The Black Dog of Meridan

August 16, 2008 at 3:45 am Leave a comment

My two absolute favorite things are dogs and geology.  Surfing around the net today as the mortar was ground off my kitchen floor (thank doG for the wireless internet access that let me do it somewhere besides inside my house…) I came across an absolutely wonderful post on the Connecticut Windows on the Natural World blog.

The Hanging Hills of Meriden: Legend and Geology is the story of an ethereal black dog said to haunt the West Peak of the Hanging Hills of Meriden.  The first person to write about the legend was geologist W.H.C. Pynchon, whose account was published in the Connecticut Quarterly.  Pynchon wrote that “Many have seen him once, a few twice—none have ever told of the third meeting.”  “Men have seen it bark, but have heard no sound; and it leaves no footprint behind it on the dust of summer or the snow of winter.”  Seeing the dog for the third time was supposed to be a harbinger of one’s impending death.

The Hanging Hills are a traprock range.  The term traprock comes from the Swedish word trappa, for ‘steps’ referring to the characteristic shape of the rocks and outcrops that make up the deposits.  Traprock is comprised primarily of basalt, a fine-grained, high-temperature igneous rock with a high iron content.  According to Bowen’s reaction series (wow – that makes for a major trip down a collegiate nostalgia lane…), rocks like basalt are highly susceptible to chemical weathering.  The traprock of the Hanging Hills is also highly fractured and faulted and contains small bubble-like openings call vesicles in many areas.  These features make rock prone to physical weathering.  This physical and chemical weathering is so common in traprock that piles of talus at the base of the steep outcrops are one distinguishing characteristic of traprock ranges.

Read Brendan Hanrahan’s excellent post about the black dog of the Hanging Hills and the mysterious deaths of Pynchon and his friend, Herbert Marshall.  Decide for yourself whether their deaths were due to the parapsychological effects of a canine apparition — or to climbing accidents related to rotten rock in the Hanging Hills outcrops.

Either way — it’s a really cool story.  Enjoy!

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