Skip to main content

The Killer Hellhound of Bourg-en-Foret

Pierre Van Paassen


Stories and myths about phantom dogs have been around for centuries and are prevalent in every part of the world. Most of these alleged apparitions are harmless, but the same cannot be said about the phantom mastiff that appeared in France during the winter of 1929.

The story of Bourg-en-Foret's killer hellhound might have been dismissed as a mere legend, were it not for the fact that it involved a distinguished and well-known novelist and journalist named Pierre Van Paassen. Van Paassen made a name for himself as a journalist in the years leading up to World War II, interviewing everyone from Adolf Hitler to Winston Churchill. His background as a Unitarian minister lends even more credulity to this incredible story, which, if told by a less credible witness, would probably have been dismissed as sheer fantasy.

In the winter of 1929 Van Paassen rented a cottage in the tiny French village of Bourg-en-Foret and it wasn't long before he discovered that the house was haunted by the phantom of a huge black mastiff. Like clockwork, the phantom canine appeared every night at precisely 11 o'clock and then vanished into nothingness. The apparitions were brief and ephemeral at first, but Van Paassen noticed that with each appearance, the ghostly figure appeared longer and seemed to become more realistic.

One night the apparition became a little too real.

As Van Paassen sat in the living room awaiting his nightly appointment with the phantom mastiff, he was guarded by two fierce Dobermans he had procured from the local police department for his protection. At the stroke of eleven, Van Passen heard the familiar sound of a dog descending the stairs but could see nothing. However, his two guard dogs sprang to their feet and growled, the hair on their backs bristling. And then all hell broke loose.

The guard dogs began snarling and attacking an invisible enemy, in a ferocious fight to the death which lasted a full two minutes. Van Paassen, helpless and bewildered, looked on in terror. Suddenly, one of the police dogs yelped and rolled onto its side, killed by an unseen entity. The remaining guard dog abandoned his post and fled for his life.

In the morning Van Paassen paid a visit to the local parish priest and explained what had taken place the night before. The priest believed that Van Passen was being terrorized by a poltergeist, and that anyone living in the house was in danger, as the phantom mastiff became more malevolent with each appearance. The priest surmised that the journalist was not the poltergeist's intended victim, but that the phantom was after a child.

This revelation startled Van Paassen, since he had two housemaids- one a 14-year-old kitchen helper. He immediately gave the girl a week's wages and fired her. According to Pierre Van Paassen, the ghostly mastiff never appeared again.



Marlin Bressi is a freelance writer, creator of the Pennsylvania Oddities blog, and author of the book Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America's Most Colorful Hermits.

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering the ill-fated voyage of the Aerowagon

From 1917 to 1922, the Bolshevik-led Red Army battled the anti-Communist White Army during the Russian Civil War.  By the end of 1919 the Bolsheviks had taken the cities of Omsk and Kiev, and had successfully repelled the White Russian siege of Petrograd.  However, the Bolshevik's momentum would be short-lived as the White Army, after retreating across the Baikal, regrouped and joined forces with Gigory Semyonov's Transbaikal Cossacks.  As the Red Army's losses began to mount, especially in Poland, the Bolsheviks attempted to gain a competitive advantage by embracing new technologies, sometimes with disastrous results.  Such is the sad tale of young inventor Valerian Abakovsky and his Aerowagon.

Abakovsky was a Latvian-born inventor who earned his living as a chaffeur for Cheka, the state security organization created by Lenin.  His position granted him access to many high-ranking Soviets and, although details are scarce, Abakovsky most likely used his influence within th…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his br…

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.


Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …