Friday, October 25, 2013


Hello again, folks. Last time we spent the road traveling with Ethel Rudkin chasing Balls-of-Light and Will o' The Wisps on the lanes outside Willoughton in Lincolnshire. For me it was fun, and it seems such adventure was fun for Ms Rudkin as well. She loved mysteries, and the folklore which went with them, but mainly she loved Encounter Stories --- and in that she is exactly our kind of "girl". I wish that she was still with us, and could tell us of all her travels.

She did leave us at least one piece of writing with a richness of detail: her Lincolnshire Legends monograph. For those of us who don't have a copy, we are still [potentially] blessed with her article, "The Black Dog", from FOLKLORE, June 1948. As I am so blessed [what a privilege to be able to read such resources as this "off the shelf"], I am naturally going to see what I can do to share the great lady's insights. 

This, as you see from the label, is one of four maps from the article. It's a little bit of a fooler if you take it in too quickly. The Black Dog sightings are marked with a "star", i.e. *, and the bulk of the marks, "dots", are locations of villages with certain place name endings. Ms Rudkin was trying to find if there were patterns in her collection, and looking for "historical" connections was one thing that she tried [mostly, not entirely, unconvincingly for me].

The red circle [drawn in by me] shows a cluster of Black Dog sightings around her own town of Willoughton. This is a phenomenon commonly seen in the research into anomalistic encounter mysteries. If there is an active interested fieldworker about, that person will uncover a pile of reports. Even though Ethel Rudkin never had a Black Dog encounter herself [not for lack of trying], many friends, neighbors, townsfolk told her of their own [or their own family's] incidents. The other smaller circle drawn in by me on her map indicates Atterby. I put this in as a reminder to you readers about the Mystery BOL which traveled [travels?] between Willoughton to Atterby on The Old Leys Lane.

The other thing to understand about the map is that every * indicates a "spot" where a Pookha has been seen, not necessarily only one time. Some of these locations, although seeming to be wonderfully "fixed", have seen many encounters across a lot of years.

What I want to do is tell the stories, or at least a few of them --- THAT's a relief isn't is? I can just sense you all thinking, when is this Clown going to get around to the good stuff? OK. 

.... hmmmmm...... looking at these cases I can't suss any logical order to present them. Each has something different to say. I guess you'll have to put up with a random dis-order.

A). An acquaintance of Ms Rudkin told this encounter which happened in about 1916. She was going from Willoughton to nearby Kennington to be with a friend who had pneumonia. This was a short-ish uphill walk, and it was dusk. About halfway up this hill, there is an Ash tree with a hole in the hedge which lines that lane. As she passed, a large and shaggy black dog came through the hedge and followed her. It came quite close, but this lady was a dog lover and didn't mind. She did not, however, try to touch the strange animal. The dog paced closeby, and left her when she reached the top gate. She stayed with her friend for a few hours, and began the walk back home at around 10pm. She was a bit worried to be walking that late, and the husband of her friend accompanied her just a short way. When she reached the top gate, there was the black dog. Upon appearance it came right up to her and padded its way alongside down the hill. When they arrived at the Ash tree and the hole in the hedge, the dog veered right into the hole and disappeared. The lady thought that it was awfully nice that the big black dog had waited for her all those hours. 

Indeed. "Nice" hardly covers it. 

B). A case with a similar feel to it was told to Ms Rudkin by another native of Willoughton about his father, and from the same general timespan. This took place along a footpath to the south of town. His Dad was going out early in the morning to thrash "corn" [wheat]. It was still dark but there was a bright Moon. On this journey, the Black Dog suddenly appeared and trotted alongside. This continued until they reached am Elm tree where the dog seemed to disappear. At just about that moment, his Dad heard a loud cracking/scratching sound, as if the hedge was being broken. Curious, he got to an entry point through the hedge and searched for the source of that sound --- he found nothing at all [of course]. 

This same person told his son that although he knew of no one else who had seen the Black Dog just on that path, that it had been seen several times trotting alongside a walker on a different nearby lane, either joining you or leaving you precisely at the same spot, a place called The Old Yard Close gate. . Ms Rudkin noted that this encounter had occurred there many times, but did not precisely follow the "modern" road, but rather seemed to preferably follow the track of the older lane. In reports about the "other end" of this Black Dog trackway, the entity seems to disappear at the position of another Ash tree. Ms Rudkin says that she lives very near there, and [you can hear the sadness] never has had an encounter along those lanes herself. The curse of the scientist-analyst methinks. One "studies" something, and one puts a little "distance" between oneself and the happening. 

C). A tough-minded fellow, a mining foreman by occupation, told her that he had seen the Black Dog several times in the same location at a corner of Gainsborough Lane in Willoughton. He said that the thing would join you on the lane at a particular point and walk alongside. If the Dog went ahead of you, you'd see it turn into the [seemingly impenetrable] hedge, and hear a great "crackle just as if a bullock was pushing his way through". This experience was common enough that the foreman didn't always watch the Dog continuously as they walked along. On those occasions, he'd still hear the "crackle" and the Dog would be gone. 

Ms Rudkin mapped these areas closely and to her eye, the Black Dog{s} walked old tracks between fields --- tracks which were in place in the 1700s and probably FAR FAR earlier. 

D). There is a town in the eastern area of Lincolnshire named Boston. This case is from there. Once again it is an incident told by the son of a father who had experienced the event. This fellow's Dad was a Methodist lay preacher and used to walk many miles to do his duties for the church. He was also an unusually strong man who feared little. One wintry Sunday evening he was returning home alone on something called Mumby Long Lane. He got one of those "I'm being watched" types of feeling, and very intense. Just as he entered Mumby Long Lane "apparently from nowhere", a large Black Dog came up to his side and trotted along. Despite his physique and will, this really unnerved him, and he wished it would go away [Rudkin says "tried to get rid of it", but doesn't say how]. 

This accompaniment continued despite his fears all the way down that lane, whereabouts, at the end, the Black Dog "mysteriously vanished". Later, when the preacher had a bit more relaxed state of mind, he felt that, although scary, the big Black Dog was there to protect him. 

E). In the 1930s, several times near Kirton Lindsey: Ethel Rudkin was attending local history lectures when the Black Dog was mentioned in one of them. It was said that the dog had been often seen near a farm SW of town. During the discussion the local schoolmistress whispered to Ms Rudkin: Does it MEAN anything if you see it? {This query seems obviously a concern about whether The Black Dog presages something like Death or Ill-Fortune}. Ms Rudkin said "No" and the lady noticeably relaxed. Then she admitted that she herself had often seen the Black Dog if she was cycling back home alone in the evening. 

The schoolmistress lived in Manton, a village closeby and directly north of Kirton Lindsey. As she would cycle the three miles, a large black dog would appear and pace alongside, trotting on the verge of the lane. Just as suddenly, it would disappear. Being a schoolteacher, she could ask all her students who possessed such a dog. No one did. 

F). Belle Hole, a farm just west of Kirton Lindsey: The Black Fairy-dog was seen "frequently" and was said to live in a hole in the bank of a stream. The locals place sticks over the hole as indicators of when the Dog has entered or emerged. Whenever the Dog is seen in the evening, locals go to the hole, finding the sticks strewn about. Once, most unusually, the Black Dog entered the kitchen of the farmhouse, much disturbing the wife. The wife, referring to the Fairy Dog as a "Boggart", stood perfectly still until it walked out of the kitchen again. Also unusually, there was a case nearby where the Boggart was seen by more than one person {an old couple} as they walked along a lane. The Black Dog, as normal, trotted alongside. 

Another seemingly unique event occurred here when a nurse was needed at the farm. When she finished her service, she put the children to bed and left for her home in Kirton. But during the pre-bedtime meal, the children talked of the Black Dog and asked her whether she was scared of meeting him? She said "no". Asked what she'd do if she really DID meet him, she joked that she'd "put 'im i' my pocket." The Dog appeared to her on her way back and danced around her saying "put me in yer pocket... put me in yer pocket...." This was the single case in all the sixty-odd incidents where the entity is reported as having spoken.

G). Early in the 20th century, a lady [the mother of an acquaintance of Ms Rudkin] had walked from her home in Old Crosby towards the nearby village of Scunthorpe to do some shopping. All of that went normally, but when she was returning alone much later in the day, a large black dog suddenly trotted up to her and began walking alongside. Very shortly she came to a place on the road where some roughian laborers were standing around. They made little attempt to conceal their feelings and the lady heard them say that if she didn't have that @#%#(@ dog with her, they could think of a few things to do with her. The dog accompanied her all the way to her home gate, and she called to her husband to come see the fine companion --- but it had disappeared. 

H). A last odd one. A lady and her courting lover [they later became husband and wife] used to meet near an area called The Fishpond. They'd separate at the village of Blyborough and walk their separate ways home. She would go along the lane to Grayingham. Once, as she was walking past The Fishpond, a large Black Dog showed up and began following close behind. Not being the dog-lover that most of our witnesses were, this irritated her. Her solution was to slow up so that the Dog would get alongside. It did. She then quickly used her umbrella to take a violent swipe at the thing. 

She nearly fainted when the umbrella passed straight through the Fairy Dog with no evidence of contact. Apparently unperturbed, the Black Dog continued to pace alongside the lady until they reached an Ash tree further down the lane, where she thought that it not only vanished, but may have actually gone INTO the tree. 

Well.... quite the anomaly. Is there anything further we can say? 

Can these be "normal" dogs? Sure --- a FEW such cases might be. I'd suggest that none of Ethel Rudkin's cases are. 

Could these be due to human stupidity, lying, incompetence? Sure --- just like UFOs. But I doubt that any of Ethel Rudkin's reported cases are. 

Are they Biological/Cryptozoological? Well, let's see: Big Black Dogs which seem to disappear.... Dogs which are seen over decades doing the exact "filmstrip" sorts of behavior? Dogs which are never seen on "the other side of the road" even, or past that certain tree, or even lying about lazily as dogs do. Biological? Not hardly. 

So what's left? You already know the answer. 

The Black Dogs/ Pookhas have certain characteristics of several paranormal phenomena. They are a bit like the Trickster. A bit like the poltergeists. A bit like the Ghost/apparitions. A bit like the Fairies. One begins to wonder whether all or at least some of these things are in the end the same things. There seems to be an array, or a spectrum, of such spiritworld (?) or Middle Kingdom (?) entities, which intersect with our own reality in their own limited ways. And they seem to be a spectrum in terms of their benignity as well. 

Maybe this is a thought not entirely devoid of worth.... maybe we "moderns" should at least entertain the possibility.

The Olde Folks of Ireland and Britain thought that much of these mysteries were based within the activities of The Neutral Angels --- the group of spiritual creations who would not choose either God's side or Satan's. These Neutrals, or Middle Kingdomers, or Faerie Worlders became paranormal beings invested still with free will and a form of existence which continued to allow them Moral Choice --- Good, Bad, Indifferent. Like we humans, some of these "souls" are "better" than others. The Ouijans seem pretty much bad guys. The Tricksters seem pretty much knuckleheads. Maybe the Pookhas are some of the Good Guys. 

  As to that: I need to read more to earn an opinion, but my current feeling is that the Evil Black Dog [like Black Shuck etc] concept is bogus. Those tales seem to be MUCH LESS of our real-data encounter incidents and much more folk stories, fairytales, and fisherman whopper tales. I say this because that picture of the Pookha is NOT what I read in the incidents that I view as "good old fieldwork". 

The reports that I admire are the reports which give me a strong feeling of Witness Credibility and investigator discipline and competence. I get that, strongly, from Ethel Rudkin and Diarmuid MacManus [and a scatter of others]. AND, in those reports, The Black Dog, the Pookha, is NOT the menacing fire-eyed beast lurking in the woods --- not at all. Neither MacManus nor Rudkin have fire-eyed dogs. Rudkin's only glowing-eyed dog is NOT a Pookha, but an in-the-bedroom ghost apparition, and a far outlier to the rest of her cases. 

As I say, maybe there's something to the more demonic class of Hounds-from-Hell but they [if they exist] are not the Pookha. 


But... it's almost Halloween...

so believe in scary dogs as you will. 

Happy Hallow-holiday folks, and may all your encounters be Pooch-like.


  1. Thanks for this great Halloween season post. The Black Dog has always haunted my imagination, and it was scary fun to read about it on your blog. I hope you have a pleasant Halloween.

  2. "maybe there's something to the more demonic class of Hounds-from-Hell but they [if they exist] are not the Pookha".

    Prof this''s probably already occurred to you anyway but there is of course the possibility just as some people have very strong phobic reactions to pigeons or spiders etc something similiar may occur with pookahs.

    There are of course those who argue they're all demonic and seeing devils as cutesy pookahs reflects some inner character weakness or hidden penchant for evil.

    I'm intrigued though an animal whose evolution from wolfhood's run pretty much parallel to our own from Enkihood continues to act as our guardian spectrally and even in devil dog form may be simply scaring us from inadvertently straying over eldritch thresholds.

  3. it is nice to see the dog (or whatever it is) do not turn on the lady who get angry and swing her umbrella like that.. i was under (mistaken) impression that these entities (assuming it is not physical dog) are easy to anger or something like that (or maybe it is different kind of entity)

    reading this reminds me of the book by 'Dion Fortune' (pen name for a witch) about psychic attack , in it she described a psychic attack in form of a big cat (like very big apparation shaped like cat) , and an outbreak of black cats (like very many black cats) in the neighbourhood where the alleged psychic attack happened (it is assumed that the attack came from another witch).. once she herself was attack by a witch and when she wakes up her body is covered in many tiny scratch mark..

    a great read , since she also study psychology...

  4. Hello I have a black dog story as well. This happened around 2005. I was living in Montebello Ca. at the time. It was a Saturday morning and I was very upset because my husband had came home very late at night thedayt before. I wasn't speaking to him and still upset in the morning. I was so mad that I decided to go jogging very early that morning by myself (something I never do on my own because Im always with my children) So I get up and leave around 6:30. it was a morning the sun was out already. I went to a nearby park and started walking the trail near the water dam. I was still pretty upset and the walk helped me vent a little. I was feeling kind of relaxed and I wasn't upset anymore. The walk had helped me clear my head. I had walked about an hour. On my way back (still on the trail near the water dam) I saw in front of me a huge black dog that looked like an enormous hairy German shepard. his tounge was out. he was sitting in the middle of the path as if blocking the road. The dog just sat there looking at me. I stopped and stared at him. I remember feeling a little scared but at the same time he looked so peaceful. Either way I was beginning to freak out because the dog wouldn't move! He was about 10 feet in front of me. I knew there was a biker coming close to where I was at so I decided to walk very slowly and wait for him. When he got closer I turned around and stopped him. I said Im sorry I don't normally do this but Im afraid of the dog sitting there and I turned to point at it, Bam! the dog wasn't there anymore. I was weirded out because it happed so fast! There was no where the dog could have ran to but the water dam besides us or the road ahead. Which ever way the dog would of ran to, we would of seen him. The man told me" let me go on my bike ahead of you and see if I can find him." So he did and he came back and said no, theres no dog anywhere. I told him, he couldn't of disappeared. This dog was huge! I had a feeling that something super natural had taken place. I was so uneasy with the experience that I asked God to forgive me for running out the house so mad without telling my husband where I was going, without a cell phone and without thinking of my kids. To this day the dog is stuck in my head because he was majestic looking. I had never seen a black German sheprad that size before or ever since. Sometimes I feel he was actaually there waiting for me as if he wanted to tell me something.

    1. interesting encounter. thank you for sharing it.