Hellhounds [book research]

My e-book Night of the Hellhounds (currently at Amazon) features dogs that are spirits, which friends referred to as hellhounds when they read my early manuscripts. But are they hellhounds?

A hellhound is a supernatural and ominous dog found in folklore around the world. My first encounter with the creature was during high school, in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Soon afterward, I discovered Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound of Greek mythology, and his brother Orthrus who had two heads. Both creatures were black, had razor sharp teeth and super strength, and guarded the gates of hell.

Even later, while living in Italy during an enlistment with the U.S. Navy, the topic of hellhounds came up when a neighbor from Suffolk, England, told me tales about Black Shuck, a notable hellhound of the sixteenth century that appeared at churches in Bungay and Blythburgh. On August 4, 1577, Black Shuck killed parishioners and collapsed the church tower at a church in Blythburgh. I later discovered the incident, written in 1577 by Reverend Abraham Fleming and described in “A Strange and Terrible Wonder” (ISBN-13: 9781437468755; ISBN-10: 1437468756). Whether true or not, the story was fun to share with my friends and raise goose pimples around campfires at night. This, in turn, led me to compose my own version of the creature, and by 1999, I had composed a vicious tale of a pack of murderous hounds.

Night of the Hellhounds began as early as 1971, although the dogs then were merely ghosts and nonthreatening. When I rediscovered the story thirty years later, I combined it with my vicious tale and turned it into the story here. However, “real” hellhounds have eyes that are a deep, bright, glowing red, have razor sharp teeth, super strength and speed, and have coal black fur that smells like burning brimstone. I have seen artwork depicting them with sharp horns growing from their forehead and chin. And I have read that they are commonly associated with graveyards and the underworld, and that wherever they go, they leave behind destruction of burned areas.

For now, my hellhounds in Night of the Hellhounds are simply troublesome spirits known as tricksters. But my friends still call them hellhounds. I can live with that.

2 thoughts on “Hellhounds [book research]

  1. I think I have a copy of one of your stories with hellhounds in it. Since we moved, I’m pretty sure it’s still in a box (I have yet to get enough bookcases to unpack my many, many, excessive boxes of books), but I always liked the way you portray hellhounds.

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