Monday, January 18, 2010

Black Dogs and All-The-Way-Fool

Before our recent family troubles [which are guardedly optimistic as of today], I was thinking about Catherine Crowe's "miscellany" of spirit-related encounters and that she had mention of one "Black Dog" story and briefly alluded to others. I couldn't help but be reminded of Diarmuid MacManus' "Pookha" incidents in his The Middle Kingdom, which I consider a foundation stone of credible encounters in these "Magonian" matters. It is because of cases like reported by MacManus that I feel that I'm not "Out Proctor" on this, but merely "All-The-Way-Fool". [for those not following this blog regularly, these are my terms for an interesting potential anomaly for which there is not enough solid evidence {i.e. "Out Proctor"--see the old post}, vs. an anomaly that I feel has quite good evidence for its probable reality, but requires an let-it-all-hang-out "outlandish" theory to truly encompass it {i.e. "All-The-Way-Fool"--see the old post}. Black Dogs of paranormal appearance and disappearance seem very well defendable to me. So, today, I'm going to try to contribute a little something to what turns out to be a quite large and diversely opinionated literature on this subject. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
To begin, these tales come to western culture from a variety of, usually, Celtic sources, but upon investigation have that "uncomfortable" global character that gives one the creeps that we are dealing with a widespread reality. The picture at the right is an artwork by an Australian artist representing his version of a "Dreamtime" aboriginal spirit dog ["Kanyarr" being the name given]. I'm no expert on aboriginal art [though I believe that we have a lot to learn about the Spirit World from it], so I can't tell you what we are dealing with in this picture, but it is nevertheless a dramatic representing of the spirit-power existing in this entity, and the global nature of conceptions like this. Cryptozoology experts like George Eberhart and Jerry Clark have surveyed literature on the Black Dog incidents, and give me confidence that I am not completely off-the-scent here. But one should begin with the cases, so here they are.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Catherine Crowe's Black Dog incident goes like this: a young lady is sitting at work inside her home, when she suddenly sees a large black dog sitting near her. Startled, she knew that it shouldn't have been able to get in the room, but, as it obviously had done so, she rose to put it out. The dog disappeared. Thinking that something illusionary had just happened, she sat back down. Shortly the dog reappeared. Really startled this time, she ran out to tell her mother, who thought that she was slightly bonkers. None-the-less, the mother sat outside the workroom door while her daughter went back in. Again, the dog reappeared. Shouting out, she called her mother to come in. But the now-you-see-me-now-you-don't animal was gone. Catherine, due to her orientation [and that of many at the time], felt that the Black Dog was similar to the Celtic Banshee and foretold a death. The mother's later death was ascribed to this, and on her deathbed was said to have uttered "remember the dog!". Although perhaps the Black Dog and the Banshee have something in common, the rest of my reading on these encounters doesn't make a good link at all. However, the tenor of the times was in that direction in Scotland and Britain in general. A simultaneously-published book, The Unseen World, by John Mason Neale is an unusually written thing, but a treasure box of encounters of the spirit kind [he and Catherine knew of one another's work, admiring the content, but disagreeing on theology--Neale being much more traditionally Christian]. Neither of their interpretations need delay us now, however, as we need more information. But, one thing about Catherine's case: this disappearing dog occurred inside the house, not out in the countryside as do most. And it appeared to a young girl with no expectations that some dog would suddenly show up in her room. Such unexpected encounters when they also fit a pile of other accounts, add greatly to the credibility of the phenomenon.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Diarmuid MacManus has six encounters which are clearly Black Dog cases. He calls them "Pookas", which will throw us into a greater complexity later. His chapter on them should be read by anyone interested in the reality of these things, not least because he gets the stories from people he knows. In the "Ballaghadereen Pooka" a woman tells of walking near her home when "an enormous black dog as high as her shoulder was walking by her only three or four yards away". Its eyes conveyed to her no hostility, but rather interest and intelligence. The dog moved ahead to an iron fence gate and walked right through it as if it "were merely mist". She ran screaming into her house at that. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In another case, a lady was walking her own dog, when she saw a large shape lying in the road. It rose, revealing itself to be a huge black dog. It looked at her, walked off to the side, and merely disappeared. Her own dog noticed the Pooka, and instead of its normal protective behavior ran squealing to her. When the Pooka disappeared, her dog reacted as if nothing had happened at all. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A third case of a friend of the author occurred as late as 1952 [one of the last events included in the book]. This girl was walking with a can of buttermilk that she had fetched from farming neighbors, when she heard padding footsteps behind her. Turning, there was the huge jet-black dog. It came just alongside, and quietly accompanied her. It seemed very friendly, so she reached out to pet it. But she could not feel any contact with it as if her hand passed through it. It appeared completely solid, but was not. She tried this more than once, finally turning to stare directly at it. It then moved ahead, stopped, turned its head to the left, and just disappeared. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just a few more from varied sources: Eddie Lenihan in Meeting the Other Crowd has a personal Pooka story. When he and his brother were boys, they visited their uncle's farm and were constantly all over the place running errands and goofing off. One day they saw a huge black dog just sitting at a field gate. They thought little of it. At ten or eleven PM, the dog was still there, immobile. At midnight, still there. The dog stayed on station and remained there for at least two solid nights. They never saw it leave, and, as kids, didn't reason it out. But in later years they found that many people in the vicinity knew of the "thing" whatever it was, but the consensus was that it was a "fairy dog" who haunted the nearby ancient fort. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Robert Rickard published a long list of black cat encounters once, but buried within them was what seems clearly to be a Pooka. This incident, reported in the newspapers, was a 1969 case from Cheriton Cross in Devonshire. It says just this: at 7:30 PM, on Exeter Road, a motorist saw a "Great Dane" standing in the road. Too late to brake, the vehicle "passed right through" the dog, and the dog just disappeared. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Another person who collects paranormal encounter stories is Dan Butcher. He presents two of the wilder stories in this subject. One is a 19th century case of a schoolteacher in Hertfordshire, who was driving a buggy to his home when he approached the site of an old hanging gibbet. There in the road was a "flame of fire". Just before it was a great black dog, with eyes like fire and an evil grin. After a few moments, the "thing" seemed to sink into the ground. [no doubt much to the relief of the teacher]. Secondly, and this one is, to me, less credible due to the fact that there is an "agenda" embedded in the story, is the tale of an intelligent thinker, who was converted to Catholicism, when he saw a large black dog running within a church which he had "idly entered". The dog confronted him, and then instantly vanished, taking the church with it. The man then had a Marian Vision and converted. Well, as a good Catholic boy, I'm not a priori opposed to the idea that this happened, but the "message conveyed" by the tale pollutes the objectivity of the waters for me, so caveat emptor on that one. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This next thing is so wild that I can't resist including it. In a book entitled Uncanny Stories [sort of a compilation of readers' tales a la FATE magazine, but in this case the Daily News ] appears this: Two evangelical Christians are visiting a Catholic cemetery in Cowpen near Blyth when a large black dog appeared by their side. It appeared tired. The two spoke to the dog [as people do] and began to walk on. The "dog" then "seemed to pull itself together and, rising before our eyes, gradually spread itself out to about the size of an ordinary bed quilt , then it sailed away from where we stood leaving us standing spellbound. We watched it drift over the tops of the trees and finally disappear from our view". Date:c.1920s; and time 11:30PM. And No, I don't think it was a UFO. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------One last tale: this is probably about the year 2000, although the date is not given. A 14 year old was asleep in his bed, when he was awakened by his dog having crawled in and asleep beside him. But it wasn't his dog. This dog was black and had red blood-shot eyes. He tried to shoo it off, and it growled at him. Going to the door to open it and demand that the dog leave, the thing gave him a malevolent stare and just vanished. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are many cases in the literature, though for the English-reader they are much more commonly collected by people interested in the Celtic traditions. Diarmuid MacManus believes that at least for Ireland the students of Black Dog lore have got it wrong. He says that almost every incident that he has gathered points not to a relationship with Banshee-like death-foretelling, but towards a relatively benign "spirit" who will not mess with you if you do not mess with it. The only exceptions to this, he says, are from Ulster, and these are not in the style of real encounters but of folkloric fairy stories for kids. In Ireland these creatures are viewed, in one old hypothesis, as the neutral angels who would not choose either clearly good or clearly evil in GOD's first test. They have been "Earth-bound" in their parallel Magonian reality and interface with our own spiritually/psychically in better or worse ways depending on their own choice--the Pookas choosing a benign face towards us. In Wales, there are many similar stories, some of which lean toward the "hound-of-hell" variety [i.e. prognosticating deaths] and some of which are more Pooka like. The primary Welsh hypothesis, according to Wirt Sikes in his 19th century survey, British Goblins, is a mirror to the Irish concept, but substituting the souls of those not bad enough for hell and not good enough for heaven for the neutral angels. Sikes' book is an interesting one, and I will try to post something about it later. The Black Dog seems rarely to be the Night Mare horse that many would like to say is the common form of the Pooka, and this, to me shows how many traditions have run together over time. Just to indicate the linguistic complexity, consider this: Pisky-->Pixy-->Picky-->Pucksy-->Puck-->Puca-->Pooka. All of these are legit terms for fairies and all run together in their different ways in different parts of the British Isles [some via archaic forms of Old English and Anglo-Saxon]. In Middle English, the term Puck arises from Pouke or Pouk, pretty close to Pooka. In Welsh the term Pwca is used to mean goblin and fiend [i.e. demon]. In Iceland, the Puki is an Imp and a Devil. And as English got slightly more modern, the concept came closer and closer to the Devil which ultimately created the name of Poker for Satan. This is pretty far, methinks, from the original Pooka and its generally friendly demeanor. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I am reminded of the Greek concept of the Hound-of Hell, the three-headed dog Cerberus. I also cannot avoid remembering the Egyptian god, Set, which I studied and felt that it was a representation of a biologically-real [though perhaps now extinct] animal that terrorized the deserts, killing and dismembering corpses, and generally being anti-social. My feeling about Set [and please see the earlier post] was that it was a great candidate for an original Hound-of-Hell, and its name a good candidate for the later Satan. I see no good correlation with our typical Black Spirit Dog, however. That seems to me to be a paranormal thing and a pretty tolerable companion on the path of life. Still others did not like our shaggy black spirit pooch, and with Edmund Spenser said: "Ne let the Pouke, nor other evill sprights, fray us with things that be not". Well, dropping the "evill" part, I could go along with that. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We, as the Congress of Dogs would like to state firmly our conviction that any slurring of our reputations with comparisons of Set, Satan, Banshees, and other seemingly canid entities of evil or even anti-social intent is off-the-path-of truth and bordering on libel. If we had opposable thumbs, we'd call our lawyers.


  1. Hullo Professor,

    A very interesting article on a subject that is dear to my heart, but I was wondering what you mean by: "they are much more commonly collected by people interested in the Celtic traditions"?

    Thankyou in advance for your elucidation on this point.

  2. What I meant by that [and take it for what it's worth which isn't much] was that my "collection" [second-hand] of these sorts of encounter stories is almost entirely from people who are looking into various forms of old British and Irish folklore [ MacManus, Lenihan, Evans-Wentz, Sikes, Yeats, even Catherine Crowe is digging at "olde tales" and ideas in an effort to not let things of that nature die]. My use of the term "celtic" is my own, accurate or not, but is my interpretation of at least one school of anthropological history which says that the Brits, Welsh, Irish, and even much of Scandinavia share much cultural background. Don't take it too seriously--I'm not the authority riding some agenda; just a guy doing a blog.

  3. I talked to a woman who had a black dog experience in Ireland perhaps 20 years ago. Walking at night, she was joined by a black dog who accompanied her for some time. She did not feel scared, but viewed it more as protective and benign. It wasn't until later, hearing of black dog traditions, that she realized how rather odd it was. I believe she said at one point it was just gone.
    I am fascinated by these types of entities and similar folklores, especially in light of how the locals explain them. In our talks about Loch Ness, for example, it's only the visitors who head out looking for a flesh and blood species, whereas the highlander has no problem with the idea that we might be dealing with something less than physical. The traditions of water-horses sound like a beautiful hybrid of entity encounters and guardian spirits of lochs and water ways. It's only our modern mind that think that these need be mutually exclusive. If I had Constance Whyte's book ("More Than A Legend", 1957, which very much inspired Dinsdale and others) with me, I could quote her excellent words on as someone who knows the highlands and the sensibilities of its inhabitants.
    My point being that I like seeing the theories go full circle - and that the local folks may know best, after all. It's like the oft quoted Sherlock Holmes quote - if we accept the integrity of a witness's experience, then our spirit theory, no matter how "improbable", may well be the truth.
    Incidentally, it is said that Conan Doyle's wonderful "Hound of the Baskervilles" was inspired by black dog legends.
    Did you ever read Yeats' "Celtic Twilight" I gave you? He so beautifully encapsulates our quest and its mysteries. Yeats quotes Socrates, I believe, that the opinion of the common folk suffices and may well be right. "The fairies, after all, stand to reason!" as one of Yeats' informants tells him.

  4. Whoops I'm trying to figure out if I can edit my post/comment. What I meant to say is "The traditions of water-horses sound like a beautiful hybrid of ACTUAL ANIMAL encounters and guardian spirits of lochs and water ways. It's only our modern mind that think that these need be mutually exclusive." Is there a way to fix that?

  5. To "Willy": this blog system is completely unforgiving when it comes to "fixing" comments [even mine] as far as I can tell. That's why there are occasional spelling errors in my comment-posts. If we all stay civilized and congenial, we can forgive such minor frailties as we should in all things. As far as the substance of the remarks is concerned, I like it. There is no doubt in my mind that SOME encounters are "just" good old stray dogs looking for a friend. But the ones that disappear as you look at them are preternatural in some way that I can't get around.

  6. Dear Professor,
    My failing memory bank throws up another Black Dog reference which you do not mention in the post, but may well be related. Some people who have suffered acute attacks of depression have "characterized" the attacks as a Black Dog. Winston Churchill is one example and I think a contemporary australian poet has also done so in his verses. Sorry I can't source this better, but its late. I'll look it up tomorrow. Anyway its another angle to consider. Great Blog.

  7. Don't know of this.Do you think it's germane to "encounters" or just a term used as metaphor? ["red herring', "the blues', "ants-in-the-pants", etc and on ].

  8. I only mentioned small puppies in my year 2005 encounter. then that must be the big dog up there:

  9. I have no idea what this comment refers to.

  10. Dear Professor,

    I followed the link in that last post by 'Star' and, having read the information there, I STILL have no idea what was meant!

    Referring to his depression as 'the Black Dog' was Churchill's way of using metaphor and did not mean a literal Black Dog event. There is at least one organization that works with depression with the words 'Black Dog' in their title.

    Now, what's curious about Churchill's use of that metaphor is this: where did he learn, even subconsciously, that Black Dogs can be a portent of bad things? Apparently the concept is deeply embedded enough in the culture to make it an effective and logical metaphor for Sir Winston.

  11. My dictionary says "origin unknown" but I'm wondering if "pooch" could be tied in with your Pisky-to-Pooka geneaology.

    And besides dogs, remember that "Harvey" the invisible rabbit was a pooka, too.

  12. To Steve: thanks. It would be nice if we all tried to stay with the main line of discussion wouldn't it ? i say this selfishly because it's hard enough to produce the research for the posts [which I hope you all get the feeling that they're not coming off the top of my head] without trying to respond to whatever thing somebody wants to say. i need everyone to post things which have a direct and obvious and if at all possible helpful effect on what we are exploring. To Nick: I suppose that you guessed that my putting the word "pooch" in the post was not accidental. The Jimmy Stewart "Harvey" was not meant by the writer to be a serious Pooka [there is actually some info on this somewhere] but a non-threatening cute companion in line with what the movie script needed. Some of the confusion about the Pooka originates, according to Mac Manus through the fairy tale writings of Yeats and Hyde, who confuse several fairy or "gentry" types due to not separating encounters from folk tales. Even when Pookas are viewed as other [than dog] animals, they are black, not white like Harvey or Alice's March Hare.

  13. I had something like a black dog encounter. One morning last April I was heading out to the car when I saw a healthy looking black dog sitting on the other side of my backyard fence, just sitting and watching me attentively. I stopped in my tracks and we just stared at each other for a couple of minutes. I felt no sense of malice from the dog but there was something very strange about the dog that I couldn't put my finger on.

    After a couple of minutes of looking at each other I get in my car and head to the store only to find the dog gone when I return, never to be seen again. The next night though the neighbor saw someone drop off a starving black pit/lab mix on my curb who would not leave the vicinity of the trash cans. A few days later I ended up taking him in and today he's my best friend and he's gone from being malnourished and cut up to being the spitting image of the big, healthy dog that stared at me through the fence last year.

  14. Well...maybe. Doesn't sound like Pooka to me. But the only important thing is that you and your own dog are congenial companions.

  15. Hello, Professor!

    Excellent article. I read your posted comments at the end and have three questions. Mea culpas all 'round if they take this discussion too far afield.

    1) Are the recent sightings that we in the States have heard about, regarding "black cats" crossing the English countryside, related to the BBD sightings? My guess would be that many of the cats are likely to be actual pumas and cougars, released perhaps by owners for whom the cats had grown too big.

    2) You mentioned that "Even when Pookas are viewed as other [than dog] animals, they are black..." Does there then seem to be a connection with the ancient Men in Black sightings, where down through recorded history, weird human-type creatures were encountered, nearly always in black and quite often near fairy circle and supposedly "inhabited" mountains?

    3) Another oddity of MIB sightings include strange non-human footprints, often referred to as paw prints, sometimes adjacent to the exact spot where an MIB was sighted. Do any of your BBD sightings include such physical traces as prints or tracks?

    Thanks for the great information!


  16. To TS: according to my Olde sources [Evans-Wentz, Sikes, MacManus et al and even the crypto-entries of Eberhart and Clark] black cats and black dogs are in two different crypto-piles of phenomena. I have not studied the black cats except to know that they seem to have more chances of being biological animals than the Pooka phenomenon.[for example, see the Kellas Cat]. I don't believe that UFO MIBs have anything to do with the fairy-like Pookas, but olde-style "dark figures" may well. Still my guts tell me that they are more like wraiths and banshees than Pookas. The non-human footprints found in UFO cases do not look like dog "paw prints" to my knowledge and most often look more like big reptilian three toed things. My favorite Pooka reporters do not report prints and sometimes take pains to mention that there aren't any "leavings behind" of any sort. Take this with salt however. It's best to read all the sources yourself and with your own check list of items.

  17. Hi, Professor
    I just refer you to my year 2005 encounter with many alien small puppies. I also refer you to my encounter with Dragon on last two week (Lions, Tigers, and Bears?....)

  18. Thanks for the reply, Professor.

    I agree that the black cats seem to have a less supernatural explanation, by and large. I've also heard of reptilian prints found adjacent to MIB sightings, as well as the dearth of hard evidence connected to "Pooka" sightings. Although, most MIB events are so strange, they rarely are followed up as definitively

    It is intriguing that the more ancient Dark Figures and Pookas both appear to be site-specific, according to some legends. Whether fairy rings, prehistoric forts or inhabited mountains, there does appear to be some kind of physical anchor that ties such sightings to certain locales, or at least, causes certain sightings to be more likely in those locations. Is that the way you see things, too?

    If that's true, that these sightings are more common in certain areas, then we may be witnessing a similarity to Vallee's UFO-predominant location theory.

    We know Neolithic man used granite and quartz stones at many burial sites, and at stone circles as well, and such stones have since been proved to induce a certain kind of mental state that predisposes out-of-body experiences and, perhaps, the ability to perceive "the Other Side." It's possible that buried meteorites have a similar affect. The Snake Mound in Ohio has recently been shown to cover a buried magnetic source directly below the "egg" portion of the mound.

    A second possibility, far stranger, is that, as supposed findings at the Skinwalker ranch suggest, there are actual gateways to other dimensions in specific locations that may allow such creatures access to our world. Perhaps even after such cross-overs, only certain "attuned" individuals are more likely to witness such creatures, while the rest of us merely get "the willies."

    Professor, is there any kind of hard research or evidence that BBD appearances are predominant in any specific location?


  19. complex question. See separate posting today [friday] that I put up for this and another on the Colorado project topic.



Blog Archive