Roborough Down Black Dog
‘A MAN having to walk from Princetown to Plymouth took the road which crosses Roborough Down. He started at four o’clock from the Duchy Hotel, and as he walked at a good swinging pace, hoped to cover the sixteen miles in about three hours and a half. It was a lovely evening in December, cold and frosty, the stars and a bright moon giving enough light to enable him to see the roadway distinctly zigzagged across the moor. Not a friendly pony or a quiet Neddy crossed his path as he strode merrily onward whistling as he went. After a while the desolation of the scene seemed to strike him, and he felt terribly alone among the boulders and huge masses of gorse which hemmed him in. On, on he pressed, till he came to a village where a wayside inn tempted him to rest awhile and have just one nip of something “short” to keep his spirits up.
Passing the reservoir beds, he came out on an open piece of road, with a pine copse on his right. Just then he fancied he heard the pit-pat of feet gaining upon him. Thinking it was a pedestrian bound for Plymouth, he turned to accost his fellow traveller, but there was no one visible, nor were any footfalls then audible. Immediately on resuming his walk, pit-pat, pit-pat, fell the echoes of feet again. And suddenly there appeared close to his right side an enormous dog, neither mastiff or bloodhound, but what seemed to him to be a Newfoundland of immense size. Dogs were always fond of him, and he of them, so he took no heed of this (to him) lovely canine specimen. Presently he spoke to him. ” Well, doggie, what a beauty you are: how far are you going?” at the same time lifting his hand to pat him. Great was the man’s astonishment to find no resisting substance, though the form was certainly there, for his hand passed right through the seeming body of the animal. “Hulloh! what’s this?” said the bewildered traveller. As he spoke the great glassy eyes gazed at him; then the beast yawned, and from his throat issued a stream of sulphurous breath. Well, thought the man, I am in for it now! I’ll trudge on as fast as legs can carry me, without letting this queer customer think I am afraid of him.
‘With heart beating madly and feet actually flying over the stony way, he hurried down the hill, the dog never for a moment leaving him, or slackening his speed. They soon reached a crossway, not far from the fortifications. When, suddenly the man was startled by a loud report, followed by a blinding flash, as of lightning, which struck him senseless to the ground. At daybreak, he was found by the driver of the mail-cart, lying in the ditch at the roadside in an unconscious state. Tradition says, that a foul murder was many years ago committed at this spot, and the victim’s dog is doomed to traverse this road and kill every man he encounters, until the perpetrator of the deed has perished by his instrumentality.’ [Nummits and Crummits by Sarah Hewett (1900)]