Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society
The Dalby Spook
aka Gef the Talking Mongoose
Simon Pegg Stole Our Mongoose
Searching For The Eighth Wonder Of The World
(Not the one in Sri Lanka)
Part three - Dog or Devil?
“The longer one stays here, the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul.”
[Arthur Conan Doyle, Hound of the Baskervilles.]
That’s how Team Gef felt after two investigations on The Isle of Man. The isolated farmhouse of Eary Cushlin, our home for each expedition. Surrounded by vast, bleak moorland. It is easy for the mind to start playing tricks when faced with wild landscapes. Far away from the comfort of streetlights and the reassuring buzz of traffic, you begin to wonder what lurks in the land of mist. When the only noise for miles is the crash of waves and the bleating of sheep. It is very easy to imagine that the scream of a fox in the dead of night, is actually something far more sinister.
But wait. There are no foxes on the Isle of Man…
“The longer one stays here, the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one’s soul.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, Hound of the Baskervilles.
Dusk was falling one evening at Eary. The team had been out all day exploring the Island. We had wearily come back and all but one of us retired to the comfort of the sitting room. A cold well-earned drink in our hands. We left Janet alone in the kitchen, preparing herself some supper.
The team made plans for the following day, whilst pouring over maps and old documents. Richard gave a demonstration of how he liked to wear a softly plumped cushion on his head. In the style of a Mitre. Despite being tired, spirits were high, and the team looked forward to the adventures of the coming days.
Then it happened. A blood curdling scream from the kitchen. We remembered Janet had been left alone. Everybody stopped what they were doing. The Mitre fell from Bishop Richard’s head.
The scream turned into a cry for help.
“There’s a Moddey Dhoo at the kitchen window!”
Approximately 8 miles from Eary Cushlin, on the west coast of the Island, lies the fishing port of Peel (Purt ny h-Inshey in Manx) A small town, with a big history.
The earliest remnants of human occupation in Peel have been found in stone tools from the Mesolithic period. Peel hill also has a later bronze age burial site. The remains of the earliest known British isles human flea, dating to between 700 and 450 BC was found during excavations in the 1980s. Earliest Times – Peel Heritage Trust.
In 1098 the Norwegian King, Magnus Barefoot landed on the Island. Barefoot built a wooden fort (called a Peel) to act as fortification and defences against invaders. The wooden structure was later replaced by stone and the name changed to Castle Peel in the 17th Century. The castle grounds also held the Cathedral of St German, which later fell into ruin.
The castle is now owned by Manx National Heritage and is a popular visitor destination. The ruins have amazing views across the jagged coastline and out to sea. It is easy to see why Barefoot chose it as a prominent defence position. Peel Castle - Cashtal Phurt Ny h-inshey : Manx National Heritage.
The castle guides are most helpful and are more than willing to share their knowledge of history and legends. Although, like many Manx folk, the guide we visited did give a wry smile when we mentioned our search for a talking mongoose. He said he believed it was probably a hoax, albeit an excellent story.
But it wasn’t the good-spirited humour of the tour guide that captured me when we arrived. It wasn’t the tumbling stone fortress or dramatic landscape. It wasn’t even the glossy guidebooks and badges they had on sale, in the little glass toll booth where they take your money. (Free entry is available to members of the Friends of Manx National Heritage, National Trust, English Heritage, CADW, Historic Scotland.)
I was captivated by blood red eyes, shiny white fangs and gnarly claws. A little shaggy black toy dog was staring at me through the glass pane of the shop. This was my first meeting of the dreaded Moddey Dhoo. The spectral black hound of Peel castle.
"This was my
first meeting of
the dreaded Moddey Dhoo. The spectral black hound of Peel castle."
Folklore across the world is filled with stories of phantom black dogs. The folklorist, Mark Norman in his book, Black Dog Folklore (2006) categorises black dog legends into two main types.
The first are ghost like entities, resembling living dogs in appearance. The creature will often appear and disappear at will, sometimes seemingly melting into the earth or a misty haze. Some witness accounts state they thought they had encountered a flesh and blood animal, until the moment it mysteriously vanished. Writer John Keel in his book The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings (1970), states that this ability to appear for short periods of time and then vanish without a trace appears to be a common characteristic of these creatures. A bit like a certain mongoose?
The second entity is usually bigger, likened to the size of a calf or a donkey with a shaggy coat. Saucer like eyes, sometimes fiery and blazing. Or the beast may even appear with no head at all. This creature may also be able to shapeshift, turning into birds and even humans. Suggestions have been made that these spectres may even be the devil himself!
The most commonly known folklore tales surrounding black dogs often portray them as an omen of death, bad luck or a prediction of ferocious storms. However, there are also many accounts of these apparitions acting as a protector of people in danger. The entity will accompany a lonely traveller along a perilous road, providing protection from thieves, rapists, and murderers. Also appearing when someone is lost and guiding them to safety.
Location of sightings can vary, but are often around ancient sites such as churches, castles, corpse routes and hill forts. They are also associated with water, many in coastal areas or near rivers.
Black dogs have different names depending on the geographical area they are in. Graham J McEwan writing in his book, Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland (1986) states that the North of England has the Barguest (Gast being Anglo Saxon for spirit or ghost). East Anglia has the Black Shuck. Somerset has a Gurt, and Hairy Jack can be found in Lincolnshire.
Team Gef member Richard Freeman is an author, cryptozoologist, cushion bishop and zoological director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). In 2019 he gave an interview for the online magazine Spooky Isles, to promote his new book Adventures in Cryptozoology. During the interview he stated.
“Ghosts are a separate area of forteana from cryptozoology but there are some grey areas where the two crossover, such as black dogs and phantom beasts like the wonderful Gef the talking mongoose.”
The guards became used to the presence of the beast and learned to tolerate its nightly visitations. However, they were still cautious, believing the dog to be an evil spirit in disguise, which was waiting for “Permiffion to do them hurt.” To ensure that they did not anger the beast they “forbore swearing and all profane difcourfe while in its company.” The guards also ensured that no one was ever left alone with it, and took to locking the castle gates in pairs, in case they bumped into the fiend in a passageway.
One night, a guard decided to challenge the Mauthe Doog. The man got drunk and despite the protests of his comrades he insisted on going alone to lock the gates. Goading the spectre to follow him, to see if it really was a dog or the devil.
He had been gone for some time, when the other guards heard a great noise, but were too afraid to find out what had caused it. Eventually the lone man returned, but he was vastly changed. He never spoke a word again and died after 3 days “in agonies more than is common in a natural death.” The Mauthe Doog vanished after this incident and was never seen again.
The Moddey Dhoo that frightened Janet, at Eary Cushlin turned out to be a bemused Labrador, on an evening walk with his even more bemused owners. But there is more to this than just another shaggy dog story. There are plenty more tales of the Moddey Dhoo to tell.
“These seem not to be flesh and blood creatures, but things of a paranormal nature. They are part of what I call the global monster template. In every culture, you will find the same kinds of monsters.”
The Moodey Dhoo that was said to roam Peel castle has many of these spectral black dog characteristics. There are several tales on the Island which relate to the beast.
The most popular one, that appears online and in print is a retelling of a legend by poet and topographer George Waldron, in The History and Description of the Isle of Man (1744).
Waldron describes an apparition called the Mauthe Doog. A large black spaniel with curly shaggy hair, which had been seen in every room of the castle. Most often in the guard chamber, where it would come at night and lie down by the fire.