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Lair of the Beasts: The Nightmarish Black Dog
A Creature of Death
By Nick Redfern
July 28, 2012
For centuries, the ghostly Black Dog, or Devil Dog, has been an integral part of British folklore and mythology, as well as the world of monster-hunting. Generally described as being much larger than any normal hound, its coat is utterly black, its eyes blaze like fiery, red-hot coals, and its appearance and presence is often perceived as an ominous portent of disaster, tragedy, and death. In other words, the Black Dog of Britain is the grim reaper in animal form.
It has also been suggested that this monster represents the spectral form of the dead returned. London’s Newgate Jail was the location of an encounter with just such a creepy critter centuries ago. One Luke Hutton, a criminal who had been executed at the English city of York in the late 1590s, described the event in a pamphlet that was not published until 1812, years after his death.
Titled The Discovery of a London Monster, called the black dog of Newgate, Hutton’s story suggested that a marauding, glowing-eyed, black hound that was seen prowling around the jail was actually the ghost of a scholar who had been imprisoned in Newgate, and who had subsequently been killed and eaten by the starving inmates. He had returned in monstrous, dog-like form to exact his revenge on those who had so violently ended his life.
Then there is the very weird tale of William and David Sutor. The dark saga all began late one night in December of 1728, when William, a Scottish farmer, was hard at work in his fields and heard an unearthly shriek that was accompanied by a brief glimpse of a large, dark-colored dog, far bigger than any normal hound, and possessing a pair of the ubiquitous, glowing eyes.
And on several more occasions from 1729 to 1730, the dog returned, always seemingly intent on plaguing the Sutor family. In late November of 1730, the affair reached its paranormal pinnacle.
Once again, the mysterious dog manifested before the farmer, but this time, incredibly, he heard to speak in rumbling tones, directing William to make his way to a nearby area within 30 minutes. He did as he was told, and there waiting for him was the spectral hound.
The terrified William pleaded to know what was going on. The hound answered that he was none other than David Sutor, William’s brother, and indicated that he had killed a man at that very spot some 35 years earlier. Just as David had directed his own savage dog to kill the man, he, David, had been returned to our plane of existence in the form of a gigantic hound as punishment.
The black hound instructed William to seek out the buried bones of the murdered man and then place them within consecrated ground, which William duly did in the confines of the old Blair Churchyard. The ghostly black dog—the spirit of David Sutor in animalistic, spectral form—vanished, and was reportedly never seen or heard from again.
In this case, the presence of the hound did not presage death, but, as the tale demonstrates, the beast was certainly intimately connected with the domain of the dead.
Although the image that the Devil Dog conjures up is that of a sinister beast prowling the villages and hamlets of centuries-old England, sightings of such creatures have continued until relatively recent times.
Interestingly, one area that seems to attract more than its fair share of such encounters is a sprawling mass of dense forest in Staffordshire, England, known as the Cannock Chase. Indeed, among the folk of the many small villages that either sit on the fringes of the Chase or are found deep within the heart of its wooded depths, tales of the vile hounds of hell are disturbingly and surprisingly common.
In other words, the traditions and beliefs of old are still at work in modern times. In one such tale, late one evening in early 1972, a man named Nigel Lea was driving across the Cannock Chase when his attention was suddenly drawn to a strange ball of glowing, blue light that appeared to slam into the ground some distance ahead of his vehicle amid a veritable torrent of bright, fiery sparks.
Needless to say, Lea quickly slowed his car down, and as he approached the area where he had seen the light fall, he was shocked and horrified to see looming before him “the biggest bloody dog I have ever seen in my life.”
Muscular and black, with large, pointed ears and huge paws, the creature seemed to positively ooze malice and menace, and had a wild, staring look in its yellow-tinged eyes. For 20 or 30 seconds, man and beast faced each other, after which time the animal slowly and cautiously headed for the tall trees and finally disappeared, never once taking its penetrating eyes off of the petrified driver.
Somewhat ominously, and around two or three weeks later, says Lea, a close friend of his was killed in an industrial accident under horrific circumstances in the town of West Bromwich. After having deeply studied the history of Black Dog lore, Lea believes this event was directly connected with his strange encounter.
And, with that all said, what else can I add but: Beware of the dog!
Nick Redfern’s book The World’s Weirdest Places will be published in September by New Page Books.