Throughout history, supernatural black dogs have appeared in legends, folklore, and numerous modern day eye-witness reports.

Characteristically, these phantom canines are larger than most ordinary dogs and always tend to be black in colour with fiery, red eyes. They usually appear for only a few moments, then vanish into thin air. Sometimes they are benevolent, but more often they are sinister and viscous.

Sometimes called “Hellhounds”, phantom dogs are usually associated with death or the devil. Some claim these dogs accompany a black robed figure assumed to be the devil, while others believe these animals are shape-shifters, a disguise of the devil. Large Black Dogs with fiery, red eyes reportedly raided European churches several times during the middle ages. They would enter a church service (usually during a severe storm) and appear to be searching for something or someone; and on August 4, 1577, in Bongay, England, a large black dog ran down the aisle of a church, killed two people in attendance and badly injured another.

There are many reports in England and the United States of ghostly canines crossing roads in front of cars, then vanishing into thin air as the car approaches.

One such incident happened at Chingle Hall in Preston. Whilst pulling away from Chingle Hall a man hit what he thought was a large black dog. On investigation he found nothing, no blood, no tracks and no damage to his vehicle. Then he suddenly notice a large truck speed past in front of him. He claim that he would have almost certainly hit the truck if he had not have stopped to investigate.

Numerous black dog sightings occur in cemeteries, and some speculate the phantom creatures patrol and protect the graves of the dead.

These sightings appear to be concentrated in New England. Legends of headless or limbless graveyard dogs surround slave cemeteries in South America. While most encounters with these dogs are of a viscous nature, some mourners have claimed to have been comforted by these creatures. A particularly interesting legend of a supernatural black dog is found in the high-altitude forests of Hanging Hills, Connecticut. A friendly, small dog is blamed for the deaths of several experienced hikers and climbers in the area.

Local legend warns: “If a man shall meet the black dog once, it shall be for joy; and if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time, he shall die.”

Although this sounds like a local legend to add mystery to the already spooky landscape, or to explain the tragedies of those who have died in the hills, documented encounters with the dog suggest there is truth behind the warnings. In the early 1900’s, a geologist, W.H.C. Pynchon, encountered the little black dog and found it to be good company while hiking. Pynchon’s second encounter with the dog was with a friend, who had seen the dog on two occasions.

They were climbing to the summit of one peak and was surprised to find the little black dog waiting for them. It soundlessly barked, and Pynchon’s friend suddenly lost his footing and plunged to his death. That was his friend’s third encounter with the mysterious black dog. Pynchon soon learned of the legend of the black dog and related his story to the Connecticut Quarterly newspaper. Surprisingly, Pynchon returned to the Hanging Hills a few years later, and his body was later found near the same place his friend had died. Many speculate that Pynchon encountered the little dog a third and final time.

Some reports of black dogs, however sketchy, have been associated with big cat sightings in England and, in even fewer cases, UFOs. However, in most reports of phantom dogs, they exhibit supernatural abilities that suggest they are more than a stray animal. Dogs have always played a large role in ancient religions (the jackals of Egypt and Cerberus) and their image and symbolism is reflected to modern times.

In 1927 modern evidence for the black dog mystery took a dramatic turn with an incident on the Isle of Man, where the beast is called the ‘Moddey Dhoo’. A man on a country road near Ramsey spotted a black shape looming in front of him. He identified it as a huge black dog with coal-red eyes that flashed fiercely (the most consistent feature of these black dog stories). The animal blocked the path of the traveller for some time, then moved aside. Shortly afterwards the man’s father died, reinforcing the belief that the sightings are a bad omen. The phantom nature of the animal is further attested by the way in which it vanishes suddenly after its task is done. It is also reported to leave behind a sulphurous odour, although in more recent cases this has been likened to an electrical burning or arcing smell. This often lead to earlier beliefs that the dog was Satan in disguise or a guardian of the dead, protecting churchyards.

A friend of mine – Paul Hammond and I, were discussing the recent large number of Big Cat sightings in the UK. Paul referenced a theory of his, which I agreed could certainly be viable.

Paul suggests “Old legends of black dogs in Britain are mis identification of large black cats. The old ‘blazing eyes’ you hear about is actually eye shine from flaming torches or lanterns”

He Continued “All counties of England with strong black dog legends have large amounts of big cat sightings.”

For a number of years I was actively involved in the alleged ‘Big Cat phenomena’ in the UK. Evidence does exist and  cross referencing both cat sightings and those of Black dogs, historically and more recently, there does appear to be a correlation between the two. Which begs the question – Are Black dogs a simple Mis identification?

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