Black Shuck

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 Anglia 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.

The legends of Black Shuck roaming the Anglian countryside date back to the time of the Vikings. His name may derive from the Anglo-Saxon 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 Beeston Bump, a hill close to Beeston Regis and Sheringham.

Appearance in Bungay and Blythburgh

One of the most notable reports of Black Shuck is of his appearance at the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh in Suffolk. On the August 4 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:

This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) runing all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a mome[n]t where they kneeled, they stra[n]gely dyed.

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:

All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew, and, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew.

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.

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, on their album Permission To Land.

Black Shuck also appears in the Supernatural: Origins comics.

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

See also

External links

|- !style="background:#bfd7ff;"| |- style="text-align:center;" | Barguest (Yorkshire) • Black Shuck (East Anglia)  • Church Grim (England) • Dip (Catalonia) • Gytrash (Northern England) • Gwyllgi (Wales |}

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