Tag Archives: Black Dog of Newgate

A Modern Bestiary – K is for Ki Du

1126931186_imefairy32I feel a certain fondness for the Ki Du, the great black dog of Brittany.  Dogs, in the main, are more forthright than humans, and far more loyal.

Not that the Ki Du is loyal to men or fae.  Much more, I would think, to the concepts of justice, of fairness, of worthy outcomes.  Which I must admit can be thin on the ground where either the fae or most humans are involved.


Sidney Paget’s illustration from Hound of the Baskervilles will give you some idea of what the Ki Du looks like, although even in fiction, Sherlock Holmes never encountered the actual Hound.

The Ki Du has a better reputation than the Hound of the Baskervilles or many another of his kin, for he is not malevolent.  Instead of attacking anyone, he merely brings a portent of death, and then accompanies the newly dead soul to the afterworld, a shepherd of sorts.

A darker cousin of his is the great black dog that haunted Newgate Prison for more than 400 years.  His habit was to appear just before executions there, gliding up and down the streets or crawling along on his belly at the top of the wall overlooking the gibbet.


Tucked behind Newgate was a narrow alleyway known as ‘Deadman’s Walk’.  This passageway was used to convey condemned criminals as they were led towards their execution.  Today it’s known as ‘Amen Court’, a reference perhaps to the prayers of those facing the bitter end.


Executions at Newgate Prison were considered holidays by the common folk and eagerly attended by those with no particular fear of the noose.

The Black Dog of Newgate first made its appearance in 1596, when  a man named Schoiler was sent to the prison for dabbling in witchcraft.


Conditions inside Newgate Prison were so horrid it was called a ‘Portico to Hell’ by some and prisoners suffered great torments there, from beatings to disease and hunger.

Schoiler himself did not suffer for long.  He was imprisoned there during a famine in London, and was killed and eaten by starving fellow prisoners before he could be brought to trial. The dog appeared soon after, and tore into Newgate several nights in a row, ripping limbs off of prisoners and causing others to perish from pure fright.  The guilty parties, desperate to escape before the hellhound returned, then murdered a number of guards and broke out, but it did them no good.  The Black Dog hunted them down wherever they fled and administered its own brand of justice.

I mention this because of recent sightings of another black hound, this one distinguished by far more glowing red eyes than the usual…


Perhaps all those extra eyes give this Hound greater insight into the failings of those he hunts.

The dog has been seen inside the fence at the prison hospital complex newly built outside of Stockton in response to court orders concerning the health care needs of inmates in California’s overcrowded state prisons.


The so-called “California Health Care Facility” did not get off to a sterling start when it opened, lacking adequate staffing and many basic supplies, such as latex gloves.

Is the Ki Du coming around to guide ailing inmates into the afterlife?  Or avenge those who shouldn’t have died?  And would those people be the prisoners themselves?  Or their victims?

I don’t know but I, for one, would not get in his way.