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Newfoundland Nightmares

Posted by: Nick Redfern on May 27th, 2012

Back in 2008, Anomalist Books published my book, There’s Something in the Woods – a road-trip style title that covered my cryptozoological investigations of 2006 to 2008.

One story in the book (extracted in part below) has somewhat of an uncanny bearing on the ongoing saga of the Hackney Marshes horror. As I have noted in a previous post, suggestions have been made that the “beast” was nothing more than Willow, the pet Newfoundland dog of the drummer for Brit band Kula Shaker.

That may indeed be so. But there’s more. Much more, in fact. It could be argued that Newfoundlands have been responsible for reports of strange creatures for not just years or decades, but maybe even centuries, in the UK.

Here’s a brief extract from an entire chapter I have on this “Newfoundland as an explanation for monsters” issue in There’s Something in the Woods:

“…as I was able to determine, there was indeed a Newfoundland tie-in with the black dog legends – and, to my surprise and astonishment, it was a tie-in that dated back centuries. It was thanks to the persistent and expert studies of a friend of mine, Mark North, the resident artist and designer for the Center for Fortean Zoology, that this extraordinary fact came to light.

“In 2007 the CFZ published an updated and revised edition of Mark’s book, Dark Dorset, which detailed the many and varied mysteries of his home-county of Dorset. I flew over to England and spoke with Mark about the new black dog story, and he told me: ‘There are a lot of stories in there about the phantom black dogs. I’ve done a lot of investigations into the stories and myths around black dog tales. If you go back to the older tradition of black dogs, I think a lot of it could have been invented. On the Dorset coast, for example, there was a very big smuggling trade going on centuries ago. I think a lot of the stories of these animals were invented to frighten people and keep them away from the smuggling areas.

“‘What was also happening around this time is that Dorset had a lot of connections with Newfoundland and they used to do a lot of trading with the fishermen there. It was around this time that the Newfoundland dogs were brought over here, to this country. So, you have a new type of dog being brought over here, which was very large and that no-one had ever seen before, and then you have these tales of large black dogs roaming around, and smugglers inventing these black dog tales. So, I think it could be that part of the story at least is that the Black Dog legends have their origins in these large, working black dogs brought over from Newfoundland.’

“Was it possible that Britain’s entire mythology of ghostly black dogs was based solely upon the tall-tales of smugglers? Both Mark and I considered such an all-encompassing possibility to be highly unlikely, given the fact that sightings of such nightmarish beasts had been made all across the British Isles, and long before the smugglers of Dorset were up to their tricks. In all likelihood, we concluded, those same smugglers had merely modified for their own ends already-existing black dog legends – something which worked even better for them with the introduction to the British Isles of the gigantic Newfoundland hound…”

There ends the extract on a story that I figured had died a death several years ago. But, maybe, with the saga of the Hackney Horror now doing the rounds, perhaps not…

Nick Redfern About Nick Redfern
Punk music fan, Tennents Super and Carlsberg Special Brew beer fan, horror film fan, chocolate fan, like to wear black clothes, like to stay up late. Work as a writer.




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