Mystic Britain: Barghest and Black Shuck

With Glowing Red Eyes, Death Awaits All Those Who Spot Britain’s Demon Dogs

Michael East
The Mystery Box
Published in
10 min readOct 24, 2020

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Found in folklore throughout the British Isles, a black dog, usually demonic, is variously considered a ghost, a hellhound or even a shapeshifter. Sighting one of these apparitions is believed to be a deadly portent, with the death of the witness or a relative said to follow. These sightings are often linked to electrical storms alongside ancient roads, crossroads and places of execution. Often believed to serve as the familiar of witchs and warlocks, black dogs have long been associated with witchcraft and were mentioned in the alleged pagan killing of Charles Walton, a case highlighted by this author last week.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Film Poster | Wikipedia, Hunter Kahn

While the legends of black dogs cross the breadth of the British Isles, inspiring such popular culture as The Hound of the Baskervilles, two legends stand out amongst all others, those of the Barghest and the Black Shuck, the most deadly of all Britain’s Demon Dogs.

With its origins in the north of the country, Barghest appears only at night and is described as goblin-like, featuring huge teeth and claws. Those who fully saw the Barghest would have seconds to live, while those who only caught a glimpse would be a little more fortunate and live for several months afterwards. Equally, some said that upon the death of a notable local person, the Barghest would appear at the head of a procession of normal dogs in the area, leading the animals in a chorus of howls to lament the death. At this time, anyone who got in the way would be struck by one of Barghest’s razor-sharp paws. They would suffer a wound that would never heal.

One such demon in Darlington, a town in County Durham, is said to be of the shapeshifter variety. This Barghest was able to take the form of a headless man or woman, a white cat, a rabbit and, of course, a black dog. There are tales of the beast in the folklore rich Whitby and well as entering York. In Lancashire the creature went by the name of Trash, Skriker, or Striker, featuring wide feet that were sometimes backward in association with the devil. There is…

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Michael East
The Mystery Box

Freelance writer. Writing on true crime, mysteries, politics, history, popular culture, and more. | https://linktr.ee/MichaelEast