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The Black Shuck.

Black Shuck or Old Shuck is the name given to a ghostly black dog which is said to roam the Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk coastline.

The legend

For centuries, inhabitants of East Angliamarker have told tales of a large black hellhound with malevolent flaming eyes (or in some variants of the legend a single eye) that are red or alternatively green. They are described as being ‘like saucers’. According to reports, the beast varies in size and stature from that of simply a large dog to being the size of a horse.

There are legends of Black Shuck roaming the Anglian countryside since before Vikings. His name may derive from the Old English word scucca meaning “demon”, or possibly from the local dialect word shucky meaning “shaggy” or “hairy”. The legend may have been part of the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Sometimes Black Shuck is referred to as the Doom Dog. It is said that his appearance bodes ill to the beholder, although not always. More often than not, stories tell of Black Shuck terrifying his victims, but leaving them alone to continue living normal lives. In some cases it has supposedly happened before close relatives to the observer die or become ill.

Sometimes Black Shuck has appeared headless, and at other times he appears to float on a carpet of mist. According to folklore, the spectre often haunts graveyards, sideroads, crossroads and dark forests. Black Shuck is also said to haunt the coast road between West Runtonmarker and Overstrandmarker.

Appearance in Bungay and Blythburgh

One of the most notable reports of Black Shuck is of his appearance at the churches of Bungaymarker and Blythburghmarker in Suffolk. On 4 August 1577, at Blythburgh, Black Shuck is said to have burst in through the church doors. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation, killing a man and boy and causing the church tower to collapse through the roof. As the dog left, he left scorch marks on the north door which can be seen at the church to this day.

The encounter on the same day at Bungay was described in “A Straunge and Terrible Wunder” by the Reverend Abraham Fleming in 1577:

Other accounts attribute the event to lightning or the Devil. The scorch marks on the door are referred to by the locals as “the devil’s fingerprints”, and the event is remembered in this verse:

The appearance in Chignal St Jamesmarker/Chignal Smealymarker, small villages near Chelmsfordmarker, Essex are said to have occurred many years ago. All those said to have seen the devil dog are rumoured to have met an untimely end within a year of seeing the red-eyed devil dog, matching the legend that all that see Black Shuck will perish within a year of looking into his eyes. These are of course all rumours and superstition, however, many websites exist acting as directories of sighting of Black Shuck, and these can easily be found on the popular search engines. In recent times, sightings of Black Shuck in the Chignal area have been put down to sightings of black dogs that belong to resisidents roaming the village, such as The Three Elms pubs large black labradoodle and the Gardening Express nursery terrier cross.

Black Shuck in popular culture

Many stories, perhaps most notably The Hound of the Baskervilles, feature ghostly black dogs. The “ghostly black dog” is a common mythical creature, and Black Shuck is specifically named in a number of works of literature.

  • Although The Hound Of The Baskervilles is set in Dartmoor, the idea was originally conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his friend B. Fletcher Robinson whilst on a golfing holiday in Cromermarker. Although it is accepted that the idea for the story first occurred in Norfolk and was very likely based upon the Black Shuck legend, the writers subsequently headed south and based it upon Sabine Baring-Gould's home at Lew Trenchardmarker, close to Fletcher Robinson's family residence and Dartmoor Prison.

  • The Black Dog of Bungay and Black Shuck both appear in “The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog”, a novel by Steve Morgan, former vicar of Bungay, set in 1577. According to the children’s book The Runton Werewolf by Ritchie Perry, Black Shuck is a Gronk, a race of friendly shape-shifting aliens, the ancestors of which were accidentally left behind on Earth when one of them suffered from stomach troubles. Hector Plasm: De Mortuis features a one panel picture and reference to Black Shuck. Black Shuck also makes an appearance in Mark Chadbourn’s trilogy The Age of Misrule and is mentioned in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

  • The dog is the leader of a group of mythological characters in the 2000 AD series London Falling. An episode of the children’s documentary series Mystery Hunters investigated the case of Black Shuck.

  • British rock band The Darkness included a song entitled “Black Shuck”, which describes the beast and its appearances at Bungay and Blythburgh, on their album Permission To Land.

  • A dark hound named Black Shuck serves the champion of the Shadowdancers in the online role-playing game Lusternia.

  • Black Shuck appears as the hobgoblin Puck's pet/companion in the Sneigoski / Golden series, The Menagerie .

  • The singer-songwriter Nick Drake recorded a deeply melancholy song called Black-Eyed Dog which drew from black dog legend. The black-eyed dog in the song is a supernatural harbinger of doom, serving as a metaphor for both depression and death (Winston Churchill famously branded his own bouts of depression as the 'black dog').

  • A Black shuck apeared in the May Bird series by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

See also


External links

Barguest (Yorkshire) •Black Shuck (East Anglia)  •Church Grim (England) •Dip (Catalonia) •Gytrash (Northern England) •Gwyllgi (Wales

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