The Headless Horseman ⚰️

The Legend of Sleeping Hollow is a story created by Washington Irving and was published in 1820. The Legend of Sleeping Hollow is about a headless horseman scaring people from within the village of Sleepy Hollow. Even though Washington created the story, tales of headless riders go all the way back to the Middle Ages.

When Halloween starts approaching us, the tale of the headless horseman resurfaces. It’s an awesome story, but do you know the history behind the headless horseman?

– TW: decapitation –

The legend starts within Sleepy Hollow, New York during the American Revolutionary War. Within the folklore, it is said that the headless horseman was a Hessian soldier who was killed during the Battle of White Plains in 1776. During the movie Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman had his head cut off by enemy soldiers and he was buried soon afterwards. Within the story itself, he was decapitated by a cannonball instead of an actual person. The remains of his head were left on the battlefield as his body was carried away then eventually buried within a graveyard.

After he was buried, he appeared as a ghost and started searching for his head while holding a jack-o’-lantern. The movie version of Sleepy Hollow does an incredible job showing how the horseman was killed and how he terrorizes the village, even though the way he was killed is different than the story.

Irish Folklore

“The dullahan is a headless, demonic fairy, usually riding a horse and carrying his head under his arm. He wields a whip made from a human corpse’s spine. When the dullahan stops riding, a death occurs. The dullahan calls out a name, at which point the named person immediately dies. In another version, he is the headless driver of a black carriage, the Cóiste Bodhar. A similar figure, the gan ceann (“without a head”), can be frightened away by wearing a gold object or putting one in his path.”


English Folklore

“The 14th century poem Gawain and the Green Knight features a headless horseman, the titular giant knight. After he is beheaded by Gawain, the Green Knight lifts his head up with one hand and rides from the hall, challenging Gawain to meet him again one year later.”


Scottish Folklore

“The most prominent Scots tale of the headless horseman concerns a man named Ewen decapitated in a clan battle at Glen Cainnir on the Isle of Mull. The battle denied him any chance to be a chieftain, and both he and his horse are headless in accounts of his haunting of the area.”


If you’re interested in reading/watching anything related to the headless horseman, I recommend reading the Sleepy Hollow book from 1820!

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