If you’re into some of the more Fortean aspects of Cryptozoology, you won’t want to miss this! Legendary Ufologist Tim Beckley has just published a new book titled Hounds of the Baskervilles. It’s basically a combination of (A) the original Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles; (B) witness reports of real-life encounters with blazing, red-eyed hounds of the pararnormal kind; and (C) various articles from researchers of the Phantom Black Dog variety. Not only that, the book is massively and richly illustrated with excellent old and atmospheric artwork.
I have a lengthy article in the book, which is an extensive look from me at the history of the Black Dog in the UK, with numerous, little-known case files examined, many of which extend right up to well into the 20th Century. Indeed, many people are wholly unaware that this sinister beast is not – as has been assumed for so long – to be one solely of centuries long gone. And here are a few classic examples from my archives.
In the early-to-mid 1980s, truly surreal and sinister reports began to surface of a creature that became known at a local level as the Ghost Dog of Brereton – a reference to the specific area of Staffordshire, England from where most of the sightings originated. Brereton once had its very own identity; but today it is considered to be a part of the town of Rugeley – or Rudgeley, as it was originally known, according to the Domesday Book, and which translates as “the hill over the field.”
With specific respect to the Brereton encounters, the phantom dog at issue was described as being both large and frightening, and on at least two occasions it reportedly vanished into thin air after having been seen by terrified members of the public on lonely stretches of ancient road late at night. In direct response to an article that appeared in the Cannock Advertiser newspaper during the winter of 1984/5 on the sightings of Brereton’s infamous ghost dog, a member of the public from a local village wrote to the newspaper thus:
“On reading the article my husband and I were astonished. We recalled an incident which happened in July some four or five years ago driving home from a celebration meal at the Cedar Tree restaurant at about 11.30 p.m. We had driven up Coal Pit Lane and were just on the bends before the approach to the Holly Bush when, from the high hedge of trees on the right hand side of the road, the headlights picked out a misty shape which moved across the road and into the trees opposite.”
The woman continued with her account: “We both saw it. It had no definite shape seeming to be a ribbon of mist about 18in. to 2ft. in depth and perhaps nine or 10ft. long with a definite beginning and end. It was a clear, warm night with no mist anywhere else. We were both rather stunned and my husband’s first words were: ‘My goodness! Did you see that?’
“I remember remarking I thought it was a ghost. Until now we had no idea of the history of the area or any possible explanation for a haunting. Of course, this occurrence may be nothing to do with the ‘ghost dog’ or may even have a natural explanation. However, we formed the immediate impression that what we saw was something paranormal.”
Another person who may very well have seen the phantom hound of Brereton was Sally Armstrong. It was shortly after the breaking of dawn one day in late March 1987, and Armstrong, a now-retired employee of a Shropshire, England-based auctioneering company, was on her way to meet with a client, then living in Brereton, who was employed in the antiques trade. For a while at least, all was completely and utterly normal. But, things were only destined to change – and for the absolute worst, too, it can be convincingly argued.
Shortly before she arrived at the old cottage of the man in question, Armstrong was witness to a monstrous black-hued dog with wild, staring eyes that was sitting at the edge of the main road that runs through the locale of Brereton, and which was staring intently at her as she passed by it. Somewhat unsettling: as Armstrong drove by the huge beast, she slowed down, quickly looked in her rear-view mirror, and could see that its head had now turned in her direction. It was, apparently, still focusing upon her each and every move.
Armstrong concedes that there was nothing to definitively suggest an air of the supernatural or the paranormal about the fiend-dog she saw more than a quarter of a century ago; however, that its huge presence seemed to both surprise and unsettle her for reasons that she cannot to this day readily explain or rationalise properly, leads Armstrong to conclude that: “…there was just something about it that makes me remember it this much later.”
Possibly of deep relevance to the tale of the ghost dog of Brereton was the story of a man named Ivan Vinnel. In 1934, as a twelve-year-old, he had a very strange encounter indeed in his hometown of nearby Burntwood, Staffordshire. The sun was beginning to set and the young Ivan and a friend were getting ready to head home after an afternoon of playing hide-and-seek.
Suddenly, however, the pair was stopped dead in its tracks by the shocking sight of a ghostly “tall, dark man,” who was “accompanied by a black dog” that had seemingly materialized out of a “dense hedge” situated approximately ten-yards from the boys’ position. Both man and animal passed by in complete and utter silence before disappearing – in typical and classic ghostly fashion, no less.
Ivan later happened to mention the details of the unsettling incident to his uncle, who then quietly and guardedly proceeded to tell him that he, too, had actually seen the ghostly dog on several occasions when he was a young child. And, as is typically the case with ghostly hounds all across the British Isles, the beast was always reportedly seen in the same location: namely, faithfully pacing along the old road that stretches from the village of Woodhouses to an area of Burntwood situated near the town’s hospital.
The menacing and macabre black dog of old is, many might be terrified to learn, still very much amongst us…