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WEIRD SUFFOLK: The menacing mule of Melton that was said to be a relative of Black Shuck

PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:36 08 September 2019

Tollgate Cottage, Melton, where the strange donley headed shuck was spotted. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tollgate Cottage, Melton, where the strange donley headed shuck was spotted. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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In the 18th century, something strange appeared in Melton - a donkey-headed shuck which, when trapped, nipped its captor and vanished.

This week, Weird Suffolk brings you Mule-tide greetings of a phantom devil dog with a difference - this one had a donkey's head and was prone to nipping.

Black Shuck is the ghostly black dog said to roam in East Anglia inland and at the coast, often believed to be an omen of death, his name from the Old English word "scucca", meaning devil or fiend.nReverend ES Taylor wrote about Black Shuck in 1850: "This phantom I have heard many persons in East Norfolk and even Cambridgeshire, describe as having seen as a black shaggy dog, with fiery eyes and of immense size, and who visits churchyards at midnight. And of course, in Bungay, Abraham Fleming's famous account of "a strange and terrible wunder" in 1577 recounted the terrible tale of a beast that killed people at worship, leaving tragedy in its wake. But the Shuck seen in Melton in the late 18th century was, to put it crudely but literally - somewhat half-assed.

Website Mysterious Britain cites a tale from County Folklore: Suffolk written in 1893 and containing this account from a Mr Redstone, told in turn by the innkeeper in question's son, by then aged 70."In Melton stands the Horse and Groom inn, in the days of toll-bar gates (30 years ago) occupied by one Master Fisher.

"It was a dark night when Goodman Kemp of Woodbridge entered the inn in a hurried frightened manner, and asked for the loan of a gun to shoot a 'Shock', which hung upon the toll-gate bars.

"It was a 'thing' with a donkey's head and a smooth velvet hide. Kemp, somewhat emboldened by the support of companions, sought to grab the creature and take it to the inn to examine it.

"As he seized it, it turned suddenly round, snapped at Kemp's hand and vanished. Kemp bore the mark of the Shock's bite upon his thumb to his dying day.'" Now residential and called Thomas Churchyard House, the former coaching inn also once traded as the Saracen's Head while the tollgate is long gone.Quite what appeared tied to a gate in Melton more than 200 years ago that caused right-minded gentlemen to reach for their guns is, of course, a matter for speculation.

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