Padfoot, Barghest, Striker, Black Shug, Shuck, Guytrash –these are but some of the many names which attach to the phenomenon documented in this book: the apparently supernatural black dogs that have been seen (or heard) from time to time by people in circumstances that often seem to defy rational explanation.
Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, expert paranormal researchers for many years, attempt to uncover the truth behind a widespread folk-myth which persists down the centuries and often still appears in the media to this present day, as witnessed by the many articles about "beasts”, "hellhounds” or even "pumas”! J. K. Rowling appropriated the name "Padfoot” for the dog in Harry Potter, and even such a bastion of the BBC as The Archers has been haunted by the "Black Beast of Ambridge”
Even in a relatively crowded little island like the UK, the idea that there are huge black beasts roaming the countryside goes back a long way, There are references to the `Great Dog of Langport’ [Somerset] in folk song, which are said to refer back to battles between the Saxons and Vikings, and, of course,thanks to Sherlock Holmes, everyone’s heard of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The authors go on to demonstrate, however, that the phenomenon is not merely confined to these islands. All across mainland Europe,in the US, and in Latin America, similar legends persist. Even the most cursory internet search reveals hundreds, probably thousands of people who claim to have seen ghostly black dogs or big cats; either it’s the most widespread self-delusion in modern times, or perhaps there really is something out there.
Common themes are also teased out and explored. Is the ghostly black dog a portent, a warning, a harbinger of death, or is it a guide to help the lonely and lost traveller find their way home at night? Sometimes, it seems, it can be both. Other activities associated with the Padfoot include guarding buried treasure and/or sacred sites, haunting specific stretches of road (notably crossroads, gibbets and bridges) and perhaps even intervening in events around them, for either good or evil. This book, however, is much more than a mere chronicling and re-hashing of old folklore: the authors go far beyond the point where most guides of this type would stop, and into unfamiliar territory, attempting to offer some explanation for the phenomenon and its prevalence. In doing so they advance theories on the nature of ghosts and hallucinations which are both compelling and believable.
If you think that phantom black dogs are just figments of imagination or fairy stories then it is time to think again; there is something out there. This book is an ideal addition to the library of anyone with even the slightest interest in the paranormal. - Robert Snow, The Ghost Club