The Headless HorsemanBecome a Patron!
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Irish Ghost Stories
The haunting tale of The Headless Horseman
The headless horseman is a very ancient tale of Ireland, stretching back to the days before Christ came with St Patrick, when a dark king used to sacrifice people to old black one-eye, Crom Cruach, by decapitation. That very same Crom Dubh, the worm god, who consumed the Druid Prince Cesard in green bubbling acid at the battle of Moy Tura after his collector of souls was struck down by Nuada with his golden sword! When you make a bargain with elder powers you keep it one way or the other.
And still they say his servants ride the highways and byways of Ireland, collecting their due wherever it may lie. As headless horsemen they ride, bearing a whip made of human bones or atop a horse-and-six with funerary light blazing in skulls set about it, and green sparks flying from their iron shod hooves.
The head which looks and smells like old rotten cheese can be held aloft, allowing the Dullahan, or headless horseman, to see a great distance even on moonless nights or in the darkest of chambers. And when he finds the one he seeks, he speaks their name and they drop dead, to be carried away to whatever fate awaits them.
No road is barred to the Dullahan, all gates and locks fall open at his approach. He can't be outrun or evaded. The only thing that will slow him down is an object of purest gold, for he cannot pass even a pin's worth of the stuff.
Should you chance to see a Dullahan, avert your eyes quickly, for they don't like people watching them work. A douse of blood may be your reward for staring at them, often marking you out to be the next in line for the chop, or a flick of their dread whip may cost you an eye, ripped living from your head.
The last and perhaps most recent of the many legends of the Dullahan was that of Thomas Roper, of Roper's Rest off Blackpitts road in Dublin, who became Viscount of Baltinglass. It's not known what he did to draw the attention of the Dullahan but rumours persist of a gruesome incident which killed a member of his family, and they were let rot for some time without a proper burial.
So should you hear the thunder of hooves behind you and the snap of a whip some foul night, close your eyes and pray you have gold to hand, for it might well be the headless horseman looking for recruits!
Old Roper's Rest is indicated on the map you see beneath.
We now have an amazing Patreon page as well, where you can listen to the many myths and legends on the Emerald Isle! Exclusive to our Patreon, you can now hear stories of ancient Ireland, folklore and fairy tales and more, all professionally narrated. It's at times like these that it's most important to support artists and creative people whose income might be reduced, so if you'd like to support the work that goes into Emerald Isle, the Patreon can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/emeraldisle
More Irish Ghost Stories
The long shadow of Leap Castle in County Offaly stretches across many centuries, and from its dark depths echo tales of terror, murder and the dread hand of the supernatural reaching from beyond the grave! The land upon which the O'Bannon clan built Leap Castle in the thirteenth century was not unoccupied – in fact, it had been used by ... [more]
Once upon a time in Tyrone there were two little children, the son and daughter of parents who had died when they were little. They missed their parents very much, but they were raised by a guardian who was a fanatical atheist, and was determined to convert the children to his beliefs. But they would have none of it, and so they made a childhood ... [more]
Every year around Halloween, people carve pumpkins or turnips into faces and put candles inside them, but not many know that this custom came from Ireland originally, or the story behind it! They say there was a blacksmith many years gone who was fond of his drink, and a mean drunk he was too, and tight with it. Not many friends did stingy Jack ... [more]
There was a famous beauty who lived in Belvelly castle overlooking Cork Harbour in the seventeenth century, and word of her ethereal comeliness spread far and wide. It reached the ears of a local lord by the name of Clon Rockenby, and he declared he must have her for his wife. Her name was Lady Margaret Hodnett, and although she was quite fond o ... [more]
The Redmonds were a comfortably well off family living in Court street in Enniscorthy back in 1910, and they supplemented their income by renting out rooms in their house to lodgers. However, their quiet life was soon to be interrupted by a sinister guest they hadn't invited in! In July of that year they had rented out the room above the kit ... [more]
It was the year 1280 in Kyteler's House in Kilkenny that Dame Alice Kyteler was born to a family of good prospects, a family of Flemish merchants who had settled in Kilkenny. When she grew up, Alice married William Outlawe, a wealthy merchant and moneylender, by whom she had a son. Then she married to her second husband, Adam le Blund of Callan ... [more]
One of the oldest legends in Ireland is that of the Fetch, the ghost of the living, which some say comes down from the ancient Irish word for seer or prophet, fáith. It is a double-spirit, one which takes on the identical appearance of someone as an omen of their impending death, if seen in the evening, or as a promise of good fortune if see ... [more]
They do say Irish people are fond of a good chat, the gift of the gab as it's called, but it seems even Irish ghosts are likewise inclined, as the strange tale of Corney the phantom reveals! Many years ago in Dublin city, a young family moved into a fine residence in the heart of Dublin city. Well-to-do and respectable, they made their new h ... [more]
In the south of the country, from Cork to Waterford, parents often scold wilful children with the warning – behave or Petticoat Loose will get you! And a wise child will do as they are told, for there are few more chilling tales than those of Petticoat Loose. Patrick Flynn's wife was in her labour pains near Ballingeary on a cold night ... [more]
High on a windswept slope in the Wicklow mountains near the summit of Mount Pelier, with a commanding view overlooking Dublin city, lies the burnt and blackened shell of a sinister old hunting lodge, now called the Hellfire Club, and well named it was too! For it was home to the Irish branch of that selfsame society, notorious for drunken debaucher ... [more]
William Phibbs was a well-to-do landlord of the English nobility who decided to develop his considerable estates in Ireland, building a house for himself overlooking the beautiful Ballisodare Bay in Sligo back in 1798. It would be a fine place to enjoy the sunset over Atlantic waters, he decided, and his son used it so. His grandson, also named Wil ... [more]
The old house in Coonen is much spoken of even today, its dark legend stretching back into the mists of time. Some say it is a ghost living there, others say a devil, but rumours go back further into the darkness of elder years, to the old gods of Ireland and the dark rites that were celebrated in their name. The house in Cooneen first entered t ... [more]
The headless horseman is a very ancient tale of Ireland, stretching back to the days before Christ came with St Patrick, when a dark king used to sacrifice people to old black one-eye, Crom Cruach, by decapitation. That very same Crom Dubh, the worm god, who consumed the Druid Prince Cesard in green bubbling acid at the battle of Moy Tura after his ... [more]