ANN MASSEY O’REGAN tells how a prison in 18th Century Dublin was terrorised by a murderous demonic pig
Going by the ominous name of Black Dog Prison, the gaol in the area now known as Cornmarket in Dublin was as notorious as it sounds.
Opened at the very beginning of the 18th century, it became the main debtors’ prison and immediately was a hive of corruption, mismanagement and abuse. Entirely run as a business enterprise, a prisoner could pay for the use of one of the flea ridden beds, or else end up in the dank, rat infested dungeons with only stale musty air to breathe.
One such inmate was a man known as Olocher. He was tried and convicted of the savage rape and murder of a woman and was incarcerated, awaiting his execution day. On the morning he was due to be carried through the streets and hanged at Gallows Green in 1788, he was found dead in his cell.
There was outrage that Olocher had cheated his punishment and had found a way to commit suicide. Investigations took place but no one could understand how the murdering fiend had gained the means to take his own life and avoid the gallows.
The following night a sentry was at his post near Cork Street when his cries tore through the night. He was found, falling into unconsciousness, in his own blood and looking to all intents and purposes as if he had been savagely attacked by a large vicious animal. When he regained consciousness he was adamant that he had been mauled by an enormous, black pig.
Over a number of days that followed, the guards were terrified and refusing to man certain posts, several having claimed they had witnessed the ghostly image of a black pig around the gaol.
Hysteria began to take hold and the guards and inmates firmly began to believe that the spectral creature was Olocher, his suicide and heinous crime transforming him into a demonic entity. They began to call him ‘The Dolocher’ and lived in fear of vengeance and retribution.
The area of the prison that seemed to be host to the majority of the alleged demonic activity was near Cork Street and guards were still refusing to take sentry duty. One man volunteered, dismissing the commotion and stories and so began to man his post for the night.
The following morning the brave guard was missing from his post, his rifle and clothes all that remained. It was firmly supposed that Olocher had returned in the form of a Black Pig and that The Dolocher had carried out his first murderous act of vengeance.
The following morning a woman claimed to have been attacked in Christ Church by a Black Pig on the same night the guard went missing, alleging the animal had tried to bite her, but she had ran away.
This was just the beginning – night after night throughout The Liberties, a working class area of Dublin at the time, screams were heard and terrified women were being attacked by The Dolocher, who would then disappear into the night.
The authorities and residents of The Liberties lived in fear and dread, with the winter streets being deserted from nightfall. As the days grew longer and Spring turned to Summer, the attacks ceased and Dublin began to rest easy.
That was until the dark, foggy nights returned along with The Dolocher. Attacks increased and were more severe, including the savage beating of a pregnant woman who lost her unborn baby.
A group of vigilantes, riled after a night in the tavern recounting the terrible events, took to the streets, killing every pig in sight – and there were many in the city.
The next morning there were no swine carcasses to be found, increasing the fear and terror of the people of Dublin who believed The Dolocher was sent back from Hell and would not rest without retribution.
One particularly nasty night, filled with torrential rain, a blacksmith was finishing up his pint in a tavern in the city and had to walk home. The landlord’s wife lent him her large cloak complete with widow’s hood to keep him as dry as possible on his travels.
As he walked through The Liberties, he became aware of footsteps and snarling behind him as a creature with the face of a black pig but the stature of a man set upon him.
The blacksmith was well able to handle himself and soon the menace was lying at his feet. The noise of the brawl had men running from their homes and other taverns and they continued to beat the creature they firmly believed was the demonic creature they called The Dolocher.
When the police arrived at the scene, they discovered not a demon, but a man at death’s door who had been wearing the head and skin of a black pig.
At the hospital they exposed the attacker as the missing sentry from Black Dog Prison. He confessed that he had planned every step, from assisting Olocher with his suicide, to starting the stories of The Dolocher and arranging his own disappearance, so that he could attack innocent women in the guise of a black pig, thinking hysteria would give way to the belief of a supernatural assailant.
The guard also confessed to masterminding the vigilante assault on the swine and clearing away the carcasses during the night. His motive? Robbery pure and simple.
The vicious and nasty mugger died from the injuries inflicted upon him. Some say justice was served, others that another evil felon had escaped the gallows. Either way, The Dolocher was no more.
It is interesting to note that The Liberties of Dublin was an area very much like Whitechapel at the time of Jack the Ripper, a monster who also prayed on women under the cover of night. The Dolocher, however, was exactly 100 years before Jack the Ripper began his trail of terror.
Was it a coincidence? Did Jack get the idea for the Whitechapel murders from the events in Dublin a century before? Just maybe the guard had been possessed by the damned and vengeful spirit of Olocher, a man convicted of the rape and murder of a woman – and maybe that same evil entity took possession of the soul of the man who became known throughout the world as Jack the Ripper.