In many countries and the towns inside them have a variation of myths and legends describing a demonic black dog that is feared by all. The name often changes, depending on where you are, from ‘Black Shuck’ to the simpler ‘Hell Hound’, the folklore behind this creature even inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘the Hound of the Baskervilles’. And in
Whitby we have our own version; the Barguest (pronounced ‘bar-ghost’).
It is said that if you hear the beast that death is imminent. They are described as large, black, and ferocious man-eaters whom you would never want to cross, it is thought that the Barguest will even tear its victims to pieces. But, as I said above, in the town of Whitby the howl of the beast signals that either you or a loved one will soon pass.
There have been numerous documentations of the beast, but the most shocking comes from that of archaeologists that were excavating a Roman signalling station, in nearby Kettleness, in 1951. The archaeologists allegedly discovered the skeletal remains of a man with a huge dog laying beside him, almost as if they were curled together. It was discovered that the bodies had died together, more likely to have been fighting, rather than being moved post-mortem. The jaws of the large creature were found curled around the man’s throat, the dog had died from a stab wounds and the man? From his throat being ripped out.
Another story tells of the impossibility of escaping the monster. Reverend J.C. Atkinson tells the story of a man who was stumbling through St Hilda’s Church, Egton, one night after a night on the drink. On his route through the cemetery he found his path blocked by a ‘donkey-shaped’ Barguest that would stop any attempt the man made of getting past the demonic creature. The youth, thinking he was being clever, followed a nearby lane and jumped into the churchyard from there, thinking he had successfully thwarted the Barguest the man didn’t notice, in the dark, that there was an open grave on the dark ground, which he fell into and broke his neck.
If you are ever on the moors, or in the town of Whitby, and you hear the dreaded howl of the Barguest, beware!