Black Dogs

Hello and welcome to Lukelore!

Today is a personal favourite of mine since childhood, and I will be sharing some stories about Black Dogs. Mostly Black Dogs of Britain, but that’s one of the interesting things… There are loads of demon puppy stories all around the world! Where Black Dogs supposedly come from is a pretty mixed bag. Hellhounds. Helhounds with only one “L”. There are loads of fairy connections. There’s also a pretty common Christian tradition which feels as if it has pagan roots… The idea that the first person buried in a graveyard had the job of watching over that place, so a dog would be buried there to watch over everyone else. This seems to be an origin for very widespread Church Grim stories across the European continent. And they really are all over the place in Europe! Black Dogs are very much a global phenomenon. Wherever people went with dogs, some form of Black Dog seems to loyally follow humankind. Whether we want them to or not, given how dangerous some of them are, haunting the lonely roads waiting to scare the life out of unwary travellers. Black Shuck seems to be one of the most commonly referred to Black Dogs. This is unsurprising given that Black Shuck was the legend Arthur Conan Doyle used for Hound of the Baskervilles, and a little bit of pop culture fame goes a long way. It can be confusing trying to work out if the folklore refers to “The” Black Shuck, or “A” Black Shuck. They’re so common, and the folklore so messy, this may well be a plural for Black Dogs as a whole. Shuck could be derivative of the word “shaggy”, which I would like to clarify refers to being furry and messy over anything more lewd. But there’s a more interesting possible connection with the Saxon word “succa” which is an old word for “demon”. Black Shaggy Demon dogs generally seem to fit the bad omen or banshee mold of Black Dog stories, but there’s one brilliant and famous report in 16th century Suffolk which managed to make the newspapers at the time! In the town of Bungay, Sunday 4th August in the year 1577, there was a well witnessed report that Black Shuck burst into a church and mauled some people to death. There was a storm that had the terrified townsfolk huddled in the church away from. This was a time when most houses were built with thatch and timber so if lightning is raining down like thunder, you hauled ass into the only stone building which comes with a lightning rod! As the reports go, this storm was ‘darkness, rain, hail, thunder and lightning as was never seen the like’. As people knelt and prayed, hoping for the storm to pass without smiting the crap out of any extra flammable home, Black Shuck was supposed to suddenly appear among them and start lashing out at everyone with tooth and claw. An old verse recording this went: ‘All down the church in the midst of fire, the hellish monster flew And, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew.’ Don’t trust every verse you hear though. The official record of the Churchwardens only mentions that two men in the belfry were killed, although it doesn’t record any other injuries. And that was probably due to the lightning which struck the church clock. (It was seriously a bad storm). According to the much more interesting folk stories though: as suddenly as Black Shuck appeared it suddenly ran off, next appearing at Blythburgh Church about twelve miles away to wreck their shit too for good measure. This raises all kinds of questions and possibilities. Was it a Black Shuck? Was it just a dog running wild? Was it two dogs in two churches? One REALLY angry regular dog? Was it all just a story to help people process such a terrible storm causing chaos and destruction? What actually happened there I couldn’t say, but Bungay has a brilliant Black Shuck weather vane pride of place in their town now which you should give a Google (if not an actual visit). Black Shuck seems to embody the archetypal Black Dog. They’re hair is black, which you think would be obvious but there are weirder stories out there which get lumped under the Black Dog umbrella despite failing the simple colour test. They’re usually described as unnaturally, ride-them-into-battle large with some stories saying they’re as big as a donkey. But your biggest give away is the eyes. They’re described as BURNING. Up to the size of dinner plates, sometimes glowing orange, sometimes swirling in a pattern with other colours, sometimes with green or red sparks coming from them. For all of being a giant black hound flinging fire from its eyes, apart from the very noteworthy storm which led to Black Shuck’s Church Murder tour of 1577, Black Shuck stories normally don’t talk about a physical threat. Seeing Black Shuck is instead a sign of bad things to immediately come. So if you see one as you walk down a lonely road, don’t run into disaster and instead get a safe distance away from passing cars and call someone to come get you. As frightening as it looks, it’s more likely to be a warning you’re about to get hit by a speeding car. Don’t let that be a self fulfilling prophesy as you run away from your warning and directly into danger. Black Shuck sightings can sometimes be associated with historic gallows locations and old graveyards, the old graveyards possibly being a Church Grim connection in some cases. On to a childhood favourite of mine: Padfoot. Most people are only familiar with the name thanks to Harry Potter, where the name was appropriated for a friendly werewolf. The actual Black Dog Padfoot of Yorkshire is a full on weirdo even by folklore standards. I first encountered the stories raiding the ghost story section of the children’s area in Ormskirk Library (shout out to my local childhood library there, they did a lot of good work making me weird). Here’s the basic deal with Padfoot: From Yorkshire in the North East of England, they are one of the Black Dogs notorious for actually attacking people as opposed to being one of the more common bad omens. It has a pretty unique gimmick. Padfoot’s feet are on backwards. Apart from being easily identified as not really a dog by this, through some magical means (as this definitely isn’t how physics works), Padfoot’s footsteps come from the opposite direction of where it actually is. This makes Padfoot something of a demonic ambush predator, driving people towards it as hapless victims try to run away from the sounds of pursuit. But there’s more, and this is brilliant! Padfoot gets even weirder. They have another form. Commonly held in stories to be THE same Padfoot, only taking on a different appearance. The dangerous Black Dog of Yorkshire can also appear as… A giant woolly Black Ram. Padfoot can also appear as a demonic sheep. I freaking love Padfoot. I’ve not explored the global nature of these stories yet, so for the final Black Dog I want to tell you about a Japanese variant of dark demonic canine. Something a bit different from the European folklore on the other side of the world… The Okuri inu, “sending-off dog”, or Okuri okami, “sending-off wolf” is a kind of Yokai which can stalk the dark mountain passes and forested roads of Japan. A Yokai being a specific kind of spirit which roughly means “bewitching apparition”. The “sending off” part of this Black Dog’s name refers to how it behaves. It follows behind their chosen victim as if seeing a friend along their way. Except it’s intentions are a little hungrier than that… It will follow you along your entire journey, and should you stumble or fall it will dive on you and tear you to pieces. You have ONE chance, if you should fall, to escape that fate. You need to pretend you just sat down for a rest. You have to dramatically play out that you meant to sit and take a break, in which case the Okuri inu will patiently wait for you to continue travelling. Make it good though, because the Okuri inu is one of the most fearsome spirits that can be found in the wilds of Japan. But this can be to your advantage! The Okuri inu is so dangerous that all other spirits and demons will leave the traveller alone, as they want nothing to do with the Black Dog stalking them. As with most Japanese folklore, there are rituals to follow to keep you safe. Should you make it out of the mountains or forest safely, you need to turn and call “Thanks for seeing me off!”. After that, this Okuri inu will never follow you with an eye to eating you again. But you should also wash your feet when you get in then leave out an offering of food for the Black Dog to show your gratitude for how it warded off all other monsters. I’m not sure what happens if you don’t follow the ritual, but I’ve never come across a story where it goes well for anyone who disregards them in Japanese folklore… I could go on. There really are loads, and I’ve barely touched upon the dual nature of some of these stories! I’ll try to globetrot a little more in a follow up Lukelore, as there’s plenty of Black Dog stories out there. That’s all for this time. How is this even episode three? It’s like I’ve gone from suggesting this on the phone to blinking and suddenly being here thinking about episode four. I will be back in a month with another topic which should be my first run at faeries, and followers on Patreon get this early so check out patreon.com/ghoststoryguys for that and plenty more cool stuff if you want to support us directly. But just listening is plenty of support in and of itself. I hope you enjoy my companion show and please feel free to reach out to either the show or myself directly via email or social media if you have any questions, feedback, or requests for Luke Lore. The show email is ghoststoryguys@gmail .com, and I am Luke Greensmith on both Twitter and Facebook. We also have a very active Instagram account full or fun things we’ve found around the internet and even occasionally news and peeks behind the scenes.

Goodbye for now.