On this page I've added links to a few of my favourite or recommended web sites. Most are concerned with phantom dogs of course, but some are of a more general interest in the paranormal. (Please let me know if any of the links ever fail.)
I'll also, from time to time, add reviews of relevant books, articles or websites, starting below with the first book ever published about the paracanine phenomenon, 'Explore Phantom Black Dogs'.
'Black dogs in folklore' by Bob Trubshaw (At The Edge)
'Black Dogs: Guardians of the corpse ways' by Bob Trubshaw (At The Edge)
Apparitions of Black Dogs (Simon Sherwood)
'Explore Phantom Black Dogs' edited by Bob Trubshaw. Published by Explore Books (an imprint of Heart of Albion Press), June 2005. Soft cover, 152pp, b & w illustrations. £12.95.
This book (the first about my favourite topic) is not only a great introduction to the subject, but a thorough exploration of many different aspects of the phenomenon. I suppose I particularly like it because so many of my own thoughts, outlined on this site, are confirmed by the research within its pages!
The first chapter, by Jeremy Harte, gives a detailed overview of 'Black Dog Studies', opening with the eminently sensible proposition that the concept of the generic 'Black Dog' figure that populates much of Britain was in fact introduced by the Victorians. Before that time, each area seems to have had its own individual 'dog-fiend' with specific characteristics. As times and perceptions of the supernatural changed, so the antiquaries and amateur folklorists began to lump all the dogs together as expressions of a single folk-memory (usually of the Vikings). And as I've found in my own investigations into Shuck, the paranormality of the creature has diminished over time. The dog that was once the Devil in disguise is often now thought of as simply another ghost - and one that doesn't appear very ghostly at all until it does a disappearing act.
Simon Sherwood follows with 'A Psychological Approach to Apparitions of Black Dogs'. But in fact he runs through just about every explanation that has ever been advanced, from archetypal imagery to animal spirits to canine possession. His conclusion is one that runs like a thread through the whole book (and of course agrees with mine!) - that there is no explanation, at least not one single explanation that would satisfy in all cases.
In 'Infernal Watchdogs, Soul Hunters and Corpse Eaters', Alby Stone looks at the cultural and mythological context of the dog in many lands. As a creature of the hearth and threshold, companion and hunter, the dog's image as both guardian of, and its ability to guide others into, the otherworld, have surely contributed to the growth of the folkloric paracanine.
We enter home territory with Jennifer Westwood's 'Friend or Foe? Norfolk Traditions of Shuck'. All but a couple of the stories that she recounts can already be found on this site, but she sets them into the wider contexts of local dialect, tradition, and popular writing. As Westwood says, "Writers on Shuck from the mid-nineteenth century to today have reduced and summarised the material, degrading variety into stereotype". This is certainly true of more recent 'Fortean' researchers, who have coalesced all forms of paracanine into one archetypical 'Black Dog' image. I fear that I've been guilty of the same thing in the past; I hope that my investigations on this site will help redress the balance a little.
Bob Trubshaw, an indefatigable folklorist and researcher since the '80's, contributes the next chapter himself, entitled 'Black Dogs in the New World'. Until recently, it seems that most American 'Black Dog' encounters have dated from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries - which suggests to me that they may have been influenced by the same Victorian folkloric zeal that characterised the 'boom' in British exploration of such phenomena. Although awareness of the folklore still seems limited in the US, Bob has managed to amass quite a few modern first-hand and other accounts. I find it interesting that so many seem to be of the 'demon dog' and 'death portent' kind. Perhaps the USA is only now catching up, through popular writing and the internet, with European research - or perhaps it's a result of America's more intense religious nature?
Jeremy Harte concludes the book with a survey of the folk-motifs inherent in 'Black Dog' stories from each English county, followed by every encounter that he could find, in date order, from the 1800s onwards, complete with sources. This is a valuable list, which has pointed me towards a few East Anglian cases and references that I didn't know about.
'Explore Phantom Black Dogs' was already at the proofing stage when this site went online, so I'm grateful to Bob Trubshaw for managing to 'shoehorn in' a couple of plugs for Shuckland at the last minute. I'm happy to return the favour and say that this book is one that no serious researcher should be without, and that anyone with the slightest interest in folklore or the paranormal should buy a copy at once!
For more details of this and the many other fascinating books in the 'Explore' range, go here: 'Explore' Books