The Demon Dog of Valle Crucis, North Carolina an Urban Legend

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

My day job is working as a pest control technician for an awesome company here in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Come to find out, I have a haunted site on my route. (Yeah, I know. What are the odds that the horror author gets the route with a haunted place or even better a place haunted by a demon dog?) I have included pictures in this article that I took the last time I was in this area. This local legend of the demon dog of Valle Crucis has been around since the late 1800s.

The story was birthed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis, North Carolina around 1860. A few people were found dead in the nearby woods by an apparent animal attack. Instead of looking for a rational explanation of what happened, the local minister claimed he saw a “demon dog” kill these people. I’m not bashing ministers or any religion or denomination, for I myself an am ordained minister, but given the time period should we be surprised?

This urban legend has gone on for several generations, but the most popular story has to do with two young men who were students at App State. They were traveling down the road next to the church one moonlit autumn night. A large, shadowy figure leaped our from behind one of the tombstones from the church’s graveyard and appeared in front of their vehicle. The driver swerved to the side of the road to avoid slamming into whatever had stepped in front of them. According to witnesses, he slammed on the breaks and eased his vehicle to the shoulder.

Cemetery in Valle Crucis at St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church and gravestones

The two friends peered out the window into the darkness. The figure took shape under the moonlight and they were shocked at what they saw. A massive dog, the size of a full grown man, stood in the road staring at them. it was covered in shimmering black fur and had large, yellow teeth. It’s eyes were glowing red and did not reflect back the light like a dog or cat’s eyes will sometimes do at night. One of the young men turned to the other and said, “Do you see that?” His friend replied, “No, and neither do you.”

Sign in front of tombs at St. John's Episcopal Church

The dog eased towards the vehicle and growled. The driver took his foot off the braked and slammed on the gas. The vehicle sped down the dark, mountain road, hugging the curves as hard as it could without flipping. Sixty miles and hour…Seventy miles an hour…the driver did his best to keep the car under control. He glanced in his rear view mirror and had the shock of his life. The demon dog was keeping us with the car. No, it was gaining on them.

The driver mashed the accelerator even harder. The car sped over a the bridge where the streams in Valle Crucis meet to form a cross (the name in Latin means Vale of the Cross). The dog stopped following them and then vanished.

St. John's Episcopal Church sign established in 1862

The frightened friends drove into Boone and stopped at a local diner, which was the only place open late at night. They tried to let their nerves settle down but it wasn’t happening. They knew neither of them were going to get to sleep for a while. They also knew they had experienced something terrifying and supernatural. The two men shared their story and the urban legend of the Demon Dog of Valle Crucis was cemented into North Carolina folklore forever.

There are other stories surrounding this quaint little cemetery at St. John’s. Some have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wondering around the graves. Others have reported sounds of gunshots and a weeping female, all of which cannot be connected to any known event.

Is the legend of the Demon Dog true? Is this a case of lycanthropy maybe?

When I was out there, I called and whistled for the demon dog several times. I walked among the graves and tried to see if I could get him to come out. He was either napping or had better things to do. I got back in my truck and drove away. I looked in my review, and to my disappointment, there was no demon dog chasing me.

The Ghost Soldier of Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

In the Historic Fort Stevens State Park, you can probably expect to run into the ghost of a soldier who patrols the area at night with a flashlight. There have been so many stories recounting the encounters that witnesses have had with this fallen soldier, who, when approached ends up disappearing into thin air.

The History of Battery Russel in Fort Stevens

It doesn’t really matter if you have a love for history, architecture, relics of the past, or the supernatural—Battery Russel seems to have it all. While this battery is no longer an active site, it was once of enormous importance in the defense of the Oregon coast during the Second World War. Fort Stevens was originally built around the time of the Civil War—this was when Battery Russel and other ramparts were constructed. It wasn’t until nearly one hundred years later that these ramparts and other structures of Fort Stevens were revived in order to fortify the defense of the Columbia River from a possible invasion during World War II.

Located on-site at the far end of the battery is the Pacific Rim Peace Memorial, which commemorates the American and Japanese soldiers that were involved in the attack on Fort Stevens and called for everlasting peace between these two countries. Despite its importance in the defense of the Columbia River, it was never a favored station of the soldiers who ended up there; it got the unfortunate name of Squirrelsville, due to the fact that many soldiers didn’t want to stay there, possibly because of the quickly built soldiers quarters, and because of the rotations in and out every few days. It wasn’t until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II that Battery Russel was manned full-time.

The Attack on Fort Stevens During World War II

In 1942 on June 21st, at 11:30 pm, an enemy Japanese I-25 submarine attacked Fort Stevens, it had somehow gotten through the mouth of the Columbia River and resurfaced just ten miles offshore. It began its attack by firing haphazardly towards the fort. Fortunately for the soldiers who manned Battery Russel, only a few of the submarine’s missiles landed near to their station, they held their ground and their fire—while the missile fire didn’t injure anyone, it did scare the local population. This led the local communities to set up a citizens patrol, they strung barbed wire up and down Clatsop Beach and even through the Wreck of the Peter Iredale. Oddly enough, this unsuccessful attack was the only action that Fort Stevens saw during the Second World War. This also made it the only mainland military base in the United States to be fired upon since the War of 1812 in which Canadians burned down the White House.

The Function of Battery Russel

One of nine batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel was active for forty years, from 1904 to 1944, where Fort Stevens itself was in active service for eighty-four years, from the beginning of the Civil War all the way through World War II. It was named after Brevet Major General David Russel who fought during the Civil War. While it once protected the mouth of the Columbia River, it was one of three forts that created the Triangle of Fire—the other two being Fort Columbia and Fort Canby in Washington. This three-sided defense made it nearly impossible for enemy boats to go undetected into the Columbia River.

Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, Oregon
Photography by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

While there are many batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel is one of the few that is open to the public to explore—literature is available on location that educates anyone, who is willing to look into a piece of our past, about the purposes of each of the rooms, as well as the history of the battery itself. There are two levels to this particular battery, the lower of which contains old ammunition rooms, offices, guardrooms, as well as storage facilities. The upper level is where the old gun pit is located, it housed two 10-inch disappearing guns; these guns would retract from view while soldiers reloaded, which provided ample cover from attacking enemies and each gun required a thirty-five man team in order to run.

Even though Battery Russel is an entirely unsupervised location it is well maintained, people are free to explore the historic battery; there is no electricity, so visits during the day are well-light by natural sunlight, but the lower level can become quite dark, so you’re better off carrying a flashlight if you insist on exploring for ghosts.

The Haunting of Battery Russel

The haunting that is described at Battery Russel isn’t exactly one to be feared—because the well-intentioned ghost soldier doesn’t mean any visitors harm, in fact, he was stationed at Battery Russel in defense of the nation and its people. The unidentified army soldier has been seen by many visitors to the Fort, where they report him showing up in several different places in the battery. If the tales are to be believed, this uniformed soldier walks the area—he’s seen wandering around the park, the campgrounds, and more often than not, the concrete battery. Those who have encountered him in the campground report the crunching gravel as he passes the area outside of your tent.

Another commonality between separate encounters is that the apparition of this soldier is that he simply disappears after being spotted. One recollection of an encounter told to the Oregon Coast Beach Connection, was that the witness was walking along the Seaside’s Promenade one night when he saw the army man in a uniform that was reminiscent of the forties. The two men nodded to each other, but when the witness turned to inspect the dated uniform, the army man had mysteriously vanished. To be sure that he hadn’t psyched himself out, the witness even went into the nearby hotel lobbies and asked the reception clerks if an army man had come into their lobby, but after having no luck in locating where the man had gone, the witness was convinced what he had seen was a specter.

Other legends that have popped up about this mysterious soldier are centered around the old guardhouse which is located in a now-residential neighborhood. Residents in the area have caught plenty of, what they believe to be, spirit orbs on camera, while others claim that they have seen him pacing the yard where the museum now stands. Whether this apparition is holding a flashlight and walking the grounds, or he’s holding a knife within the battery itself, no one has ever reported feeling any malicious intent from the spirit.

What is truly curious about this haunting is that no soldiers actually died at Battery Russel, Fort Stevens during World War II, but seeing as it was active during the Civil War, it is believed that he could have been a soldier that passed during that time.

The Gruesome History of the State Hospital in Salem, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Built in the 1800s, the Oregon State Hospital has a reportedly insidious past that went on for years. Once an insane asylum, it is said that terrible malpractice occurred within its walls and that it had a secret tunnel that connected the buildings which shrouded these terrible experiments that were rumored to have been conducted on its patients. Today, part of the hospital has been preserved as a museum, and even now visitors to the hospital claim to have experienced paranormal activity, where they feel as if they are being watched, while on the premises.

The History of the Oregon State Hospital

Located in Salem, Oregon many of the original parts of the State Hospital still remain in use, while other parts are closed off due to severe disrepair. A new wing was constructed in 2011 where most of the patient care takes place now—the grounds look fairly inviting from the outside, there is unfortunately very little indication of the kind of horrors that took place within. When the facility was originally built, it was intended to serve all patients, but it soon became overcrowded and due to this, it became a more specialized facility that served the criminally insane and the mentally handicapped. Visitors are free to tour the campus as well as the interior of the hospital, where they learn that an estimated two-thirds of the population was found to be both mentally insane and found guilty of a crime.

Although these days, the original hospital and asylum are no longer taking patients, the Oregon State Hospital is still in business—but now mostly as a museum, perhaps as a monument to the way we used to treat those who had mental turmoil or abnormal conditions. Taking a tour of the hospital provides those interested with a fairly accurate perspective at the people who were once housed there, as well as the insanity that they actually endured at the hands of doctors who did not have their patients’ best interests at heart. The hospital was built in 1883 and for only having existed for almost a century and a half, the building has a lot of stories to tell. Like any old-fashioned asylum, patients fell victim to things that would never be acceptable by today’s medical practice standards. Over the years that these terrible experiments, abuse, and torture felt at the hands of both staff and fellow patients, it’s estimated that hundreds if not thousands of patients died within the asylum—it’s not incredibly surprising that it has the reputation of housing so many tortured souls.

If you take a tour of the facilities, you’ll find the museum is certain to educate people on the terrifying experiences that patients lived through in their time within the hospital. Exhibits fill the halls that were once filled with patients and the location was made popular when it was used as the filming location for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Surprisingly it functions still as the state’s sole psychiatric hospital. Within the exhibits, visitors can see the entire overview of how procedures for treating mentally ill patients has changed over the years, from its opening in the late 1800s to the present day. Even though the rooms were all remodeled, there lingers an intensely creepy presence throughout the museum.

The Unfortunate Incident of 1942

Can of Cremated Patient Remains
David Maisel, Library of Dust 103-566

One of the more ghastly stories that haunt the walls of this old facility happened in 1942, when forty-seven people were killed and hundreds more were struck incredibly ill after they were served their daily breakfast.

The Real Story…

Nearly eighty years ago now, on November 18, 1942, a terrifying scene unfolded at the Oregon State Hospital; what began like any other day ended in tragedy and confusion. After being served an enticing breakfast of scrambled eggs, patients began to die left and right—they presented with illness by vomiting blood and writhing on the floor in agony. Some patients died in minutes, others succumbed to this mysterious terror hours later, the death toll ended at forty-seven lives having been lost. In the official report, 263 patients fell ill, but the newspapers that ran the story reported that over four hundred patients had contracted this unknown illness.

At first, there was a fear of sabotage—Governor Charles A. Sprague called it a mass murder, where today it would be called a terrorist attack during a time where the country was already in the midst of World War II. With the fear of sabotage on the West Coast, there was a suspicion that the food supply had been compromised, as it was considered a vulnerable target. The eggs that had been served at the state hospital came from the federal surplus commodities that were distributed by the U.S. government and were part of a shipment that had been divided between the state institutions, schools, as well as other programs in Oregon. Governor Sprague immediately ordered that all institutions stop using the eggs which had come packed frozen in 30 lb. tin cans—the federal government followed suit and issued a similar order.

An investigation was immediately launched and officials from the Army, American Medical Association, and Food and Drug Administration were quickly dispatched to the state hospital campus in Salem. Considering the patient occupancy of the hospital was estimated to have been around 2,700 at the time—which is more than five times the amount that it treats today—it was exactly the reaction that we would hope to see. First-hand accounts remain what can be found in newspaper archives and a report submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association from two of the doctors who worked at the state hospital, and one who worked at the Oregon State Police crime lab in Portland.

One of the doctors to first respond was Dr. William L. Lidbeck, a pathologist who lived in one of the cottages on-site. What he found was a horror show—patients were experiencing abdominal cramping, and severe nausea, which turned into them vomiting blood, having seizures, struggling to breathe, and even some experiencing paralysis. Lidbeck had deduced that they had ingested a virulent poison and believed those who died the quickest had eaten the most of the poisoned eggs, whereas others would have had their death prolonged for hours. The night ended with a full morgue, chapel, and a hallway lined with bodies.

It is said that the death toll would have been worse if not for one heroic staff member, Nurse Allie Wassel, who took one bite of the eggs after the trays were brought to her ward. She immediately noticed the taste wasn’t right, so she refused to serve them to any of her patients. She became ill, but survived and was credited with saving many lives. Those who weren’t lucky enough to be in her ward put their spoons down after complaining that the eggs tasted too salty, or soapy and they began to immediately experience symptoms.

The investigation into the incident was of the utmost importance was conducted swiftly—autopsies were done on six patients, and samples of the poisoned eggs were taken from their stomach contents as well as the patients’ plates. These samples were fed to rats who succumbed within minutes and within twenty-two hours it the poison was identified as sodium fluoride, but it was also only found in the eggs cooked at the Oregon State Hospital. Commonly used as an insecticide for rats and cockroaches, it is a white substance that acts quickly, but could be easily mistaken for flour, baking powder, or powdered milk—even ingesting a small amount could be fatal. The thing they didn’t know, was whether it was intentionally fed to the patients, or if it had been a horrible accident.

According to the reports, the hospital’s assistant cook confessed and told the officials that he had sent a patient to the basement storeroom for powdered milk and the patient mistakenly brought back roach poison and it had been mixed in with the scrambled eggs. Patients in asylums were regularly used to help in the kitchen and around the hospital, as a part of a work-experience opportunity to help them with self-esteem, feeling productive, as well as earning a small wage. Procedures now have changed so vastly that an incident like the one that occurred at the Oregon State Hospital could no longer happen.

The patient who had retrieved the poison instead of the powdered milk? Twenty-seven-year-old George Nosen, who had admitted himself to the hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic. Nosen had been assigned to kitchen detail—washing dishes, cleaning floors, preparing for lines of other patients—and the kitchen was seriously understaffed. That mealtime had been incredibly busy, so Abraham McKillop the assistant cook had sent Nosen to fetch the powdered milk—a violation of the rules established at the hospital in 1908—and Nosen apparently wandered into the wrong storeroom, which tragically opened with the same key he had been given for the food storeroom. The storeroom with the poisons and the storeroom with the food were only eleven feet apart—and it was ruled to have been a tragic accident. While terrible, it did bring about some necessary changes to the way the hospital conducted its safety practices, as well as the labeling, is done by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Tortured Souls That Haunt the Ground

What remains within the walls of the Oregon State Hospital, including the intimidating and creepy underground tunnels, has created an environment where those who have investigated have felt an overwhelming sense of evil. The brave souls who willingly explore the tunnels and other areas of this haunted asylum are undeterred by the stories about patients allegedly being transported in the tunnels below the facility, or the evidence that suggests they were used for immoral, unethical, and barbaric medical experiments; this all took place so deep underground that their screams could not be heard. Phantom footsteps, doors opening and closing on their own, screams, and cries from former patients can all be experienced at the Oregon State Hospital.

A lot of the unrest that can be found here can also probably be attributed to the controversy of the hospital staff having lost over 1,500 cans of patients’ cremated remains.

The Haunted Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Alberta, CA

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The second you pull up to the Fairmont Banff Springs resort in Alberta, you’ll feel the goosebumps. The “Castle in the Rockies” is surrounded by snow-covered mountains that give off major The Shining vibes, while the exterior is half castle, half Tower of Terror. You know the type – rustic and scary, yet extremely sophisticated. Now don’t get us wrong, this hotel is luxurious… going for up to $300 a night while hundreds of guests each day lounge in private suites, dine on fine cuisine, play golf and enjoy the beautiful sights of Alberta. But little do they know that there are other guests roaming the halls of this popular hotel, many of whom aren’t even human. 

Fairmont Banff Springs resort

With over 130 years in business, and 757 rooms hosting people from around the world… it’s safe to say that Fairmont Banff Springs has quite the history. Between the spa appointments and selfie moments, guests have also reported quite a few ghost sightings – some harmless, and some a bit more sinister. One of the most famous spirits? The Ghost Bride. Back in the 1930’s, the young woman was said to be walking down the marble staircase on her wedding day, only to abruptly fall down the stairs to her death. It was definitely not the wonderful day she had in mind, and her ghost has been sighted by countless guests and hotel employees – dancing in the ballroom, walking up and down the stairs, or crying in the bridal suite only for staff to find it empty. Besides the cold chill she leaves behind, most consider the Ghost Bride to be relatively harmless. She’s even famous enough to have her own Collector’s Coin from the Royal Canadian Mint!

There have been other friendly ghosts known to frequent like Fairmont Banff Springs, like Sam the Bellman. Sam McCauley took his job as bellman at the hotel very seriously – so much that he still hangs out around the hotel helping guests since his death in 1975. There have been many instances of his friendly nature, such as the two older women who claimed that an elderly gentleman in plaid had unlocked their room for them… only to be told by staff that a man of that description did not work at the hotel. Or just sightings of Sam strolling along the seventh and ninth floors of the hotel without a care in the world. Sam the Bellman is forever dedicated to providing assistance to the guests of the Fairmont Banff Springs, even in death. 

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We’ve told you about the happy haunts, but the Fairmont Banff Springs does have a dark side. In particular, the gruesome tales of room 873. The legends say that there was a horrifying murder-suicide that took place in the room many years ago, with a man killing his young daughter and wife before himself. And the ghost stories have continued ever since. Guests staying in the room have heard bloody shrieks and scream all throughout the night, while maids cleaning the room report bloody fingerprints that only reappear after being washed away. In fact, the paranormal activity was so common that the hotel was forced to board up the room altogether – which we know is bad news for the major thrill seekers. But the ghosts at this century-old hotel are thriving, and always ready to meet guests. If you’re lucky enough to visit the Fairmont Banff Springs, don’t forget to look out for spirits in between your fancy dinners and spa appointments!

Want to read more about haunted hotels? We’ve got you covered.

The Haunted Heceta Head Lighthouse of Florence, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore
Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon
Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon

In a PBS special called Legendary Lighthouses, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is referred to as a haunted lighthouse—stating that nearly everyone who has stayed at the lighthouse since the 1950s has experienced paranormal activity. These experiences include things like disembodied screams, items moving or disappear and the reappearing on their own, as well as the shadow of an old woman’s ghost in an attic window. Along with the older woman, it is said that her daughter also haunts this scenic lighthouse.

The History of the Heceta Head Lighthouse

This Queen Anne styled cottage with a red roof overlooks the rocky cliffs and violent waves of the Pacific Ocean and has done so for more than a century. Originally built in 1894, when the lamp was first lit, to the early 1960s, the men who kept the lighthouse running, and their families called this cottage home. During World War II it served as military barracks and was used as a satellite campus for Lane Community College in Eugene from 1970 to 1995. Since 1995, it has been run as a bed and breakfast with room enough to fit fifteen guests comfortably.

Ghostly Experiences at the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage

Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers Cottage
Photography by Jrozwado

Some of the experiences that have occurred on the premises have been the apparition of a gray-haired woman who appears wearing a late Victorian-era dress; a wispy gray figure has also appeared floating down the hallway. The sounds of sweeping and furniture being moved occur at night and they come from the locked and otherwise unoccupied attic. These occurrences in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage have given this location the reputation of being one of the most haunted places on the West Coast.

For the last four decades, the main apparition—or presence—has been known as Rue, ever since a group of the Lane Community College students broke out their Ouija Board and began to ask questions. Apparently the board spelled out, “R-U-E,” and the name stuck. While “[Rue] doesn’t ever do anything scary or harmful or threatening,” current manager Anderson reports, “it’s more like she’s watching over the place. Watching the house and looking for her daughter.”

Anderson has heard many versions of many stories over the years that she has managed the property, to the point where she wonders if they even know the truth, and says that “it’s just [their] version [of the story].” The only story that they do endorse as the truth is the theory that Rue was the wife of one of the lighthouse keepers, but records can’t confirm that due to the fact that the wives and children of the keepers were never documented. Anderson believes that Rue had two daughters and that one of them had drowned—they are uncertain whether she drowned in the ocean or in a cistern, but that there is an unmarked grave up on the hillside that had been long left undisturbed and consequently was overgrown.

Although Rue left the Heceta Head Cottage after her daughter died, it is said that she came back after her own death to look for her daughter. When checking into the bed and breakfast, there are many guests that request the Victoria room, where the keepers of the lighthouse and their wives were said to have slept. Others are drawn to the Cape Cove Room, which contains a closet that houses the stairs leading up to the locked attic. Still other guests prefer not to know at all.

Possibly the most frightening encounter with Rue that was ever reported appeared in the Siuslaw News in 1975—a workman was cleaning one of the windows in the attic when he noticed an odd reflection in the glass. When she turned to see what was behind him, he saw the apparition of an elderly woman wearing a late-Victorian style gown—he fled the house and didn’t return to the cottage for several days and refused to ever go into the attic again. Even when he accidentally broke one of the attic windows, he opted instead to repair the window from the outside and the broken glass was left on the attic floor. That same night, the caretakers of the house were woken up to the sounds of scraping sounds in the attic and reported that it sounded as if someone was sweeping up broken glass, but they had not yet been told about the broken window. The next morning when they went to investigate, they found that the glass had been swept into a neat pile.

Other stories include one from a guest when sleeping in the Cape Cove room, she was awakened at 4:30 in the morning to what felt like a presence climbing into bed beside her and staying for a couple of hours. She said she felt concerned about the experience, but she was unharmed and in an odd way felt honored that she had the opportunity to experience it. Despite the lack of truly negative experiences, the manager of the bed and breakfast, Anderson, refuses to spend the night there anymore.

One of her employees, a housekeeper and food server named Beth Mozzachio, said she often feels a presence while she’s working and specifically reported making the bed and then noticing a depression has formed, as if someone recently sat there. Mazzachio knows that if she ever saw an apparition of Rue that she would be terrified, but believes that because she takes care of the inn and makes it look nice that Rue doesn’t bother her much.

The Anna Byrne Chronicles: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head

We’ve discussed the Heceta Head Lighthouse before in our Encyclopedia of Supernatural Horror, where we aimed to discuss the facts of the location–in this article we’ve tried to go a bit further with witness experiences. We have even created an original horror fiction where our character visits Heceta Head–so check out The Anna Byrne Chronicles: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head.