WHAT IS THE BLACK SHUCK?
by Christine B.
The Black Shuck is, as you can tell by the drawing, is not something anyone enjoys seeing. Not only is it fierce looking, but it also is an omen of death and/or disaster.
Known also by its many aliases, Old Shuck, Old Shock, Shuck Devil Dog or ghostly black dog, it sends chills and provokes terror to everyone who is unfortunate enough to see it. It has been seen most often throughout Britain. The name “Shuck” stems from the Old English word, “succa,” which means “demon.”
The beast was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Long before that however, inhabitants of England have told stories of a huge black dog-like beast with glowing eyes like saucers who shows up as an omen of death.
The first record of a sighting was about 1127 published in the Peterborough Chronicle, which was an Anglo-Saxon publication. The incident took place at Peterborough Abbey. Soon after the arrival of Abbot Henry of Poitou to the Abbey some of the men at the church saw and heard the sounds of many huntsmen riding black horses and they were accompanied by “jet black hounds with eyes like saucers.” According to the story, the huntsmen and their horrible hounds were seen and heard every night all though Lent until Easter.
Another story of these hounds is called “the black hound of Odin,” which was a legend told by the Vikings. The legend was that if you saw the hound it would mean you would die within the year. The Vikings warned that should you hear the hound howl close your eyes tightly so you won’t see it.
There was also a recorded appearance in 1577 at the churches of Bungay and Blyburgh, England. On August 4th of that year it was reported that a Black Shuck burst into the church doors with a clap of thunder. The dog then ran up the isle past many parishioners, killed a man and a boy as they were at the alter kneeling and then the church steeple collapsed though the roof. There were many witnesses to this event and all told the same story. There are reportedly scorch marks on the north door of the church that still remain from the event. The locals refer to these marks as “the devil’s fingerprints.” The incident was commemorated in verse: All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew, and, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the legends have toned down to the point where the sight of the dog is now a good omen; it is still a pretty scary sight, however.