Photo Proof Of A Ghostly 'Black Dog of the Hanging Hills?'
It was said to haunt these hills, to foretell doom for some, but the dog had not shown itself for many years--until recently. "I was on top of that mountain when a black dog appeared out of nowhere," says Michael Anastasio, 31, a Meriden native and former US Marine.
"Things just don't sneak up on me without me being aware of them, but I swear this dog just appeared." In describing his encounter with a strange black dog at Castle Craig, the tower visible atop the Hanging Hills just east of West Peak, in 2004, Mike recalls details eerily similar to those of an ancient legend about a mysterious Black Dog believed to be a harbinger of death and disaster (as described in previous post).
"I was doing a panoramic," Mike says, "just taking a few shots of Meriden. When I came around to take a shot of the tower behind me--boom! The dog was there." (above; photo by Michael Anastasio). According to local legend, the Black Dog can be seen to bark, but make no sound. Where it trods the ground it raises no dust, in snow it makes no footprints. Ghostlike, the dog appears as if out of nowhere, and takes its leave just as mysteriously, as it roams over a large area around the hills.
The photo Mike took of the dog he saw in 2004 bears an uncanny resemblance to the image of the Black Dog that appeared in a classic account of two geologists’ ill-fated encounters with “a short haired black dog of moderate size” seen around West Peak written by WHC Pynchon and published in Connecticut Quarterly in 1898.
"I looked around the area, and there were no owners, no other people up there except me and my bro' George," Mike says. Nor did the dog appear to wear a collar or tags. "George said he didn't even see a dog at all, strange in itself because he was just ten feet to my left--very odd. I heard the story of the Black Dog shortly after that day. I've lived in Meriden since I was 6 and that was the first time I've ever been up to the tower."
The sighting of the Black Dog was also a first for Mike. Good thing, too. The legend warns that "if a man shall see the Black Dog once it shall be for joy; and if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time he shall die." Should Mike return to the Hanging Hills and see the dog again, the legend suggests tragedy could ensue. Should Mike return after a second sighting, he would be putting his life at risk.
"I've been back to the top since the photos were taken," Mike says, "and I suppose I did have the legend in mind. I didn't hike this time. I drove up to the top and never saw the 'Black Dog' throughout my visit."
And if he ever does see it again? "If for a second time, a 'Black Dog' just appeared within 6 feet of me, without making a sound, or vanished without a sound, I would avoid the area from that point on," Mike admits. "The one thing I do know about fate is that you don't tempt it."
Mike takes a more sensible approach to being the only person known to have encountered the dog in recent time--unlike the two geologists who dared tempt fate more than a century ago, only to later be deeply saddened by tragedy, and ultimately lose their lives.
Views from atop Castle Craig (above) and of Meriden (below) Mike took on the fateful day. Photos by Michael Anastasio.
For centuries, the Hanging Hills have been irresistible to geologists for the extraordinary details they offer about Connecticut geology, particularly about the Connecticut River Valley or Hartford Basin. The basin was formed some 200 million years ago, by continental rifting associated with the breakup of the supercontinent of Pangaea. The valley's sediments and traprock ridges, such as the Hanging Hills, reveal what must have been a violent time in the states past, when earthquakes shook the ground, and tremendous floods of molten lava poured over and through the surface of the earth here.
Whatever secrets the hills hold about strange phantasms such as the Black Dog, or how its sight can forever change mens' lives, remain mysterious.