17th January 1597

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Barghest is one of Yorkshire's most commonly-encountered black dogs - and also goes by the name of Bargjtest or Bo-guest. His haunts run wide across the county, having strong resonances with the gorge of Troller's Gill, but also appearing in the darkened alleyways of York and Whitby. It is perhaps because of Barghest's association with Whitby that Bram Stoker gave Dracula the form of an enormous black dog when his ship ran aground and he first came ashore.

In Wakefield and surrounds, the beast is also known as Padfoot, but he has also been seen in York, where he is associated with the maze of narrow snickleways that cross the city's medieval heart. It is there that he is said to prey on lone travellers.

He is also said to take other forms ("Barghest" is a name also given to a more goblin-like spirit further North) including a headless man and a white rabbit. The origin of his name is usually taken to deriving from the Germanic 'geist' and 'bar' meaning 'town', so it could be that the name Barghest was historically used as a more generic term for city-dwelling spirits before becoming most closely associated with the black dog.

In the folklore of the areas he haunts, it is said that, whatever form he takes, his appearance heralds death to the witness who sees him clearly, and lingering death to those who see him but briefly.

See also: folklore

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 14th August 2014 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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