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1890 (pub.): The Farmer and the Black Dog

A tale is told of a farmhouse in Lyme-Regis, Dorsetshire, England, which was all that was left of a mansion that was demolished in the parliamentary wars (aka the "English Civil War", 1642–1651). Having once been part of a larger structure, the farmhouse's sitting room retained a large old-fashioned fireplace with fixed seats built into its structure on each side of the chimney. Many years ago, the farmer our tale concerns had developed the habit of settling each evening on one of these warm seats after the work of the day was done; and, for as long as anyone knew, a large Black Dog would just as regularly be found sitting in the opposite seat. It was clear to all that the creature was no mere animal, but one of the fabled spectral hounds. After many months of these nightly visits, the farmer slowly lost his initial dread of the beast's presense, and actually came to think of the phantom dog as almost a member of the family, often joking when neighbors told him to drive it away, saying "why should I? He costs me nothing--he eats nothing, he drinks nothing, he interferes with no one. He is the quietest and frugalest creature in the house."

        One night however, after a bit too much drink and a bit too much pushing by his neighbors, the farmer came home in a rage determined to drive the Black Dog from his home. The moment he saw the animal in its usual seat, the farmer grabbed up a poker from the fireplace to strike the creature with; and no sooner had the farmer grabbed the poker and turned towards the Black Dog than it sprung from its seat and ran up the stairs. The farmer followed the dog as it ran into an attic at the top of the house, and when he pursued the spectral hound into the attic, the beast sprang from the floor and disappeared through the ceiling. The farmer, of course, couldn't follow the animal; and in his frustration he struck the ceiling where his prey had vanished to vent his anger. This proved to be a fortuitous action, for when he hit the ceiling the farmer dislodged a small, old-fashioned box which had been hidden there. When opened, he discovered it contained a large sum in gold and silver coins from the reign of Charles I!

        The Black Dog never appeared again within the farmhouse, but continued from that day on to haunt the lane leading to the house each midnight; for this reason the lane has long been called "Dog Lane," and for the same reason a small inn nearby bears a sign with an image of a ghostly Black Dog upon it.

My Source

        This account was taken from a section on "spectre-dog" legends in a collection of English tales gathered by Edwin Sydney Hartland in 1890. In his introduction to this chapter of his book, Hartland makes two things abundantly clear: that Black Dogs were always associated with evil doings, and that he absolutely didn't believe in them. Oddly enough, while Hartland himself didn't believe any of the tales, some were told to him by people who clearly believed their tales to be true. I have to wonder how friendly they were to Hartland after he published his book!

        For example, the claim above of a continuing haunting of Dog Lane actually corresponded to an event Hartland had related to him previously. I quote: "so late as the year 1856, a respectable intelligent woman told the writer that she herself had seen the dog-ghost." For more on that story, click the link below.