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Human Animals Part 27

[148] "The Unseen World," 1853, pp. 79-80.

[149] "The Denham Tracts," Ed. by James Hardy, 1895, Vol. II, pp. 193-6.

[150] Dyer, T. F. Thistleton, "Strange Pages from Family Papers,"

1895, pp. 168-70.

[151] Ingram, J. H., "The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain," 1901, pp. 345-52.

[152] "The Denham Tracts," Vol. I, p. 324.

[153] "The Archaeological Review," 1889, Vol. III, pp. 217, 315 ff.

[154] Kay, C. de, "Bird Gods," 1898, p. 92.

CHAPTER XXI

ANIMAL GHOSTS

For a ghost to take the form of an animal is not at all unusual, and it has been suggested that human ghosts when they appear in the guise of bulls, dogs, sheep, or other animals are accounted for by being "throw-backs of the spirit to a lower animal form."

Black dogs with glowing eyes like hot embers, phantom calves, white rabbits, etc., are sometimes thought in Lincolnshire to haunt the spots where murder or suicide has been committed. They are supposed to be either spectres of the dead in brute form or demons, and in Denmark there is a legend that pigs or goats, if buried alive in walls, turn to spectres.

In Wales the belief exists that the devil can manifest as a pig, calf, dog, or headless horse.

A woman once passing through a village in North Pembrokeshire at night shouted, "Come out, you evil one!" and there appeared a white cat in answer to her call. In the same country a certain Mr. David Walter was passing two large stones called locally the Devil's Nags, accompanied by a mastiff, when an apparition in the form of a huge dog appeared in his path. He tried to set his own animal upon the other, but the mastiff was frightened and would not attack the phantom. Thereupon Walter picked up a stone and was about to throw it at the evil beast when it was suddenly illumined by a circle of fire, and he knew it to be one of the "infernal dogs of hell."

A black calf was said to haunt a stream in the same neighbourhood and one night two villagers caught the animal and took it home. They locked it up safely as they thought, but in the morning it had disappeared.

The Roaring Bull of Bagbury is a famous Shropshire ghost. Miss Georgina Jackson recites the story as it was told by an old farmer called Hayward.[155]

A very bad man lived at Bagbury Farm, and when he died it was said of him that he had only done two good deeds in his life, one being to give a waistcoat to a poor old man and the other a piece of bread and cheese to a poor village lad. After he was dead, his ghost refused to rest and haunted the farm buildings in the shape of a bull, roaring till the boards, the shutters, and the tiles seemed about to fly off the outhouses. It was quite impossible for anyone to live within range of this roaring which usually began about nine or ten o'clock at night, sometimes even earlier, and at last became so troublesome that the people at the farmhouse sent for twelve parsons to lay the ghost.

When the parsons came "they got him under," but could not lay him, and at last they drove him, still in the shape of a bull, into Hessington Church. All the parsons carried candles, and one of them, who was blind, knowing that there was danger from a stampede, placed his lighted candle in his top-boot. It was a good thing that he did so, for presently the animal made a great rush, and out went every candle except that belonging to the blind parson who said, as though prepared for the event, "You light your candles by mine." But before he was laid the bull made such a "burst" that he cracked the wall of the church from top to bottom, as hundreds of witnesses have asserted from that day to this.

At last they secured the ghost "down into a snuffbox," as the custom is, and he begged that he might be laid under Bagbury Bridge, declaring that every mare that passed over the bridge should lose her foal and every woman her child. This threat made them refuse his request, and they laid him in the Red Sea, where he has to remain for a thousand years.

The knowledge that he was so far away did not prevent the villagers being very chary of crossing Bagbury Bridge at night-time.

Another story of a man who turned into a bull after death is told of a squire at Millidrope in Corve Dale. He was killed by a fall from one of the upper windows of the Hall, and an indelible blood-stain marks the spot. Unfortunately for his peace of mind, his estate, owing to his own carelessness or to the malpractices of his trustees, went to the wrong heir. Unable to rest in his grave owing to this piece of injustice, the squire haunted his own parish, where he was frequently seen in the guise of a _flayed bull_.[156]

Edmund Swifte tells a story of an animal ghost in the Tower, which appeared while he was keeper of the Crown Jewels. The peculiar point about the story is that this phantom animal was seen with fatal results. One of the night sentries in the Jewel chamber was alarmed by a figure like a huge bear issuing from beneath the door. He thrust at it with his bayonet, which stuck in the door. Then he fell into a fit and was carried senseless to the guard-room. His fellow sentry declared that the man was neither asleep nor drunk, he himself having seen him the moment before awake and sober. Swifte saw the man in the guard-house after the incident, when he lay prostrated with terror, and two or three days later the poor sentry was dead.[157]

In the outer Hebrides it is believed that demons take the form of dogs, and a story is told of a priest's dog which was lying on the hearth while his master was hearing confessions. Suddenly the animal started up, annoyed beyond endurance by the atmosphere of ultra-piety and, exclaiming, "If you liked me before, you never will again," he vanished amidst a shower of sparks.

The Highlanders have also a legend of an ownerless black dog, which caused all kinds of misadventure in the vicinity where he prowled. A hunter shot at the dog with a silver bit, and the aim was so successful that nothing more was seen of the animal. Suddenly a small boy ran up to the hunter with a terrible story of his grandfather who had died within sight of his home as though stricken by a gun-shot wound, and on examination it was found indeed that the silver piece was imbedded in his flesh. There was no further misfortune in the village after this double event, but the tale has more of witchcraft about it than ghostliness.

Samuel Drew, who was apprenticed to a shoemaker, had a curious experience at St. Blazey in Cornwall. It is told in his life written by his son.

"There were several of us boys and men, out about twelve o'clock on a bright moonlight night. I think we were poaching. The party were in a field adjoining the road leading from my master's to St. Austell, and I was stationed outside the hedge to watch and give the alarm if any intruder should appear. While thus occupied I heard what appeared to be the sound of a horse approaching from the town, and I gave a signal. My companions paused and came to the hedge where I was, to see the passenger. They looked through the bushes and I drew myself close to the hedge that I might not be observed. The sound increased, and the supposed horseman seemed drawing near. The clatter of hoofs became more and more distinct. We all looked to see what it was, and I was seized with a strange indefinable feeling of dread: when, instead of a horse, there appeared coming towards us, at an easy pace, but with the same sound which first caught my ear, a creature about the height of a large dog. It went close by me, and as it passed, it turned upon me and my companions huge fiery eyes that struck terror to all our hearts. The road where I stood branched off and on the left there was a gate. Towards the gate the phantom moved, and without any apparent obstruction, went at its regular trot, which we heard several minutes after it had disappeared. Whatever it was, it put an end to our occupation and we made the best of our way home.

"I have often endeavoured in later years, but without success, to account for what I then heard and saw on natural principles. I am sure there was no deception as to the facts. It was a night of unusual brightness, occasioned by a cloudless full moon. The creature was unlike any animal I had then seen, but from my present recollections it had much the appearance of a bear, with a dark shaggy coat. Had it not been for the unearthly lustre of its eyes, and its passing through the gate as it did, there would be no reason to suppose it anything more than an animal perhaps escaped from some menagerie. That it _did_ pass through the gate without pause or hesitation I am perfectly clear. Indeed we all saw it, and saw that the gate was shut, from which we were not distant more than about twenty or thirty yards. The bars were too close to admit the passage of an animal of half its apparent bulk, yet this creature went through without an effort or variation of its pace."

Peele Castle in the Isle of Man is haunted by an apparition called the Manx dog, a shaggy spaniel, which was said to walk in every part of the building, and to lie in the guard-chamber before the fire by candlelight. In days gone by the soldiers were accustomed to the apparition, but all the same they suspected it was an evil spirit, and all were afraid to be left alone in its presence, and were also careful of the language they used lest they should receive an injury if they swore before it. The animal used to appear and return by a passage in the church, and as this passage was also used by the soldier who had to deliver the keys to the captain, and he was terrified at the thought of meeting the phantom, it was arranged that he should have a companion, and after that they went two by two, never singly.

One night one of the soldiers who had been drinking and was in a bragging mood, declared that he would carry back the key alone, though it was not really his turn to go. He would not listen to the others, who tried to dissuade him. Blustering and swearing, he snatched up the bunch of keys and marched off. Presently a great noise was heard outside, but the soldiers were too frightened to go out and see what was taking place. In staggered the adventurous boaster, struck dumb with horror at what he had seen, nor could he by sign or word explain what had happened to him, but died, in terrible agony, his features distorted and his limbs writhing.

After this occurrence no one would venture through the passage, which was soon bricked up, and the apparition never appeared again in the castle.

Hergest Court, in Herefordshire, was haunted by a demon dog said to have belonged to Black Vaughan. Black Vaughan was himself said to be the ghost of the member of the family whose monument rests in Kingston Church. So powerful was this ghost that he appeared in daylight and upset farmers' waggons, or rode with the old wives to Kingston Market.

Once he was said to have appeared in church in the form of a bull, and the usual elaborate form of exorcism was required to dislodge him, in which twelve parsons with twelve candles had to remain in the church until they had "read him down into a silver snuff-box." The demon dog always appeared as a warning that death was nigh to one of the Vaughan family.

The Black Dog of Hergest was famous all over the country-side, and no one ventured to enter the room he was said to haunt. At night he clanked a chain, but at other times he was seen wandering about without one, often near a pond on the high road to Kingston.

Another phantom dog-story comes from the parish of Dean Prior, a narrow woodland valley watered by a stream. Below a beautiful cascade is a deep hollow called the Hound's Pool. At one time there lived near to this spot a skilful weaver. After his death he was seen by his family working as diligently as ever at his loom, and, this being regarded as uncanny, application was made to the vicar of the parish as to what steps were to be taken to remove the apparition. The parson called at the cottage where the weaver had lived and, hearing the noise of the shuttle in the upstairs room, called to the ghost of the weaver to descend.

"I will," replied the weaver's voice, "as soon as I have worked out my shuttle."

"No," replied the vicar, "you have worked long enough. Come down at once."

So the phantom appeared, and the vicar, taking a handful of earth from the churchyard, threw it in his face. In a moment the apparition turned into a black hound. "Follow me," said the vicar, and the dog followed to the gate of the wood, where a mighty wind was blowing. The vicar picked up a nutshell with a hole in it and leading the hound to the pool below the cascade, said, "Take this, and dip out the pool with it. When it is empty thou shalt rest."

The hound still haunts the spot, and to those who can see is ever at work on the waters of the pool.[158]

Similarly Tregeagle, the famous Demon of Dosmery Pool, in Cornwall, is doomed to empty the pool with a limpet shell which has a large hole in it.

A story is told of a talking Dog which haunted Dobb Park Lodge.

A treasure-seeker who went to explore the underground vaults at the Lodge saw a great, black, rough dog as large as any two or three mastiffs, which said, "No, my man, as you've come here, you must do one of three things, or you'll never see daylight again. You must either drink all the liquor there is in that glass, open that chest, or draw that sword."

The chest was iron-bound and too heavy to move, the drink was scalding hot, and the sword glittered and flashed like lightning wielded by an unseen hand. Fortunately the treasure-seeker escaped after extraordinary experiences with his bare life, returning as empty-handed as he came, and since then no one has ventured into the ruined vaults of Dobb Park Lodge, and the chest of gold is said to be still there, waiting for an adventurer who can brave the terrors of the "Talking Dog" and his surroundings.

The neighbourhood of Burnley used to be haunted by a phantom locally called "Trash" or "Striker." These names came from the sounds made by the animal which had the appearance of a large dog with broad feet, shaggy hair, drooping ears and "eyes as large as saucers." His paws made a splashing noise as of old shoes on a muddy road, and now and again the brute emitted deep howls. His presence was considered a certain sign of death in the family of anyone who caught sight of the apparition. If followed by anyone the animal began to walk backwards, keeping his eyes on the pursuer. At the slightest inattention on the part of his companion the phantom vanished. Sometimes he plunged into a pool of water, at others he dropped at the feet of the pursuer with a curious splashing sound. Some attempted to strike the animal, but there was no substance present to receive the blow, though the apparition remained in the same position as before the blow was delivered.

Some animal ghosts appear in different shapes at different times.

The Manor of Woodstock was haunted in 1649 by an apparition described by several witnesses whose narratives may be found in Dr. Plott's "Natural History of Oxfordshire."

Commissioners took up residence at the Manor House on 13 October, 1649, but heard nothing of the ghost until three days later when "there came, as they thought, _somewhat_ into the bedchamber (where two of the commissioners and their servants lay), in the shape of a dog, which, going under their beds, did as it were gnaw their bed cords, but on the morrow finding them whole and a quarter of beef, which lay on the ground, untouched they began to entertain other thoughts." On the following day, the 17th, some evil spirit hurled the chairs and stools up and down the Presence Chamber, "from whence it came into the two chambers where the commissioners and their servants lay and hoisted their beds' feet so much higher than their heads that they thought they should have been turned over and over; and then let them fall down with such force, that their bodies rebounded from the bed a good distance."

The next day also a mysterious visitor appeared to be present, which fetched the warming-pan out of the withdrawing-room and made so much noise "that they thought five bells could not have made more." On the 20th and 21st of October various phenomena occurred, and then came a respite until the 25th, on the night of which, amongst other curious sounds and sights, there was "a very great noise as if forty pieces of ordnance had been shot off together." Peace was restored until the 1st of November when "something came into the withdrawing-room, treading, as they conceived, much like a bear, which at first only walked about a quarter of an hour: at length it made a great noise about the table and threw the warming-pan so violently, that it quite spoiled it. It threw also glass and great stones at them again, and the bones of horses, and all so violently that the bedstead and walls were bruised by them." This night they set candles all about the rooms, and made great fires up to the mantle-trees of the chimneys, but all were put out, nobody knew how. Nor was this all. For in spite of the fact that one of the commissioners had the boldness to ask in the name of God what _it_ was, what _it_ would have, and what they had done, that they should be disturbed in this manner, and the questions, although evoking no answer, caused a temporary cessation of noise, _it_ returned bringing seven devils worse than _itself_. Whereupon one of the watchers lighted a candle and set it between two rooms in the doorway, on which another of them "fixing his eyes saw the similitude of a hoof, striking the candle and candlestick into the middle of the bedchamber and afterwards making three scrapes on the snuff to put it out. Upon this the same person was so bold as to draw his sword, but he had scarce got it out, when there was another invisible hand had hold of it too, and tugged with him for it and prevailing, struck him so violently with the pummel that he was stunned with the blow."

This was too much, and two days later the commissioners and their men removed out of the house, unable to stand the strain they were undergoing any longer.

An apparition of a lady in the form of a colt is somewhat unusual, but has been seen, if we may believe the statement of a woman called Sarah Mason. Sarah also saw the ghost of a man who hanged himself and came back afterwards in the form of a large black dog.

The story of Obrick's Colt[159] concerned a lady who was buried with all her jewels and whose corpse was afterwards robbed by the clerk.

Chapter end

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