Part 1: The Black Dog of West Peak
Do you believe in harbengers of fortune? The Black Dog of West Peak is believed to be one.
In the area of Meriden, Connecticut there has been tale of of a small black beast believed to forecast man’s future. He silently emerges from the forest with his onyx coat and intensely sad eyes. When you see him he may even wag his tail, but don’t be fooled, he is not to be confused with any ordinary dog. He now holds the key to your fate and no matter how comfortable you become with his company you best hope when you part ways you never see him again.
Tales of this prophetic canine have circulated the Hanging Hills area for as long as the late 1700’s. Residents past told tale of a mysterious Black Dog. He makes no sound, be it bark or stride, leaves no track in dirt or snow, who appears out of nowhere and, if spotted, “…once, it shall be for joy; and if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time he shall die.”
The first published account of this extra-ordinary dog was penned by W. H. C. Pynchon in the 1898 edition of Connecticut Quarterly. (LINK HERE) https://books.google.com/booksid=n_8aAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA123&lpg=PA123&dq=Connecticut+Quarterly,+(April-June,+1898)&source=bl&ots=JnDJcPykv2&sig=qeDK_x-hJInxvMrPbL0CsGUQMjo&hl=en&ei=locgSq_QAYGMtgfTz6nJBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q&f=false)
W. H. C. Pynchon was a geologist from New York who set out on a geologic survey to Meriden to study the unique outcroppings of the Hanging Hills which were formed over 200 million years ago by volcanic activity. The area is rugged and rural with an unforgiving terrain of craigs and fishers that can be trecherous even today.
While out collecting samples for study on the West Peak, Pynchon was surprised as he looked up from his work and saw that he had been joined by a medium size black dog. He spoke to the animal and it seemed to acknowledge him, but was just as happy investigating the terrain as Pynchon was.
Throughout the day the dog followed his wagon and stopped with him at each stop to examine the area, just as W. H. C. did. As the night drew in Pynchon, in need of dinner and lodging, began the trek back into town. The dog kept close and even followed ahead for a while, but stopped at the spot Pynchon first saw him and “quietly vanished into the woods.” He had grown quite fond of his new companion’s company and thought warmly of the beautiful day they had shared together.
Some time later Pynchon returned to the Hills to collect more samples and data. Along the way he ran into an old friend and colleague, Herbert Marshall of the United States Geological Survey.
After some catching up the topic of conversation turned to the legend of the Black Dog. Both men had seen him before, but were still not convinced that it was anything more than a quiet, friendly tramp. Pynchon as a man of science dismissed the warnings as pure superstition and folklore. Marshall had seen him 2ice, but was adamant that he did not believe in bad omens and they made plans to set out for West Peak the next day.
It was winter and the ground was covered in a thick layer of snow. The cold was bracing, but the men were entheusiastic and looking forward to reaching the summit of the peak. Despite their good humors the terrain was difficult and the ascent, which was physically exhausting, went at a slow pace.
Nearing the top Pynchon took a rest to catch his breath and steady himself. When he looked up he saw his companion Marshall, who was in lead, stone still, speechlessly pointing toward the top of the cliff. He followed his gaze and to his shock he saw the Dog, Stygian black against the white snow, staring intently down at them. He glanced back at his friend. All color had drained from Herbert’s face and he was now shaking in terror, “I did not believe it before, I believe it now; and it is the third time.”
As Marshall uttered the last sentence the outcrop of stone on which he was standing crumbled beneath him and he fell to his death.
W. H. C. Pynchon’s story ends both in his belief in the legend of the Black Dog and his acceptance that this will also be his fate. His account is followed by an excerpt from the New York Herald detailing his death at the foot of West Peak very near where Marshall’s body had been found.
Even today there are still accounts of people seeing the Black Dog and tempting their fates with the possibility of encountering him too many times.
In 2006 Connecticut Windows On The Natural World published an article on their blog that featured an interview with a man named Michael Anatasio, an ex-marine from Meriden, who claimed to have seen the Black Dog and showed his photo of it. (Link HERE):
Judging by the comments that followed he was not alone.
Unearthly dogs have been described in many cultures around the world.
In Scotland and the Hebrides there is the Cú-Sith, a mythological hound similar to the famous “Hound of the Baskervilles” from Sherlock Holmes. This giagantic wolflike creature is said to be dark green or white and shaggy. It is a harbinger of death and similar to a Banshee it wails. By it’s third call you will die and it will carry your soul away. Similar Dogs exist in Welsh and Irish folklore.
Does the Black Dog of West Peak really exist? Could he be the American relative of the Cu-Sith who immigrated with America’s first settlers? Are his eyes so mournful because of his burden to warn Man, his best friend, away from his fate?