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Headless Horse

Headless Horse

Whilst thumbing through and old book of the 1830s I came across the following account which took place near of the the villages on the edge of Dartmoor, sadly there was no mention as to which village.

Once a powerful man, one, as we were assured, in no way likely to be daunted by spectres, ventured to traverse the bye lane which leads to the high road. In those days this was a feat which even Hercules might have declined, such was the character of this lane; however’ the good man despised all fear, and laughed these ghostly terrors to scorn; so lighting his lantern at the turn-pike gate, he valiantly sallied forth. He had proceeded but half way when lo! he heard behind him the rapid steps of a horse: at first he took no notice of this – presently, however, a horse’s head appeared over his shoulder. He stretched out his hand to turn the animal away, and where he plainly saw the head, grasped only thin air. At the same moment, his light was suddenly extinguished without any apparent cause, for there was not a breath of wind stirring; then the stout man’s heart began to fail. He hastened his steps, when the horse which was still pursuing him, to add to his dismay, snorted in the most horrific manner: now indeed he gave himself over for lost. Pale, breathless, and half dead, he reached the hospitable door of a cott, and tottering to a chair, told his direful adventures, declaring that, for all the gold in the Indies, he would not venture a step further alone. The sequel to the story is, that very soon the brother of this farmer died, and, more wonderful still, was seen to pass through a field where several labourers were at work; entering at one gate, he walked within a few yards of them, and climbed over the stile at the opposite corner. To their horror, when they returned home, they heard that the poor man had been dead several hours before his apparition thus appeared.

The lane where the phantom horse was seen is still held in bad repute; and many of our younger neighbours, would go miles around rather than come through it after dark. One young man gravely asserted the other day, that he had seen, “with his own eyes,” a headless man riding on a horse, fly along the road and pass clean through the barred turnpike-gate“.

It appears that this lane and the connecting turnpike road was the scene of more than one spectral horse, indeed the account goes on to relate how:

“One man (but this was in years gone by) was returning from a neighbouring village at the dread hour of midnight, when he heard in the distance the baying of the hell-hounds: nearer and nearer they came scoring over the hills above him. Terrified, he threw himself under a hedge, and in a moment the whole hunt passed by him, dogs and horses all sending forth hideous unearthly noises, while flames spouted from their nostrils; a carriage brought up the rear, drawn by spectre horses, and all bounded forward through hedge and over ditch as easily as on a turn-pike road”.

This story sounds as if all the infamous ghosts and spectres of Dartmoor were abroad at the same time with the Wisht Hounds, Lady Howard and her coach and the headless horseman chasing each other along the lanes.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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