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Phantom Animals

ghost pig
phantom hound

Ghostly manifestations of animals have been often discussed amongst professionals throughout the years and are often left chasing their own tails... (excuse the pun!). Such reported sightings go back hundreds of years, some are simply myths and legends, others are more substantiated. During the early 1600s the subject was seriously debated by Victorian academics who suggested that such manifestations cannot be real. It was theorised that animals do not have souls, therefore they could not return after death. However, reported sightings continued. Of course, many will argue that animals are no different than you and I, thus their return could be more substantiated due to the belief that animals do not possess the intelligence to recognise that they have in fact died. To date... the argument continues...

It seems that sightings of these phantom animals fall into two categories... The first being some form of recorded anomaly. Just like the Stone Tape Theory that was introduced into paranormal investigation during the 1970s. The theory that certain environments have the capability to somehow record events and then later play them back hundreds of years later is now popular belief. Some academics have even supported the theory suggesting that certain geological conditions could be responsible or attributed to the phenomenon. There are certainly numerous incidents world wide of people seeing ghostly battle scenes as if they had stepped out of their time to witness a past event. Soldiers have been described as well as charging horsemen, so therefore, it seems possible for some phantom animals to be recorded events being replayed over and over. The big giveaway is that such recorded phenomena does not interact with the witnesses.

The second category is rather more perplexing. There have been thousands upon thousands of reports world wide of phantom animals interacting with witnesses, such as being chased or warned off by a phantom hound, the feeling of a ghostly cat rubbing itself around your legs, even a phantom horse giving chase to innocent passes by. There are too many reports to simply dismiss them. If such experiences are real, then it would seem that some ghostly animals are in fact aware of their surroundings and those that are in it. The most recognised ghostly animals seem to be Phantom Hounds, however a lot of the information you read is that of myth and legend.

According to Welsh myth 'Cwm Annwn' may have been the original source for the legend of Herne the Hunter, who was said to have a pack of ethereal white dogs that were responsible for terrorising small towns. Also, 'Arawn' the Lord of Winter and his black hounds of hell supposedly roamed the hillsides looking for human souls. There are many similar stories throughout Scandinavia, German and other parts of Britain. Phantom hounds are known by many names... In Devon they are known as 'Yeth', in Cornwall they are known as 'Dando', in Somerset they are called 'Gurt Dogs', The people of Norfolk call them 'Old Shuck', similar to those in Suffolk which are called 'Old Shock'. In Yorkshire they are known as 'Barguest' and in Northern England they are referred to as 'Guytrash'. The welsh referred to them as 'Gwyllgi' and in the Isle of man they were called 'Mauthe Doog'. Even the Irish had a name for them... The 'Pooka'. It's interesting to note that the names 'Shuck' or 'Shock' may very well be a derivative of the word 'Succa', meaning 'Demon' in Old English.

Throughout the ages the representation of phantom hounds have changed somewhat... They were known to be larger than normal dogs, often black in colour. Some headless, some with heads but only a single eye. Some with wings, some that walked on the hind legs. It was even said that they could shape shift into different animals, be it a cat, a bird or a pig. Nowerdays, they are mostly described as large black dogs with red glowing eyes.

The Great Chart phantom of Kent is said to have been such a beast, that appeared in a church hall several centuries ago, attacking the congregation before disappearing in a gulf of fire. Newgate Prison in London was also reputed to have a phantom hell hound. The legend dates back to the time when Henry III was in reign. During a period of extreme famine prisoners were forced to feed upon each other. A rumoured witch that was the victim of cannibalism was heard to place a curse upon the inmates. The following night a terrifying beast materialised with glowing red eyes. According to the legend, the beast attacked the inmates ripping them from limb to limb. Some of the prisoners fell to the floor and on inspection it was presumed they had died of fright. Their faces paused in expression of shear terror. The phantom hound was said to haunt the prison right up till 1902 when the building was demolished. However, strange putrid odours are still reported at the location, along with the occasion sighting of the hound, which suggests this vengeful harbinger is not confined to the writings of legends and myths...

Residents of Hoe Benham, a small village near Newbury, Berkshire was also known to have a phantom that reeked havoc through the darkened streets. However, this time is was not a hound, but a 'Pig'. On December 2nd 1907, Oswald Pittman and his friend Reginald Waud were painting the garden fence at Laburnum Villa. It was a cold winters morning, and the two young men were waiting for the arrival of the milk man so to get themselves a hot drink. Around 10.00am Oswald walked up to greet the milk man and noticed his friend Miss Clara Miles walking up the path. Clara had come over to lend a hand. But as Oswald looked, he noticed something strange. At first he thought Clara had brought along her favourite dog, but as she got closer he noticed that is wasn't a dog at all. In fact, it was a large white pig with an unusually long snout. The pig was about ten feet behind Clara, following her up the path. Oswald turned and went back into the garden to tell Reginald that Clara was here, and that for some odd reason, she had brought along a large white pig. As Clara entered the garden Reginald shouted over 'You'll have to leave your pig outside'. Reginald was a keen gardener and didn't want his flowerbeds being messed up. Clara stopped with a puzzled look on her face. 'What pig' replied Clara. Oswald got up to look, but there was no pig to be seen. Clara said she had not seen a pig and if one was walking behind her she’d certainly would of heard it. Puzzled as to what he had seen, Oswald and Clara decided to travel back down the path in hope of finding the odd looking beast. They made their way back down the path, asking people on the way if they had seen the odd looking pig, but no one had seen anything. The pig had simply vanished...

During that month, a number of the residents in the small village of Hoe Benham also reported seeing the unusual pig. Many described the pig as large, white and an unusually long snout. Oswald, still baffled as to what he had seen later reported the incident to the 'Society of Psychical Research' whilst visiting London for a few months. SPR investigated Oswalds claims but could not find the mysterious pig. It wasn't long before the residents of Hoe Benham started to believe the pig was some sort of ghost and that seeing it was a warning of coming illness. SPR noted that it was unusual to see a pig in that location during December of 1907, as pig fever was common and most if not all pigs in the vicinity had been killed in hope of culling the quickly spreading illness. To date, the ghost pig of Hoe Benham is still talked about and occasional visitors to the village report seeing the odd looking pig.

Welsh folklore also talks of numerous ghostly animals which include the sightings of phantom horses. Residents of Bryn-y-mean near Colyne Bay, Wales have reported seeing a white phantom horse numerous times. Michael ford, a local resident was driving to work one Wednesday early morning. He decided to stay off the motorway and stick to the minor country roads as his car tax had ran out the day before and he was hoping not to have to tax it until the Friday. As he drove down the twisty country road, the sun was just coming up. Then suddenly from nowhere, a large white horse appeared in front of him from over a hedge. Michael slammed on his brakes. He described how the horse filled the car windscreen. He braced for an impact... But then... nothing. Michael looked up; to his astonishment the horse had vanished. He quickly jumped out of his car and looked in both adjacent fields. There was no sign of any horse. Still puzzled he walked over to the hedge the horse had appeared from and looked over. He was shocked to find no hoof marks in the muddy field. Realising that he had obviously seen something quite strange, he jumped back in his car and sped away. From then on, Michael took an alternate route. There have been several sightings of the ghostly horse on that particular road, and most of them took place early morning.
Another road in Edgehill is also said to be haunted by a phantom horse. In fact, the appropriately named, 'White Horse Road' has had many reported incidents. The road, which has been named after the ghostly manifestation cuts through the countryside. On one side of the road is the haunted Edgehill battlefield where residents have reported seeing soldiers and hearing gunshots. On the other side is where the bodies of soldiers are burried. The Battle of Edgehill was the first major conflict of the English Civil War. Some believe the phantom horse was Prince Rupert's who road into battle on his large white horse. Prince Rupert did survive the battle, but it is rumoured that he was thrown from his horse during cannon fire and that his horse was killed instantly. Another notable white horse of the Edgehill battle was owned by Captain Kingsmill who apparently died on the field. The phantom horse has been seen galloping through the field and passing in front of car headlights on White Horse Road.

The most unusual of all animal ghosts has to be the sighting of a ghostly monkey which is said to haunt Athelhampton Hall, a 15th century hall in Dorset that was built by Sir William Martyn in 1485. The Martyn family crest was that of a monkey sat on top of a tree stump and below was the motto "He who looks at Martyn's ape, Martyn's ape will look at him". Ironically, it is Martyn's ape that haunts the building. It is rumoured that the pet ape had the run of the hall and it could go where ever it wanted. One of Martyn's daughters who was madly in love with a young man had been told she was no longer wanted. She was so unhappy, and could no longer bare the grief. She was determined to end her life. Athelhampton Hall had a number of secret passage ways. Some were known by Martyn's daughter. She used one, climbed up a secret staircase to a small room at the top, where she killed herself. However, she was not alone. The ape had followed her, and his curiosity led him to the small room where Martyn's daughter lay. Somehow the door leading to the small room had shut behind him, and he ended up trapped. It took weeks to finally find Martyn's daughter and laying beside her was the pet ape, who had apparently starved to death. It is the spirit of the ape which said to haunt the hall, scratching behind the walls in a desperate attempt to escape.
It seems that there is numerous stories of people seeing ghostly manifestations of animals. As for evidence, there does seem to be lack of good photographs or video footage to support the theory that such things exist. But many would argue, 'Why can't they exist?'. It seems people are more inclined to believe the story of a phantom monk, than a phantom pig, duck, chicken, horse etc. Even when there are many accounts of seeing such ghostly animals...

Compiled by Steve Mera.

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