The Moddey Dhoo is a black hound in Manx folklore that reputedly haunts a number of places on the Isle of Man, the most famous being Peel Castle on the west coast.
THE MODDEY DHOO OF PEEL CASTLE
A resident Manx historian George Waldron seems to be the sole definitive written authority of this folklore localized in the castle. He describes the dog thus:
“They say, that an apparition called, in their language, the Mauthe Doog, in the shape of a large black spaniel with curled shaggy hair, was used to haunt Peel Castle; and has been frequently seen in every room, but particularly in the guard-chamber, where, as soon as candles were lighted, it came and lay down before the fire in presence of all the soldiers, who at length, by being so much accustomed to the sight of it, lost great part of the terror they were seized with at its first appearance.”
There used to be a passage connected to the Peel Castle, traversing the church grounds, leading to the apartment of the Captain of the Guard, and “the Mauthe Doog was always seen to come from that passage at the close of day, and return to it again as soon as the morning dawned”.
Waldron reports that one drunken guard of the castle, who in defiance of the dog, went against the usual procedure of locking up the castle gate in pairs and did this all alone. Emboldened by liquor, he “snatched up the keys” when it wasn’t even his turn to do so. The watchman after locking up was supposed to use the haunted passage to deliver the keys to the captain. Some noises were heard, the adventurer returned to the guard-room, ghastly frightened, unable to share the story of what he had seen, and died three days later.
That was the last sighting of the dog. But the passage was sealed up and never used again after the haunting, and a different pathway constructed.
The dog was made known to the world at large when Sir Walter Scott introduced the “Manthe Dog” – a fiend, or demon, in the shape of a large, shaggy, black mastiff in ‘Peveril of the Peak’ (1823), an installment of his Waverley novels. Here he freely adapted the folklore to suit his plot, but Scott derived knowledge of this folklore through Waldron’s work, as he candidly gave credit to this in his ‘author’s notes’.
The following are from WW Gill’s ‘A Third Manx Scrapbook’ (1963):
THE MODDEY DHOO OF THE RHENAB ROAD
Two men going home from their work at the North Laxey Mine were walking along the highroad near Ballagorry Chapel and the Dhoon School. Just about there a “spooyt” (small waterfall) comes out of a field into the road. It was two o’clock in the morning with a drizzle of rain and weak moonlight showing through it. As the men walked along they discussed some jaunt they were going to take next day. Suddenly they heard a great splashing and noising at the spooyt just in front of them, and in the glimmer of moonlight they made out the shape of an animal about the size of a Newfoundland dog coming out from the dub or ditch under the spooyt. “Its eyes were blazing like saucers and it troddled over the road into the ditch opposite and down towards Creg-ny-Mult. It was black, and half the size of a calf.”
Next shift they told the other miners about it, and an elderly one said, “John, don’t you know what that was?”
“No, what was it?”
“It was the Moddey-dhoo of the Rhenab road.”
THE MODDEY DHOO OF THE MOORAGH
A small barren gully at the North end of the Mooragh brows near Ramsey is haunted by a black dog and possibly by something even worse. At any rate, it is a spot that a few people, I am told, dislike to pass at night, even since a summer bungalow has been planted at the mouth of it. It runs immediately below the old earthwork marked “Fort” on the Ordnance maps, which has been identified with an ancient place of execution named Cronk-y-Croghee, “Hill of Hanging.”
THE MODDEY DHOO OF DREEM-Y-JEESKAIG
This neighbourhood, at the southern limit of Maughold parish, was haunted by a particularly large and terrifying specimen. Sometimes it was seen coursing an invisible quarry over the edge of the cliff, sometimes merely lurking by the roadside.
Once, when Kewley of the Booilley Mooar was a boy, over 80 years ago, he was driving home from Ramsey with his father and they met this moddey-dhoo. The horse shied violently, throwing them both out of the trap or cart, and bolted for home. As they were picking themselves up they saw the dog in the act of jumping over the cliff-edge, apparently into space. Thus far one authority.
Another, at the opposite end of the parish, has told me, quite independently of the foregoing affair, how an extremely evil spirit was laid at Dreem-y-Jeeskaig, which I suspect to be the one just mentioned. At any rate, it was such a violent and obstinate demon that they had to call in Ewan Christian, generally known as Christian Lewaigue, himself, for no one else could do any good, though many had tried. The first time he addressed it, it told him to come again on a certain night, alone. He went the second time as requested, and after that it was seen and heard no more; but what passed between the two of them he would never tell. He was never the same man again, after this affair.
(source: George Waldron, History and Description of the Isle of Man (1st ed. 1731) 1744 edition; WW Gill, ‘A Third Manx Scrapbook’ (1963); wiki; artwork ‘Black Dog’ by Warnick)