Monday, October 15, 2007


Back in my college days, I spent three summers as a camp
counselor at Camp Mitton in Brewster, Mass down on Cape Cod.

One night during my last summer there in 1970, I was sitting at
the Indian Council Ring with the campers and councilors as we
told stories around a campfire. One of the kids started telling a
story about the Black Hell Hounds that chased a murderer’s
ghost on the dirt roads by the camp and I had to grin. I knew the
story well.

In fact, I was the one who’d first told it.

Two years before I was trying to come up with the a story to tell
at the campfire that hadn’t already been told and a combination
of things led me to make up a new one.

One of the elements was the camp’s location. There were several
dirt roads that wound their way through old cranberry bogs,
some of which with old buildings nearby. We occasionally took the
kids on hikes down those roads and so the locale of the story
would be familiar.

Another element was that one of the councilors had snorkeled in
the lake the camp was situated on and found an old buckboard
type wagon on the lake floor. Everyone had wondered how it ever
got there.

And the third element? That would be Queenie the black Labrador
Retriever and two of her grown offspring who frequently hung
around the camp mooching scraps and attention from the kids.
And so, I came up with this story:

“Many years ago there lived down by the cranberry bogs a man
and his wife. They had no children, and the cranberry farmer’s
wife was lonely so the farmer bought her three black hounds to
keep her company and protect her when he was away from the

Things went well for several years until bad weather caused
the cranberry crop to be a small one and the farmer fell into
debt. He took to drinking and when his wife asked him to stop
they would argue. One night the man hit his wife and the dogs
who were trained to protect her attacked the farmer. In a rage
he grabbed his axe and killed the dogs and then his wife, and
then buried them all in an unmarked grave somewhere along
the dirt roads through the bogs. If neighbors asked he told them
his wife had left him and gone off to her parents’ home in

Then one night exactly a year to the night later of the murder
the farmer was driving his wagon down a dirt road, the very
same road that ran right through the center of our camp, when
he heard the sound of hounds baying behind him. He looked
over hisshoulder and by the light of the moon he saw the red
eyes of the ghostly three hounds racing after him in the

He whipped his horse to run faster, but still the hounds came
closer, and closer, and CLOSER until suddenly the wagon hit
the bump in the road just past where the softball field was
today and the horse broke free, while the wagon went racing
down into the lake, taking the farmer with it to drown.

And some said that every year the murderous farmer’s ghost
could be seen in his wagon being chased down the dirt road by
the three Black Hounds.”

Not exactly Poe but it worked well in the dark by the campfire,
especially with Queenie nearby begging for marshmallows.

I didn’t work at the camp the summer after I first told the story
but apparently it had been told by one of the campers that year,
and then the year I returned, another camper told it. I don’t
know if it continued to be told, since that was the last summer I
spent there. But if Queenie and her descendants were around I
suspect it might have been told again.

I think this must be how a lot of legends and ghost stories must
have started, a mixture of the commonplace with fantasy.

Oh. Did I mention that here in my apartment complex nearly
forty years later, my next door neighbor’s pet is a Labrador


Jasia said...

Good one Bill! What a wonderful imagination you have!

Terry Thornton said...

And now "The Black Hell Hounds of Brewster" are known around the world! The tradition of story-telling has been advanced electronically by Bill West! Yes, I'd bet even the Homeric legends were a "mixture of of the commonplace with fantasy."

Thanks, Bill, for an interesting recollection and an interesting story.
Terry Thornton
Hill County of Monroe County, Mississippi

Janice said...


I enjoyed your tale of the Hell Hounds, and even more the great example of how our local legends and tales begin.