Wednesday Weirdness: Black Dogs of Folklore

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over image

For today’s Wednesday Weirdness, I’m referencing a creature that appears in End of Day, book two of my Hode’s Hill series. Long before writing that tale, I was intrigued by legends of the nocturnal black dogs of folklore. Larger than an average canine, such creatures are a portent of doom or death and will usually appear to a lone traveler. In times past, those who walked the roads at night would buddy-up with a companion, hoping to stave off the dog’s appearance. Even then, the animal might only be visible to one of the two, assuring the person meant to see the hound could not escape their destiny.

dark, foggy forest with path through centerMany cultures believe in a creature or object that is said to be an omen of death. I remember finding a black feather as a child then running home terrified, sobbing to my mother, when someone told me it was a sign of death. She did what mothers do—calmed my fears, hugged me, and told me I would be fine. Moms don’t lie, but I remember lying awake that night, listening to every creak and groan of the house waiting for something to happen. When dawn arrived, I decided I was safe.

Superstitions are always more frightening when examined in the dark, especially through the eyes of a child.

But the legend of the Black Dog was passed from country to country and continent to continent by adults. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even had his master detective, Sherlock Holmes tangle with “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (my favorite Holmes story).

Large standing stone in a field of browned grassAnd then there is Black Dog Tor, a large standing stone said to conceal the spirit of a spectral hound.  In all cases, these dogs are utterly silent which makes their eerie appearance all the more spine-tingling. Imagine crossing a grassy knoll silvered by moonlight and watching a bulky apparition with glowing eyes crest the rise.

Black Dogs were also seen at crossroads, footpaths, gallows, gravesites and bridges. Sometimes associated with storms, they were given differing names depending on location and who was telling the tale—grims, hellhounds, Padfoot, Hairy Jack, the yeth hound, Gurt, and Black Shuck to name a few.

It makes you realize black cats weren’t the only critters to get a bad rap!