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Thursday, 27 March 2014

The White Dog of Eresby and Other White Dog Apparitions

Phantom black dog`s are ubiquitous in the folklore of the British Isles. They are friendly in some places but more often they are regarded as omens of death. Black dog`s differ from their earthly canine counterparts in terms of their size. Witnesses often describe them as being the size of a calf, with huge red saucer-sized eyes. Although the term "black dog" traditionally referees to ghostly black canines, not all of these phantom hounds are invariably black. For example a ghostly  white dog of gigantic size  purportedly haunts the neighbourhood of Haugham and Cawthorpe near Louth. The dog is said to run from Manor Farm in Burwell , and  vanish into a copse leading to Burwell woods. The same phantom is also said to haunt the old vicarage at Cawthorpe where it has been heard whining and pattering from room to room. Local author Peter Gregory, described one man`s terrifying encounter with the ghostly white hound as he walked the lanes between the villages of Cawthorpe and Haughham:



 "It was near dusk and in the gathering gloom, he suddenly notices something white in the woods near the roadside. Thinking it was a stray cow, or other farm animal, he ignored it and carried on walking.  A few minutes later he saw the same white shape again, only this time it was closer to the road side and keeping pace with him. Now a little frightened, he hurried on up the hill towards Haugham. He was almost clear of the trees when, without warning, the white shape sprang from the woods towards him. The sight which met his eyes was truly hideous. Standing before him was a huge white hound with blood red eyes and slavering jaws. He was so terrified, the young man collapsed on the ground, convinced the demon beast would kill him. But the hound remained still and staring. Then let out a blood-chilling howl, it leapt over the terrified man and disappeared into the woods." 

Above: Me at Manor Farm, Burwell. One of the haunts of the phantom white dog

The following little known tale  "The Legend of the Idiot Girl and the White Dog of Eresby," recorded by an unknown author in the 1870`s tells how a phantom white dog haunting a road between East Keal and Spilsby was said to have been the unquiet spirit of  a man driven insane by religious persecution:

"In the days of Queen Mary Tudor, there was, according to popular tradition much cruel, religious persecution in the Spilsby district: Lady Catherine Willoughby, owner of Eresby Hall, had married Richard Bertie 1553, and they, favouring the reformers, went abroad for safety; during that time a son was born to them, and they named him peregrine. Commemorating this exile  Eresby Hall was accidentally burnt down, in 1769; the stables becoming a farm house; the avenue of trees has been a favourite promenade for the people of Spilsby, and the school children used annually to be feasted there, when dancing on the green was enjoyed.

The story relates that about 1571 Colonel Butler who held a commission in the royal army, went to stay with his friend Mr Duford of Hundlesby Grange; one day he was riding back from Boston to W. Keal, and passing near Bollingbroke saw on an elevation of sandy rocks a party of white-robed young women, singing a hymn in chords of great melody and sweetness, then they disappeared behind some trees; he went on into E.Keal where the funeral of a popular poor old man was taking place, he learnt from a friend of the deceased that he had witnessed Kit`s rebellion of 1549 at Norwich, and seen the consequent executions, then on returning he had found that woman had been murdered, and cottages burnt. This informant pointed out a handsome house where dwelt Mr. Packman who had risen to fortune, but who was given to constant swearing and blasphemies, so that people avoided his residence. Just after this man had left him, Colonel Butler perceived a large white dog moving in front of him, and keeping pace with him, however much he changed it; then coming to a marshy dell, the dog vanished, and he heard the shrill voice of a maniacal woman seated on a rock; she was holding a knife, her grey clothing was stained with blood, and at her feet lay a bleeding lamb; the woman, exclaiming widely, rose up, and trampled the lamb under her feet, then she gave a piercing cry, and rushed away, while oaths and blashshemies were heard by him; he hastened back to the Grange, and learnt there from Mr.Dunford, that the woman`s mother had been driven mad by the religious cruelties, the  daughter inheriting that madness; also that a son, when dying had taken the form of the White Dog the colonel had seen, and that this apparition used from time to time to appear to people in the 19th century. Mr Baker, a surgeon of Spilsby, returning from Toynton Feast with a lady behind him riding en croup both saw the White Dog, and she nearly fell off the pillion through fear. It used to haunt the site of the demented woman`s residence, and Eresby Walk; also frequently at the entrance to a subterranean passage to Eresby Hall, nearly choked up."

Above: The Historic Hundlesby Grange where colonel Butler was told of the phantom White Dog of Eresby

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