the Hell out of the Beast
Part Five: Modus Operandi
I'll conclude this analysis with an examination of how Shuck and his phantom relations actually operate - appearing and disappearing, what he does when he's around, how he reacts to witnesses, and what he means to them.
In this I'll stick purely to the 181 encounters on this site, as there's usually insufficient detail in the legends for the purpose. Let's begin with how he comes and goes, the first of which is often very prosaic, and gives little sign of his paranormality.
What inferences can be drawn from the facts above? Well, for a start, the dog hardly ever seems to just 'pop up' in front of the witness in a manner that betrays his otherworldly nature. Apart from the few occasions when he emerges from a solid object, he's usually just 'there', in the way you would encounter any normal canine. But he's more likely to disappear in a manner that, even if he's done nothing else strange, makes the witness wonder what on earth they've just experienced.
So just what is it about our East Anglian hellhound that makes witnesses first think that they're not face to face with an ordinary dog? What is the initial paranormality? Results below:
So, well in the lead we have the dog's actual physicality - uncanny size, how it vanishes - followed by a host of lesser characteristics. Interestingly enough, although there are 6 encounters where the dog was headless, in one of them, that wasn't the initial paranormal thing about it - and in two cases, both at Barnby in Suffolk, even though the witness saw the creature to be headless, he still bent down to pat it! Both braver men than I!
The 'chains and sulphur', as might be expected, come from a case back in the 1870's, while the shrinking dog is from the 1930's. The one with sparks, surprisingly, is from as recent as the 1970's, but unfortunately, there are few other details of the incident.
Next to be considered are the actual movements of the paracanine while under observation, and how it interacted or otherwise with the witness:
We can see from these results that, in most cases, the dog simply stood or moved around near the witness, and in only 32 cases did it attempt to follow the same path. It's as if it mostly doesn't matter whether or not the witness is actually present - and I think that's proven by the following:
Apart from one instance in the 1970's (when the dog simply leapt towards the witness then vanished), one in the 1980's when it snarled and snapped, and one in 1995 when it just stared and growled, all the occasions on which the dog was hostile (with or without provocation) happened before 1945. The majority are from the 19th century or earlier. Even the one where the dog was actually helpful comes from the 1840's. These, and the 95 cases with no interaction at all, show that virtually all the modern encounters are very passive events, as if actions are being played out with no regard for the presence of human beings. I'm reminded of the old riddle: if a tree falls in the forest, and there's nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound? If there's no witness around, does Shuck still walk regardless?
Whatever the answer to that (and I'm sure there isn't one), the only thing left to look at is what the encounter meant to the witness. It's a commonly held part of the Shuck mythology (especially in Norfolk) that to meet him means death within a year to the witness or a family member, or at the least some great misfortune.
In the location-bound legends gathered here, there are 14 with such an ominous forecast - and in 24 of the encounters, the witness believed that the event had, in hindsight, been such a portent. The alleged consequences ranged from accidents, financial loss, disease and the sinking of fishing boats, through to the death of close relatives. In two cases the dog was felt to be more of a warning or herald of a death that occurred at the same time as the event.
The fact that some of these encounters happened in very recent years, and that not one of them comes from one of the locations with an existing legend of a portentous dog, suggests that, whatever the 'truth' about Shuck, the prospect of meeting him is still a matter of dread to some people.
So, what has all the analysis on these pages told us? Not an awful lot, I fear! Mostly, I think that the statistics tend to reinforce what we already know about paracanines, except maybe that their 'paranormality' is less significant than previously imagined. It's the dog's actions rather than physical characteristics that most affect the witness, and the fact that so few of them are interactive suggests less emotional involvement by the witness than might have been thought.
It wasn't my intention to demystify Shuck, but that's where the evidence led! The more overtly-paranormal attributes have diminished over the years, so that now there's very little to distinguish Shuck from any natural dog encountered at night. Perhaps we've all seen him, and just didn't know it!