0857 (ca.): The Cloud and the Black Dog

Black Dog[Larger version here]

In the Annales Bertiniani, an ancient book that chronicles French history from the years 830CE through 882CE, a strange event is stated to have occurred at a French church in the year 857CE.

        According to authors David Waldron and Christopher Reeve (writing in 2010), in August of 857CE the Bishop of Trier, named Teotogaundus, was performing a mass at a church when a "very dreadful cloud" full of thunder and lightning darkened the interior of the church, frightened the congregation, and drowned out the sound of the church's bells ringing in the tower. The church had become so dark inside that people sitting next to each other could barely see their neighbors... and within this darkness suddenly the floor opened up and a dog "of immense size" leaped out and began to run to and fro about the church's altar.

        If correct, then this is the earliest report of a phenomena that could be a "Black Dog," a phantom hound often reported over the past two centuries in parts of England and France.

Sources Gone Astray!

        This particular account leaves me with a curiously unsatisfied feeling about the whole matter. Here's why.

        I know of two published statements regarding this account, a 1990 article in FATE Magazine written by Gorden Stein, and a 2010 book written by David Waldron and Christopher Reeve, both of which are exclusively about the Black Dog phenomena. And, while both agree that a French church was enveloped in darkness within which a large Black Dog appeared, both give source references for this that are wrong!

        Strangely, their incorrect source references sound much alike -- Stein's source is supposedly Annales Franorum Regnum, which he says was written in 586CE, and Waldron and Reeve's source is supposedly the Annales Francorum Regnum, which they say was written around 1160CE. While Stein's spelling of this source's name is now often repeated, neither title appears to be connected to an actual manuscript!

        What appears to have happened is that both sets of authors referenced from the same initial place, and that it didn't exactly list the right source for the story. That initial place appears to have been the Theo Brown Archives held at the University of Exeter in England.

        Theo Brown was a noted researcher into the phenomena of Black Dogs who, unfortunately, died before she could publish the greater mass of what she had collected... so her Black Dog research is available to the public in its raw form at the University of Exeter, which took control of her papers after her death. Waldron and Reeve credit this collection for where they got their information on the account above, and I'm willing to bet that Stein's article on Black Dogs for FATE Magazine started with him visiting the same archive.

        So I suspect the three authors misread or misunderstood Brown's source reference. Since we now know the original account for the incident above can be found in the Annales Bertiniani, then a possible reason for this error arises. The Annales Bertiniani was preceded by another tome of French history that covered the years 741CE to 829CE, which was written by different authors. This previous book is titled in English as the Royal Frankish Annals... which currently becomes Annales Regni Francorum when translated to Latin. So Brown may have stated the account above came from a book that was related to the Annales Francorum Regnum -- a slightly different presentation of the Latin -- and had Stein, Waldron, and Reeve all mistake that for the title to use, with Stein misspelling it.

But, Did It Happen...?

        Which bring me to another reason I'm not satisfied with this matter. Here's the orginal latin regarding this incident from the Annales Bertiniani:

"In Augusta etiam Trevirorum Teotgaudo episcopo cum clero et populo celebrante, nubes teterrima super incumbens, tonitruis fulminibusque ecclesiam territans, turrem campanarum sonantium comminuit tantaque tenebrositate ecclesiam implevit, ut vix alterutrum sese valerent agnoscere, visusque est canis nimiae enormitatis in circuitu altaris discurrere, subito terrae hiatu."

I'm not able to translate Latin myself, so here's what I get from running it through Google Translate:

"Augusta is protected by Teotgaudo bishop and his clergy and people celebrating the cloud deadly on the ground, thunder, lightning assembly terrifying tower of bells resonating breaking such shadowiness church filled to barely one would be able to recognize the pupils and the dog is enormous, round about the run, suddenly the earth air."

...which is roughly what gets translated into the account at the top. The major components of the legend are all here: that the incident happened during a religious event with Bishop Teotgaudo in charge, that a 'deadly' cloud full of lightning interrupts, the church grows abnormally dark inside, and that a large dog appears and runs, possibly from the ground.

        It still seems a bit short of other asserted details, though. The dog is not described as anything other than 'enormous,' so it's hard to say it is a "black dog." The storm is described as 'cloud deadly on the ground,' which needs explaining. The bells are not said to be silenced or drowned out.

        These may be nit-picky points, but they need to be noted. I've translated older texts that have had a better translation by others; so the disconnects on this account make me question the validity of the common translation used to describe the story in books. And, while it can definitely be said that the original Latin is describing something of a paranormal event, it was the questionable details that allowed this event to be identified as part of the "Black Dog" phenomena specifically.


        Big Thanks go out to Chris Phillips for finding the original account of this matter in the Annales Bertiniani, when all others gave the wrong references for where the account could be found! Thanks for the info!

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