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1905 (pre): Protected by a Black Dog

According to a woman identified only as Mrs. D., her mother had once walked to Scunthorpe from Crosby (both towns in Lincolnshire, England) to do some shopping; this occurred at a time when the two towns were still separate, so I set the date as previous to 1905... as by then, massive town growth due to the local iron industry boom had caused Scunthorpe to near absorb its neighbors.

        As Mrs. D.'s mother was on her way home to Crosby, she became aware that a very large black dog which she'd never seen before was walking along behind her. This proved a helpful thing, for as she passed some Irish laborers she heard them say what they would have done to her if "that [something] dog hadn't been with her." Arriving home safely, she called her husband to meet the wonderful dog... but it couldn't be found anywhere.

My Source

        This story has seen a revival in recent years in a different form; but more on that in a moment. The above account was taken from a collection of Lincolnshire, England, 'Black Dog' accounts gathered by Folklorist Ethel Rudkin in 1938. The purpose of Rudkin's study was to record the beliefs in the county regarding the phantom-like Black Dogs, supernatural creatures that appear and disappear at will. While an argument could be put forward that the people Rudkin talked to simply encountered a real dog that was black, the point to the collection was that none of these people believed that to be the case... every single person she included in her collection was sure they had encountered the supernatural creature labeled a 'Black Dog.' As to the question of the intelligence or veracity of the people interviewed, Rudkin herself stated:

"I would like to emphasize this point: I have never yet had a Black Dog story from anyone who was weak either in body or mind."

        As with all accounts from Rudkin, it is entirely up to you to decide if it is true or not; but, in either case, it still evidences the beliefs regarding the Black Dog spirits in the area. Of course, in this case we are taking the word of the woman's daughter, who doesn't appear to have been a witness to the proposed event... but even this is a better chain of claim than what happened to the story next.

Protected by... Angels?

        In 2001, a variant of the Black Dog story from Scunthorpe was being sent around anonymously through email... but it was definitely changed from the earlier version. The new story generally runs thus: Diane, a university student (sometimes identified as a Christian), was home for the summer and out late, and was walking the relatively short distance home. She took a shortcut down an alleyway she normally used during the day, but it was lonely and dark at night. When she was halfway down the alley, She saw a man standing at the end of the alley watching her. Feeling uneasy, she prayed for God's protection and was instantly filled with a calming comfort as if she wasn't alone... and she walked right past the man and home with nothing happening past that.

        In the newspaper the next day was a story about another young lady who had been raped in the very same alleyway just twenty minutes after Diane had walked through; realizing that the culprit was likely the man she saw, she went to the police station to tell them her experience, and was asked to see if she could recognize anyone in a lineup of suspects the police had rounded up, and she immediately identified the very same man who she had passed the night earlier. Upon being pointed out, the man broke down and confessed... and also stated that the reason he hadn't attacked Diane was that she wasn't alone; she had two men walking on either side of her.

        Since 2001, this variation has been reprinted many times in differing ways, generally either as an example of a pro-prayer urban legend, or as an inspiring 'true' angel story. No one seems to know that the basic story appeared as early as 1938 as a Black Dog legend, which leads to only one question: did the story survive and change over time with re-tellings, or did a folklore enthusiast somewhere purposely adapt the Black Dog story into the newer angel legend? Or, weirder still, do different supernatural beings perform the same services in different times and places? We may never know.

        On another note, the Black Dog version of this account has an undeniable resemblance to another tale in which a Black Dog appears to protect a person from a potential threat... follow the link below to read more about the Swancliffe Black Dog.