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Troller's Gill, a limestone gorge in the Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England, UK, which is said to be haunted by a barghest (sense 1) that can turn people to stone with a look


The etymology of this word is disputed; it is perhaps from Old English burh-ghest (town-ghost), or from German Berg-geist (mountain spirit) or Bär-geist (bear-spirit).



barghest (plural barghests)

  1. (mythology, Britain) A legendary monstrous black dog, said to possess large teeth and claws, and (sometimes) to be capable of changing form.
    • 1999, Charles Edwin Price, Mysterious Knoxville: Ghost Stories, Monster Tales, and Bizarre Incidents from the “Gateway to the Smokies”, Johnson City, Tenn.: The Overmountain Press, →ISBN, page 58:
      In English folklore, a barghest is a monstrous dog with huge claws and teeth. This creature is said to roam around Yorkshire, and anyone who sees the dog will die soon after. There are barghests reported in Tennessee. On the grounds of Rotherwood Mansion in Kingsport, a monstrous black dog is said to roam, howling mournfully. Locally, he's called "Hound of Hell." Again, anyone who sees this creature is certain to suffer imminent death.
    • 2012, Kalayna Price, chapter 20, in Grave Memory: An Alex Craft Novel, New York, N.Y.: Roc Books, New American Library, →ISBN:
      "Folklore often portrays barghests as guardians who lead lost travelers home," I said, not answering his question in the least, or mentioning that more often barghests were considered portents of death.
  2. (mythology, Britain) Any ghost, wraith, hobgoblin, elf, or spirit.
    • 2016, Alexander L. Kaufman, “‘And Many Oþer Diuerse Tokens …’: Portents and Wonders in ‘Warkworth’s’ Chronicle”, in Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper, and Dominique Hoche, editors, The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press in association with The Boydell Press and the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York, →ISBN, page 61:
      Yet another possibility is that the headless man is a barghest, sometimes referred to and spelled as 'barguest', 'bahrgeist' or 'boguest'. These are creatures primarily associated with the north of England – Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire. They assume at will the form of a headless man, a headless lady, a white cat, a rabbit, or dog, or a black dog. The barghest is a fiend that is attached to a particular place, more often than not an isolated piece of land, a wooded area, cloughs or wasteland. The barghest is known as a portent of disaster or death for those who see it; it is also said that death may not visit the person who sees the barghest but could kill a family member instead.

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