By Susan A. Sheppard
When the goddesses of old Europe went underground with the advent of Christianity, they were often reborn in the guise of a hag. Black Annis, a frightening fairy, is one such scary goddess, a blue-faced woman, transformed from earlier beauty into a decrepit, old crone. She is said to live in a cave in the Dane Hills of England. Legend speaks that the cave was scratched out by the long talons of Black Annis and in later times, she often hid behind rocks so she could leap out in order to kill children and lambs.
On the Monday following Easter, a dead cat was dipped in aniseed and dragged from a cave to the Mayor’s house in order to exorcise the vile spirit of Black Annis. This clearing of Black Annis’s spirit would stay into effect until the next Easter.
The lore surrounding Black Annis may have Pictish origins, since her face like that of the ancient Picts was said to have been painted blue. In modern day, legends and stories about Black Annis are
scarce throughout the British Isles.
Black Fairy is a term that is sometimes used for Irish or Scottish Banshees. The Black Fairy is a death spirit associated with ancient clans or septs of the British Isles. There were other types of fairies referred to as black fairies, as told by John Walsh in 1566, and later written down by Lady Wilde, who wrote extensively on the fairy races, “There be three kindes of fairies, the black, the white, and the green, which black be the woorst." The Banshee, or "Black Fairy" is an attendant death fairy and even though she does not cause a death, she will announce the death of certain members of her clans by her wailing or keening cries, which sound human to a degree, but also unearthly.
In Appalachia, a female should never be buried in black clothing or else she will return to haunt relatives or the graveyard where she is buried. In pre-Victorian times fairies were always associated with the realm of the dead. In ancient Ireland it was commonly believed souls of the recently dead must first pass through Fairyland before entering heaven.Black Cats
Among the ancient Celts, black cats were believed to be reincarnated souls who were able to divine the future. Later, in Europe black cats where looked upon as the Devil himself and were associated with Pluto, God of the Underworld.(In Edgar Allan Poe's story "the Black Cat" Poe accurately named the cat "Pluto.") In Germany in the Middle Ages it was believed that if a black cat jumped on the bed of a sick person, it meant death was quickly approaching.
Black Monk of Pontefract
A strange cause of poltergeists associated with sighting of the hooded apparition that appeared to be a monk that took place in 1966 in northern England has never been fully explained. Pontefract is an ancient, medieval town located in West Yorkshire. The nearby Pontrefract Castle dates from 1070 and there are a number of ancient ruins surrounding the town. In September of 1966 the home of a local couple Jean and Joey Pritchard (the parents of two teenaged children) began to be plagued by what seemed to be a violent and frenzied outbreak of poltergeists.
The activity started when their son Phillip was staying with his grandmother in the house while the rest of the family was on vacation. During the evening, a great gust of wind came up and pushed open the front door. Before they could get to it the door slammed shut and an icy cold entered the room. As soon as the door closed, a cloud of whitish dust filled the room. Phillip and his grandmother fetched the neighbor who was an aunt to the Pritchard children. The aunt helped the elderly woman and teenager mop up the strange dust but it instantly reappeared.
In the beginning, no one in the family was frightened since the activity seemed to be an odd, but natural phenomenon. As the aunt and grandmother were cleaning up, the wardrobe proceeded to sway back and forth. That evening the aunt remembered a family friend who was an expert on ghosts and asked his help. The man felt it might be poltergeists causing the problems, but nothing had been broken so far which was the case of most poltergeist hauntings. The minute the ghost expert had left they heard a crash and discovered the Pritchard’s wedding photograph on the floor with the glass inside the frame broken. It was then Phillip and his grandmother left the home to stay with the aunt until the Pritchard’s and daughter Diane returned home.
Once the Pritchard’s came home the haunted activity died down and did not re-emerge for another two years. Jean Pritchard was having tea with a friend when they heard noises upstairs. When the two women got up to investigate and found the bed clothes and also Phillip’s pajamas thrown to the bottom of the stairs. The haunting had intensified where there would be bangs and thumps and rooms suddenly going cold. Jean later discovered a plate of sandwiches she had placed in the ice box had bites taken out of them. Utensils and plates flew through the air. A priest was later called in and attempted to convince the Pritchard’s that it was only the house settling. He changed his mind when a candlestick lifted from a dresser, floated over to him and wave itself under his nose. The priest left in terror saying there was great evil in the house.
It became clear all too soon the Diane Pritchard, the young daughter, appeared to be the epicenter of the haunted activity. At one point Diane was thrown out of her bed and dragged up the stairs by unseen hands. Later, four light bulbs, which were a part of the gas fire in the living room suddenly materialized in Diane’s bedroom. Another skeptical aunt visited the home and was terrified when a pair of furry hands reached around the door at her. It was then they realized the hands were actually fur gloves the aunt had been wearing.
When the aunt screamed “get away—you’re evil” the gloves taunted her by clapping as if in delighted applause over what she was saying. The aunt then sang a hymn to scare the ghost away but the fur gloves only clapped in time with her song. The family admitted while seeing the gloves moving without hands was frightened they could not help but be amused over the ghost’s response to the aunt’s initial skepticism.
After the aunt left, Jean and Joe woke up to see a sinister-looking, hooded figure in their doorway. As Joe ran to switch on the light, the dreary apparition vanished. Visitors to the home also claimed to see the monk. One woman claimed it brushed her on the head. In looking into the history of the property where their house stood, the Pritchard’s discovered there had once been a monastery close to the house. The last appearance of the Black Monk was when the children Diane and Phillip were watching television and saw the monk moving through the house beside a glass door. Phillip ran after the apparition only to see the ghost disappear into the kitchen floor. This was the last time the monk’s ghost was ever sighted and the haunted activity died down on its own never to reappear in that particular home.
Appearing as a black dog, Black Shuck is a portent of tragedy or sudden death. Seemingly spectral, and completely black, Shuck is reported to have the same glowing red eyes much like the Banshee. Like most of the supernatural creatures that haunt the British Isles, Black Shuck is strongly linked to the fairies. Sometimes appearing without a head, he is always larger than the average dog.
A castle in Warwicke, England is said to be haunted by a large black dog – Or as most called him Black Shuck. It is told that many years ago a worker woman stole milk and butter from the castle and sold it on her own. When the owner found out about the theft he promptly dismissed her. As the woman left she vowed to “get them haunted.”
A short time later, a black dog with smoldering red eyes appeared. The local priest was called in to banish what the castle owner considered to be a demonic dog. For a while it appeared the exorcism was unsuccessful until the worker woman finally died.
Another legend tells of Charles Walton of Alveston, England meeting a phantom Black Dog over a period of nine evenings. On one startling night, instead of a black dog, a headless woman appeared and swished by him in a long silken dress. Where her head should have been were the eerie red eyes just like Black Shuck. Shortly afterwards, the man’s sister died quite unexpectedly. In another part of England, near Whitemore Park, a black dog with matted coat and glowing green eyes is said to wander.
Alleged witches during the Wild Hunt, or Walpurgisnacht in Germany, were thought to be led by Black Shuck over parts of the British Isles. On the European continent, the Wild Hunt was thought to be lead by gods and goddesses rather than dogs or animals. Some have reported seeing Black Shuck flying through the air on a carpet of mist.
Susan A Sheppard