Yowling Silently Across the Divide

December 5, 2014
Red rock on West Peak in Hanging Hills, Connecticut. Photo Paul Gagnon.
Red rock on West Peak in Hanging Hills, Connecticut. Photo Paul Gagnon.

And if a man shall meet the black dog once, it shall be for joy; the second time, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time, he shall die.

— W.H.C. Pynchon, The Black Dog, 1898

The webinar on Monday December 8th will be about the phantom black dog, a phenomenon that stretches back into Pagan times yet remains surprisingly contemporary. One of the best known examples is the Black Dog of Hanging Hills, Connecticut. Geologist W.H.C. Pynchon relates how he and his colleague Herbert Marshall were exploring West Peak in the Hanging Hills range when they chanced upon the fabled Black Dog. Marshall, who had already encountered the Black Dog twice, scoffed at the legend; but later that day he slipped on a patch of ice and tumbled to his death.

Unlike the huge terrifying death hounds of the British Isles, the Black Dog of Hanging Hills is a small friendly scruffy character with a silent bark. He leaves no footprints. There are common sightings of this pup on West Peak and, more rarely, accidental hiking deaths in the area. The unusual rock formations and panoramic views make the peak an enticing destination for off trail exploration, yet the volcanic rock is brittle and the surfaces are littered with scree, making this a dangerous place for bushwhacking. No one has suggested that the Black Dog is anything but a messenger of impending danger or disaster. Hikers describe him as an engaging pup whose sole disconcerting quality, aside from the legends surrounding him, is a tendency to appear and disappear unexpectedly.

Pynchon declared himself a firm believer in the common wisdom surrounding the Black Dog of Hanging Hills, but sticklers for fact are quick to point out that, while Pynchon is on record as having encountered the Black Dog twice, he did not follow his friend some years later into a deadly ravine on West Peak. Pynchon died in 1910 on Long Island, and Herbert Marshall is the only known geologist to have a little black dog silently speak his doom.

Pure, delicious rumor.

Befriending the Black Dog
A webinar with Hearth Moon Rising
Monday, December 8, 2014
7:00 – 8:00 Eastern Time
Attend live or stream later
Pre-registration required