Jun 03, 2024 I Brent Swancer

Strange Cases of Demon Dogs and Hellhounds

One persistent sort of entity reported upon the landscape of the strange is the presence of dark, often spectral, large dogs, typically called Hellhounds or sometimes Demon Dogs. Planted somewhere between cryptozoology and ghosts and hauntings, these creatures have been spotted all over the world, and here we will delve into some of the many cases of people encountering these bizarre beasts. 

Hellhounds have been recorded in one form or another throughout human history, from a variety of far-flung cultures, and the British Isles are a hotspot for such phenomena. Long have there been tales of phantom hounds that prowl the lonely roads, crypts, cemeteries, and wilds here, and stories of these hellhounds go back centuries. In the United Kingdom, they are known by as many names as there are places in which they are seen, which are many. The hounds have been known as the Gurt Dog, Padfoot, Barguest, the Hairy Hound, the Yeth, Old Shock, Old Snarleyow, and Old Scarfe, among many others. In Ireland they are known as Pooka, on the Isla of Man they are Moddey Dhoo, in Wales the Gwyligi, and in Scotland, the beastly hounds are called the Cù Sìth. The most popular and widely used term for these bizarre entities in the United Kingdom is the Black Shuck, a term which originated with the name the hounds were given in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, with the name deriving from the Old English word scucca meaning "demon," or possibly the word “shucky” meaning "shaggy" or "hairy." These frightening creatures were said to be anything from the ghosts of dead travelers, to the spirits of dead hounds awaiting the return of their masters, to inscrutable guardians of forbidden knowledge, to being the Devil himself. The folklore and sightings of these huge, mysterious hounds go back centuries, inspiring a great amount of literature and spooky history in their path. One famous passage from Old Norfolk does a good job of describing the general reaction to their presence:

…and a dreadful thing from the cliff did spring,
And its wild bark thrill’d around.
His eyes had the glow of the fires below,
‘twas the form of the spectre hound.

The appearance of the black hellhounds of the British Isles also varies depending on the area and the local traditions, but typically they are described as a very large hound that 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. The hounds can be reported as either tangible and real, or conversely purely spectral creatures, with any attempt to touch them proving to pass through them as if they aren’t there. Folklore usually suggests that they have a horrific wail or howl which can invoke sheer terror in those who hear it, and they are known to even have a sinister, human-sounding laugh, but their footfalls are typically completely silent. Particularly ominous details of many Black Shuck reports are the presence of fire and scorched earth in the wake of their appearance, and they are quite often regarded as being a bad omen. In his 1901 Highways & Byways in East Anglia, author W. A. Dutt described the creatures’ appearance and commonly reported ability to predict or cause death thus:

He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer's blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound. You may know him at once, should you see him, by his fiery eye; he has but one, and that, like the Cyclops', is in the middle of his head. But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year. So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear. Should you never set eyes on our Norfolk Snarleyow you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings who long ago settled down on the Norfolk coast.

Although this is the typical description, there is a wide range of variations. Sometimes these ghostly dogs are said to be wreathed in mist or to be shackled in chains. Other traditions claim that they float or hover above the ground and are limbless or even headless. Other variations exist as well. In Balsham (Cambridgeshire), along Wratting Road there was a hellhound with the body of a large black dog, but with a bald head and a face similar to a monkey, which reportedly often traveled about standing upright and would jump in front of vehicles only to scamper out of the way or outright vanish right before impact. In Algarkirk (Lincolnshire), during the early 20th century, there was a black dog which allegedly had an abnormally long neck and muzzle. Still other stories describe them as shapeshifters, typically said to take the form of a horse or donkey, and indeed reports of spectral horses seem to go hand in hand with mystery black dog sightings. The black hounds were even believed to be able to take the form of a human being. Other Black Shuck sightings are even more unsettling. At a place called Creag an Ordain, there were numerous reports of a black shuck that had the twisted, contorted face of a human, as well as two horns like those of a devil, which was said to portend disaster and death if it barked more than two times.

This belief that the hellhounds could foresee death, misfortune, and disaster, or even cause them, is a common recurring theme with many Black Shuck accounts, and there is a long history of accounts of this reputation as a bad omen or harbinger of doom. One of the most popular tales from the lore says that if one looked upon one of these spectral hounds, especially if they made eye contact with it, then they would surely die within the year. Indeed the Black Shuck was notorious for seeming to sow death wherever they went. In 1909, in the area of Ardura, Mull (Argyll and Bute), there was a phantom black dog well known for warning of impending death, such as in the case of a Dr. MacDonald, who saw a black hound shortly before his patient, a Murdoch Gillian MacLaine, died. Often, the Black Shuck is seen as predicting a specific incident. In the late 19th century, near Alveston (Warwickshire), a Charles Walton claimed to have seen the same beastly black dog for several consecutive nights, and then suddenly on one night, there stood the ghostly form of a headless woman in the place of the expected hellhound. It was later learned that his sister had died on that very night. In 1930, in Buxton (Norfolk), a man saw a large black dog while passing a churchyard. When he reached out to, perhaps unwisely, pat the dog’s head, it is said to have promptly disappeared into thin air and he subsequently learned that his brother had died at precisely the exact moment he had seen the dog. The list goes on and on, and these kinds of accounts are not even confined to old reports either. As recently as 2000, a large black dog was reported to have run out in front of two women traveling between Northallerton and Leeming Bar, and the driver braked hard in a panic, fully expecting a possibly fatal crash, but the creature was reported to have passed through the vehicle and was described as having no facial features and floppy ears. When the women reached their destination, the first person they talked to went on to kill himself shortly after.

However, despite this malevolent reputation, the unearthly black hounds are not always seen as evil or malicious, and there are in fact many reports of them serving a more benevolent purpose, such as accompanying lone women or others as they made their way along darkened roads. For instance, in Cottingham (Northamptonshire), in the Old Corby Road area, the ghostly dogs were seen as friends, walking amiably alongside lone travelers and dutifully warding away danger or misfortune, but promptly disappearing if touched or directly addressed in any way. In another case of seemingly benign intent, in the 18th century, at Collingbourne Kingston (Wiltshire), in the vicinity of Marlborough Road, a large black spectral hound was said to have chased two men who had just been convicted of a brutal murder back to their village, after which they were arrested and the mysterious black dog proceeded to vanish without a trace. The black hellhounds were also attributed to other purposes as well. They were seen as guarding churches, or to be the gatekeepers of various other portals, such as gates, doorways, or even the gates to the Underworld or the entrance to Hell itself. The black hellhounds are additionally sometimes depicted as being guardians of secret places or lost treasure, a tale particularly popular in Scotland, such as the giant black dog said to guard treasure buried under a standing stone near Murthley in Perthshire.

The phantom black hellhounds are usually solitary apparitions, but not always. In Eastbourne (Sussex), in the Willingdon area, there were tales of three of the beasts roaming about the countryside together and almost always seen to be a bad portent of doom. In the Blandford Forum wooded area, there was even said to be a phantom hunt, in which the ghostly voices of many dogs yelping and barking could be heard traversing the gloomy woodlands. The favorite haunts of the Black Shuck are said to be dark, lonely roads or secluded woodlands, and they seem to be inexorably drawn to crossroads and Gallows sights, where they are often said to be the restless spirits of executed criminals. One infamous such Black Shuck is one that is said to haunt the gallows site of Tring, Hertfordshire, which is described as being around the size of a Newfoundland dog, with black shaggy fur, flaming eyes, and long jagged teeth. This hellhound is said to be the spirit of a woman executed for witchcraft in Tring in the year 1751.

The accounts of huge, phantom black dogs roaming the British countryside go way back. They can be traced all the way back to at least 856 AD, when it was written in a French manuscript that a giant black hound had burst into a church seemingly on the prowl for something before vanishing. In 1127, there was an account in the Peterborough Chronicle of an incident at the Peterborough Abbey, which described the incident as follows:

Let no-one be surprised at the truth of what we are about to relate, for it was common knowledge throughout the whole country that immediately after [Abbot Henry of Poitou's arrival at Peterborough Abbey] - it was the Sunday when they sing Exurge Quare - many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats and their hounds were jet black with eyes like saucers and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns. Reliable witnesses who kept watch in the night declared that there might well have been as many as twenty or thirty of them winding their horns as near they could tell. This was seen and heard from the time of his arrival all through Lent and right up to Easter.

The reports would continue until we come to one of the most dramatic and most infamous accounts of the phantom black hellhounds. On August 4, 1577, at the Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, a congregation was in progress, with all most likely seemingly normal at the time except for the raucous lightning storm waging outside the church doors. This was all to change when an especially voluminous booming clap of thunder was said to herald the arrival of a particularly malevolent hellhound, a snarling conglomeration of bristling black fur, teeth, and claws, which proceeded to burst through the doors and run amok, at one point ruthlessly slaughtering a man and a boy peacefully engaged in prayer. Other people in the church were also struck down by the creature, which roamed up and down the aisles roaring and lashing out, and although these victims survived they were left with hideous scorch marks and charred flesh from some preternatural heat exuded by the monstrous entity. Some witnesses even claimed the thing was wreathed in fire and smoke. Such was the fury of this sudden attack that a steeple was said to have collapsed entirely through the roof to come crashing down spectacularly upon the stone floor below. On its way out, the mysterious black hellhound allegedly created formidable black scorch marks upon the church door which are said to be visible to this day and which are often referred to as “the devil’s fingerprints.” On this very same day, the same black hellhound reportedly continues on its rampage to unleash its fury upon a church in Bungay, Suffolk, a mere 12 miles away, where it killed several more churchgoers with supernatural, merciless swiftness. In this instance, a Reverend Abraham Fleming later wrote of the incident:

This black dog, or the divel in such a linenesse (God hee knoweth al who worketh all,) running all along down the body of the church with great swiftnesse, and incredible haste, among the people, in a visible form and shape, passed between two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them both at one instant clene backward, in so much that even at a mome[n]t where they kneeled, they stra[n]gely dyed.

To this day, Bungay’s coat of arms is emblazoned with the image of a black dog dashing past a lightning bolt, and the area’s folklore carries on the tradition of this harrowing encounter to this day. Black dog sightings in the same general vicinity continued for many years after, with sightings from here made as recently as 1973, when a man working near the church heard the panting of a large dog, yet the beast chose to remain invisible. In another harrowing encounter from the 70s, a man passing by the very same church claimed that a huge black dog the size of a horse came loping at him from the darkness only to disappear before impact. Modern sightings such as this pop up from time to time from all over the United Kingdom. On 19th April 1972, a coastguard by the name of Graham Grant, who was working the night shift at Gorleston rescue headquarters, sighted a large black hound roaming along the beach about a quarter of a mile from his lookout. In this case, the hound was said to be sniffing about and looking around as if searching for something or someone. Grant watched the strange beast for around 2 minutes before it inexplicably vanished into thin air right before his eyes. The coast guard had recently been transferred and had never heard any tales of the Black Shuck before, and it was only when a colleague heard of his encounter and explained the old stories that the full bizarreness of what he had seen dawned on him. Indeed, eyewitness accounts of phantom black dogs persistently continue to come in even to this day from all over the United Kingdom.

At first glance, these stories may seem to many to be no more than merely local folklore and spooky stories, yet in recent times there has been evidence that the tales may be at least partially based on a grain of truth. In May of 2014, an archeology group from London called Dig Ventures uncovered something strange buried 20 inches down in the earth under the ruins of Leiston Abbey, Suffolk, which is incidentally located only a few miles from where the rampaging hellhound was said to have killed worshippers in the two churches of Blythburgh and Bungay back in 1577. There interred under the ruins were the bones of an enormous dog that was estimated to have stood 7 feet tall on its hind legs and to have weighed around 200 pounds. Based on pottery fragments found on the same level as the bones, the bones were claimed to have dated back to the days when Leiston Abbey was in operation in the 1100s, making them possibly connected to some of the old tales of large black hellhounds in the vicinity. The remains exhibited a wound to the leg, suggesting that the enormous animal had been buried there intentionally as a sort of funeral. The finding of the bones of such a large dog so close to where such legendary accounts of the Black Shuck took place certainly points to some interesting possibilities. The director of Dig Ventures, Brendon Wilkins, said of the matter:

The story of Black Shuck has to have originated from somewhere and, who knows, it could have originated from the dog which was buried here.

It is open for debate as to just what significance these bizarre unearthed remains hold concerning the Black Shuck phenomenon, but there is certainly something going on here. Considering the rich history of sightings of large black hellhounds from all across the region, what could possibly be behind this phenomenon? Is this all the result of superstition, mass hysteria, or hallucinations? Are we dealing with some sort of real, flesh-and-blood animal, or is there something more supernatural at work here? Are these spirits, demons, ghosts, or something different entirely? It is hard to say. This is a case which in my opinion seems to represent a complicated witch’s brew of folklore, real sightings, urban legends, and the paranormal. It is a case which to me at best lies in the very outer fringes of cryptozoology, in the dark badlands where the line between real animals and the distinctly supernatural becomes blurry and faded. I am not sure if we can call these entities, or whatever they are, a cryptid, yet neither am I ready to say for sure that they are entirely supernatural in nature, nor totally disregard them as pure legend. The Black Shuck of the United Kingdom is certainly in a unique category all its own, and whatever they are, they continue to dwell somewhere within that shadowland between myth, reality, and the world of otherworldly phenomena perhaps lying just beyond our current understanding of the universe.

These creatures are certainly not confined to the old folklore of Britain, and there are many real modern sightings and encounters with apparent Hellhounds across the pond in the United States, and these have come up right into the present. We start at the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States, which have seen quite a few reports of what seem to be Hellhounds, especially in the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. Reports go back quite some time, with some accounts coming from as early as the late 17th century of great black dogs with glowing eyes terrorizing the region, and such accounts have continued into more recent times. In Kentucky, there have long been reports of massive black dogs measuring about 4 feet high at the shoulder and 7 feet long, and one of these beasts allegedly prowled the area of Pike County throughout the 1930s and 40s, purportedly massacring cattle and sometimes even humans, as well as frightening locals.

In modern times such reports drew the interest of paranormal and cryptid investigators for the TV show Mountain Monsters, who went to the area for an investigation. The excursion would turn out to be pretty bizarre, if inconclusive. The investigators spoke with farmers in the area who showed them torn-apart carcasses of livestock and gave spooky accounts of something large and dark prowling through the wilderness. They were also shown an alleged video of the beast, as well as paw prints measuring 7-1/2 – 8 inches long, very big for a dog. During the investigation, the team built a bamboo drop cage and baited it with hog shoulders in an effort to lure it out, and although they didn’t catch it they can hear something crashing around in the brush growling and can see a large shadow. It is all very dramatic, and whether the episode has any truth to it or not, Kentucky and other areas of Appalachia have still produced many reports of Hellhounds.

Another somewhat wolf-like beast reported from the Appalachians is a giant black dog with an enormous red mouth and jagged fangs that supposedly marauds through the countryside near South Mountain, Maryland, and is known as the Snarly Yow, as well as the Black Dog or sometimes Dog-Fiend. Reports of the creature mostly seem to revolve around a pass where the Old National Road cuts across a brook and a canyon. Rather than an actual flesh and blood animal, there are a variety of elements to the accounts that seem to suggest it is more of a phantom or spectral beast, with the purported ability to change colors from black to white, as well as grow or shrink in size at will. Other reports claim that hunters who try to shoot the creature will find that their bullets pass right through it, while still others claim that the creature can phase through walls or trees.

The Snarly Yow has a long history of causing mischief and mayhem. In colonial times, it was said that the creature would appear long enough to terrify horses until they threw their riders off in a panic, after which the beast would simply vanish. This disconcerting habit would carry over into modern times and modern transportation, as it has been reported that the Snarly Yow will lunge in front of cars, after which the driver will swerve and crash trying to avoid what they see as a dog in the road. As soon as the driver gets out, they typically will see the fierce creature growl and bare its fangs at them before simply disappearing into thin air. The Snarly Yow also seems to enjoy simply chasing cars down the road for the fun of it or frightening hikers in the area, sometimes reportedly planting itself in the path of hikers and refusing to move, thereby forcing them to find an alternate route. Although it may seem like a malevolent monster at first glance, the Snarly Yow is nevertheless not known to attack people.

Also on the East Coast is an account from Connecticut, where a witness on the site Real Unexplained Mysteries claims to have lived in an apartment that was haunted by shadow people and the apparition of some sort of massive spectral hound. The thing would first appear one night looming over their bed, and she would describe the terrifying experience thusly:

I woke with it over my then boyfriend. It is very immense. Stands like a human. Has red eyes. Long pointy nails. The hands are not like ours but not paws. It has a very unique snout- more pronounced than a canine. It is no dog but a beast. I warded it off. I had so much fear ( I guess I had nothing to lose) and hovered over my boyfriend almost like a dog. Told myself show no fear and I can’t even explain the immense anger I felt. It does not speak like us but more in mind. Almost perception. I growled like in my mind and remember thinking stay away. That’s when the anger swept over me. It backed up and vanished in wall. I wish I could say it was a happy ending but wasn’t. I started having night terrors always ending in my death every night.

This report fits in well with the lore of Hellhounds being spectral entities rather than physical ones and also matches some of the pervasive stories of them somehow feeding off of fear. What did she see? We'll likely never know. Moving up to Michigan we also have reports of outsized canine monstrosities, and one report posted in Jason Ofutt’s blog From the Shadows comes from the area of Romulus, Michigan. The witness, known as S. Costea, claimed that he had been living with his family at a cabin on a farm there at the time, which was all surrounded by thick woods that was the home of something rather unusual, to say the least. According to Costea, there was some sort of “dog creature” about the size of a Great Dane and with glowing red eyes that skulked about in the darkness there in the evening hours, and he would say of it:

We had this really strange dog creature that would hang around the property. I say dog creature because this thing was far too big and intelligent to be a stray dog. It had very pronounced red eyes. I’m not saying it was a werewolf or a dog-man but it was very werewolf-like. The dog would frequently stalk the edge of the woods on our property in the day. It seemed to have no fear. My uncle would yell at it or throw things towards it to try to scare it off but it would simply rear up on its hind legs like a ram and charge at (him) for a short distance. We would frequently find dead chickens or rabbits after thunderstorms. We knew it was that dog thing because it would leave huge paw prints in the mud and claw marks on the window ledges. Sometimes we would find the screens ripped from our screen doors and windows. It would never outright attack us, but it did seem to enjoy taunting us and harassing us.

This was all frightening enough, but it got even weirder when it demonstrated an ability to walk about on two feet for short durations, and even more bizarrely began to speak, seeming to call people outside for some insidious purpose. Costea claims that his mother found him one night sitting by the window talking to the creature, and would describe the surreal scene as follows:

One summer night my mom had left the window open in my bedroom to cool the room off so I could sleep. She was on her way to the bathroom and went by my room and heard me talking to someone. When she opened the door she saw me standing in my bed and I had apparently wet my pajamas. I was talking towards the window. I wasn’t screaming or freaking out but seemed to be transfixed and talking in a low voice towards the window. When she looked towards the window the dog had its two front paws pushed through the screen and was looking through the window at us and making a low growl.Its eyes glared red. I always recall its eyes. You could see its eyes out in the woods sometimes at night. I have bad dreams about it from time to time.

The boy’s mother then threw a beer bottle at the thing to chase it off, but for the next few weeks Costea allegedly displayed odd behavior and the house pets would not go near him. He would also blurt out cryptic messages such as “We don’t want you here,” “Our ghosts are food,” or “God thinks you’re bad,” and would sometimes intentionally prick himself with sharp objects until he drew blood. It almost seemed as if the thing at the window had crawled into his head somehow and that this was kind of like a demonic possession to an extent. The frightening ordeal would finally come to an end when his uncle hit it with a rifle, and Costea would say of this:

My uncle was out back working on his truck when he saw the dog at the edge of the woods making its way in towards the rabbit pen. At this point he was tired of dealing with it and went into the house to get his .22. Apparently he fired at it and hit it in the rear. The dog turned and ran into the woods. We didn’t see it anymore after that and everything cleared up.

Also from Michigan is a report from the unlikely locale of Detroit, where a witness living in one of the city’s suburbs claims he had an encounter with a Hellhound in 2012. He claims that one evening he was driving through his neighborhood after leaving his girlfriend’s house at around midnight when he saw some streak of movement coming from someone’s backyard, and he described it as being “a very large and well-built creature.” He immediately stopped his car in order to get a view of the thing, and was first impressed with how incredibly fast it moved for its size, estimated as around 40 to 50 mph. He observed it for a moment before it streaked out of view and would describe it:

The creature was very large. If I had to compare the size to another animal, I’d say it was about the size of an adult lion. The body type appeared to be that of a dog, although I’ve never seen any breed of dog this size (and there are absolutely no wild/stray dogs in the area). It had a pitch black coat and while I could slightly make out the shape of its head from the side, I never saw its eyes or mouth. When it ran past my headlights initially, it never acknowledged my presence. It did not turn and look at me, slow down, or do anything that was directed toward me. I feel confident that if this was a hellhound, it was not looking for me, but I don’t know that for sure.

In nearby Wisconsin, we have reports emanating from a place called Meridean Island, on the Chippewa River, which according to a few witness accounts seems to be prowled by some sort of canine beast. One report comes from a young couple by the names of Shelly Touchstone and Chris Wiener, who were at the island’s boat landing looking for a secluded spot when a thick fog or mist began to form out of nowhere, and which seemed to instill an inexplicable dread in them. They then heard something moving about and growling in a menacing fashion just out of the periphery of their vision, as well as a large shadow “as big as a bear,” with two pinpoints of glowing red eyes.

On another occasion, two men named Mike Bagozzi and Jeremy Stark were in the very same area when they too felt a sudden onset of dread and witnessed a fog congeal out of nowhere. They then apparently spotted a large, black hound with matted, filthy hair, which gave chase as they ran away. They only apparently managed to evade it when they got to their car and locked the doors, after which it meandered off into the wilderness and vanished. These cases hit a couple of interesting points in that Hellhounds are supposedly fond of areas near water, and also that many supernatural phenomena seem to involve a fog or mist, although whatever this connection may be is misunderstood.

Going down south we have a case from the state of Louisiana, in a report published by the National Cryptid Society. The report comes from the area of Robeline, Louisiana, in 1995, and concerns a witness who claims he was in a graveyard looking for paranormal phenomena, the two of them armed with crosses and an M16, which seems a bit extreme, but here we are. As they pushed forward into the cemetery they allegedly heard strange growling noises, and the witness describes what happened next:

We shined our flashlights all over graveyard. It was small and enclosed by fence. I said it must be a dog tied over at the parsonage. The church and parsonage was about 500 feet away. So I shined around and over in the corner of the graveyard I saw four fresh graves. They were apart from the other graves.

They had no flowers. Just two big graves and two small ones marked by 4 iron crosses. As we went to explore, we heard the growling grow louder. I said Lannie, is that dog loose? I kinda felt a little safe knowing it would be hard for it to jump the fence. But as we got closer to the grave the hair on my neck stood up and I got chills. My friend got the same feeling. The growls had a sound like Rottweiler’s. They chilled you to the bone and you felt something wasn’t right. We heard the snarling as we got a few feet from grave. The growls were not part of a body. They were disembodied. Then I tried to rationalize it in my head. Is it a couple loose mean dogs outside gate? Is it a group of coyotes? But as we shined the light this time we saw them. Two sets of glowing red eyes not attached to [a] body. They were only three feet away and stood guard by those graves.

My friend froze in fright and pushed me in front. He was crying about leaving his gun. I said Lannie, your gun won’t help against this. The dogs were vicious and I said Lannie whatever you do, don’t run. I prayed for guidance. I had not been to church in many a year but I knew what I was dealing with was straight from hell. I looked right at them. I showed my cross and said I know what you are. They snarled louder. My friend was really upset and wanting his Mama. I said Lannie please. I said I demand in the name of Jesus Christ that you allow us to leave as we came in peace and alone. I demand this in the name of the Son of Man and victor over all that is evil. I said that the Son of man ruled over all evil, and I demand you let us leave in peace. We slowly backed up and as we got to the gate we left.

This particular report seems to go overboard a bit, but who knows? All the way over on the other side of the country we come to California, which has a few accounts of Hellhounds of its own. From American Canyon, California, comes an account from a 28-year-old witness known as “Jedidiah,” who claims that one night as he was walking back from a market he heard an ear-piercing howl echo out into the night. He soon caught sight of a very large dog, which he at first took to be a stray or someone’s pet, but which seemed to be too large to be such a thing. As he looked more closely, he saw that it seemed to have glowing red eyes and to be entangled with what looked to be barbed wire. He would say of what happened next:

At this point I was quite scared. I continued on my way home and I found myself dreading each corner, fearing another sighting of this hellish creature. I had almost made it home when the beast appeared again. This time it stood directly in my path. I was frozen with fear, hair standing up on end and I close my eyes fearing an attack. It starts to growl, a deep, rumbling, growl; one that I felt deep in my soul, one that threatens to turn my legs to Jell-O. I don't know what compelled me to do so but, I started praying, to the Lord and Jesus Christ in Heaven, to make this beast leave, but the growling intensified, it seemed as if the growl just pulsated through my mind doing everything in its power to get me to stop praying. I continued to pray, I just prayed, and prayed, and prayed. As I continued to pray, the growl slowly dissipated. When I finally opened my eyes, all that was left was scorch marks where the dog stood. To this day I have yet to see the same dog, or another like it. So this begs the question... What did I see? A hellhound, a spectral creature, some sort of demon? I never will know; but then again I'm not sure I want to.

Also in California is a case that has made the rounds involving what seems like a pack of Hellhounds in Palm Springs, California. In 2013, there were supposedly numerous reports of large, black hounds running amok in the streets, with glowing eyes and sharp fangs. The creatures were described as having the bodies of dogs, but the heads of wolves, and baffled all who saw them. Apparently they tore through people’s yards and even attacked a man’s car to rip up his bumper, before disappearing into the night to vanish. There is very little to corroborate this, but it is a strange case, indeed.

The setting for another tale of some sort of demon dog 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 were 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 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 affixed 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 an 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 an 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.

Such creatures surely seem to toe the line between the real and fantasy, where we are not really sure what we should be looking at. What are Hellhounds? How can they possibly be? Are these some sort of demonic entities, wandering spirits, or what? Are they misidentifications of large dogs or some wildlife? These reports seem to be beyond explanation and show that these old legends from across the world have seemed to seep into the realm of the real. Whatever they are, Hellhounds have been spotted all over the world, and the United States is no exception.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!