October brings with it Halloween and all things eerie—including ghost stories about visits from spooks both scary and friendly. This year, combine your love of pets with the spookiness of the season by sharing these stories about phantom dogs (and a spectral cat).
Casper isn’t the only friendly ghost. Residents of the Belmont Hillsboro neighborhood in Nashville share stories about Preston the canine ghost, a loyal and vigilant Boxer who keeps an eye on young trick-or-theaters every year.
As the story goes, Preston was out on Halloween with a group of trick-or-theaters when a young boy in the group dropped some candy in the road. Preston saw the boy step out into the road to pick up the candy and pushed the boy out of the way of a speeding car. The boy survived, but sadly, Preston did not.
Now more than 50 years later, children out on Halloween night still report encounters with Preston: gentle bumps back onto the sidewalk when they step into the street, the sensation of a dog brushing up against young legs when they walk too slowly from house to house, even barking from a dog that can’t be seen.
Blue Ghost Dog of Port Tobacco
From the town of Port Tobacco, Maryland, comes a dog ghost story that claims to be the oldest ghost story in the United States, dating back to the 1700s. The Blue Ghost Dog of Port Tobacco is such a legend that there is a restaurant named after it (The Blue Dog Saloon).
According to the ghost story, Charles Howard Sims was attacked by Henry Hanos on a February evening after drinking at a local tavern and bragging about the amount of gold he had. As he walked home that night, Sims was attacked by Hanos along Rose Hill Road. Sims and his dog–described as a blue tick hound or English Mastiff–fought back valiantly but were killed by Hanos. The killer buried the gold, intending to return later to retrieve it.
The next day, residents of the town found Sims and his dog laying on a rock along Rose Hill Road, where they fell when killed. When Hanos later returned to the site to dig up the gold, he encountered the ghost of the Blue Dog, who scared the killer away from the treasure. Hanos reportedly fell ill later that week, and soon died.
To this day, the ghost of the Blue Dog reportedly continues to watch over his slain master’s treasure. Every February 8th, the Blue Dog returns to the spot where he and his master died. He howls and mourns for him beside the rock.
Rudolph Valentino’s Loyal Companion
Rudolph Valentino was a famous actor in the early 20th century, earning the attention of fans around the world. A devoted pet lover, Valentino owned several dogs throughout his life, but formed the closest bond with a Great Dane named Kabar. The actor even made special arrangements for the dog to travel with him to movie sets and premieres around the world.
So no one knows quite why Valentino left Kabar at home in California when he traveled to New York City in 1926. While in New York, Valentino died unexpectedly of perforated ulcers and an infection of his abdominal tissues—only 31 years old at the time. It’s said that Kabar let out a terrible howl at the same time his master passed away, even though the dog was 3000 miles away.
Valentino’s brother, Alberto, assumed care of the dog, but Kabar remained inconsolable, becoming ill off and on for the next few years. The dog passed away in 1929 and was buried at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas, California.
Kabar apparently is inconsolable in death as well, as visitors to the cemetery often report hearing barking and panting near the dog’s grave. Some also have reported feeling a dog lick their hand when they visit the dog’s resting place. The dog’s ghost has also been seen at Valentino’s former mansion.
Poogan the Porch Sitter
A large Victorian home on Queen Street in Charleston, South Carolina, was home to a dog named Poogan. The little dog loved to sit on the porch of the house, looking out on the front yard and the street.
In 1976, the owners of the house sold it to an investor who turned the home into a restaurant (which was eventually named Poogan’s Porch in the dog’s honor). Poogan stayed at the house and continued to sit on the porch, greeting restaurant patrons. He died a natural death in 1979 and was buried next to his porch.
But Poogan’s spirit lived on—figuratively and, some believe, literally. To this day, employees of the restaurant report seeing Poogan napping at his favorite spots on the porch, and some diners say they have felt a dog brush against their legs under the tables.
One of the top ghost stories in Washington D.C. is that of the “Demon Cat” of the Capitol. As early as 1898, papers reported on sightings of a black cat that could swell to the size of an elephant around the grounds of the Capitol building.
Reports of the spooky cat continued into the 1930s, with the Washington Post running an article in a 1935 edition that related the experience of a nighttime security guard. The guard described the apparition as having glowing eyes and a body that grew before his eyes.
While many have attributed this sighting (and others reported around the same time period) to the drinking habits of security guards on long night shifts, the legend of the Demon Cat persists.
Other Ghost Dogs
Tales of other ghostly dogs continue to send chills up spines. The following spooky tales involve canine companions that were reluctant to leave the homes where they lived with their families:
- Lucky of the Beauregard-Keyes House: A fixture of New Orleans French Quarter since 1826, the Beauregard-Keyes House reportedly is home to many ghosts—including a loyal dog. Lucky, a Cocker Spaniel that belonged to author Francis Parkinson Keyes, stayed by her master’s side when he passed away in 1970. The dog passed away just a few days later. Caretakers of the home have reported seeing Lucky throughout the house, most frequently in the room her master used as his bedroom. A white ghost cat named Caroline also visits the house, darting down hallways and rubbing against visitors’ legs.
- Leona of the Holly Hotel: The Holly Hotel in the Michigan town of the same name claims to be on of the most haunted buildings in the state. One of those ghosts is Leona, a small dog similar in appearance to a rat terrier. Leona was a beloved pet of the Hirst family, owners and managers of the hotel in the early 1900s. Since her passing, visitors to the hotel have reported hearing “phantom barking” and little paws running up and down the halls. Some of the hotel chefs have claimed to feel the ghost dog licking their hands, even to this day.
- Night Life of Atlantic City: This spectral dog was owned by a local bartender in the New Jersey seaside town and would escort patrons who had had a little too much to drink back to their homes or hotel rooms, making sure they made it safely through the traffic lights. Local cab drivers would often give the dog a ride back to the bar when they saw him in the neighborhood. When the dog passed away, several patrons raised funds to have the dog buried in a nearby pet cemetery. Still, the faithful dog seemingly continues to guide bar patrons home at night, as many have reported seeing the ghost dog approach them at intersections, and cab drivers say that dog will approach their cars to be let in, only to vanish when the door is opened.
- Sheba the German Shepherd of the Bahamas: In the late 1800s, Sheba was traveling with her family from Cuba to Bermuda when a hurricane broke apart their ship. Sheba valiantly tried to swim to shore with two young girls but one of them was swept away by the waves. Sheba managed to save the other girl, then rushed back into the water to go after the sister; neither the dog nor the girl was found. Sheba never gave up trying to save young girls from perishing in the water, however; her ghost has been seen several times. On one occasion, a 9-year-old girl vacationing with her family fell from a sailboat and reported being rescued by a large German Shepherd. On another, a 12-year-old snorkeling near the shore saw what she claimed was a German Shepherd swimming above her. When she surfaced, the dog barked several times, then dove under the water and vanished.