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Sunday, June 14, 2009

NEIL ARNOLD: Sussex Spook Lore: Phantom hound or black leopard?

I have known Neil for fifteen years, now; since he was a mod 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.
From Richard Jefferies Wild Life In A Southern County (1879):

‘Near by the hollow, where the stream crosses the lane, is another spirit, but of an indefinite kind, that does not seem to take shape, but causes those who go past at the time when it has power to feel a mortal horror.

A black dog may be seen in at least two different places: the wayfarer is suddenly surprised to find a gigantic animal of the deepest jet trotting by his side, or he sees a dark shadow detach itself from the bushes and take the form of a dog. The black dog has perhaps more vitality, and survives in more localities than all the apparitions that in the olden times were sworn to by persons of the highest veracity. They may still be heard of in many a nook and corner. I have known people of the present day who were positive that there really was “something” weird in the places where the dog was said to appear.

It is supposed that horses are peculiarly liable to take fright and run away, to shy, or stumble, and break their knees, at a certain spot in the road. They go very well till just on passing the fatal spot a sudden fear seizes them as if they could see something invisible to men; sometimes they bolt headlong, sometimes stand stock-still and shiver, or throw the rider by a rapid side movement. In the daytime – for this supernatural effect is felt in broad day as well as at night – the horse more frequently falls or stumbles, as if checked by an invisible force in the midst of his career. This, too, is a living superstition, and some persons will recount a whole string of accidents that have happened within a few yards; till at last, such is the force of iteration, the most incredulous admit it to be a series of remarkable coincidences. These last two, the black dog and the dangerous place in the road, are believed in by people of a much higher grade than carters…

The carters have a story about horses which had spent the night in a meadow being found the next morning in a state of exhaustion, as if they had been ridden furiously during the hours of darkness. They were totally unfit for work the next day. Instances are even given where men have hidden in a tree with a gun, and when the horses began to gallop fired at something indistinct sitting on their haunches, which something at once disappeared, and the excitement ceased. But these things are said to have happened a long time ago.’

3 comments:

stormwalkernz said...

Neil, once again a very interesting rhetoric on such very strange occurrences.
It's interesting to note that we in New Zealand have only one instance of a black dog that haunts an area. This dates back to pre-European Times and I would love to find my papers on the matter, however we have just moved house and as you can imagine we are living out of boxes and my files are a mess.
From memory although I may have to check the story and publish it here at some stage, the dog was a pet of a Maori warrior to which his wife took a great dislike and cunningly disposed of. The dog then returned in the form of a black dog and to this day is occasionally sighted. As I say I will dig up the whole story and presented here for publishing. Its main interest is in its uniqueness and the fact that no other black dog legends arrived with European settlement.

Regards
Tony Lucas

Kithra said...

If I recall correctly, there are also tales in Ireland of horses being ridden all night and left exhausted the following day. And in Irish folklore they put that down to them having been ridden by the fairies or, as many would call them, The Gentry.

Neil A said...

Hi Tony. I will have a flick through my MONSTER! THE A-Z OF ZOOFORM PHENOMENA book and see if I come across any New Zealand black dog tales. I certainly do not believe there is a connection between black dogs and black leopards, but it's great to read old tales of possibly both and to determine whether there was any confusion between the two.

Kithra, it seems that world lore is plagued by such spectres, as in Flemish lore there are reports of animals being 'ridden'In Duitch lore even people claim to have been ridden by various apparitions.