hellhound

The Hell Hound

Another tale from a rare folklore book M. H. James's Bogie Tales of East Anglia (Pawsey & Hayes, Ipswich 1891). The setting is almost certainly Aldeburgh, a coastal town in Suffolk, now somewhat gentrified but still with its fisherman on the beach (and in the bars) some of whom still have dogs…

The Hell Hound 

At the north end of the town of A--- lie the salt marshes, which are sometimes full, like a lake, after rains or the prevalence of of certain winds, and of which there was a sunset view exhibited in London not long ago.Here a favourite walk of the inhabitants leads across a sort of common, planted with a fir grove; by one or other of two paths, one of which goes through the pine wood and emerges near the station; the other leaves the pine wood on the left, and skirts the mere, crossing the line, and leading into a sandy lane between more pine trees. At the sea end of this waste is a 'kissing gate'...and here it is quite likely that the presiding bogie will meet you, if you walk there after dark.

The bogie is a large black dog, with fiery eyes, and a fierce appearance. Do not, however, be afraid of him, if you keep in the path that leads across the 'line', for all will be well, he will walk 'to heel' as a good dog should, and will only make you feel rather nervous by his odd silent trot; but if you want to go the other way he will show you what he thinks by an awful growling, he will stand in your path and show his teeth, he will snarl till you are almost paralysed with fear - and then he will sit down and stare at you with his eyes aflame.

Give up your plan, or it will be the worse for you, though the dog never bites or barks, but sometimes drags you by your clothes; untold horrors befall the man and woman who persists in thwarting him. You give up the walk under the pine tress - he ceases to growl! You step again towards the other path - his eyes no longer flame - you walk boldly on - he follows 'to heel', as before. You reach the gate at the level crossing - he sits down and watches you out of sight,and you totter on a few steps and gladly sir don in a hedge to rest your shaking limbs.

He is like the "dog fiend" in Peel Castle, in the Isle of Man, or the "Hateful Thing," in Norfolk.

Another walk he has, some five miles off, under an avenue of elms, that arch the entrance to a little village; and here he was met one night by the father of a servant of ours, who offend him by stopping, and was treated by him with great indignity.

If one might suggest an origin for a beast so mysterious, it seems not impossible that in smuggling days (for which the coast was notorious), there really was a clever dog trained to keep people from hunting among the tress and underbrush, and that the terror of him has survived, blending probably with some older legend of a church beast.

It is strange to make a terror of a fine black dog, when many of the fishermen keep dogs, and much more attached to them, the said dogs in some cases dying! before tax-day, and reappearing as well as ever, after.

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