Monday, 1 February 2010

The Great Black Dog of Hoarwithy

Is it possible for the power of human thought and belief to create a spectral entity? If it is, one such may be the cwm annwn of Herefordshire.

One of the great black hounds has a rather complex story attached to it, unlike the others which simply roam the countryside on some vaguely defined evil business. This is the great black dog of Hoarwithy.

Back in the 1860s, or thereabouts, a Hoarwithy farmhand named Tom Reece was walking back to Hoarwithy after a pre-Christmas night out with friends in Ross. As he strolled down the lane he heard soft, padding footsteps behind him and saw a large black dog loping down the lane toward him. Tom stood to one side to let the dog pass, but it stopped as it drew closer. When Tom continued on his way, the dog fell in with him keeping a few paces behind.

Tom at this point thought that the dog was a natural creature and, although he did not recognise it, thought it must belong to some local farm or other. After a while Tom, who had been drinking, got fed up with the dog. He shouted at it, but it took no notice. He threw a stick at it, but the dog merely regarded him with a quizzical expression. Then Tom picked up a fallen branch and stepped forward as if to hit the dog. The hound then sprang back out of his reach and suddenly took on human form - it was Tom’s long dead father.

Tom fled the scene and hurried home. He arrived in a terrible state of agitation and upset. While he told his family about the dog, he did not mention the appearance of his father’s ghost. The weeks passed and Tom grew steadily more depressed and lethargic.

Then one night he suddenly got up in the middle of the night and woke his brother, who slept in the same room. “I have got to go out,” he told his brother. “Don’t worry about me.” Words that were guaranteed to make the brother deeply worried.

Tom was feeling a strong impulse to go to some nearby woods. Once in the shadow of the trees he again saw the phantom hound. Tom followed the dog through the trees. When the dog stopped it again changed into the ghost of his father and pointed to the ground. “Dig” commanded the ghost. Tom dug and quickly discovered a leather bag. “Throw it in the Wye”, commanded the ghost. Tom threw the bag in the Wye.

On the instant that the bag disappeared under the waters the ghost vanished, and Tom fainted. When he awoke it was to find the chill dawn of winter creeping over the landscape and a heavy frost all round. Tom sat up, his body chilled to the bone, but his depression lifted. He never again saw either the dog or his father and never again suffered depression.

This is an extract from Haunted Herefordshire by Rupert Matthews. To learn more and order a copy at a discount CLICK HERE

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