When looking into local history and folklore I particularly find interesting those stories of hellhounds and wild huntsmen. I think the character of the wild huntsman or dark rider is a very primal being, possibly one of the oldest, that of a strong and wild man who rides the forest, hunting prey without mercy.
Back when Druids roamed the moors this was hunting to kill for survival. hunting was once a part of the cycle of life, and man was hunted as well as the hunter.
At Wistmans wood, however, the local folklore takes us to a darker realm and the hounds at Wistmans wood seen on dark foggy and foreboding nights, are said to be lead out to hunt for the Devil. Local moorland folk would tell tales of the sounds of pounding hooves approaching, and feel the wild fear in their thumping hearts. The adrenaline coursing through their body as they ran to save not only their life but their immortal soul too.
In Dartmoor, these Hounds of Hell are given the name of Wisht Hounds or a variation of such. According to Traditions, Superstitions & Folklore by Charles Hardwick (1872), a writer in the Quarterly Review of July 1836 wrote;
“the wild huntsman still lingers in Devonshire. He says, “the spectre pack which hunts over Dartmoor is called the ‘wish hounds’, and the black ‘master’ who follows the chase is no doubt the same who has left his mark of wistman’s wood,” a neighbouring forest of dwarf oaks.”