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The Real Hound of the Baskervilles

The coast of East Anglia is said to be haunted by a ghost like spirit called “Black Shuck”. It travels in from the sea and takes many forms, but can most commonly be seen as a big black dog, about the size of a donkey or big calf.

To see him is very bad luck, but to gaze into his glowing eyes is an omen of your imminent death.

A man named Fletcher Robinson lived in a little village called Ipplepen, which now sits about 6 miles away from Buckfastleigh and discussed Devon legends with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle during March 1901 while the Doyle was recovering from enteric fever in Cromer in Norfolk.

The one legend that stuck with Doyle was that of Richard Capel, who inspired the infamous story Hound of the Baskervilles.

In Buckfastleigh, there lays a church which plays host to a very fampous grave, that of Squire Richard Capel. This evil man in life is now possibly more feared after his death because of the legends that surround him.

Capel had a terrible reputation during his life as a womanising misogynist. He would capture young women and keep them locked up across the valley, away from his jealous wife. He was also said to frighten and chase local children with his hunting dogs and one account even states how he used his pack of hounds to hunt down a local child like a common fox.

When this powerful but evil man came to die in 1677, his end was not a pleasant one. Some say that whisht hounds surrounded the house as he lay on his death bed and howled until his final breath. Others say that he was chased across the moor by devilish black dogs until he fell down dead.

The locals, fearing resurrection of the cursed squire buried him very deep on the south porch of the church (presumably because that is the side that attracts the maximum amount of sun), with a huge stone altar atop of him, and an iron door as the only exit, which faces the church. Iron is a well known vampire ward and vampires are thought not to be able to pass it. Likewise large stones were used in many vampire burials to prevent re-animated corpses from escaping.

Tales of ghosts and vampires still surround Capel’s tomb and even local children know of a ritual to awaken the sleeping corpse of Capel. Children would visit the tomb, on the south porch of Buckfastleigh’s church to circle it thirteen times and dare each other to poke their finger through the key hole to see whether Capel would gnaw at it for sustenance.