It’s all here wrapped up in one large format, fully illustrated, package to while away the late night hours and it’s likely to knock your socks off and scare your pants off, as it has done to many over the course of countless centuries.
They are the demon dogs from hell, the huge black canines with blazing red eyes that haunt country lanes, and the phantom hounds that are regarded by some as Satan’s personal minions.
In the just released “Hounds of the Baskervilles – From Demon Dogs To Sherlock Holmes” the reader will indeed discover that there exists on the periphery of UFOs and aliens a shadowy realm of supernatural phenomena that includes many weird crypto-zoological monsters and creatures, none of which are housebroken and do not in any way, shape or form, make good domestic pets . . . demon dogs or hellhounds included! Encounters with the oversized, red-eyed canines of torment and terror have been reported down through the ages and have often been associated with subsequent death or other forms of tragedy. To hear such a creature howling in the night is to tread close to dangers of many kinds.
It is just such a hellhound that occupies the attention of Sherlock Holmes in the classic novel “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” For more than a hundred years, the Baker Street sleuth has fascinated readers and spawned a slew of well-received movies, most recently with Robert Downing, Jr., and Jude Law playing the beloved Holmes and Dr. Watson. Though their latest film incarnation more closely resembles a comic book/action movie, the basic components of Holmes’ genius battling the evil Moriarty remain intact.
The highly prolific and well known editor/publisher Timothy Green Beckley has recently done further honor to the venerable franchise by reprinting “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” as a part of a much larger, expansive work on unexplained crypto phenomena. Yes indeed, he does the great detective one better by opening with a series of chapters on real-life hellhounds and devil dogs which he penned himself along with the celebrated Nick Redfern, a British literati recently transplanted to the state of Texas. In addition, there are also contributions by Andrew Gable, Claudia Cunningham and William Kern.
Beckley commences with some unabashed gushing over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He waxes nostalgic about the many happy hours of his youth spent reading Doyle and especially “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” He also discusses Doyle’s own beliefs regarding psychic phenomena, to include life after death, spiritualism, levitation, spirit photography and the overall conviction that anything is possible in the kingdom of the supernatural. Doyle even considered abandoning his writing career and studying the mystical fulltime.
Doyle differed quite openly with Harry Houdini, who scoffed at Doyle’s beliefs as “hocus pocus” and nonsense. Beckley has previously published other books dealing with Doyle’s paranormal interests, such as “Revealing the Bizarre Powers of Harry Houdini,” which suggests that Houdini’s fanatical debunking of psychics and mediums was a subterfuge to conceal his own remarkable powers, a belief which Doyle himself fostered after the two famous spotlight seekers clashed in public over the validity of spiritualism and life beyond the grave.
Beckley was also a huge fan of the movie version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which he first saw as a young boy when it was aired on a local television station. It is estimated that between 40 and 50 movie and TV adaptations of the novel have been produced over the years, beginning with a 1915 German silent movie called “Der Hund von Baskervilles.” What follows next in the book is a section of rare movie posters from the various film incarnations and a few publicity shots of Basil Rathbone, the actor most famous for playing Sherlock Holmes.
NICK REDFERN STRUGGLES WITH THE FIERY HOUNDS
But the new book is just warming up. The next chapter is written by Nick Redfern, one of the most visible faces in the field of paranormal research who once revealed that his bedroom was “invaded” by a werewolf-type creature which vanished as it crept closer and closer to where he was sleeping. Redfern introduces the topic with a genuinely frightening story, told in second person, of a hapless traveler encountering a hellhound and fleeing for his life. One is then informed that the story was not a work of fiction, but actually happened in 1997 in a small English village called Ranton.
“But what are these infernal creatures?” Redfern asks. “Are they legend, reality, or both? And how, and under what circumstances, did they inspire the most famous, cherished and loved Sherlock Holmes story of all time? Published in 1902, Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ tells the memorable and atmosphere-filled saga of the noted and wealthy Baskerville family that has called Dartmoor, Devonshire, England, its home for centuries. Dartmoor is filled with supernatural tales of terror, horror and intrigue – but leading them all is the legend of the terrible hound that haunts the Baskervilles.”
Conan Doyle took the lead from all-too-real supernatural occurrences of the paranormal hound variety on Dartmoor. He also relied on stories about the real-life resident of Devonshire County named Richard Cabell, a monstrously evil squire who may have sold his soul to the Devil himself for personal gain. When Cabell died in 1677, presumably into the embrace of his fork-tailed, horned master, a pack of supernatural hounds materialized on the old moors and raced for Cabell’s tomb, where they howled ominously all night long and struck cold fear into the locals.
“Thus, the story began to develop in Conan Doyle’s mind and imagination,” Redfern continues. “He moved the location of the old hall to Dartmoor and changed Richard Cabell to the evil Hugo Baskerville. In the process, literary history was made and ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was born. But there is one important factor to remember: Conan Doyle did not invent Britain’s fiery-eyed hounds. He merely brought them to the attention of the public in spectacularly entertaining, fictional style.”
It is at this point that Redfern begins to chronicle several instances of people encountering the real thing, and in more recent times than one might think. For example, there is the story of Nigel Lea, who in the early weeks of 1972 was driving across the Cannock Chase woods that dominate much of Staffordshire when he saw a strange ball of glowing blue light that seemingly came out of nowhere and slammed violently into the ground some short distance ahead of him before releasing a torrent of bright, fiery sparks. As he slowly approached the area where the light had fallen, he was both shocked and horrified to see looming before him “the biggest bloody dog I have ever seen in my life.”
“Very muscular, and utterly black in color,” Redfern goes on, “with a pair of large, pointed ears and huge thick paws, the creature seemed to positively ooze both extreme menace and overpowering negativity, and had a crazed, staring look in its yellow-tinged eyes. For 20 or 30 seconds, both man and beast alike squared off against each other in classic stalemate fashion, after which the animal both slowly and carefully headed for the darkness and the camouflage of the tall surrounding trees, not even once taking its penetrating eyes off of the petrified driver as it did so.”
Somewhat ominously, two or three weeks later, a close friend of Lea’s from back in his childhood days was killed in a horrific industrial accident in a West Midlands town. Today, after having deeply studied – almost to the point of obsession – the history of British Black Dog lore and the creature’s associations with both deep tragedy and death, Lea believes his strange encounter was directly connected.
BLACK SHUCK AND THE SHUG MONKEY IN RENDLESHAM FOREST
According to Redfern, perhaps the most famous of all of the phantom hounds of old Britain are those that are said to have frequented, and in some cases still frequent, the ancient roads and pathways of Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk and Sussex. Their various names include Black Shuck, the Shug Monkey and the Shock. The Shuck and the Shock are classic black dogs, whereas the Shug Monkey is described as being a combination of spectral monkey and immense hound.
“Even their very names having intriguing origins,” Redfern writes. “While some researchers consider the possibility that all of the appellations had their origins in the word ‘Shucky,’ an ancient east coast term meaning ‘shaggy,’ others suggest a far more sinister theory, namely that Shock, Shuck and Shug are all based upon the Anglo-Saxon ‘scucca,’ meaning ‘demon,’ a most apt description for sure.”
In the winter of 1983, a couple in their twenties, Paul and Jayne Jennings, encountered a black dog in Rendlesham Forest, home to Britain’s most famous UFO encounter, a December 1980 event in which numerous personnel from the nearby Royal Air Force Bentwaters military base encountered a UFO in the woods. Like Nigel Lea’s witnessing a glowing blue light before his face-to-face meeting with a black dog, the close proximity of the military’s UFO incident creates a tenuous connection between both phenomena.
The Jennings were walking along a trail in the Rendlesham Forest when, according to researcher/author Nick Redfern, they saw what Jayne described as a “big black dog that kept appearing and disappearing.” When Redfern asked her to elaborate, she explained that on rounding a bend on the path they came face to face with the dog, which was a huge creature whose head was unmistakably that of a large hound while the body, strangely, was more feline in nature.
The dog was not aggressive, and seemed to have a mournful expression on its face. But the Jennings were shocked when it vanished in the blink of an eye. They were even more shocked when a moment later it reappeared and proceeded to “flicker on and off” four or five times before vanishing permanently. After the dog’s disappearance, the air was filled with a strange smell that resembled “burning metal.” Could it be the fires of hell, to which the mournful-looking dog was dispiritedly returning? And what of the possible Rendlesham connection? Are the weird goings on here proof that this might be what John Keel once determined to be a “window area” to another dimension? One must be their own judge and jury.
THE HOUNDS IN MYTHOLOGY
Further along in his chapter, Redfern tells the story of the Wild Hunt and even wilder hounds. He quotes the famed crypto-zoologist Jon Downes: “Belief in the Wild Hunt is found not only in Britain but also on the Continent, and the basic idea is the same in all variations: a phantasmal leader and his men accompanied by hounds who ‘fly’ through the night in pursuit of something. What they are pursuing is not clear; although Norse legend has various objects such as a visionary boar or wild horse, and even magical maidens known as Moss Maidens.
“Greek myth has Hecate roaming the Earth on moonless nights with a pack of ghostly, howling dogs and the phenomenon has also been reported from Germany, where according to folklore, the procession includes the souls of unbaptized babies in the train of ‘Frau Bertha,’ who sometimes accompanied the wild huntsman.”
(The mythic apparition of the Wild Hunt is said to resemble, and may have inspired, a well-known Country and Western song called “Riders in the Sky,” in which a band of ghostly cowboys are condemned forever to chase a herd of cattle across the sky yet never actually catch them. The song has been recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee, as well as a later rock version by The Outlaws.)
Downes explains that the hounds are universally believed to be portents of war, death and disaster, and an unfortunate traveler would who heard one would fling himself face downward to the ground to avoid seeing the beast. The Devil’s hunting pack, and the related phenomenon of the Devil Dogs, have been reported on more occasions during years of warfare than at any other time.
BLACK DOGS FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT
The next chapter of “Hounds of the Baskervilles: From Demon Dogs To Sherlock Holmes” crosses the ocean and examines Big Black Dogs and Phantom Hounds in America.
“Legends of black dogs and phantom hounds,” writes contributing Fortean blogger Andrew Gable, “are widespread throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, which was one of the earliest areas settled by the English. The tales of British black dogs were combined with werewolf traditions and typical ghost stories, as well as possibly with crypto-zoological sightings of weird creatures, to create traditions that are like the British ones, and yet unlike them at the same time.”
One of the interesting stories Gable relates concerns a phantom hound named “Snarly Yow” who haunted a section of the National Pike near Turner’s Gap in Frederick County. Gable references an 1882 book by Madeleine V. Dahlgren called “South Mountain Magic” in which no less than a dozen sightings of the beast are recorded.
A man named Daniel Mesick testified that his father kicked at a huge dog near Dame’s Quarter and his foot passed directly through it. Sticks, rocks and even bullets were said to pass right through the “animal.” Other accounts have it that the dog left physical traces and frightened horses so much they threw their riders.
“A staple of Frederick County legendry for years,” Gable writes, “the Yow was seen in 1962 near Zittlestown. In this instance, it was headless, white and dragged a chain along behind it.”
There is a phantom dog called the Fence Rail Dog, an enormous hound nearly ten feet in length, which haunts a stretch of Route 12 near Frederica in Delaware. The dog appears in the wake of automobile accidents on the road. Gable points out that folklore from around the globe speaks of dogs as a kind of psycho-pomp – or spirits which guide the dead to the afterlife – and that the Fence Rail Dog’s appearance in the wake of death may be an example of this. Gable also recounts the folklore concerning an outlaw named Silas Werninger, who was cornered in his home but committed suicide rather than be taken by his pursuers. He was buried in the forest near his home, and after his death a large black wolf emerged from the grove and menaced townspeople. A witch advised the people to dig up the outlaw’s remains and bury them in consecrated ground to dispel the phantasmal wolf. Gable says the source of the folklore is the real life story of a Pennsylvania outlaw named William Etlinger, who did indeed kill himself after taking his wife and children hostage. His cabin was burnt to the ground by authorities trying to flush him out. It is said that the cabin sometimes reappears on its burnt foundations and that the outlaw’s body was moved after it was felt a black wolf familiar in the area may have been feeding on the corpse. Even suicidal outlaws deserve better. There is more to the story Gable tells than is recorded here, but let’s leave that to readers of the actual book, eh?
DEMON DOGS AND THE MIB?
Claudia Cunningham, nicknamed “The MIB Lady,” contributes a section of text in which she and Beckley visit the grave of Charles Fort in Albany Rural Cemetery, near the state capitol of New York. Cunningham says that perhaps the site where Fort and his entire family are entombed is a fitting place for dastardly black hounds and phantom dogs from hell to be seen since Fort collected such beastly stories throughout his writing career and placed them in the volumes that make up “The Complete Works of Charles Fort,” available in a 1,000+ page, four volume, large print set directly from publisher Tim Beckley. While Cunningham and Beckley failed to sight any phantom dogs of their own, their story still makes for a lively break in the action. to include some local Men In Black stories that center around the cemetery just outside Albany, which, in addition to being the place where Charles Fort is buried, is also the resting spot of the little known president of the United States, Chester Arthur. Is it any wonder haunting hounds, the MIB and other strange incidents raise their heads up from the etheric from time to time?
Cunningham then goes on to relate several late 19th and early 20th century stories from Fort’s research concerning the mysterious slayers of sheep in the UK. In one case in England, the police were unable to explain how the sheep had died since it was not possible for the killer to have been a mere dog.
“Dogs are not vampires,” said Sergeant Carter of the Gloucestershire Police, “and do not suck the blood of a sheep and leave the flesh almost untouched.”
A few weeks later, a newspaper report declared that the “marauder” had been shot and was said to be a large black dog, which Cunningham claims was an early example of convenient “debunking,” a pattern repeated throughout the history of the subject of demon dogs by the newspapers of the time. It appears that even in Fort’s time, a media cover-up of the paranormal was firmly in place.
Then finally, there is William Kern’s short story, “The Man Who Fell From A Clear Blue Sky.” Kern is a sort of jack-of-all-trades; he writes both fiction and nonfiction, as well as working as a graphic artist and layout designer, to include his designing efforts on “Hounds of the Baskervilles.”
Kern’s short story revolves around the phenomenon of “changelings,” specifically human/wolf changelings, which are called “hulfs,” we learn, and is the last warm-up piece before Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” begins, complete with wonderful illustrations throughout.
If you’re looking for some quality recreational reading as a change of pace from your normal paranormal pursuits, then “Hounds of the Baskervilles: From Demon Dogs To Sherlock Holmes” would be just the thing. One can easily lose oneself in the pages therein, as Beckley himself did in his youth as a voracious reader of all things Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a believer in a great deal of paranormal phenomena, and his story of the great sleuth matching wits with the hound from hell is a masterpiece of the supernatural that can be read and reread with a fascination found few other places.
HOUNDS OF THE BASKERVILLES – FROM DEMON DOGS TO SHERLOCK is now available on Amazon and will soon be presented as a Kindle e-book. http://www.amazon.com/Hounds-Baskervilles-Demon-Sherlock-Holmes/dp/1606111256/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1344385347&sr=1-1&keywords=hounds+of+the+baskerville+beckley
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[If you enjoyed this article, visit Sean Casteel’s “UFO Journalist” website at www.seancasteel.com]