|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.