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Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell


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Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter

Another form of this animal spectre is the Capelthwaite, which, according to common report, had the power of appearing in the form of any quadruped, but usually chose that of a large, black dog.

"_The Mauthe Doog_"

One of the most famous canine apparitions is that of the "Mauthe Doog," once said--and, I believe, still said--to haunt Peel Castle, Isle of Man.

Its favourite place, so I am told, was the guard-chamber, where it used to crouch by the fireside. The sentry, so the story runs, got so accustomed to seeing it, that they ceased to be afraid; but, as they believed it to be of evil origin, waiting for an opportunity to seize them, they were very particular what they said or did, and refrained from swearing in its presence. The Mauthe Doog used to come out and return by the passage through the church, by which the sentry on duty had to go to deliver the keys every night to the captain. These men, however, were far too nervous to go alone, and were invariably accompanied by one of the retainers. On one occasion, however, one of the sentinels, in a fit of drunken bravado, swore he was afraid of nothing, and insisted on going alone. His comrades tried to dissuade him, upon which he became abusive, cursed the Mauthe Doog, and said he would d----d well strike it. An hour later, he returned absolutely mad with horror, and speechless; nor could he even make signs, whereby his friends could understand what had happened to him. He died soon after--his features distorted--in violent agony. After this the apparition was never seen again.

As to what class of spirits the spectre dog belongs, that is impossible to say. At the most we can only surmise, and I should think the chances of its being the actual phantasm of some dead dog or an elemental are about equal. It is probably sometimes the one and sometimes the other; and its origin is very possibly like that of the Banshee.

_Spectral Hounds_

As with the spectre dog, so with packs of hounds, stories of them come from all parts of the country.

Gervase of Tilbury states that as long ago as the thirteenth century a pack of spectral hounds was frequently witnessed, on nights when the moon was full, scampering across forest and downs. In the twelfth century the pack was known as "the Herlething" and haunted, chiefly, the banks of the Wye.

Roby, in his _Traditions of Lancashire_; Hardwick, in his _Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-lore_; Homerton, in his _Isles of Loch Awe_; Wirt Sykes, in his _British Goblins_; Sir Walter Scott, and others, all refer to them. In the North of England they are known as "Gabriel's Hounds"; in Devon as the "Wisk," "Yesk," "Yeth," or "Heath Hounds"; in Wales as the "Cwn Annwn" or "Cyn y Wybr"; in Cornwall as the "Devil and his Dandy-Dogs"; and in the neighbourhood of Leeds as the "Gabble Retchets." They are common all over the Continent. In appearance they are usually described as monstrous, human-headed dogs, black, with fiery eyes and teeth, and sprinkled all over with blood. They make a great howling noise, which is very shrill and mournful, and appear to be in hot pursuit of some unseen quarry. When they approach a house, it may be taken as a certain sign someone in that house will die very shortly.

According to Mr. Roby, a spectre huntsman known by the name Gabriel Ratchets, accompanied by a pack of phantom hounds, is said to hunt a milk-white doe round the Eagle's Crag in the Vale of Todmorden every All Hallows Eve.

These hounds were also seen in Norfolk. A famous ecclesiast, when on his way to the coast, was forced to spend the night in the King's Lynn Inn, owing to a violent snowstorm. Retiring to bed directly after supper, he tried to forget his disappointment in reading a volume of sermons he had bought at a second-hand shop in Bury St. Edmunds.

"I think I can use this one," he said to himself. "It will do nicely for the people of Aylesham. They are so steeped in hypocrisy that nothing short of violent denunciation will bring it home to them. This I think, however, will pierce even their skins."

A sudden noise made him spring up.

"Hounds!" he exclaimed. "And at this time of night! Good heavens!"

He flew to the window, and there, careering through the yard, baying as they ran, were, at least, fifty luminous, white hounds. Instead of leaping the stone wall, they passed right through it, and the bishop then realized that they were Gabriel Hounds. The following evening he received tidings of his son's--his only son's--death.