Hell hounds have a long history in folklore from around the world. In some cases, the spectral animal is thought to be an earthly manifestation of the Devil himself. We have our doubts about that and they do not deserve their horrible reputation. On the TV show – Supernatural – they’re horrible creatures. In real life, not so much.
Let’s find out why.
Hell Hound Origins
Hell hounds have been in folk stories before biblical times. Anglo-Saxons first mentioned them by the phrase, Black Shuck. Originally, they were thought to be the Devil, but that idea changed. Now, hell hounds are defined as spectral beings indicating demonic possession, an upcoming death or a disaster in the near future. They are usually seen as familiars for witches during the Dark Ages.
Other Names for Hell Hounds
They have different names based on the region. In the United States and Canada, hell hound is the common name. In Europe, phantom black dog is used. It’s interesting to note, there isn’t a common term for ‘hell hound’ in Asia that I could find in regular use.
Hell Hound Manifestations
Today, hell hounds are thought to be animal apparitions and not indicative of demons. These dogs are usually found along lonely roadsides or the woods. They have been seen in cities. Most are black or dark grey like charcoal. Their eyes can be red, yellow or green. They range in size, from a Great Dane to calf.
In most cases, a hell hound simply watches humans. They’ve never harmed anyone, but, they can be death omens. Allegedly, a hell hound appears at the scene of auto accidents to signal a human’s death. Hell hounds have also protected travelers as they go on isolated stretches of road.
It is common for a hell hound to cross into oncoming traffic. The driver will feel the impact and hear the dog’s howl, but he won’t find a body. You would think this would lead to a few driver deaths, but it hasn’t happened.
Protecting Yourself from Hell Hounds
You don’t need to take any special precautions. Hell hounds are shy phantoms and they avoid most contact with humans. Some people have shot silver bullets at them, but the bullets pass through them without injuring it. It’s an apparition after all. A common folk tale states you shouldn’t look directly into a hell hound’s eyes. It will put a curse on you and you will die in one year. This last statement is purely fiction.
Famous Hell Hounds
Black Shuck in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Devon counties, in England.
The Black Dog of Riverview Cemetery in West Virginia.
Cerebrus of Greek legend.
Fenris of Norse mythology (okay, he’s more like a demigod).
Jacob Rice began investigating and writing about the paranormal in 2007. He has published 3 books on ghost hunting, ghost stories and paranormal protection. His podcast, Ghostly Activities, dives into these topics even more. You can also watch his ghost hunts on the Ghostly Activities YouTube channel. He lives in Olympia, Washington.