus, all of whom were in some way guardians of the underworld.

Strangely, some phantom dogs like the Gurt Dog in Somerset and the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills are said to behave benevolently.

An example of this benevolent dog is the story of Johnny Greenwood.

One night, Johnny had to take a journey through the woods. As he entered the forest, he was joined by a big, black dog, which padded along next to him. When he emerged from the forest, the dog vanished.

Some time later he was returning home, along the same forest path. Again he was joined by the mysterious black dog which once again left him as soon as he was out of the forest.

Some years later he learned that two condemned prisoners had confessed that they had been lying in wait to rob and murder him. They decided against it when they saw the large, black dog which accompanied him.

In Scotland the black dog is also a guardian of treasure. Near the standing stone of Murthley, there is said to be buried an ancient treasure. However you are warned to stay clear of the stone, as a black dog guards the treasure against those who wish to obtain it.

In the Isle of Man it is styled Mauthe Dhoog, or Moddey Dhoo (black dog in Manx). It is said to haunt the environs of Peel Castle. People believe that anyone who sees the dog will die soon after the encounter with the dog. It is mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel–

“For he was speechless, ghastly, wan
Like him of whom the Story ran
Who spoke the spectre hound in Man.”

Black dogs are also part of folklore in the US. In New England, numerous black dog sightings occur in cemeteries, and some speculate the phantom creatures patrol and protect the graves of the dead.

Down south in the old slave cemeteries, the dead are also often said to be guarded by ghostly black dogs. These however are usually missing a limb, or even a head!

In modern times, there are sightings of the dogs in more modern settings. Often times people report driving along a quiet, deserted road, when all of a sudden a black dog leaps out in the middle of the road, almost causing the driver to crash. Sometimes the driver stops and gets out. There is usually no sign of either a living dog or the ghostly apparition.

Whatever the truth behind the stories, there is no denying that the legend of the black dog will continue in our folklore and inspire us to be wary when venturing in dark, lonely places.

Castle of Spirits: Black Dogs

X Project Magazine: Phantom Dogs

Mysterious Britain: Phantom Black Dogs

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