SPENCERROWELL

Old Norfolk saying:
“And a dreadful thing from the cliff did spring, And its wild bark thrill'd around. His eyes had the glow of the fires below, Twas the form of the Spectre Hound.”

Black Shuck of East Anglia was pre-destined to be in my life before I was born. I was introduced to this dark loyal companion by my father, who had known of him from his father before him. I was not sure where I had seen this dog, but had definitely heard its wild bark and had met it’s fiery gaze.

“Out of the corner of their eye they may see a gathering darkness, which slowly forms into the outline of a huge hound. Lurking in the night shadows the beast is said to track the steps of its victim, drawing ever closer. Anyone unfortunate enough to turn around and meet its fiery gaze is said to die within a twelve month period. The hell hound of Norfolk has had many documented sighting.”

The legend is of a huge black dog drawing ever closer to an encounter that brings you the worst of luck and for those who turn to meet its gaze… Turning up from an unfortunate past, to most it was uncertain whether this dog-fiend existed however, to shut ones eyes to its howling presence, one’s fate was sealed.

“Local legend tells of a huge hound, the size of a small calf with blazing eyes, who regularly prowls the coastal path between Sheringham and Overstrand. Unsuspecting night walkers will first become aware of the pad pad sound of the hounds heavy paws.”

A trail of its tracks through the generations was to be found in the family album. Left as memories that others might forget. It seemed particular to the male lineage. In its violence as a force let out as rage. Tracing this patrilineage of just how Black Shuck arrived from an earlier time was perplexing for, it was not written about, nor spoken of. It was revealed as an unintelligible word-of-mouth. A fable is a fictitious story intended to teach a moral lesson; but this cautionary tale is difficult to understand. Nothing is learnt even in its lifetime of ownership. This presence does not die with the owner, for it has already been passed on, betrothed to the next generation, already present in the yet to be born. A trans-generational knowledge-turned-trauma passed on through its un-spokenness. The unknown and unsaid becomes a silencing of the next in line.

“As recently as 1970 a sighting of Black Shuck made the headlines. When a huge hound was seen pounding over the beach at Great Yarmouth. 1980, a young woman claimed to have met the hell-hound, whilst out walking with her young son.”

From Great Yarmouth to Northamptonshire this dark menace of rage had travelled. Following the ley-lines from the shores of the East Anglia, inland. Brancaster, Cromer, Gt. Yarmouth and Gorleston, to Peterborough and Oundle. These 'Corpse Ways’ as they were known that connected churchyard to churchyard led to Black Shuck taking up residence in the psyche of my family.

“...descriptions of the creature's appearance and nature vary considerably; it is sometimes recorded as an omen of death, but, in other instances, is described as companionable.”

The family curse is violent in its force and is shown in the red eyes and violence of rage. Black Shuck, hidden as my grandfather’s companionable image in the album. His attempt at running away by dispatching his trusted friend along with himself was for nought, as it was to become a more powerful darker and louder companion for those left behind.

How then to dismiss this beast, this thing that’s projected into the loyal, hidden in the soft brown eyes of one so companionable as the look of unconditional love? How can we dismiss this beast that comes as so approachable and friendly yet so destructive and hateful? Now associated with me, this haunting disease of melancholia projected on to the innocent black dog.

Me: Why are you here?

Black Dog: I am the trusted servant of your generational curse

Me: Mine? My curse? Why? What use does this serve?

Black Dog: It is the sins of others paid for by the children. It attaches to you as if it is yours. It is your inheritance. To pass on.