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Phantom Black Dog of  Formby Sands - Old Trash

The sand dunes and shore line of our beautiful Formby coast are said to be reputedly haunted by a phantom black dog called 'Old Trash'. The ghostly hound has been seen by few people and is thought to have huge luminous eyes, the sight of which will bring grave misfortune to the onlooker.

Our beautiful coastal town of Formby has a lot of history. There is even proof that people were living and farming here over 4,000 years ago. The erosion of Formby sands has revealed mud and sediment, some of which have been preserved since middle stone-age times. The remains of submerged ancient forests along the Sefton Coast were first recorded centuries ago but, it was not until geomorphologist Gordon Roberts began his work on the sands during the 1980’s that Formby began to truly reveal it’s secrets.

Cart tracks and human footprints, as well as those of red deer, the now extinct gigantic cattle known as Aurochs and large dogs or wolves have all been found set into the ancient, sun-hardened mud. In 1999, Mr Roberts made an astonishing discovery….

One of the group (Miss Fin Mann of Edgehill College) noticed what appeared to be a small fragment of bone eroding out of the sediment….It proved to be a complete set of large red deer antlers, still attached to part of the animals skull. Almost 80cm (31.5in) long from base to tip, with eight lines each, the antlers belonged to an adult male who died in his prime during the Autumn rutting season.

Phantom black dogs have long been a staple of British folklore; There are reports of them from all over the UK, some dating back many centuries. Black dogs have a multitude of different regional names, many known as ‘Old Shuck’ or ‘Black Shuck’, maybe derived from the old English word ‘Scucca’ which means Devil. Some known as ‘Trash’ or ‘Old Trash’, supposedly as an allusion to the sound their padded footfalls make upon the sandy coast.

The Formby phantom dog is a told tale by former Ghost Club president, Peter Underwood, who states….

‘The ghastly resident of Formby beach is an immense black hound with luminous eyes, the sight of which is meant to bring death or misfortune to the beholder.’

He goes on to give an account dating back to the early 1960’s when reporters from a local newspaper paid a visit to the infamous sandhills one All Hallows Eve, in search of the beast.

They told of a ‘huge, dark shape moving about in clear silhouette atop a nearby dune’ which began to circle in the manner of a dog as they approached. When they reached the summit of the hill, however, they found it deserted and entirely lacking in tracks of any kind. Summing up the report, one journalist wrote, ‘we are sincerely convinced that what we saw and heard was not of this world’.

Not long ago, Peter was lucky enough to receive a first-hand account of a meeting with ‘Old Trash’ from Mr Steve Howe. Steve is a former resident of Liverpool, now living in Chester, who has a passion for the history and folklore of the City. Mr Howe told a tale of a visit to Formby sands back in the mid - 1970’s.

"Thirty-odd years ago, myself and motley chums, would often spend weekends camping in a secluded wooded area in the ‘no-man’s land’ between the nature reserve and the golf course, approached via Freshfield Railway Station and The Fisherman’s Path……Outside the shelter of the trees was an extensive sandy/scrubby area with a steep climb at the end, which one had to clamber up in order to make one’s way to the beach a quarter mile or so away.

On one of these trips, a Summer night, lit by brilliant moonlight, I decided to do just that, alone. The aim being to have a ‘bit of a dip’ in the sea. I had started the climb up the slope when I heard what sounded for all the world like a steam train, of all things, approaching rapidly from the far side of the dune. I froze in my tracks, the sound getting louder. Almost immediately, an enormous black dog appeared on the summit ten feet or so above me, moving at a hell of a lick, and I mean enormous, it may have been the moon playing tricks but, I swear it had red eyes. Without a pause, it bounded past me down the slope – without paying me the least attention, I’m glad to say. Upon turning round to see where the monster had got to, there was nothing to be seen and even the brute’s train-like panting could no longer be heard.

I returned to camp with all the speed I could manage…..and recounted my experience to the others, most of whom, naturally, were greatly amused by the outlandish yarn. One, however, a lad from Formby, then recounted the local legend of the black dog and said lots of local folk had claimed to have seen it in the past. That shut them up."

By Mr Steve Howe

Asked to describe the dog in greater detail, Steve told Peter that, although he had only seen the creature for a second or two, his impression was of a sleek, short-coated animal, roughly the size of a very large St. Bernard (possibly around 90cm in height) but, with a muscular build, more like that of a Rottweiler. As for the story told to him by his friend from Formby, Mr Howe’s only recollection was that ‘He merely said that it was well known in the area and that some of the locals claimed to have seen it. There was nothing about attacks or the like.’

Old Trash is said to have been seen on Seftons sands many times and there are tales of it being associated with a coastal church which was long ago lost to the sea.

This story was taken from the book – 800 years of Haunted Liverpool by author John Reppion.


The story of ‘Old Trash’ is also known as - The Dog with Glowing Eyes – First seen on Formby coastline on 31st October 1962. Locally known as 'Old Trash', this black dog bounds along the dunes leaving no prints or marks in the soft sand. He was last seen by two journalists and a photographer, though it is unclear whether an image was caught of the entity.


Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme do regular projects with Formby school children about Formby's legend of Old Trash to ensure the legend remains.....

A big supermoon heralded the return of "Old Trash" to the dunes at Formby this week.

Trash is the ghostly huge black hound that stalks those alone on the coast, with fiery eyes and massive paws, who has put the wind up generations of children in Formby and even gets a mention in the literary classic "Jane Eyre".

Introducing him to a whole new audience of pupils from St Lukes, Redgate, Freshfield and St Peters, were the ghostly hound hunter extraordinaire Spook Johnson, the terrified witness Katie and the unfortunate Chloe/Old Trash, who lurked in the darkest corners in the pines.

It's great spine-tingling fun bringing a very old piece of local folklore to a whole new generation, so hopefully the story of "Old Trash" will be around for a long time to come.

The youngsters wrote up their own descriptions of the horrible hound, drew pictures of the beast and created their own protective charms in case of a close encounter.

Thanks to Steve Delaney and his excellent team, and of course all the children, teachers and assistants, who came along to today's event, based at St Luke's Church and the neighbouring pines at Formby.

So remember, if you're out on the dunes next full moon and you hear a hound howling, best get a move on and head for home - and whatever you do, don't look might be Old Trash on the prowl behind you!

Do you believe the legend of 'Old Trash?' Have you seen it? Please tell us.

Have you got any other Formby ghost stories? Please tell us.

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