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1577, August 4: Suffolk Black Dog

StraungeAccording to a very old manuscript, on Sunday August 4, 1577, a very strange series of events happened in the county of Suffolk, England. The manuscript was written just a short time after the events it details, and was reprinted in 1820; it is from a copy of this reprint that I summarize the events described below.

The Legend:

        Between the hours of nine and ten in the morning on Sunday, August 4, 1577, the town of Bungay, Suffolk, was enveloped by a sudden storm and rain fell in astounding abundance and with great force. There was thunder and lightning of such force as to perplex and terrify all within the church, for the force of the thunder caused the very building itself to shake. The interior of the church had been plunged into darkness by the unexpected weather, with only the flashes of the lightning bringing temporary illumination.

         Out of nowhere a dog, black in color, appeared within the church, surrounded by "fearful flashes of fire," a scene which caused some to think that "doomes day was already come." The black dog ran swiftly down the body of the church and passed between two people kneeling at prayer, which somehow wrung both their necks backwards and killed them instantly. The dog then bit another man on his back, causing the man to be "drawen togither and shrunk up, as it were a peece of lether scorched in a hot fire; or as the mouth of a purse or bag, drawen togither with a string." Despite this bizarre injury, the man did not die. In addition to these strange events, the Clark of the church had been cleaning the gutter when a thunderclap had knocked him down; he survived the fall without harm only to be confronted by the same black dog that the congregation had seen... he escaped without harm, thankfully. The Rector of the church called all the people to prayer after the strange dog was gone, and managed to calm the panicked crowd. When the report was later written up, the author was quick to point out to skeptical readers that the church's stones and door both retained the marks of the black dog's claws, and the clock of the church was in fact torn to pieces.

        On the same day (though whether before or after the events at Bungay is not made clear) a similar black dog -- possibly the same one -- was seen in the church of Blythburgh, around twelve miles from Bungay; where it entered and was seen on one of the main beams of the church. It suddenly swung down through the church, blasting many people, killing two men and a boy, and burning the hand of another member of the congregation, before "he flew with wonderful force to no little feare of the assembly, out of the church in a hideous and hellish likenes."

        Perhaps needless to say, but the author of the manuscript states there were many witnesses to these events.