Even animals can succumb to the influence of the devil and one popular myth is of the hellhounds. In reality there are many myths and not all of them speak of the same creature. Most of them agree that they are evil and most harmful to anyone who crosses their path.
There are exceptions to that rule or so some people believe. Some for example believed Black Shuck to be benign, of all hellhound sightings he is also the most frequently documented. Sightings of hellhounds are predominantly in European myth.
Most often hellhounds are described as giant black hounds of hell, with blazing eyes and snarling teeth. Sometimes the eyes are red but more seldom, described as hellish yellow orbs that glow in the night. Their appearance also changes from area to area, from person to person. Black fur and red eyes seems to be a common likeness that has survived the ages.
There are many myths and speculations that surround the hellhounds. Often they speak of a foul, evil odor that seeps into the very bones and to look one in the eyes is to die. Some say they can speak and then mostly evil things, even their howl a harbinger of bad luck or even death.
The spawn of Echidna, Cerberus is the most famous of the hellhounds. Cerberus had three heads each one depicting the passage of time. The past, the present and the future. He was the watchdog who guarded the underworld, allowing only the spirits of the dead to pass.
Black Shuck, sometimes called the Galley Trot, is one of the more frequently seen. Hundreds of people claim to have seen him during night in the fenlands of East Anglia. His name is derived from Scucca, the Saxon name for the devil. He is said to be black as coal with a single eye in the middle of his head which blazes scarlet or yellow in the dark of night. The story says that he is older than the original settlers, perhaps even older then the land itself.
There are many eyewitness tales of this hound and one supposedly sounds like this:
In Suffolk during world war two an American service man and his wife rented a small shack on the outskirts of town. One horrifying night as the darkness engulfed their small cabin a storm raged on. The couple was wrenched from their fitful sleep by a loud pounding which moved the door on its hinges. They fearfully gazed outside to see a huge black beast throwing itself at the door, shaking the whole cabin. They piled together all the furniture they could, desperately holding the beast at bay as it battered and banged at their door. Finding no entrance through the door, the hound threw itself against the walls to no avail, finally jumping upon the roof.
At dawn, as the couple finally ventured outside, they could not see any sign of the hound. No marks or even paw prints.
Another tale in nineteen eighty one a woman by the name of Irene Cole claims to have seen a huge black beast in the middle of the road as she drove upon it, as soon as she thought she was about to hit the hound it disappeared. She spoke of a strange foul odor.
Other tales speak of a hound as big as a donkey; he is called the Padfoot by the people of Yorkshire. Another is Gwyllgi, a myth in Wales. Also hailing from Wales is the Cwn Annwn, the hounds of hell.
Real or not the hell hounds are a fascinating subject that has followed man for quite some time and probably will continue to do so.