How often do legends prove to be real? Well, not often enough, but this time, using the latest technology available, archaeologists might have uncovered a 16th century legendary hellhound.
Known by the name of Black Shuck – a name believed to derive from an old English word for black “demon”, the 7-foot tall dog appeared as a bringer of death in many tales from 500 years ago. In the 16th century, the inhabitants of the British Isles were horrified by the brutal deaths committed by this giant hellhound with burning red eyes.
It took about 500 years for archaeologists to uncover its earthly remains under the ruins of Leiston Abbey in Suffolk, in a nameless grave thirty inches deep, while several pottery fragments were covering its body. The massive dog skeleton was analyzed by a veterinarian who approximated its weigh at about 200 pounds when it lived, while measuring not less than 7 feet on its hind legs.
Could these skeleton remains have belonged to the feared Black Shuck? And if so, why would it rest under holy ground after all the atrocities it had committed? Could this find reveal some kind of ritualistic form of burial used upon the feared dog?
According to local folklore, Black Shuck made its presence noticed during a brutal storm on August 4, 1577, at Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, almost seven miles from Leiston in Suffok. Fearful for their lives, the villagers found shelter inside the church, but the massive wooden doors couldn’t withstand the rage of the beast.
A thunder struck the door open and the snarling creature caved in. It claimed the life of a man and a boy before the steeple crashed through the roof. The giant dog then left the church, leaving behind him scorch marks from its claws on the door of the church which can be observed even today.
The above episode is described in Reverend Abraham Fleming’s book A Straunge and Terrible Wunder:
THIS BLACK DOG, OR THE DEVIL IN SUCH A LIKENESS (GOD HE KNOWETH ALL WHO WORKETH ALL) RUNNING ALL ALONG DOWN THE BODY OF THE CHURCH WITH GREAT SWIFTNESS, AND INCREDIBLE HASTE, AMONG THE PEOPLE, IN A VISIBLE FORM AND SHAPE, PASSED BETWEEN TWO PERSONS, AS THEY WERE KNEELING UPON THEIR KNEES, AND OCCUPIED IN PRAYER AS IT SEEMED, WRUNG THE NECKS OF THEM BOTH AT ONE INSTANT CLEAN BACKWARD, IN SO MUCH THAT EVEN AT A MOMENT WHERE THEY KNEELED, THEY STRANGELY DIED.”
According to the latest radiocarbon dating tests, the strange remains seem to correspond to the time when Black Shuck was terrorizing Eastern Anglia and Suffolk region. If it was indeed the feared hellish beast or someone’s faithful and extremely big hunting dog we can only assume, but the legend remains, with people remembering it through rock songs or by naming local clubs or antique shops after the Black Dog who once terrorized the surrounding area.