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PostSubject: Black Dogs   Sat Dec 15, 2007 7:04 am

Where do the mysterious black dogs that seem to haunt the English countryside come from? Are they merely figments of the imagination or are they, as some claim, the Devil's hunting pack?

Late on night, just before Christmas 1996, Steve Johnson, a biker in his late 30's, was roaring across Dartmoor on his Harley-Davidson. It was raining and visibility was poor. Suddenly, he spied a large, black animal running towards him. he skidded to a halt and came face to face with the creature. Immediately, he noticed that, although shaped like a dog, the animal was actually the shape of a pony. Its red eyes glowered back at him for one brief moment, before it slipped silently back into the night. Shaken to his core, Johnson revved up his engine and rode off to the nearest bar.

'I was completely terrified,' he told Jonathon Downes of the Centre for Fortean Zoology a few weeks later. 'Nothing like this has ever happened t me before, and I hope to God that it never happen again.'

Centuries of Sightings.

It appears that Johnson had been lucky - or unlucky - enough to have seen a notorious phantom. This black dog has been seen on many occasions over the last 500 years and, according to local folklore, is associated with the ghost of a mysterious Lady Howard, who once lived in the area.

There is more to the black-dog phenomenon, however, than a mere association with a regional ghost story. The legend of the black dog is widely known, and stories abound of the Devil's pack of coal-black hunting dogs screaming across the moors and fields on moonless nights.

Another intriguing black-dog sighting took place in the summer of 1981. One night, as the female occupant of a house built in the grounds of Hawson Court in Buckfastleigh, Devon, England, lay half asleep, she allegedly saw three black dogs, which appeared to float in front of her eyes. 'They passed from left to right in the air, about two feet from the ceiling at the far end of my bedroom,' the woman reported. 'They were totally black, medium-sized hunting dogs with pointed noses. they were not quite in line and and overlapped one another - but appeared identical. I saw all three heads, but the rest of the middle one was indistinct.' Shortly afterwards the dogs disappeared as suddenly as they had arrived.

Hawson Court was once owned by Richard Capel, one of the most notorious men ever to live in Devon. He was the Lord of the Manor at Buckfastleigh in the 17th century. Little is known about his life, or indeed about the manner of his death, but his horrific exploits have become the stuff of legend.

The Devon folklorist Theo Brown wrote: 'We know practically nothing about him except that he rebuilt part of his house - the date 1656 is carved over the door - and enjoyed a terrible reputation as a persecutor of village maidens. Having captured one, he would keep her under lock and key across the valley at Hawson Court. he had an unenviable reputation as a violent and powerful squire, and when he came to die in 1677 his end was unpleasant. One legend says he was chased across the moor by a pack of "whisht" hounds until he dropped dead.'

Satanic Hounds.

The whisht hounds - also known in Devon as the Yeth or Seth hounds - are a common archetype in Celtic folklore. the word Seth may be a corruption of the word 'heath', because of the moorlands on which these phantoms are seen. But it more likely stems from the name Set or Satan, because these terrifying, ghostly black dogs are also known as 'the Devil's hunting pack'.

These are only two of dozens of black dog stories that have originated in Devon, and only two of hundreds from Britain as a whole. Several investigators into the phenomenon have theorized that people in past centuries - who believed that they had sighted a giant black dog - had actually seen a specimen of an unknown species of large British big cat. Jonathon Downes, however, tends to think exactly the opposite. Downes believes that many of the people who have thought they were witnessing a feral puma or panther were in fact confronting a phantasm that is many years older than any living creature.

Horrible Apparition.

One of the most notorious visitations from such a phantasm took place in Bungay, Suffolk, on 4th August 1577. According to a contemporary report by Abraham Fleming, 'A strange and terrible wunder' took place during a service in the local church: 'There appeared in a most horrible similitude and likenesse to the congregation then and there present, a dog as they might discerne it of a black colour; at the sight wherof, togither with the fearful flashes of fire which then were seene, moved such admiration in the mindes of the assemblie that they thought Doomes Day was already come.'

The incident had fatal consequences. The dog ran up the aisle and as it passed between two members of the congregation - who were kneeling on prayer - they died as if their necks had been wrung. At the same time, a similar event was taking place several kilometres away in a town called Blythburgh. It resulted in three dead churchgoers and some strange burns on the church door. the scorch marks are still there to this day.

It has been suggested that, as these events took place during a freak thunderstorm, what appeared as a black dog could, in fact, have been a manifestation of ball lightning or a similar natural phenomenon. Abraham Fleming, however, was in no doubt as the source of these strange occurrences: 'This is a wonderful example of God's wrath, no dout to terrifie us that we might feare him for his justice, or pulling back his footsteps from the path of sinne to love him for his mercie.'

The wrath of God? Ball lighting of the ghosts of long-dead malefactors? What is the true explanation for the mysterious appearances of these fearsome creatures?

In their ground-breaking book Alien Animals, Janet and Colin Bord describe a range of what they term 'animals which aren't'. These are phantasmal 'creatures' which exist in a different physical structure from carbon-based life-forms such as ourselves. In 1993, Jonathon Downes published a paper in which he described these phantasms as Zooform Phenomena - a term now on common parlance. He listed six main types of Zooform Phenomena, of which the legendary black dog was one.

Animals Which Aren't.

While the actual composition of these creatures remains unknown, we know enough about their behaviour and morphology to make some educated guesses as to their nature. There seem to be three main types of creature: those which are actively aggressive towards mankind; those which are indifferent to observers; and those which appear helpful and protective towards the people who encounter them.

Evidence for the existence of the last type of creature is provided by accounts, from both the west of England and from Canada, of spectral dogs helping lost travellers to find their way to safety. Some people have suggested that these creatures are actually quasi-animate, thought-form manifestations created by the unconscious mind of a lonely traveller.

Creations of the Mind.

Veteran explorer and mystic Alexandra David-Neel, writing in With Magicians and Mystics in Tibet, tells how certain Buddhist monks can create living thought-forms called 'tulpas'. She even claimed to have created one of her own - in the image of a fat and jolly monk - seen on at least one occasion by an independent witness.

Perhaps if such thought-forms can gain an independent existence, and if - as Alexandra David-Neel has suggested - in doing so they become malign and treacherous, we have a workable explanation for the black-dog phenomenon.

Another point to consider is that, although sighted across the globe, these creatures are most often seen in Celtic countries or places where people of Celtic ancestry have settled, such as North America.

They just sound plain freaky to me!!! Shocked affraid
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PostSubject: Re: Black Dogs   Sat Dec 15, 2007 7:27 am

Sounds like good ol' Hound of the Baskervilles to me.

Maybe Conan (As in Conan Doyle, you know, Sherlock Holmes' father an' all that) knew what he was doing - he was into spiritualism in his later years, so maybe he'd found some inspiration to that book in the real world as well... Just a guess.

Edit; Just checked Wikipedia, and it says that the story was most likely inspired by British isles mythology around so-called Hell Hounds. Apparently, he didn't plan it as a Sherlock Holmes novel in the beginning, which indicates he wanted to focus on the whole Hell Hound concept. Two links to Wiki articles I found on the Baskerville story. The Barghest and the Black Shuck.

Sorry for dragging good ol' Sherlock into this; I just call it as I see it, but that doesn't mean I think it's just a figment of imagination. On the contrary.
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