As a follow-on to my article on the varied out of place animals in the U.K., I thought I would share with you two other examples of strange creatures in the U.K. Both of these, however, have distinct paranormal aspects attached to them. They are the ABCs and the PBDs: Alien Big Cats and Phantom Black Dogs, to give them their complete titles. I’ll begin with the PBDs. Author and publisher Bob Trubshaw says of these menacing animals: “The folklore of phantom black dogs is known throughout the British Isles. From the Black Shuck of East Anglia to the Mauthe Dhoog of the Isle of Man there are tales of huge spectral hounds ‘darker than the night sky’ with eyes ‘glowing red as burning coals.’” While a number of intriguing theories exist to explain the presence and nature of such spectral-like beasts, certainly the most ominous of all is that they represent some form of precursor to – or instigator of – doom, tragedy, and death.”
On Sunday 4 August 1577, at St. Mary’s Church, Bungay, Suffolk, England, an immense, spectral, fiery-eyed black hound materialized within the church during a powerful thunderstorm and mercilessly tore into the terrified congregation with its huge fangs and claws. So powerful was the storm that it reportedly killed two men in the belfry as the church tower received an immense lightning bolt that tore through it and shook the building to its very foundations. According to an old, local verse: “All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew. And, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew.” Then as suddenly as it had appeared, the beast bounded out of St. Mary’s and was reported shortly thereafter at Blythburgh Church, about twelve miles away, where it killed and mauled even more people with its immense and bone-crushing jaws – and where, it is said, the scorch marks of the beast’s claws can still be seen imprinted on the ancient door of the church.
According to ancient, local folklore, roughly one thousand years ago there lived on the wilds of Dartmoor, England a man named Bowerman. He was a skilled hunter and someone who knew the old, mysterious landscape very well. On one particular day, while out hare-hunting, his pack of hunting dogs stumbled upon something else: a secret coven of witches, hidden deep within a series of previously unknown caves on the moorland. Bowerman’s dogs raced around the caves in chaotic fashion, knocking over a huge cauldron that was a significant part of an ancient ritual the witches were about to perform. Bowerman managed to take control of his dogs and fled the area. The witches, however, were determined to have their cold, deadly revenge.
One of the crone-like coven shape-shifted into a hare, and coldly lured Bowerman and his dogs into marshy ground that quickly swallowed up one and all. The witches were not done with Bowerman and his pack, however. They hauled their dead bodies out of the marsh and turned them to stone. So the old legend goes, a line of rocks at the peak of Hound Tor is comprised of the dogs-turned-to-stone, while an outcrop called Bowerman’s nose, is all that remains of the dogs’ master. And still the story continues.
The very same area of landscape is the home of what are known as the Wisht Hounds – briefly referred to above by Merrily Harpur. Like the monster-dog in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of Baskervilles (which was actually based, in part, on the old legends), the Wisht Hounds were huge, black, deadly dogs of a paranormal kind that sported blazing red eyes. They preyed upon the bodies and souls of the unfortunate people who dared to intrude upon their territory. On top of that, not at all far away is Buckfastleigh, which, in the 17th century, was the home of Squire Richard Cabell – the inspiration for evil Sir Hugo Baskerville in Conan-Doyle’s much-loved novel. Local lore tells of how, on the night Cabell died, a vicious pack of savage, black hounds was seen racing across the moonlit moor.
Most of the PBD cases date back centuries. There is, however, no shortage of relatively recent incidents. First, there is the story of the Bradley family of the city of Leeds who had the very deep misfortune to encounter one of the now-familiar hounds of Hell in early 2009: at no less a site than the English city of Lichfield’s famous and historic cathedral; which has the distinction of being the only English cathedral to be adorned with three spires. According to the Bradley’s, while walking around the outside of the cathedral one pleasant Sunday morning, they were startled by the sight of a large black dog racing along at high speed, and adjacent to the side of the cathedral. The jaw-dropping fact that the dog was practically the size of a donkey ensured their attention was caught and held. But that attention was rapidly replaced by overwhelming fear, when the dog allegedly “charged the wall” of the cathedral and summarily vanished right into the brickwork as it did so! Perhaps understandably, the Bradley’s chose not to report their mysterious encounter to cathedral officials, or to the police.
Then, we have the brief, but highly thought-provoking, account of Gerald Clarke, a Glasgow baker, whose father claimed to have briefly seen a large, black-colored, phantom hound with bright, electric-blue-colored eyes on the grounds of a military base in central England – called Royal Air Force Stafford – in the late 1950s, and while on patrol late one winter’s evening. As was the case with so many other witnesses to such disturbing entities, the elder Clarke quietly confided in his son that the creature “just vanished: first it was there and then it wasn’t.”