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Barghest, Bargtjest, Bo-guest, Bargheist, Bargeist, Barguist, Bargest or Barguest is the name often given in the North of England, especially in Yorkshire, to a legendary monstrous black dog with huge teeth and claws,[1] though in other cases the name can refer to a ghost or household elf, especially in Northumberland and Durham (see Cauld Lad of Hylton). One is said to frequent a remote gorge named Troller's Gill. There is also a story of a Barghest entering the city of York occasionally, where, according to legend, it preys on lone travellers in the city's narrow Snickelways. Whitby is also associated with the spectre.[2] A famous Barghest was said to live near Darlington who was said to take the form of a headless man (who would vanish in flames), a headless lady, a white cat, a dog, rabbit and black dog. Another was said to live in an "uncannie-looking" dale between Darlington and Houghton near Throstle Nest,[3] and yet another haunted an area of wasteland between Wreghorn and Headingley Hill near Leeds.[4]

Besides taking the form of a large black dog with fiery eyes, it could also become invisible and walk about with the sound of rattling chains.[4] At the death of any notable person the barghest would appear, followed by all the other dogs of the local region in a kind of funeral procession, and begin howling and baying. It may also foretell the death of an individual by lying across the threshold of his or her house. It is sometimes said that like the vampire the barghest is unable to cross rivers.[4]

The derivation of the word barghest is disputed. Ghost in the north of England was once pronounced guest, and the name is thought to be burh-ghest: town-ghost. Others explain it as German Berg-geist (mountain spirit), or Bär-geist (bear-spirit), in allusion to its alleged appearance at times as a bear.[1] Another mooted derivation is 'Bier-Geist', the 'spirit of the funeral bier'.

In popular culture[edit]

Many stories, perhaps most notably The Hound of the Baskervilles, feature ghostly black dogs. See Black dog (ghost) for further details. Dogs specifically named as barghests appear in the following:


In Daniel O'Malley's novel The Rook, barghest is the name given to the elite human commandos of the Checquy.

The barghest appears in the children's book The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis.

In Roald Dahl's The Witches, the barghest is described as always being male.

Neil Gaiman's short story "Black Dog" features a barghest in the form of a huge black dog which has occult powers. See "Trigger Warning" William Morrow 2015, page 265.

Nicole Peeler's "Tempest Rising" series references Dahl's The Witches, and features a Barghest who takes on human or demon dog form.

The barghest is depicted as a shapeshifting beast in Sojourn, written by R. A. Salvatore (see Barghest (Dungeons & Dragons)).

A bridge troll named Danny decides to keep Barghests as pets in the October Daye novels by Seanan McGuire.

In the novel Forge of the Mindslayers by Tim Waggoner, a barghest is described as a lupine beast with blue tinged fur, a 'goblin-ish' face, and human hands. It can shapeshift into a goblin (see Barghest (Dungeons & Dragons) – this is an "Eberron" D&D novel).

In Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy he references the spectre adjectivally, saying: "And at one point it was that a wier-wier, one of the solitary water-birds of this region, uttered its ouphe and barghest cry, flying from somewhere near into some darker recess within the woods. And at this sound it was that Clyde had stirred nervously and then sat up in the car. It was so very different to any bird-cry he had ever heard anywhere."

The term "barghest" is not mentioned in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, instead, a variant known as the "Grim" is used. The protagonist, Harry Potter, is told that the apparition of a shaggy, black dog that he keeps seeing throughout the year is a premonition of his imminent death. However, the dog later turns out to be his godfather, Sirius Black, who is an animagus who is able to transform himself into a shaggy, black dog.

In "The Child Thief" by Brom, barghests are distinctly doglike fairy pets of a powerful witch.

In Shattered, the seventh book in The Iron Druid Chronicles, an army of barghests appear in a battle. They're described as large black semi-spectral dogs with glowing red eyes. They're referred to as semi-spectral because while they seem solid enough when they choose to attack, most weapons will simply pass through them as if they were ghosts. They have to be killed by hand or with special magical weapons.

Film and television[edit]

The Barghest is a monster in the children's TV series Roger and the Rottentrolls, which is set in Troller's Ghyll.

The 1978 made-for-TV movie Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell features a barghest named Lucky.

In an episode of the BBC drama series Dalziel and Pascoe, a public house situated on the North York Moors which the episode's plot revolves around is named 'The Barguest', and features a large black dog on its sign.

Tabletop role-playing games[edit]

Barghests feature in:

Trading card games[edit]

Video games[edit]

Barghests, or creatures similar to it, appear in:


Barghests appear in:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barghest". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  This in turn cites:
    • Wirt Sikes, British Goblins (1880)
    • Notes and Queries, first series, ii. 51.
    • Joseph Ritson, Fairy Tales (Lond. 1831), p. 58; Lancashire Folklore (1867)
    • Joseph Lucas, Studies in Nidderdale (Pateley Bridge, 1882)
  2. ^ Jeffrey Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, (1923)
  3. ^ Henderson, William (1879). "Ch. 7". Notes on the folk-lore of the northern counties of England and the borders (2nd ed.). Folk-Lore Society. p. 275. 
  4. ^ a b c Briggs, Katharine (1976). An Encyclopedia of Fairies. Pantheon Books. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0394409183.