Ghosts do not always take on human form – they often appear as animals
almost every region of Britain has a legendary black dog, a harbinger of death, with blazing eyes and snarling teeth. The Welsh call it Gwyligi.
On the Isle of Man, it is the Mauthe. Yorkshire’s version, Padfoot, is said to be as big as a donkey, while in Lancashire they call the black doom dog’ Trash or Shriker. In the Hebrides, the dog is white and called the Tamper. The West Country has a pack of black dogs.
But the most terrifying is the one-eyed hound that haunts East Anglia, known as Black Shuck. He is said to roam the fens and marsh flatlands on dark nights, a fearsome brute waiting to scare lonely travelers to death. Many people claim to have heard his blood-curdling howls on stormy nights.
Maybe it was Black Shuck who terrified a young American airman and his wife in the early years of the last war. They were staying in a flat-topped hut on the edge of Walberswick Marsh, Suffolk. One stormy evening they heard a pounding on the door. Looking out of the window, the airman saw a huge black beast battering itself against their temporary home. The couple pushed furniture against the door and cowered in terror as the assault went on, the beast hammering against each wall in turn, then leaping onto the roof. After some hours, the noise died away, but the couple could not sleep. At first light, they ventured cautiously outside to inspect the damage. But there was no sign of the attack and no paw or claw marks in the mud. A similar black dog – the Mauthe or Moddey Dhoo — used to haunt Peel Castle on the Isle of Man. Soldiers on guard duty refused to patrol the ramparts alone. One boastful sentry who did so was found jibbering insanely and died three days later.
Footmarks in the snow mystified the people of Devon in February 1855. They awoke to find a trail of prints zigzagging for nearly 100 miles through five parishes, over roofs and haystacks, through walls, in and out of barns. The trail, which began in a Totnes garden and ended in a field at Littleham, was blamed on many different sorts of animals. When dogs were brought in to follow the trail into the dense undergrowth at Dawlish, they backed away howling dismally.
Horses, with heads and without, figure in many ghost stories. An Englishman hunting in the Transvaal in 1902 wrote from South Africa to tell journalist and ‘ghost-collector’ W. T. Stead that one day he was riding back to camp with a fine ostrich over his saddle when he heard someone behind him in a thick copse. Turning, he saw an eerie rider on a white horse. He galloped for camp, with the unearthly rider in hot pursuit. That night, an old Boer told him that another Englishman had once shot seven elephants in the copse, but when he returned the next day to collect the ivory he was never seen again. His white horse returned riderless to camp but died next day. The Boer added: ‘I wouldn’t go into that bush for all the ivory in the land.’
A white tiger costs a railroad superintendent dearly at the turn of the century. Charles Da Silva, his wife and his son Eric were staying in Seconee, India. One day, Da Silva refused the pleas for help of an old blind leper and watched as the helpless man was mauled to death by a white tiger. Before he died he cursed: ‘May you also suffer my fate.’ When Da Silva told one of his servants what had happened, the servant warned him to beware of the old leper’s curse.
A year later, Da Silva saw the tiger at his railroad and realized with horror that it was preparing to spring at his wife and son. He fired his rifle as the ghostly tiger leaped through the air, then vanished. But he was too late. A servant lay dead from fright. And Da Silva’s son had a scratch on his cheek that within a month had caused his death.