Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Black dogs legends are rife in the neighbouring counties, again, these manifestations have been tied into the ‘alien big cat’ mystery. South-west of Arundel, in the village of Yapton, locals are said to feat the ghostly dog, so much so that they leave their doors open so that such a phantom may roam freely on its path. South of the Surrey border near Haslemere there is an area known as Black Dog Copse whilst a Black Dog Lane runs from old Crawley High Street to West Green and Horsted Heyens, where a black leopard has been sighted, also has a place, marked on old maps, called Black Dog.
The village of Henfield, another haunt for large exotic cats, harbours a black dog legend, a phantom said to be calf-sized and eyes ablaze although many legends from Sussex often revolve around old smugglers who were said to have created such ‘monsters’ to prevent local folk from loitering around wooded areas where these mischievous crooks hid their goods. The ‘beast’ of Bouley Bay in Jersey is another of these so-called legends created by smugglers. Such a demonic, saucer-eyed dog, is said to roam the shoreline as a scare tactic offered by the crooks to frighten off intruders into their clandestine activities.
The ‘wish hounds’ of Sussex are the most commonly known spectral canids, alongside the likes of Black Shuck, Padfoot etc. Rarely though are such dogs sighted in packs across the county, despite the legend that a wild hunt, including the sound of yapping hounds and the thunder of horses hooves, can be heard near the Ditchling Beacon hillfort. A solitary hound haunts Windover Hill above the Long Man Of Wilmington etching, and it is the South Downs area where most reports seem concentrated, which could suggest some ancient pathway or old location once guarded by these hellhounds.
At Jevington a black dog is often sighted fleetingly before vanishing, whilst at Alfriston two black dogs, one black and one white, are sighted around the Full Moon on the dark roads heading towards Town Fields. The black phantom is said to over look the flint wall of the road and then run back from whence it came. The whitish hound is said to be the omen of death, an animal murdered, along with its master, by a group of farm labourers. The dog is rarely sighted now, maybe because the remains which were buried at the side of the road were excavated and buried at a more appropriate spot, allowing the spirits to rest.
Another road, that which runs east-west to the south of Lewes and Mount Caburn, is haunted by a Labrador-sized black dog which disappears as soon as it is sighted.
Most legends pertaining to these phantom hounds concern a general fear of the dark from the locals, who often speak of these hounds emerging from the shadows once the sun has gone down. Reports from the daytime are rare it would seem. Not even poachers and the like tread the valleys east of Philpots Promontory Camp after dark. The ‘gurt black ghost hound’ prowls the area which locals call an “…ellynge place”, meaning ‘eerie’. The hound is called ‘Gytrack’, similar in name to the ‘Guytrash’ hound said to haunt the north of England.
Black dog Hill south-east of Ditchling is haunted by a headless black canid, the road haunted could possibly be an old Corpse Way or ‘coffin road’ which points directly toward Westmeston Church. These roads were once said to be the common routes used when the dead were transported for burial. Could such ‘hellhounds’ be guardians of the dead ?
Why are reports of phantom black dogs less common now then say thirty or forty years ago, and previous ? Has the British ‘big cat’ situation literally swamped such a phenomenon out of existence ? It seems likely. Reports of hellhounds, spectral dogs and ‘wish hounds’ are now few and far between. Black animals creeping through the fog now become black leopards, fleeting, fiery-eyed creatures slinking into hedgerows are mystery cats, and whilst the age-old Black Dog legends remain fossilised in their chosen towns, like so many other mysteries before them, they have transformed, or died out even, despite once being the common fear of men. They exist as bad omens across the world, from Iraq’s chained phantoms, to Holland’s Doberman-like hounds, to the American Fence Rail Dog, an overly large red, stilted creature said to haunt a stretch of Pennsylvania highway where numerous car accidents occur.They exist in some form or other, and certainly to the extent of being taken very seriously, but whether they hang on in there as they have done, as a phenomenon only time will tell, but if we put them alongside the potent canine forces that exist throughout Egyptian lore, or Greek mythology, then these hellhounds, and harbingers of doom should remain active for as long as the Earth remains round.

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