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A Friend of the Devil is Friend of Mine
By Misty Thomas
Previously, I touched on the story of Blues legend Robert Johnson and the deal he made with the devil to become a famous musician, as told on one of my favorite television shows, “Supernatural." According to "Supernatural," Johnson made a deal with the devil at a crossroads and then died at the early age of 27, rumored to have been taken to Hell by hellhounds.
A hellhound has been described in folklore as a supernatural dog that has come up from Hell to take those who've broken a deal with the devil. Many cultures and religions have their own version of hellhounds. The oldest of these stories dates back to the ancient Greeks who spoke of Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades to prevent those that had crossed the river Styx to escape. In other religions and cultures, these dogs have been known to protect and guard the homes of the dead, such as burial grounds and cemeteries. Hellhounds have also been called the Black dog, Black Shuck, and Devil Dog.
The descriptions for all of the different names all seem to have a few things in common. The dogs seem to always have black fur, glowing red or yellow eyes, super strength, super speed, a foul odor, ghostly and phantom characteristics, and sometimes even the ability to speak. Many legends say that if you look at the dog right in the eyes, you will immediately die. Regardless of what the legends call them or describe them as, they are messengers of Hell and here to collect what is owed to the devil.
Hellhounds have appeared in at least eight episodes of “Supernatural." The episode in particular that piqued my interest was in fact titled, “Crossroad Blues." It features others (again, including Robert Johnson) who have made deals with the devil or a demon at a crossroads. One such person is a man named Sam who ends up making a deal of his own and then learning about a deal that his father made to keep him and his brother safe. The deal is made at a crossroads, which is folkloric icon in and of itself.
The idea of crossroads as being this crucial place dates all the way back to Greek mythology and Hoodoo legends. In the practice of Hoodoo, crossroads represent a place that you can use to learn a new skill or craft. In other cultures, a crossroad represents a location between two worlds. It is a site where supernatural spirits can be contacted and paranormal events can take place. It has also been called a place where two realms touch and represent a place that is neither here nor there. Some say it is a place “betwixt and between."
The crossroads where Robert Johnson supposedly made his deal with the devil is a very popular site. Many of his followers and fans have come to see the site, but very few have attempted to follow in his footsteps out of fear that this legend is true.
Deals with the Devil:
Dealings with the devil date all the way back to the days of Faust. In the story, a soul is exchanged for diabolical favors. These favors usually include wealth, power, knowledge, or everlasting youth. There have been stories all over the world of people making deals with the devil in order to have great success in life. And the story of Robert Johnson is one of the most famous. Deals with the devil have been depicted in popular films, television (like "Supernatural," of course), and music. Some even say that the devil made deals with many of the famous musicians who died at the young age of 27. Perhaps that is the devil’s favorite number after all.