top of page

Black Shuck: The Legend of the Demon Dog, the Hellhound of England That Warns You of Imminent Death

The legend of the Black Shuck tells the tale of a vicious hellhound with bright red-saucer-like eyes that prowls the British graveyards, forests, and coastlines around Britain, warning those who see it of nearing death.

Black Shuck Hellhound
The Black Shuck is said to be the size of a small horse with terrifying deep red eyes

One of the most famous tales of the Black Shuck began in England in 1577, when it is said that this giant demon dog knocked down the church doors during a large flash of lightning and killed two people who were kneeling in prayer.

The legend then tells how the terrifying phantom dog then traveled a further 12 miles to Blythburgh Church before killing a further two more people.

The first written text that describes a Black Shuck in England dates back to 1127 in the town of Peterborough, and immediately followed the arrival of Abbot Henry of Poitou to the Abbey of Peterborough, the hellhound is said to have caused horrific problems:

"It was the Sunday when they sing Exurge Quare o, D – many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats and their hounds were jet black with eyes like saucers and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns."

Local folk claimed that between 20 and 30 of these vicious hellhounds resided in the vicinity through Lent, all the way to Easter, a total period of roughly 50 days.

The Black Shuck Ghost Dog
The image on the right shows part of a pamphlet from 1577 describing a Black Shuck

The events of 1127 are known as the Wild Hunt, it is not just an English legend, stories from central, northern, and western Europe all tell of loud wild hunts throughout untamed lands, all of which help to explain the mythological underpinnings of the Black Shuck.

Northern cultures associated wild hunts with the change of the seasons from fall into winter, probably because strong, cold winds came blowing over the landscape and forced people indoors. Anyone who didn’t make it inside during the winter would freeze to death.

Anyone who believed they had seen a Black Shuck described the beast as a huge black dog with mangy fur, some even said to be as big as a horse. They would be looking deranged, rabid, and ravenous with huge imposing red eyes.

A description of the Black Shuck from 1901 describes:

"He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound… . But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year. So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear… you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings… ."

Black Shuck Sightings
St. Mary’s Church in Bungay (Left), Holy Trinity Church in Blythburg (Right)

For a long time, it has been said that these horrifying demon dogs would always appear without any prior warning and then disappear just as quickly as they had arrived, it is believed that if you were unlucky enough to see one then it was a portent of death, warning you of your certain imminent demise.

It wasn't just the appearance of the Black Shuck that haunted the thoughts of those who had heard of it, the stories of the hellhound in action tell of a true and petrifying terror.

Rev. Abraham Fleming of Bungay wrote a terrifying account of the Black Shuck's attack on the church in 1577, his article was called A Straunge and Terrible Wunder:

"This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in so much that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely dyed."

A well-known more recent claim of a sighting of the Black Shuck came in 1905, when a man claimed that a black dog turned into a donkey before vanishing just a few seconds later.

During World War II, a four-year-old girl said that she had seen a large black dog that walked in from her bedroom window, it walked around her bed, and while she held eye contact with those typical huge red eyes, the creature simply vanished when it reached her door.

In 1974, a 10-year-old boy wrote about how he had encountered the Black Shuck when he was just six. He said he saw a large black dog-like animal galloping towards him in the night. The boy screamed for his mother who said that it was just a reflection of a car's headlights from outside of his window, the boy said that he had been reading a story about a haunted house that was home to the spirit of a black dog, this convinced him that what he originally believed he saw, was in fact, the truth.

If you look online and dig a little deeper there are lots of reports from all over the world from people claiming that they have seen a very similar ghostly dog, many believe that these dogs have a direct link to the devil himself. Does the Black Shuck really exist or is it just an urban legend? We don't know, we would love to hear your stories and opinions in the comments section below. The Wendigo: The Cannibal Beast Known as the Spirit of Hunger and Famine


Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page