Tag Archives: Phantom Black Dogs

Hellhounds of Meridean Island

It seems that Wisconsin, Manwolf hunter Linda Godfrey’s home state, is just rife with mysterious canids. Monsters and Mysteries in America, Season 3, Episode 6, aired on 25 February 2015 and included a fascinating piece on the ‘hellhounds’ of Meridean Island in Wisconsin. I’ve done significant research on the Phantom Black Dog most commonly seen in Great Britain and found this segment, which begins around 29:00, quite fascinating.

Black Dog

I am not entirely happy with Monsters and Mysteries – too much effort, in my opinion, to overstate the case for the phenomenon that they cover and to be ‘spooky’– but the show has done a good job of trying to find fresh stories that may not have seen coverage in other paranormal shows. This hellhound case in Wisconsin is a good example. It seems to me that I might have run across it in some of my digging (I would have to go back and look through notes) but it is certainly not a site that I am familiar with.

The hellhound segment of the show featured two sets of witnesses: a couple, Shelly Touchstone and Chris Wiener, who were reportedly just looking for a secluded spot for some time away from the kids, and two young paranormal enthusiasts, Mike Bagozzi and Jeremy Stark, who actually went to check out the purported sightings at the boat landing on Meridean Island. Of course, we have no way of really evaluating these witnesses but, in the show, they appeared sincere and I found it telling that their stories had some striking resemblances: the fog, anxiety and the limits of the chase.

Both sets of witnesses stated that, before there was any manifestation of the devil dogs, a dense, cold fog enveloped them. I find this quite telling since fog and other suddenly occurring weather disturbances can be a signal that a door to the Otherworld has opened. I have personally stood on a hilltop while a puja (Buddhist offering rite) was in progress and watched storm clouds ‘bend’ around the area where the rite was occurring, leaving a rain free hole right above the area where we stood. In addition, I have seen fog and mist form, seemingly out of nowhere, during the invocation of certain deities and in the presence of what we might term the Faery. A cold, dense fog might certainly form naturally in the vicinity of a river but the timing of these fog event seems a little suspect given the subsequent events.

I also noted something that I have written about in another blog post – that feeling that something is amiss. I have stated before that often a gut feeling that something is wrong is a good sign that it is time to vacate the premises or, at least, be prepared for a paranormal action. In this case, both sets of witnesses had some intimation that all was not well before their encounter. The young couple, distracted as they might have been by having some alone time together, still alerted at some point before the event and began to feel anxious. Mike Bagozzi, one of the young would-be investigators, stated that he actually became anxious five miles before he and his team mate got to the boat landing. His anxiety was such that, according to him, he refused to turn their vehicle off, left the vehicle in drive and had cut the wheels so that they could make a hasty getaway if needed. Intuition is a tool that is much needed but often discounted in today’s paranormal investigation scene.

While Touchstone and Wiener never actually saw anything, only hearing the phenomenon, Bagozzi and Stark reported seeing an apparition of Mary Dean (the ghost who supposedly haunts the isle) as well as a ragged looking black dog with glowing red eyes that then gave chase. In both incidents, however, the human response was clear; both pairs of witnesses fled for their lives. Interestingly, once the witnesses had driven at ridiculous speeds up the dirt road that led to the boat landing and gotten back onto the paved road, the pursuit ceased as suddenly as it had begun. This seeming limitation on the hellhound’s range is something that we see repeatedly in the English stories of the Phantom Black Dogs (PBD) where the creature will materialize and walk alongside a wagon or vehicle from point A to a clearly defined point B, where it turns aside or simply vanishes.

The hellhounds of Meridean Island bear a strong resemblance to the classic PBD of English lore. Those who have seen them describe them as being “big as a bear” with glowing red eyes while the English stories tend to describe the PBD as the size of a calf, again, with glowing red or yellow eyes the size of saucers. Extensive folkloric examinations of the PBD have shown them to often be associated with water, such as the Chippewa River where Meridean Island is located. In addition, the lore of the PBD associates these interlopers from the Otherworld with death and the dead, a theme we see with the story of Mary Dean and reported hauntings throughout the Carysville, WI, area.

While Monsters and Mysteries in America would have us believe that the hapless witnesses would have been snacks for the terrible beasts if the humans had not gotten to their cars quickly enough, I doubt that this would have been the case. Even in cases where the PBD has caused harm, such as the incident at Bungay, it did not do so by eating its prey. The PBD, in those rare cases where it was the proximate cause of death, seems to just strike its victims dead and leave them. In most of the lore, however, the PBD is simply a spooky reminder that the Otherworld is only a coursing black dog away and, in some of the more sinister stories, may be a harbinger of death in the family of the percipient.

The Bones of a Hellhound?

I ran across this wonderful story in a web search the other day and just had to share. I am almost as fascinated by the Black Dog phenomenon as I am by shape shifters.

Now, first of all, let me say that I imagine that had the discovery of this dog’s bones occurred anywhere else in the British Isles, the archeologists would have shrugged, cataloged the find and gone on. Since the find occurred in proximity to the churches at Blythburgh and Bungay, however, the legend of Black Shuck almost had to raise its head. This is the sort of find that sends debunkers and so-called skeptics into paroxysms of delight since now they can point to a “real” cause for the “overwrought” stories of that day in 1577.

For those of you unfamiliar with giant breeds, yes, a dog that stands seven feet tall on its hind legs and weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 196 pounds is quite large. However, I have been the proud keeper of an Irish Wolfhound that was almost that big so I do not find anything at all unusual about this reported find. It is well known that the peoples of Europe were known for breeding large hounds for hunting and we see this in their modern ancestors – the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deerhound, the Great Dane and the Russian Wolfhound, to name a few. This does not even take into account large breeds, like the Newfoundland, bred for other purposes.

So, the discovery of a large dog skeleton anywhere in Europe is not an exceptional find except that it happened to occur within a few miles of one of the most famous Black Dog incidents of all time. I will leave it to the reader to check out the text box summary of the story in the highlighted article. Briefly, a large ‘hellhound’ is supposed to have burst into two separate churches during a raging storm and to have killed some of the parishioners in each of the churches before disappearing back into the storm. Of course, the discovery of a large dog skeleton in a monastery not too far from where this occurred would go a long way toward ‘explaining’ this tragic occurrence.

I think not. If a hunter, a person who has been hunting since they were small and has an intimate familiarity with the local flora and fauna, is walking in the woods and reports seeing a bear then everyone assumes that there must have been a bear in the woods. If, however, that same individual claims that they saw a Sasquatch, they are mistaken, deluded, lying or all of the above. In the same manner, historians are perfectly willing to accept stories from medieval peasants about their daily lives, agriculture, local flora and fauna, etc. but, as soon as the topic strays to something which is ‘impossible’ in the modern paradigm, then the tellers of the story suddenly become superstitious people who can not tell the difference between a tale they heard next to the winter’s fires and real life.

For myself, I am inclined to believe the peasant, the individual who has lived off the land for his or her entire life and knows that land and the creatures on it. It is doubtful that the local nobility were praying in the church during that storm. Rather, it would have been the people of the village, most or all of whom derived their living from the land. Something terrible happened in those churches back in 1577 and, while the writers of the time may have exaggerated, if it had simply been a large dog that ran through those churches, perhaps driven frantic by the storm, then that is the basic story that we would have gotten.

You will note, too, that the clergyman who describes the ‘hellhound’ states explicitly that the creature killed two parishioners by wringing their necks. When have you ever seen a dog do that? Dogs and wolves kill by immobilizing their prey, often by hamstringing it, and then either opening the intestinal cavity or grabbing by the throat and shaking to either break the neck or cause exsanguination. Wringing a neck is what a farmer might do to a chicken that was going to serve as dinner. We also have the interesting detail that, when the dog exited one of the churches, it left behind scorched claw marks on the door which are supposed to be evident to this day.

I think that the people of Blythburgh and Bungay might have had the misfortune of encountering a real and dangerous paranormal phenomenon. I don’t know what, exactly, it was but there are any number of legendary creatures that might fit the bill ranging from the hounds that accompanied the Wild Hunt to the Cu Sith of Faery lore which were known to travel with the lord of Annwn. Note that both these creatures are associated with death – the Wild Hunt was said to collect the souls of the dead who had passed during that year and Annwn is the Celtic Underworld, the place to which the dead repair once they leave this mortal coil. Churchmen and monastics of the time were also known to study magic when no one was looking; it is quite possible that someone in the area summoned something that they should not have and it got loose.

Whatever the case, people died and the Phantom Black Dog got a significant blot on its reputation. I am not convinced that this was actually a PBD though since very few Black Dog stories cast the creature as a direct threat to the person. Rather, it is the PBD’s association with death that causes the fear of the witness, and, in fact, the PBD sighting does seem to be an omen of impending death for some. This is a far cry from the savagery indicated in the 1577 stories though so while I am not at all convinced that this was simply a large hound wreaking havoc in the neighborhood, neither am I convinced that this was a Phantom Black Dog episode.

Missing 411: An Interesting Psychic Impression

In my recent post, Missing 411, I spoke at some length about the work of David Paulides and the many mysterious disappearances he has documented in wilderness areas all over the U.S. and, now, in other parts of the world. I noted, in that article, that there could be a number of explanations for the phenomenon, ranging from the mundane to the more esoteric. I also stated that:

it appears that soon I will be within striking distance of one of Mr. Paulides’ clusters in the Adirondacks. I will do some etheric reconnaissance and report the results here once I am settled.

Now, I had intended to do just that but, as you know, moving is not something that is accomplished overnight, especially when the move is cross country. I am getting settled in my new locale but I have not had a chance to set the geography of the Adirondacks in my mind so that I have reliable waypoints to visit in an etheric reconnaissance. Much of the difference between the etheric and astral has to do with congruence, the level of solidity that you bring to the projection. In astral projection, you can simply flit from place to place but in the etheric, you want to maintain a good connection with the physical world so you may follow a road or highway or known landmarks to enhance your feeling of really being there. As I have said, I and others who have tried this have had some pretty remarkable experiences working with this style of projecting.

The incident that I am about to relate happened under circumstances where I was not in deep trance nor was I working on any sort of projection. I was, in fact, taking a long walk up along a road that tracks up one of the many hills in my new area (I am in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains). Now, those of you who walk distances know that, once you get into your stride, you can often experience a sort of light trance, in the flow feeling. I’ve had some vision experiences when running or walking but, obviously, these things have to be carefully regulated since one does not want to mis-step and break an ankle or worse.

In any event, I was walking briskly along this road in my neighborhood,not thinking about anything in particular, when I became aware of a presence on one of the hillsides far across from me. The place where I was walking presented a vista, across a valley, looking out into the foothills. One particular hill had caught my attention. I would say that this small mountain was somewhere between a half mile to a mile away from where I was walking.

I did not see anything with my physical eyes although I thought I had seen a shadow or something moving across that distance and this darkness was what first attracted my attention. As I slowed for a moment, trying to parse out what I thought I had seen, I became aware of a sensation of cold, almost as though I had stepped into one of the cold spots that ghost hunters are always talking about. I want to stress that this was not a physical sensation but more of a psychic scent. I do shamanic work very frequently and I became aware, on the subtle level, of one of my power animals standing near by. He was not happy and he expressed this to me in no uncertain terms.

I had not come to a complete stop but had slowed considerably from the pace I had been keeping as I looked out over that vista. The feeling of cold hung with me and, in my mind’s eye, I could see something black stalking through the woods, looking at me as I looked at it. This would likely have been more frightening if the creature had been closer. As it was, I did not have a clear view of the entity, either physically or psychically and I suspect this is because the being did not want to be seen. If I had to venture a guess, the energy felt similar to the energy of the legendary Black Dogs of Great Britain (and to a much lesser extent, the Americas).

The coldness faded quickly after the creature realized I was there and looking at it and the whole incident could not have lasted more than 30 seconds but it certainly gave me pause. If there are Black Dogs or something similar in the woods not far from my home then what else might be wandering farther out into the wilds?

Now, just to put this in perspective, the Land around my new home is incredibly powerful and loaded with Faery energies most of which are quite neutral to humans and some of which are quite willing to work with us. I do not think that the forests around here are swarming with creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night. I rather suspect that the beneficent forces in the area keep such things in check, for the most part, but I am more convinced now that some of Mr. Paulides’ cases have an esoteric twist. Stay tuned as I get out into those hills more.

Black Dogs and Fairies

I happened across this delightful little tidbit on Beachcombing’s Bizarre History blog, a wonderful site for anyone with an eye toward the odd in history. In this article, Beachcombing seems genuinely puzzled by the lack of “fairies” in English counties with a surfeit of phantom black dog sightings and vice versa. While I acknowledge that Beachcombing is quite the master of folklore, he seems to approach his studies from an academic viewpoint and so fails to regard the beings he is studying as real, with their own personalities, despite having read Trubshaw’s excellent book on Phantom Black Dog’s (PBD’s).

So, some discussion . . . first of all, Beachcombing has lumped PBD’s in with Alien Big Cats (ABC’s) which I view as a critical error. The PBD has a long and colorful history throughout the British Isles and extending into the Americas. The PBD is definitely a creature of the Otherside and many of the stories about it indicate that it is a spectral entity often associated with death.

ABC’s, on the other hand, appear to be flesh and blood creatures to most witnesses and, when mis-identification has been ruled out, many of the creatures, in the British Isles at least, may be explained by the English ban on keeping wild cats which resulted in the release of a number of big cats into wilderness areas. While ABC’s have certainly been associated with Otherside phenomenon such as UFO’s and it is absolutely possible that a small percentage may be creatures of that realm, ABC’s share almost no features in common with the PBD and certainly do not qualify as “cousins”.

On to the idea that PBD’s and faery do not inhabit the same areas. Honestly, this is simply bunk, folklore or not, since the Fae go where they please and inhabit whatever places take their fancy. They are an ancient and powerful people and, while it is true that faery beings tend to like less populated areas, if you look hard enough with the right sort of eye you can find them even in the heart of enormous cities. They are very low key there and harder to locate but they are there. So, if the horrible humans with their factory stench and steel do not scare them off, I doubt that the presence of a PBD in the area would effect their choice of accommodations in the least.

By the same token, I doubt seriously that the PBD has anything at all against the Faery. In fact, I suspect that the PBD might be a variety of Cu Sidhe, faery dog, since it is well known that the King of Anwwn (hope I spelled that right – the faery king of the underworld/land of the dead) was often accompanied by enormous hounds. Now, in the Mabinogian, those hounds are described as white with red ears but we know that Faerie is nothing if not a realm of shape changers. We also know, from the folklore, that certain types of faery, such as the Beansidhe (banshee) are intimately connected with death, and there is a strong strain of folklore that associates the Faery with the dead and, in fact, even confuses the two. The ancestors were often viewed as living under the hills with the Faery once they had passed over.

Again, from the tradition, the Faery seem to group themselves into realms and have a more or less feudal society. This means, of course, that certain Faery will “hold” certain areas. It may simply be that there is a dearth of faery lore in certain areas seemingly inhabited by PBD’s because that is the PBD’s demesne. PBD’s seem to be solitary creatures so they may not suffer a lot of other faery in their “turf” or, because the PBD seems to enjoy the more barren stretches of land, it may simply be that there is a lower population of faery folk in those areas. Exceptions, of course, would be places like Cornwall and Devon which seem to be real bastions for the Faery (who are suffering from habitat erosion like many other wild things). PBD’s would naturally be a part of such supernatural fauna and while they seem scary, with their association with death, they most often seem to simply be harbingers. In my mind, that simply seems to say that the PBD witness needs to look hard at his or her lifestyle choices and see what changes might be made (as well as getting a quick and very thorough physical to rule out any immediate threats to life).

The peoples of the Celtic lands, up until the beginning of the 20th century, had a very good idea how to associate with their “neighbors” and, while there were tales of the Unseelie who hated and sought to injure or kill humans, there were also stories of humans and Faery who worked together for the benefit of both. For those interested in such work, I strongly encourage the reading of the work of RJ Stewart and Orion Foxwood on working with Faery. If you find yourself really interested, there are opportunities to work with these two mages directly as well.

Once you have spent some time in Faerie, you realize that, while it can be a dangerous place, and some of its denizens can appear with fierce and frightening visages, the Faery are not out to get us. On the contrary, many of these beings would be happy to work in harmony with humans if we would only allow it. I am not encouraging anyone to go out and seek a PBD (some Faery are best left alone) but, despite the focus of this blog on the Intruders, I do like to point out at times that much of what we find frightening about the Otherside is simply due to our perception and not necessarily the bad intentions of the denizens of those realms.