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Black Shuck

Telling ghost stories is a popular pastime during the Halloween season. Stories range from age-old folklore, urban legends and true events. Just like the game of telephone where the message changes from one whispered sentence to the next, stories told orally may change over time. Different countries may have different versions of the same basic story.

In Tudor England, many stories were based around witchcraft. Supernatural phenomena were seriously believed by people throughout the world, and in Tudor England they appeared as stories of witches and their familiars - notable the black cat, various animals, ghouls, ghosts and fairies. These stories often helped to explain the unexplained events happening in their everyday lives.

What Happened to John Greencliffe of Beverly Last Night?

“John Greencliffe of Beverly sayeth that on Saturday last, about seven in the evening, Elizabeth Roberts did appear to him in her usual wearing clothes, with a ruff about her neck; and, presently vanishing, turned herself into the similitude of a cat, which fixed close about his leg and after much struggling vanished. Whereupon he was much pained at his heart. Upon Wednesday there seized a cat upon his body, which did strike him on the head, upon which he fell into a swound or trance. After he received the blow, he saw the said Elizabeth escape unon a wall in her usual wearing apparel. Upon Thursday she appeared in the likeness of a bee, which did very much afflict him: to wit, in throwing of his body from place to place, notwithstanding there were five or six persons to hold him down.”

York Castle Trial Records 1654: (October 14, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore by Charles Knightly)

Black Shuck

Legends abound throughout England and other parts of Europe of a large black dog the size of a calf or horse with one or two fiery eye(s) roaming coastline and countryside. His howling make one’s blood run cold but no footfalls are heard.

The earliest recorded sighting of Black Shuck is was reported in 1127 in the Peterborough Chronicle (an Anglo Saxon chronicle about the history of England). Most believe that a sighting of Black Shuck is an omen of death, however there are several accounts of him as being friendly and helping travelers along the fens.

Black Shuck is best immortalized in two particular stories: one in 1577 in Suffolk, England; the other called The Hound of the Baskervilles published by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1902. In the 1577 story, on August 1577, Black Shuck…

“...burst through the doors of Holy Trinity Church to a clap of thunder. He ran up the nave, past a large congregation...causing the church steeple 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.” He left two casualties behind.”

Some have explained this story as a hysterical reaction to a fierce electrical storm that occurred on this date and the political and religious trauma of this time in England. Today, however, many believe in a literal shaggy black dog who wanders the fens at night. The story has been commemorated in poetry, song, graphic novels and movie to this day.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic detective story in which a hellish hound takes center place in scaring the wits out of the Baskerville family and their neighbors in Dartmoor. The story may be based on a tale told by Devon folklore of a fearsome supernatural dog known as the Yeth Hound. Baskerville Hall may be based on a house on or near Dartmoor.





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