The Black Dog Phenomenon


Alex Mistretta



Bungay was, and is, a quiet town just twenty miles from the sea. Located in Suffolk county in Eastern England; it has a relatively small population of less than 5000.  A 5000 that all know the story of the Black Shuck, and some that have even seen it.

August 4, 1577 was a strange day in Bungay. A violent thunderstorm was raging, with rain, hail and a heavy darkness.  It was a Sunday and people were attending the church of St. Marys, with some trepidation I suppose, in light of the weather.  The Bungay church was full, as many were seeking refuge from the storm, as houses of the time werent particularly sturdy in a storm.

At some point, thunder struck, and the doors blew open and a large black dog came rushing in and proceeded to attack the congregation. Two people were killed before the beast ran away. Some reports indicate that the dog materialized inside the church instead of coming in from the outside.  In light of the doors blowing open before the animal, that is debatable, but that is how the story goes.  The dog wasnt done, as it next made an appearance 10 miles away at the church of Blyhburgh. There also, it attacked the congregation, but this time left proof of its appearance.  It clawed the outside door of the church, claw marks that are still visible today.

Suffolk above and Norfolk county next door, have a long tradition of spectral Black Dogs called Black Shuck.  A modern phenomenon as well; these dogs usually appear outdoors on a path or road and will follow an individual but remain just out of reach, very rarely aggressive.  Black Dogs are for most part known as a British phenomena; but cases within the United States and elsewhere do exist.



This phenomenon generally refers to the anomalous appearance of black canines usually at night and outdoors. The animal is generally very large, quiet, with red glowing eyes.  Other eye colors, such as green, yellow and silver have also been reported.  Variation on the color of the fur has been reported, but the great majority are black.  A man told me a couple of years back about a sighting he had in Topanga Canyon, just outside of Malibu; but in this case the dog was white.  The fur may differ however, as some are shaggy while others resemble Great Danes. It has been known to be aggressive in certain locations, but in most cases it just wanders, at times following the witness while keeping a certain distance.  At some point, it just disappears; and I don’t mean runs away, but dematerializes.

The Black Shuck in Suffolk and Norfolk is very large, very black and has red eyes; the later which is not found in nature.  There are no such things as red-eyed dogs.  It can be unusually aggressive and many witnesses claim a sense of malevolence about, when a Black Shuck appears.  I have always found the idea of malevolence intriguing but perhaps misplaced when it comes to these sightings.  In truth what we are talking about is not a tangible malevolence, but the perception of malevolence, no doubt influenced by cultural expectations.  Black Dogs are also called Hellhounds and are historically associated with the Black Man of the forest, the Devil.  Perceptions do not measure what is really there, but how our bodies interpret information.

A brief, but important, sighting took place in April of 1972 in Gorleston, Norfolk in England.  At 4:45 in the morning, coast guard Graham Grant watched a large Black Dog running along the beach.  Nothing unusual here, except maybe the size of the animal, until the dog suddenly disappeared.  This sighting is important on several levels, one; we have a quality witness not in a suggestive state by any means.  He was in a familiar place, at work, not in a reputed haunted location.  Furthermore, there is very little place to hide or run to on a beach.  Some cases where the animal is said to disappear suddenly can be the result of taking your eye off the animal briefly and the animal runs back into the forest. This holds especially true for sightings from a moving vehicle where it is difficult to keep an animal on the side of the road in view once you pass the animal. By the time you slow down or stop to obtain a better view, the animal can be long gone.

In this case however, the animal disappeared in full view with a witness from a stationary position.  More importantly in my opinion, is that the dog was seemingly unaware of being watched from a distance. This would suggest that Black Dogs have some type of existence of their own, an independent reality; which really was never a given, since we do not know anything about Black Dogs when we are not observing them.  But, as is the case in other areas of Parapsychology, you cannot ever truly separate the observer from what is observed.

So, the question that we must ask, even if these Black Dogs function independently, is whether we’ve had a hand in creating the phenomenon to begin with.  A sort of poltergeist effect, but on a grand cultural scale.




By Dr. Barry Taff

Dr. Barry Taff, who holds a doctorate in psychophysiology with a minor in biomedical engineering, worked as a research associate at UCLAs former parapsychology laboratory from 1969 through 1978. During his 41-year career, Dr. Taff has investigated more than 4,000 cases of ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, and he has conducted extensive studies in telepathy and precognition which led to the development of the original protocols and methodologies for what was later coined remote-viewing. He is the author of Aliens Above, Ghosts Below.

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