For those of you who are animal lovers, check out the latest article written by Jenny Holt, one of our favorite para-writers:
In The Hound of the Baskerville’s, a large black dog haunts a family. In the recent Sherlock Holmes TV series it was the result of genetic mutations and hallucinogenic gas, but the original story was based on tales across England; especially southern England of ghostly dogs. However, stories of ghostly dogs have not just been found in England, but across the whole world. This article looks at some of the most famous ones and also considers some other ways dogs and humans are deeply connected on a spiritual level.
Man and Dogs: A Long History
It’s no surprise that we have so many haunted and ghostly dog stories and that such stories are spread around the world. Dogs have been man’s best friend for tens of thousands of years with the oldest cohabiting remains found dating back 33,000 years. If you look across human mythology, dogs feature strongly whether it is the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus in Roman mythology or Fenrir biting off Tyr’s hand in Anglo-Nordic mythology. The same can be said of Eastern mythologies such as the supernatural hero Erlang’s companion dog who helps him fight the monkey king Sun Wukong. If they are with us now, are in our archaeological record, and integral parts of our mythologies, then it makes sense they can haunt us too.
1. Black Shuck
Black Shuck is probably the most famous ghost dog of them all, and comes from the most famous type of ghost dog - the Black Dog. From East Anglia, Shuck comes from the Old English word Scucca (sc was pronounced sh) meaning ‘demon.’ Black Dogs are seen as an omen of death and have been reported in other areas such as Sussex and Somerset in England. The first ever recorded sight of one was in AD 856 in France where one materialized in a church then disappeared.
2. Church Grim
Found across Sweden and Finland, the Church Grim usually appears as a ghostly dog or black dog, but can also take the form of other animals. At the advent of Christianity in the region, it was believed the soul of the first person buried in the sacred soil of a new church would guard that church for all eternity from the Devil. In order to save a man’s soul from this duty, they would bury dogs alive on the ground, so these dogs would return to protect parishioners.
3. Black Dog of the Hanging Hills
Rather than being a black dog like Black Shuck, this is the ghost of a dog which happens to have been black. The small dog is said to be friendly and haunts the Hanging Hills area of Connecticut near Hubbard Park. Apparently to see him once will bring joy, but to see him a second time will bring bad luck, and a third time will bring death. According to legend, 6 deaths have been attributed to him.
4. The Hound of Goshen
According to legend, a hound has haunted the area around the Ebenezer Church in Newberry, South Carolina for 150 years. The story goes that a traveling salesman was unfairly tried and hung for the murder of a local townsperson. The salesman’s loyal hound stood watch under his master’s body as it hung until both disappeared. After that, the hound’s ghost returned from time to time to attack those involved in his master’s lynching.
5. Totem Spirits
Societies, clans, tribes, and peoples across the world following animistic faiths have had similar ideas of totem spirits or totem animals and objects. This is found in Native American cultures, as well as European, Asian, and African cultures. For example, Norse pagans call Totem Animals Fylgjur or “followers.” For tribes such as the Ojibwe, a person throughout their lifetime is accompanied by 9 animal spirits and this includes dogs. In terms of the Fylgjur, this also included the ability to shapeshift, or become a dog (werewolf) or become a bear (berserker). Totem animals, fylgjur, and guardian spirits are often seen as embodying powers and ideals, as something to worship, but also of offering advice and guidance, protecting people in times of need, and finally as offering portents of the future including impending death. For dogs, each breed has its own totem characteristics and meanings.
Dogs have also been seen as familiars, which are quite different to the idea of a Fylgja. The familiar is an animal deeply tied to a person but which aids that person in the pursuit of magic. As with Buddhism and some other faiths, familiars are deeply tied with Wicca and beliefs in reincarnation and the transformation of the enduring spirit into another form after death. In this sense, a dog which becomes a familiar to a Witch or Warlock or Wiccan may have such a connection to their owner that they will reincarnate and come back to them in the form of another animal or another dog in the future. There are stories of malevolent familiars dating back to the middle ages when folktales and prejudices abounded about practitioners of traditional medicines and ideas.
What are your thoughts on animal spirits? Leave a comment below!
Brian Webb is the founder and creator of Ghost Quest: