The Black Dog is known throughout Europe, and is known by a great many names. Among these are Black Shuck (the most common name), Old Shuck, Hellbeast, Barghest, Mauthe Dhoog, Shug Monkey, Churchyard Beast, Skriker, Hateful Thing, Whisht Hound, Swooning Shadow, Galleytrot, Black Dog of Torrington, Hellhound, Yeth Hound, Snarly Yow, Gytrash, Trash, Black Angus, Gwyllgi, Striker, Tchi-Co, Spectre-Hound, Gurt Dog, Barguest, Padfoot, Thost Dog, Hairy Jack, Glassensyke, Cappel, Capelthwaite, Le Tchan de Bouole, Cu Sith, Dog of Darkness, Hooter, Muckle Black Tyke, Farvann. The name Shuck is derived from the English word shucky, which means “shaggy.” However, the origins for the name go back to Anglo-Saxon times, where he was known as scucca or sceocca, meaning “demon” or “Satan.” In general, this section speaks of Black Dogs and the archetypal Black Dog, Black Shuck.
The Black Dog roams the English countryside, stalking lonely roads at night. He hunts for travelers, intending the deliver their souls to his dark master. While he has never actually harmed anyone, eyewitnesses are usually never the same again afterwards. He usually disappears completely after an encounter. He moves in utter silence, leaving no prints behind whatsoever. Travelers have sworn to feel the spirit’s chilling breath on the backs of their necks, and the Black Dog’s eerie howls rise above the winds on stormy nights, sending a terrifying chill through the bodies of those who hear it. It is said that the Black Dog is harmless as long as he is left alone.
The Black Dog frequents the woods, country areas, and coastlines of England. He has been known to inhabit graveyards, marshes, and the hills surrounding villages, but the Black Dog especially inhabits lonely roads, crossroads, ancient ruins, and bridges (the places representing the transitional phases in human life). He is said to guard the tombs of those who died tragically, and to keep watch over places where treasure is said to be hidden.
The Black Dog is described as a huge demonic dog, with shaggy fur as black as the night. However, shades of gray, yellow, or even white are not unheard of. He is larger than most large dogs, to the point where he is frequently said to be the size of a calf. The Black Dog’s most frightening features are his glowing, fiery red eyes (although from time to time, the eyes are said to be yellow or green). Sometimes, he is said to have only one eye. He is lean and muscular, his padded feet ending in sharp, black claws. Occasionally, the black dog is headless, yet two red orbs float right where the spirit’s eyes should be, much to the horror of eyewitnesses. He has been described as wearing a collar of chains, which rattle loudly as the spirit walks along.
The Black Dog possesses many supernatural abilities, as a result of his demonic origins. While insubstantial under normal circumstances, the Black Dog is able to assume a corporeal form. In this form, the Black Dog possesses supernatural strength and endurance. He is able to breathe hellfire in either form, burning his victims’ souls. The Black Dog is able to deliver a powerful bite and inflict scorching gashes with his black claws.
The Black Dog is a harbinger of death, and those who are unfortunate enough to encounter the spirit are fated to die or meet with great misfortune within a year’s time. Looking into the Black Dog’s fiery eyes means certain death within a year, and attacking the Black Dog will bring about fatal consequences. The spirit is able to induce feelings of overwhelming terror in a victim through his malicious glare alone, oftentimes causing total bodily paralysis (although this effect is only temporary). If attacked, the Black Dog is able to inflict savage, excruciatingly painful wounds, which are slow to heal (if the wounds heal at all). He seems able to predict the deaths of people, often appearing before someone dies and howling when someone is knocking at death’s door.
The Black Dog is seemingly impervious to physical attacks. Bullets, blades, and fists pass through the spirit’s ethereal body completely. He is exceptionally intelligent, able to anticipate the actions of eyewitnesses and counter them (in one instance, an attacker who tried to kick the Black Dog found his foot in the spirit’s mouth). He is able to dematerialize and disappear at will, as well as render himself completely invisible. Travelers can still feel the Black Dog’s sinister presence, even if he has disappeared.
Although the Black Dog is seemingly unable to be physically harmed, he may in fact have a few vulnerabilities. Most evil spirits cannot abide the presence or the touch of cold iron (that is, iron that has been forged without heat). Theoretically, a weapon forged of cold iron would be able to inflict great amounts of damage on the Black Dog. Silver could possibly have the same effect (silver is yet another metal feared by supernatural evil). Since the Black Dog is said to be a servant of the Devil, blessed weapons and religious icon would hypothetically be able to harm or repel the Black Dog. However, as mentioned earlier, attacking the Black Dog could potentially have fatal consequences.
There are few methods of keeping the Black Dog at bay. Salt, reviled and hated by demons and spirits for its purity and supernatural properties, may keep the Black Dog away or prevent him from attacking. He may be able to be exorcised, but this method is lengthy and complicated, and depending on the strength of the spirit, may or may not work at all. Like mentioned earlier, religious icons (such as the crucifix) may be able to keep the Black Dog at bay, as long as the strength of one’s faith is totally focused into the task.
Exactly how the Black Dog came to be is lost to the annals of folklore and legend. Innumerable sightings and encounters have been reported and documented, but they are too lengthy to list right at this moment. This much, however, is known: the Black Dog is the demonic servant of the Evil One, manifesting himself on this plane of existence to do Satan’s bidding.