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Black Shuck or Old Shuck is the name given to an English ghostly Black Dog which is said to roam the Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk coastline.

Taken from a pamphlet published by Abraham Fleming in 1577


The legends of the Black Shuck date back to the time of the Vikings based on the huge dog of war of Odin and Thor 'Shukir'. Some very large dogs came over to Britain thousands of years ago along with the Vikings long-ships.


His name may derive from the Anglo-Saxon word scucca meaning "demon", or possibly from the local dialect word shucky meaning "shaggy" or "hairy". The legend may have been part of the inspiration for the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles


The most striking feature reported for centuries are its malevolent flaming eyes (or in some variants of the legend a single eye) that are red or alternatively green. They are described as being 'like saucers'. According to reports, the beast varies in size and stature from that of simply a large dog to being the size of a horse. Sometimes the Black Shuck has appeared headless, and at other times he appears to float on a carpet of mist rather than run.


It is said that his appearance bodes ill to the beholder, although not always. More often than not, the Black Shuck terrifies his victims out of their wits, but then leaves them alone to continue living normal lives. Sometimes it is considered as a bad omen, the Black Shuck is then referred to as the Doom Dog.


According to folklore, the spectre often haunts graveyards, sideroads, crossroads, dark forests and it is told by locals, from the depths of Beeston Bump, a hill close to Beeston Regis and Sheringham.

In the village of Overstrand the old Village Sign used to show a picture of the legendary Black Shuck and to this day there is still a lane in the village which is called locally after the Norfolk hell hound.

Another of the hounds tracks runs through what today is Mill Lane into the grounds of Cromer Hall. It is said that it was this particular locality which Arthur Conan Doyle based his Hound of the Baskervilles on.

Mythology says that tend to haunt old straight roads which may be located on 'Leylines'. Leylines are ancient straight paths of invisible earth energy. Folklore says that 'ghost dogs' usually haunt places and road located on leylines to watch over spirits who would travel along them from graveyard to graveyard.


  • One of the most vivid reports of Black Shuck, though, is his appearance at the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh in Suffolk. On Sunday, August 4th, a terrifying thunderstorm occurred with such - 'darkness, rain, hail, thunder and lightning as was never seen the like' as described in "A straunge and terrible Wunder" by the Reverend Abraham Fleming (1577):
This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) runing all along down :the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and :shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, :wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a mome[n]t where they :kneeled, they stra[n]gely dyed.

As the people knelt in fear, praying for mercy, suddenly there appeared in their midst a great black Hell Hound. It began tearing around the Church, attacking many of the congregation with its cruel teeth and claws. An old verse records:

All down the church in midst of fire, the hellish monster flew
And, passing onward to the quire, he many people slew

Then as suddenly as it had appeared, it ran off, departing for Blythburgh Church about twelve miles away where it killed and mauled more people.

Bungay Church was damaged, the tower struck by lightening and the Church clock was broken in pieces. Although there is no official record of injuries caused, the Churchwardens account book mentions that two men in the belfry were killed. The scorch marks left by the monster on the north door can still be seen at the church to this day.

  • Also a large Black dog with red eyes was spotted on Black lane, Kilby in Leicestershire (date unknown) and was supposed to have saved a girl from being mugged by appearing and scaring the attacker away.
  • In 1890 a young boy was rescued from the North Sea who told a tale of being forced to swim further and further from the shore by a huge black dog who had chased him into the sea.
  • In 1970 a huge hound was seen pounding over the beach at Great Yarmouth.
  • In 1980, a young woman claimed to have met the hell hound near Wisbeach, whilst out walking with her young son.

Popular culture

  • A song about the Blythburgh animal entitled "Black Shuck" appears on the 2003 album Permission to Land by Lowestoft band The Darkness.
  • A sinister dog known as "the Grim" is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which may derive indirectly from the legend of Black Shuck, via The Hound of the Baskervilles, though the name is likely to have been derived from stories of a creature similar to Black Shuck called the Church Grim.
  • The Glasgow based rock band, "Black Shuck" also derive their name from the mythical beast, though in part as a tribute to the aforementioned Darkness song.
  • The dog is the leader of a group of mythological characters in the 2000 AD series London Falling.
  • According to the children's book The Runton Werewolf by Ritchie Perry, Black Shuck is a Gronk, a race of friendly shape-shifting aliens, the ancestors of which were accidentally left behind on Earth when one of them suffered from stomach troubles.
  • The shagfoal appears in Alan Moore's 1996 novel "Voice of the Fire", set in Northampton, partly in pre-historic times.
  • Black Shuck also makes an appearance in Mark Chadbourn's trilogy The Age of Misrule.
  • There is an episode of Mystery Hunters about the Black Shuck.

The Black Dog of Bungay and Black Shuck both appear in "The Kettle Chronicles: The Black Dog", a novel by Steve Morgan, former vicar of Bungay, set in 1577.

See also

External links