The Legend of Black Shuck

The legend of Black Shuck, the ghostly black dog that is said to roam East Anglia, is famous along the Suffolk Coast. For centuries the tale of Black Shuck has been retold, and though the details vary, every account agrees on one thing: the spectral Black Shuck is terrifying to behold!

According to legend and folklore, Black Shuck has flaming red eyes and shaggy black fur. Some say he is a huge beast, the size of a horse; others say that he is no bigger than a large dog. In his book, Highways and Byways in East Anglia, W.A. Dutt wrote of Black Shuck:

“He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound.”

The most infamous sightings of Black Shuck happened on the same day in August, 1577. On that day a great storm was raging along the Suffolk Coast, and the people of Blythburgh were congregated in the church. Suddenly, a clap of thunder broke, and the doors of the church crashed open. Black Shuck ran through the congregation, killing a man and a boy as the churchgoers watched in horror. Then the church steeple fell crashing through the roof, and Black Shuck left, leaving scorch marks on the church door that can still be seen to this day!

Later, Black Shuck is said to have burst into the church at Bungay, and made a similar attack. The Reverend Abraham Fleming described the sighting in his work A Straunge and Terrible Wunder that very year:

“This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible fourm and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling uppon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them bothe at one instant clene backward, in somuch that even at a moment where they kneeled, they strangely dyed.”

Since that day, the sinister black dog has become a common image along the Suffolk Coast. Though thankfully, there have been fewer sightings of the real Black Shuck, and he seems to have stopped his murderous ways. At least, that is, for now…

Image by Keith Evans