Ghostly black dogs feature prominently in the folklore of Lincolnshire. There are over 75 Black Dog haunting`s recorded from the county, more than two thirds of them documented by the folklorist Ethel Rudkin in her 1938 paper on the subject. In parts of East Anglia black dogs are associated with disaster and death, but in Lincolnshire they are considered to be harmless even friendly creatures which warn against imminent danger, or guard lone travellers on bleak stretches of road. I myself once saw a Black Dog, but that as they say is another story. The one I am about to tell was told to me some years ago by an old man who claimed to have known the farm worker it concerned, but friendly would most certainly not have been the adjective used to describe the phantom hound he encountered.
The man was ploughing fields somewhere on the outskirts of the village of Hemswell (an area well known for its black dog haunting`s) when he uncovered the bones of a large animal. At first he thought it was merely the remains of a calf or a donkey, but on closer inspection he found that the creature`s skull had vicious looking canine teeth. Knowing his friends down at his local pub would be intrigued by his grisly find, he put the skull into a sack, threw it over his shoulder and set off for home. The swift darkness of a cold winter`s evening descended as he tramped along the lonely winding lane leading to his isolated cottage, but on reaching the halfway point of his journey, a gradual feeling of unease began to creep over him. Continually he found himself stopping and looking over his shoulder, but all he saw was the dark empty road flanked both sides by hedges and the twisted bare branches of tall trees. Just as he had convinced himself that his imagination was playing tricks, he heard the lumbering foot-falls and panting of some large animal fast approaching. Turning once again he saw bounding towards him the most enormous dog he had ever seen. Its coat was shaggy and black, its slavering mouth curled into a grin to reveal its lethal looking canine teeth and its baleful saucer eyes seemed to be lit from within the sockets like two red burning coals. With a scream of horror the man turned and ran, the ground shook as the dreadful creature gave chase and as it drew ever nearer, he could feel its hot acrid breath on the back of his neck. Knowing the thing would soon be upon him, he turned brandishing the only weapon he possessed. Holding the sack aloft, he brought it crashing down on to the head of the charging monster. The bag tore open shattering the skull into a thousand pieces, with that the hell hound gave an unearthly howl and vanished in a flash of green fire.
Not surprisingly the man became a laughing stock when he told of his terrifying encounter. However, his friends could not laugh off so easy the sudden change in his disposition. The farmer once noted for his easy going and gregarious nature became morose and reclusive. His nerves too had greatly suffered, the rumble of an approaching thunder storm had him visibly shaking and running for home. And the sight of a farm dog strolling the lanes on a winters afternoon has cost him more than one nights sleep.