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.