Weird Norfolk: Black Shuck encounter in South Norfolk

legendary spectral hound Black Shuck.

Was Black Shuck seen along the Thurton to Bergh Apton road? - Credit: Archant Library/Sam Robbins

By moonlight and starshine as the clock edged towards midnight, the huge black dog threw itself towards the terrified cyclist as he made his way home along dark country lanes.

Mr SW Gilbert, writing to the curator of Hidden East Anglia recounted the terrifying moment he came face-to-snarling-face with a well-known Norfolk resident: Black Shuck.

The story, told in September 1983, recounted a story from the end of the Second World War in either 1944 or 1945, when the witness in question was cycling home along the Thurton to Bergh Apton road late at night.

Cooke's Road in Bergh Apton. Picture: Danielle Booden

Cooke's Road in Bergh Apton near the spot where Black Shuck was seen. - Credit: Danielle Booden

He takes up the story: “I was cycling … on a moonlit night, there were clouds in the sky and the time was about midnight; I had been to a darts match.

“I had had a drink but was in no way under the influence of drink. As I approached a part of the road where a pond was on one side and a wall on the other, a big black dog jumped out from the side of the road where the pond was.

"...it was the pond opposite Washingford House, the time of year as far as I can remember was November, the time about 11.45pm to midnight, and it was either 1944 or 1945...I was riding an upright cycle and was returning home from an away darts match while being a member of the Thurton George and Dragon darts team.”

Mr Gilbert went on to describe the hound that crossed his path.

“I would describe the dog as as big as a large labrador with a smooth back but with shaggy hair hanging below its head and body,” he wrote.

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“I did not notice its eyes but it had large snarling teeth. It came at me at about crossbar-height, growling and snarling.

“I must say I was terrified and expected to be knocked from my cycle and be bitten, but the next thing I saw was the dog on my right-hand side disappearing into the wall. I was shaking with fear and pedalled home very fast." 

Shuck – or his likeness – appeared along what is now Cooke’s Road.

Black Shuck haunts Norfolk folklore, a dark figure “as big as a calf and as noiseless as death” stalking through the county since the 16th century.

Seen across the county, and in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, Black Shuck takes many forms and has many purposes, a true manifestation of everyone’s fear, a creature you definitely do not want to see on a dark and stormy night.

Whether he has eyes like saucers or hot breath like a lick of fire, whether he foretells your impending death or is some kind of guardian spirit, whether he roams the coast or woodland, heath or roadside, one thing is for certain: he is not of this realm.

Shuck is not mentioned on Bergh Apton’s very charming village website (quite one of the best Weird Norfolk has happened upon in years of research, the website’s catchline is “A village where wonderful things happen”.