Speaking of ancient hell hounds, where does the myth of the demon dog – you know, black, huge, gnashing jaws ravenous for human flesh, glowing red eyes, the most famous example being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles
—come from? Hell hounds pop up in legends and stories from all over the world: Cerberus from Greek mythology; almost every single European country including Garmr from Norse mythology and ye fierce blacke dogges of English folklore; all over Latin America; China; Japan; India; Arabia; Russia; even the United States.
This account of a demon dog stalking English churches in the time of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I is the earliest account I’ve found in English. The full title is A straunge and terrible wunder wrought very late in the parish church of Bongay, a tovvn of no great distance from the citie of Norwich, namely the fourth of this August, in ye yeere of our Lord 1577 in a great tempest of violent raine, lightning, and thunder, the like wherof hath been seldome seene. With the appeerance of an horrible shaped thing, sensibly perceiued of the people then and there assembled. Drawen into a plain method according to the written copye.
The good Christian folk of Bongay, north of London near Norwich, are a-worship when a horrible storm breaks on them, scaring them out of their wits. More so a huge and horrible black dog, “at the sight wherof, togither with the fearful flashes of fire which then were séene, moued such admiration in the mindes of the assem∣blie, that they thought doomes day was already come.”
It has for a few congregants all right, both here and in another town a few miles away. This hell hound doesn’t tear folks to pieces. He shrivels them up or burns them. The pamphlet ends with “A necessary Prayer” beseeching God to let good Christians “feele not the scorching heat of afflictions & miseries: we beseech thee!” Good luck. Hell hounds aren’t going anywhere as long as people like me keep writing about bad, bad dogs.