Snarly Yow – An American Phantom Black Dog

Haunted Ohio author Chris Woodyard had an interesting article on his blog the other day. While the story of the lightning stuck tower (shades of the Tarot!) was interesting, I found most fascinating the several reports of the Snarly Yow, a species of the Phantom Black Dog, in the area.

Phantom Black Dogs (PBD) are a well known phenomenon in Great Britain and author Simon Burchell has even traced them into pre-Hispanic Latin America (see this link). When one begins to look for stories of the PBD in North America, however, information begins to get sparse. Since I am fascinated by the lore of werewolves and Black Dogs, I am grateful to Mr. Woodyard for publishing this information.

The Snarly Yow, as this beast is so colorfully named in the region, is a classic PBD, a dog on unusual size, jet black in color and often depicted with glowing red eyes. As the article mentions, such beings, in Great Britain at least, are often associated with watercourses, bridges and ley lines. Given the fierce appearance of these creatures, one might think that they would fall into my Intruder category but, honestly, I think the PBD gets a bad rap.

If one looks carefully at the stories of the PBD, whether in Great Britain or the US, one quickly begins to discern a pattern. The PBD is feared not so much for its actions but for its associations. While it is true that a PDB is said to have slain several people during a lightning storm in Bungay in 1577, I would note that there is at least one nasty faery species that can manifest as a black dog and black dogs are also known to manifest as the visible appearance of certain demonic entities. So, the Black Dog of Bungay might not even have been our critter at all. Rather, the classic PBD is creature that appears, seemingly from nowhere, often gives someone quite a fright and then disappears. Interestingly, there is a subset of PBD stories in which the dog appears as a guardian for an innocent traveler, often just before the traveler runs into some unsavory characters on the road.

While having a dog the size of a yearling calf with glowing red eyes appear on the road next to you in the night is certainly enough to frighten most people, it is the aftermath of a PBD sighting that really makes this creature one of the beings people do not want to encounter. Often, it seems, the PBD is a harbinger of death. Shortly after the sighting of a PBD, either the percipient or someone close to him or her passes over. Given the long time association of dogs and other canids with death (think Anubis and Cerberus, for a couple of examples), this is not surprising.

If I happened to venture across a PBD in my travels, I would certainly be concerned, given the creatures association with death, but I have read enough of the lore of this being to know that many people see one without anything happening to them or those close to them. This leads me to wonder if the PBD, despite its fearsome reputation, is not a guardian of some sort that appears in certain instances to encourage people to travel an alternate route or perhaps slows them down to avoid an incipient disaster. We have all heard the stories of an apparition stopping someone for a moment only to have something heavy fall in the place where that person would have been. I conjecture that something similar might be operating with the PBD. Heaven knows that, during much of the time period covered in PBD lore, traveling was not the safest occupation one could engage in.

Case in point: the Snarly Yow outlined in the link above. In none of the stories of this beastie included here do we find the slightest notion that sighting the creature had any more effect than sighting Bigfoot. No one appears to have died; the worst that happened was that people got a fright. One fellow even tried to put a bullet (or several) through the Yow with zero effect.

Mr. Woodyard does note that the whole area around the monument that headlines the article is a Fortean “hot zone”. Given all strangeness there, I wonder if anyone has considered that this mountain might be a ley line intersection. PBD and many of the other phenomenon that Mr. Woodyard describes are often associated in Britain with intersections of several straight tracks (places often marked by stone circles as well). Additionally, I would wonder how the Native people of the area viewed that spot. If this was a site used for some of their sacred rites and was disturbed by the influx of Europeans, this could have a lot to do with opening a “window” in the area.

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About stormeye60

A place for discussing the interface between magic and things that go bump in the night. View all posts by stormeye60

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