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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:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.