Photo by lazzarello on Flickr
The old Newgate Prison harbours one of London's most terrifying apparitions, that of an evil black hound. Legend dates back to the reign of Henry III, during a period of extreme famine, where holed up prisoners were alleged to have gorged upon one another to survive! One of these victims was said to have been a sorcerer of the darkest arts, who claimed near death that he would seek revenge on the inmates. Although the jail was demolished in the early 1900s, the most fascinating account originates from the pen of a Luke Hutton, who was an inmate in the 1500s, and hanged in 1598. This oft-repeated version of the beast comes from 1638, entitled The Discovery of a London Monster and reads as follows (word for word):
I maintained that I had read an old Chronicle that it was a walking spirit in the likeness of a blacke Dog, gliding up and down the streets a little before the time of Execution, and in the night whilst Sessions continued, and his beginning thus.
In the raigne of King Henry the third there happened such a famine through England, but especially in London, that many starved for want of food, by which meanes the Prisioners in Newgate eat up one another altue, but commonly those that came newly in..there was a certain scholar brought tither, upon suspicion of Conjuring, and that he by Charmes and devilish Whitchcrafts, had done much hurt to the kings subjects, which Scholler, mauger his Devil Furies, Spirits and Goblins, was by the famished prisoners eaten up...
With vengeance promised by the prey: ...nightly to see the Scholler in the shape of a black Dog walking up and downe the Prison, ready with ravening Jawes to teare out their bowles; for his late human flesh they had so hungerly eaten, and withal they hourely heard (as they thought) strange groanes and cries, as if it had been some creature in great paine and torments, whereupin such a nightly feare grew amongst them, that it turned into a Frenzie, and from a Frenzie to Desperation, in which desperation they killed the keeper, and so many of them escaped forth, but yet whither soever they came or went they imagined a Blacke Dog to follow, and by this means, as I doe thinke, the name of him began.
For more tales of phantom hounds, read my book 'Mystery Animals Of The British Isles: Kent'.