The Man Who Unmasked The Black Pig

Frank Hopkins recounts how a brave blacksmith solved a murder mystery and ended a curious creature's reign of terror with a single blow

An interesting tale in connection with the Black Dog Prison in Dublin's Cornmarket was related in the Dublin Penny Journal in November 1832. The paper described how a 'creature', who appeared in the form of a black pig, had apparently engaged in a reign of terror against the women of the city at the end of the 18th Century.

The beast, known as 'The Dolocher', was commonly believed to be the spirit of a former inmate of the Black Dog named Olocher who had been sentenced to death for murder and rape. On the night before he was to be executed at Gallows Hill, Olocher cheated the hangman by committing suicide.

On the night after Olocher's death, a night watchman was found unconscious outside the Black Dog. When he was revived, he was found to be paralysed on one side of his body and the watchman claimed that he had seen an apparition in the shape of a black pig. For many nights afterwards, the black pig was seen by several other sentries. Soon afterwards, a warder at the Black Dog disappeared and his clothes were found draped over his gun.

Locals, putting two and two together, decided that the black pig was really the ghost of the unhappy Olocher, or the Dolocher as he came to be known, and that he had carried off the unfortunate sentry and murdered him.

During the months that followed, several women claimed to have been attacked by the Dolocher. One woman claimed that she had been attacked by the beast in Christ Church Lane, while a pregnant woman was said to have had a miscarriage after an encounter with the beast in the same area.

Due to the fear and terror engendered by the black pig, the lanes and alleyways surrounding Christ Church soon became a no-go area after dark.

Vigilante groups were formed in an effort to catch the Dolocher and, on one particular night, the patrons of a pub in Cook Street set out to kill every black pig they could find running loose on the streets of Dublin.

The presence of the vigilantes seemed to force the Dolocher to lie low for a while, but he re-emerged to continue his reign of terror a year later with an attack on a woman at Fisher's Alley, beside Wood Quay.

The mystery of the Black Pig of Dublin was finally solved when the Dolocher -- who up to that point had solely concentrated on attacking women -- attempted to mug a blacksmith near Christ Church. The blacksmith, who had been drinking all day in Winetavern Street, had a brief struggle with the 'black pig' before laying him out with a savage blow to the head.

To the blacksmith's astonishment, the beast turned out to be a man dressed in pigskin. The 'black pig' or the Dolocher turned out to be the sentry who had disappeared from the Black Dog two years previously. He had apparently spread the rumour of the black pig himself and had used the resulting atmosphere of superstition and fear to embark on his nocturnal crime spree.