Barghest, Bargtjest or Bargest is the name given in the north of England, especially in Yorkshire, to a mythical monstrous goblin-dog with huge teeth and claws.
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 demon, or Bar-geist, bear-demon, in allusion to its alleged appearance at times as a bear. The barghest has a kinsman in the Rongeur d'Os of Norman folklore.
The barghest is essentially a nocturnal spectre, and its appearance is regarded as a portent of death. Its Welsh form is confined to the sea-coast parishes, and on the Norfolk coast the creature is supposed to be amphibious, *coming out of the sea by night and travelling about the lonely lanes.
The spectre-hound under various names is familiar in folk-lore:
- The Demon of Tedworth, the Black Dog of Winchester, Hampshire and the Padfoot of Wakefield all shared the characteristics of the Barghest of York.
- In Wales its counterpart was Gwyllgi, the Dog of Darkness, a frightful apparition of a mastiff with baleful breath and blazing red eyes. A Welsh variant is Cŵn Annwn, or dogs of hell.
- In Lancashire the spectre-hound is called Trash or Striker.
- In Cambridgeshire and on the Norfolk coast it is known as Black Shuck or Shock.
- In the Isle of Man it is styled Mauthe Dhoog, or Moddey Dhoo (black dog in Manx). People believe that anyone who sees the dog clearly will die soon after the encounter.
- It is mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel--
- "For he was speechless, ghastly, wan
- Like him of whom the Story ran
- Who spoke the spectre hound in Man."
- In the Channel Island of Guernsey, there are two named dogs. One, Tchico (Tchi-coh two Norman words for dog, from whence cur), is headless, and is supposed to be the phantom of a past Bailiff of Guernsey, Gaultier de la Salle, who was hanged for falsely accusing one of his vassals. The other dog is known as Bodu or tchen Bodu (tchen being dog in Dgèrnésiais). His appearance, usually in the Clos du Valle, foretells death of the viewer or someone close to him. There are also numerous other unnamed apparitions, usually associated with placenames derived from bête (beast).
- In Jersey folklore, the Black Dog of Death is also called the Tchico, but a related belief in the Tchian d'Bouôlé (Black Dog of Bouley) tells of a phantom dog whose appearance presages storms. The story is believed to have been encouraged by smugglers who wanted to discourage nocturnal movements by people who might witness the movement of contraband.
- In Devon, the dog is referred to as the 'Yeth (Heath) or Wisht Hounds.
The barghest in literature
- Comic book publisher Barghest Entertainment takes its name from the legendary demon-dog. Among its titles are Pizzaface and Friend Force. It plans to expand into the True Crime arena.
- The image of the barghest is invoked, under the moniker of "the Grim," in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In this story, the character of Sirius Black -- nicknamed Padfoot -- has the ability to transform into a dog matching the description of the barghest. The main character's sighting of the dog is claimed to presage his imminent death.
- When arriving at England aboard the ship "Demeter", Dracula shapeshifts to a big and ferocious dark dog very much like the Barghest.
- The image of the barghest is also used in The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- The barghest is mentioned in passing in Roald Dahl's The Witches as always being male.
- The barghest is depicted as a shapeshifting beast in Sojourn (it is based on Dungeons & Dragons lore, in which a Barghest is a goblin/wolf hybrid capable of shapeshifting into one of the two as well as its hybrid form), written by R.A. Salvatore.
- A barghest is featured in Icewind Dale II, where it is portrayed as a demonic, dog-like creature of remarkable intellect that nevertheless very much enjoys eating humans.
- In the World of Darkness roleplaying game Wraith: the Oblivion, a barghest is a wraith whose corpus has been altered into the shape of a dog-like creature. Hierarchy officers use barghests as bloodhounds when hunting for renegade wraiths.
- In the World of Darkness role playing game book Antagonists, the barghest is associated with the Beast of Bethlehem, from the William Butler Yeats poem "The Second Coming".
The barghest in film
- The classic made for TV movie Devil Dog: Hound of Hell features a barghest named Lucky, and is now available on DVD.
- The upcoming film The Wrath features a barghest as the enforcer of an ancient curse.
- The dogs at the cemetery in The Omen are similar to the barghest.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry sees a large black dog prior to learning of his Godfather's escape from Azkaban, and once more in tea leaves in his Divination class.
- 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).