“From Ghoulies and Ghosties / And long-leggetty Beasties / And things that go bump in the Night, / Good Lord, deliver us!”
Equally claimed by the Cornish and the Scots, that oft-repeated litany aptly sums up our fear of the dark.
And whilst some of our fright is borne of childhood night terrors and fireside tales, there are other things rooted in the collective regional psyche that go beyond mere urban legend.
One of them is the Guytrash.
Much has been written about this spectral beast, said by some to be a phantom dog that stalks the murky night, by others to be a malevolent cow!
But this spectral hound of legend – also known as a Padfoot and, in East Anglia, as the immense 7ft-long Black Shuck – has been noted over the last 200 years to haunt the lonely roads of Brighouse.
Representations of this demonic animal invariably present it with slavering jaws and glowing eyes. It was said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he created the devil dog in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Brighouse folklorist and author Kai Roberts is familiar with the Guytrash, though even he has found little to support talk of its existence over the last 200 years.
“There are at least two 19th century references to Guytrash belief in Brighouse. Sadly, they don’t tell us exactly where in the town the Guytrash was believed to haunt, although liminal locations such as bridges, crossroads and parish boundaries are typical. One source does, however, tell us what form the Guytrash took in Brighouse: a cow!” he says.
Kai, whose books include Folklore of Yorkshire, Haunted Huddersfield, and Grave Concerns: The Follies and Folklore of Robin Hood’s Last Resting Place, is not easily convinced by some tales, such as the White Lady of Bradley Woods, which he considers to be “a stock migratory legend” and probably wholly invented.
But he remains intrigued by the Guytrash.
“He’s a much older ghost. The first mentions appear in the 18th century and persist until the early 20th,” he explains.
“He’s not always necessarily a phantom hound: he variously appears in the guise of a goat, a rolling woolpack, a flaming barrel and more. As such, folklorists usually describe him as an example of a ‘bogey beast’. In some cases, he’s even a shape-changer, which is probably an inheritance from medieval ghost traditions.”
Every town needs a resident ghost. Thankfully this one can’t sneak under the bed. Probably...
Read more on Kai Roberts’ website: https://lowercalderlegends.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/the-guytrash-brighouse/