Headless phantoms and headless horsemen
Washington Irving’s famous (or infamous) tale is one of the most enduring American Gothic tales. Haunted forests, headless horsemen, spooky valleys, black horses, and flying pumpkins have chilled the blood for over two hundred years now. But where does this frightening tale originate? Irving’s story is set in a Dutch-American immigrant community, but headless monsters lurk amidst the legends of many countries.
One such legend is the Irish phantom known as the Dullahan. Like the Headless Horseman, the Dullahan is a headless phantoms who rides on horseback or in a horse-drawn coach. Unlike Irving’s legend, this phantom, at times, also comes with headless horses! Like Irving’s Headless Horseman, the Dullahan rides a jet-black horse with flaming eyes. According to legend, the phantom has a face similar to moldering cheese and eyes like flames. The Dullahan can remove its hideous head at will and carries a deadly whip in order to flick out the eyes of unsuspecting victims.
If you hear thundering hooves late at night, DO NOT open the door! Should the Dullahan pass and find you gawking, it will toss a bowl of blood in your face. You have now been marked for death.
Other forms of the name are dúlachan, dulacaun, dullaghan and dubhlachan. Irish dubh means ‘black, dark’ and Irish lucharachán denotes ‘pigmy, puny creature’ while Irish lachan means ‘reed’. In Scottish Gaelic lachan means ‘hearty laugh.’
Find more gruesome interpretations of the Headless Horseman, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and demonic forces in Firbolg Publishing’s
For more information on Irish history and mythology: