One pervasive legend found throughout the world is that of the so-called Hellhound. These Hellhounds in one form or another have been recorded throughout human history, from a variety of far flung cultures, and although their appearance varies depending on the area and the local traditions, they are typically described as a very large black hound which can range anywhere in size from that of a large Great Dane, all the way up to the size of a cow or horse. They are usually described as truly frightening beasts, being totally black, with shaggy or matted fur and large, saucer sized eyes that are typically described as burning with a malevolent red, yellow, or green glow, although some accounts say they have only a single luminous eye. Usually they are described as having formidable claws, vicious looking fangs, and as being supernaturally agile, fast, and strong. I have written on these entities here at MU before, on a few occasions, and here I will look at a ferocious spectral beast from the United States, a demon dog from the realm of nightmares.
The setting for this popular tale is the rustic mountain town of Valle Crucis, North Carolina, the name which is Latin for “Valley of the Cross,” due to the convergence of two streams that come together at a nearly perfect right angle in the valley. One of the most notable landmarks of the town is St. John’s Episcopal, an ancient looking stone church that sits alongside Highway 194 and butts up against a spooky graveyard overgrown with trees and weeds that choke the old, crumbling gravestones. Although this graveyard, like many others of its kind, has its share of ghost stories, perhaps the wildest of these is that of some sort of large demon hound that seems to have stepped out of Hell itself roaming its premises.
Stories of this apparition have been passed around since the 1800s, with the beast usually described as a massive, hulking black dog with glowing red or green eyes and often wreathed in a mist or smoke. The most well-known modern account of this creature supposedly happened as two young men were driving down the highway past the old church when an ominous large shadow leaped out of the adjacent graveyard to land right in front of the vehicle, causing the startled driver to slam his brakes and pull over.
At first they assumed it was just a regular dog, but the first tip off that this wasn’t the case came when the thing looked up to reveal blazing glowing eyes that pierced the darkness, and it then dawned on the witnesses that the thing was absolutely enormous, standing as tall as a man. As they peered through the gloom at the strange beast, they could see that it had pitch black, disheveled hair all over it and prominent fangs, all of which was sinister enough to keep the men from getting out of their car.
The creature allegedly stared at them for a few moments before loping down the road towards them, which was enough to snap the driver from his daze of fear and send them screaming off as fast as they could go. According to the witness, the thing then proceeded to chase them, easily keeping up with them as they crept up past 50, 60, and even 70 miles per hour, showing no signs of falling into the distance. According to the tale, it was only as they went roaring over a bridge spanning the cross-shaped river that the hound came to a halt, refusing to go any further and merely pacing back and forth at that spot until it was out of view.
While this is the most well-known account of the “Demon Dog,” it is certainly not the only one, and there have been other reports of seeing this spectral hound as well. One comes from a Reddit user who claims that his encounter had come during a skiing and snowboarding trip in the mountains of the area, along with his best friend Steven and his family. One day during the trip they decided to head out to have a meal at the The Daniel Boone Inn, a popular location in the area, and they began their drive back up to the ski resort, his uncle at the wheel. During the drive they passed by the famous St. John’s Episcopal Church, and it was at that moment that the witness claims the van they were in just suddenly and without warning ground to a halt. At first everyone thought the uncle was pulling a prank, but then they noticed that there was a sheen of terror on his face, and the witness describes what happened next:
He had his eyes dead afixed to that back window. As if he was in a trance. Then I saw it too. Behind the vehicle and just beyond the light of the brakes there was this… just this thing. It had the head and scruff of a great black wolf. The body was of a man almost, though the arms were too long. And it was standing upright on two muscular legs. It just didn’t make any sense, but whatever it was it had my friend deadlocked through the eyes. And he was absolutely mortified.
About that time my mother saw it too, at least I think she did, though she won’t talk about it to this day. All I heard was her screaming for my uncle to start the car and move. The van rumbled a few seconds later. We started back down this road toward the house and all the while me and Steven are looking out that back window. What we saw makes me shudder to this day.
The creature dropped down and was running behind our vehicle on unnatural fours. The way it ran was so fucked up I still lose sleep. Like it was running ahead of time. It was so smooth and graceful, but I’ll never forget how disturbing it was in its locomotion. Nothing natural should move that way. Watching it run locked me in and everything around just kind of melted away. The worst part was that we weren’t losing it. We were doing an easy 60mph on this desolate highway. But it was right there behind us. Right behind the van.
It’s face was like an exaggerated cartoon caricature of a wolf, but all too real. It was like something out of a nightmare. What I remember most are the eyes. Like two cigar embers but with a yellow iris unmoving and a deep, dark black pupil in the center of each hellish orb. They were transfixing. Hypnotic. I guess maybe the fear overwhelmed me because the next day I woke up in my bed at the mountain house. It was morning. To this day it takes Steven quite a few drinks to discuss it, and even then he can’t have a serious conversation about it. I think he hides behind humor. But I know he remembers it just as well as I do.
Another report, which is actually how I heard about this whole phenomenon to begin with, came to me directly from a reader who had seen my previous articles on Hellhounds. The witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported that she had been driving past that creepy church one evening with her husband, and that out of the night bloomed the dark form of something bulky and wide sitting right in the middle of the road, coming up fast as they pumped their brakes. She says of what they saw as they slowly approached and what happened next:
It was a very large, black form, as big as a bear, hunched over, heaving as if it were taking very big breaths. We actually thought it was a bear at first, but then it looked up and we could see that it had a sort of reddish glow to its eyes and a distinctive canine look. It looked sort of like a mastiff, but much larger, all muscular and bunched up, with scraggly hair stuck up in all directions. Then, without warning it came running at us at full speed. There was no time for us to get the car into gear and escape, this thing was bearing down on us. And just as we braced for impact, it just wasn’t there anymore. It had vanished. And that was that.
The Demon Hound of Valle Crucis has become quite a fixture in the area, and has grown to become a part of the local lore. We are left to try and figure out what we are dealing with here. Is it urban legend, which people have added to over the years to the point that it has taken on a life of its own? Is it one of the mysterious Hellhounds of lore? An interesting idea that has been posited is that it could be what is referred to as a “church grim,” which is linked to a custom that harkens back to the old days. It was once believed that the first person to be buried in a cemetery was doomed to be saddled with the duty of watching over it forevermore, so people would often arrange to have a large black hound buried in their stead, making the dog the eternal guardian. Whatever it is, and whether this is urban legend and spooky campfire tales or something else, cases of so-called “Hellhounds” of this nature can be found all over the world, and it certainly gives one something to think about if they ever go driving past that old church and cemetery.