Jamie’s note for readers:
Tales of a large black ghostly hound have been reported for centuries from all around the British Isles. However ‘Black Shuck’, also known as the ‘Spectre Hound’ or the ‘Hound of Hell’, the huge wild dog that portends disaster to anyone who sees it, is specific to parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, especially in coastal villages, where sightings have been reported for more than a thousand years. There’s even talk of links to the Vikings’ superstitions, suggesting that the hound was actually the god Odin’s ‘dog of war’. Black Shuck is said to be one of the oldest ‘phantoms’ of Great Britain, its name deriving from the Anglo Saxon word ‘Scucca’ meaning demon.
This unnerving experience happened to me a while ago now, and it still makes me shiver to remember it.
“He was the biggest dog I ever saw, more like a horse. Black, vicious eyes like saucers. I was terrified, so I was.”
“And you saw it last night? On the building site?” I asked Pat O’Reilly, who was sitting across the pub table from me with his two friends.
He crossed himself before replying. “As God’s my witness, so I did, sir. And I don’t mind telling you that I ran. I ran for my life! Sure that dog was massive, I’ve never seen anything like it. When I stopped running and turned round it had gone. Just vanished into thin air.”
“And it was floating around on a sea of mist?”
“Something like mist,” Pat blustered, half closing his eyes to remember. “Twas all swirling like a misty lake, you couldn’t see its legs properly.”
I waited for the almost twitching upper lip, the glint in someone’s eye, the incipient smirk of ridicule aching for release.
But Pat and his friends were obviously very good actors.
Phantom dogs with slavering lips and wild eyes, chasing him for his life? For goodness sake! Should I fall in with the joke, I wondered, or front them up?
Because I don’t like being ridiculed.
And I could easily see why this big unimaginative building worker was making fun of me, and why. The previous week the national newspapers had carried a story with the headline The architect who believes in ghosts!, proceeding to mock my latest investigation into a haunted manor house, making me out to be a naïve crank. I’d already taken a lot of stick from friends and acquaintances, but meeting ridicule from men I was employing on a job was another matter.
Apart from me, Pat O’Reilly and a couple of the other members of his gang of building workers, The Pheasants Game pub, in the village of Dunster, on the Norfolk coast was almost empty on that freezing cold winter’s night. The big house I’d been commissioned to design and supervise the build on the nearby clifftop was in its early stages, and I’d come up to see how far the excavation crew had come—their job was to dig the trenches to the various specified depths prior to the pouring of concrete foundations. I’d never met any of the Irish building workers before, but it seems they’d heard of me, and were obviously amused about my seemingly naïve interest in the supernatural.
“And its eyes, Mr Dark,” Pat was going on, “Sure they was as big as saucers! It’s terrified I was, I’ve never seen a dog that size running free, and it looked as if it was going to tear me to shreds. What in all that’s holy could it have been?”
Continue reading here: Black Shuck