Phantom Dog Of Orkney: The Spirit Animal Of Hoy Island

In 1970, Artist Barbara Myatt claimed to have a close encounter with a phantom black dog while on holiday on Hoy Island, Orkney.

Barbara Myatt was convinced what she saw was no illusion
Barbara Myatt was convinced what she saw was no illusion

For well over a thousand years there has been a tradition in much of Northern Europe of a phantom black dog that roams the darkness, generally as a harbinger of death or ill fortune to those who see it. Like the Wild Hunt of Odin, this is generally considered to be a fragment of folk memory stemming from the old, dark religion of the Germanic tribes in their sinister forest homelands, but the frequency with which the dog at least is reported spontaneously from all over Britain by people who are quite unaware of the legends makes one wonder whether the facts really did come first, and not the story.

In 1970 Barbara Myatt, an artist, and her family spent a holiday in an isolated cottage on the remote island of Hoy in the Orkneys. The building, which had once been the lodge of Melsetter House, still had no electricity but had been partially modernised by the addition of a small, new wing housing the kitchen and bathroom. The original back door now led to an enclosed corridor from which the new rooms opened and at the end of which a further door led to the garden. One evening after Barbara had put her daughter to bed, she picked up a portable oil lamp and went towards the kitchen to boil a kettle of water for a drink when her husband returned. As she stepped through the old back door into the corridor she was surprised to see a large black collie rush forward towards her - she said that she noticed particularly the way its hair curled along its back - and assumed that the outer door had been left open so that a local farmer's dog had got in. As the animal did not seem to be aggressive, she went to call it, when in front of her eyes it faded from sight. Barbara was too astonished to be afraid, but a moment or two later, when she had checked that the outside door was indeed securely fastened and that there were no open windows through which the creature could have entered, terror began to shiver along her spine.

When her husband returned shortly afterward, he tried to persuade her that the whole thing had been a trick of light and shadows from the unaccustomed and flickering oil lamp, but experiments failed to produce anything vaguely resembling the animal. In any case, Barbara knew that the dog had been clear and definite, unmistakably real, and that no shadow could have given the fine detail of the hair.

Although Barbara's daughter complained of strange noises, nothing else abnormal was experienced until the morning the family was due to return to their home on the mainland. Then, in the bright sunshine soon after dawn on an utterly still day, everyone was awakened by a tremendous crash that seemed to vibrate through the solid stone walls of the old building. As the reverberations died away a great stillness followed: no explanation was ever found, in spite of a thorough search of the house and outside. It may have been a coincidence, but Mrs Myatt's mother died very suddenly a few weeks later. An Epsom Haunting: The Violent Spectre That Forced A Family From Their Home


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