I’m including the barghest in hauntings and ghost month because he’s sort of too cool not to and I’m in love with the devil hounds. I’ve said as much before.
The barghest differs from the devil dogs that I’ve talked about here before because he’s allowed to have human form-though he borders on some of the British and Celtic fey in that he takes a specific, headless form (the Dullahan is an Irish fey spirit that’s defined by his lack of a head). The headless rider or headless man is a running theme in British folklore. In some areas of Yorkshire, the spirit is a dog-who is headless. This spirit is most common in northern England, around Yorkshire and surrounding areas.
It should be noted that while there are fey spirits that can take on an appearance like this, the barghest is most commonly assumed to be a ghost. He/it is not a faerie, the folklore places him/it squarely as a malevolent ghost. Seeing the ghost could either cause doom or was a warning of inescapable danger. In Whitby, he’s a particularly stubborn thing, following people through the streets silently (or not), growing bigger or smaller, and passing through doors and walls. The passing through doors is an interesting aspect, being that these spirits are often associated with the crossroads and in some world folklore a doorway is a stand-in for the crossroads if you can’t find an actual crossroads, being that you pass through them.
Like many of the devil dogs and other spirits in British folklore, the barghest is a death omen. When he appeared, either as a dog or the sound of rattling chains, he would signal the death of an important individual. The barghest would lead all the dogs in the area in a parade with all the dogs howling and barking.
This sounds quite Hunt-ish, and I’d like to see the timing between the development of this ghost and other British ghosts associated with the Wild Hunt like Herne the Hunter.