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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER NEIL ARNOLD: REMEMBER THE DEVIL DOG?

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Neil Arnold to the CFZ bloggo with this first guest blog. I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

1963 – the year of the beast. A time when the Surrey ‘puma’ was making its name across the Home Counties, its legend however, obscuring another, more frightful mystery. That of the Hampshire Devil Dog.

Miriam Carroll recalled in ’63 how, whilst driving to Alton, she saw a terrifying black dog clasp a lamb through a barbed-wire fence. The monstrous hound tore at the victim, ripping its head off through the fence, leaving the witness shaken, as she drove to the nearby farm to report the incident. A year later a policeman, whilst chatting to two Irish tourists at 1:15 pm, saw a massive black dog heading their way. Without warning the beast leapt at them, pinning all three of them up against a bus shelter. One of the Irishmen could only react by swiping at the hideous form with his bag, which passed through the creature. The monster dog then vanished, leaving all three men stunned with disbelief.

In 1965, a few stories reached the local papers about the dog and when major building work was carried out at the Crown Hotel, situated in the local high street at Alton, there was some surprise when the bones of a large dog were found.

In 1987, Mr Duggan was driving through Basingstoke with his fiancée Yvonne looking for a place to set up a picnic. They found a clearing in the woods and began to set up their meal, and Mr Duggan decided to urinate in a thicket. Suddenly, whilst beginning to relieve himself he was confronted by a frightening snarling noise and the huge head of a dog, which protruded from the bushes. The couple fled the area, followed by the hellhound.

These incidents may sound like few and far between encounters with a local dog on the loose, but things become far weirder when we trace the origins of the Devil Dog back to the 1780s. Mr Thomas Newton, was a Hampshire socialite against slavery, and funded much to cease the awful treatment dished out against black workers in the West Indies at the time. One such slave was an Ottobah Cugoano who as a child, was captured in Africa. This man was said to own a monstrous dog, the size of a bear. Mr Newton offered £300 for the brute, the money aiding Cugoano’s cause.

It was said that the dog was a cross between a Doberman and a rottweiller, but it was the size of a small pony and didn’t take to any human being except Newton. In 1795 Newton died, but it took local authorities many days to get to his bed-ridden body, for it was guarded by the dog. Eventually, the dog was detained and tied to a tree but escaped when Newton was being buried. The beast was last seen heading off towards the woods.

The Morton family inhabited the Newton house. They were plagued by the beast. Six expensive Arab horses were found so severely injured that they were destroyed, strange howls emanated from the local woods, many animals were found in the shadows ripped to pieces, and large rewards were offered to anyone who could shackle the monster. The Morton family could no longer live in the house. Their farm was a non-existent business for fear of the demon, hen houses were damaged, chickens mutilated, and of 1023 sheep on the land, 887 were killed. The family moved on and the house remained uninhabited and the legend remained dormant, until 1834. A child was attacked and crippled by an enormous dog on the outskirts of Alton. The boy had to have a leg amputated, whilst his other limb was badly chewed. Despite a huge hunt there was no sign of the beast, and despite the dread of local legend, surely the same monster had no been to blame? Evidence mounted, however, that the Hampshire Devil Dog somehow had a life-span of 150 years. Cattle and sheep were often found in appalling state after severe attacks in the early 1900s, local fox hunts were often cancelled in fear of the dog, and the legend was revived in 1963.

Who knows when or where the Devil Dog will strike again.

1 comment:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Just out of interest, which local fox-hunts cancelled meets because of this dog? As far as I can tell, the area affected is on the borders of the territories of the Hampshire Hunt, the Hursley Hambledon and what is now the amalgamated area hunted by the Chiddingfold, Leconsfield and Cowdray hunt, but which may (or may not) have been them since they are an amalgamation of at least three previous hunts and possibly an unauthorised outfit hunting the same area as one of the above.

So, if you happen to know which ones it was, maybe a little delving into the diaries of former huntsmen and masters might be possible, since if there's one group of people who most certainly would detect the presence of a huge hound or a large wildcat it is a mounted foxhunt.