There’s a famous tale about a pumpkin-headed demon
that for many captures the spirit of Halloween,
Washington Irving’s headless horseman
But I actually think there’s a much scarier headless monster
with the potential to keep you up at night year round.
One that began in the folklore of my ancestors
the Irish Dullahan.
I’m Dr. Emily Zarqa,
and this is Monstrum.
Before we really get into the legend of the Dullahan,
let’s address the pumpkin in the room,
the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
Washington Irving wrote the short story
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in 1820.
In it, Ichabod Crane and his rival Brom Bones,
both fall in love with Katrina Van Tassel
because of her great beauty
and her large inheritance.
One night, after a rejection from Katrina,
a drunken Ichabod is chased down
by a black-cloaked figure on horseback,
and then mysteriously vanishes,
only his hat and broken pieces of a pumpkin left behind.
With Ichabod out of the picture, Katrina marries Brom
and the townspeople are led to believe
Ichabod was carried away by a terrifying headless horseman
of supernatural speed and strength.
Most of us know the Headless Horseman
through children’s books or the Disney version.
There’s also that movie that’s loosely based on the story,
which has a lot of issues,
including it’s demonization of women.
But let’s move on.
I believe it’s not only possible, but likely
that Irving knew about the Irish Dullahan
before writing his famous spooky story.
His mother and father were immigrants with an English and Scottish heritage.
He had a Scottish nanny.
He travelled extensively across Europe.
He was friends with noted author Sir Walter Scott,
who was indeed Scottish.
So it’s hard not imagine that Irving was exposed to Celtic culture.
We could also give credit to Irving’s other possible European influences
like “Tam o’Shanter” by Robert Burns,
and “The Wild Huntsman” by Gottfried August Bürger,
both poems that have supernatural horse chases.
Basically Irving took the concept
of a headless horseman from the Dullahan,
and added elements that would make it
more frightening for his target audience, Americans.
Irving uses the name of an actual town in the United States
and his villain is called the “Galloping Hessian”
a reference to the real German soldiers hired by the British
to fight in the Revolutionary War
who were known for their extreme violence.
So Irving takes fact and adds it to his fiction
saying “it is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper,
whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball,
in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war.”
The story of the Headless Horseman in popular culture
usually has horses, nighttime journeys,
carriages, and graveyards,
all things that we find in Dullahan legends.
But, what’s unique about the Dullahan that’s different from other monsters
is that it doesn’t actually kill you.
You might get your eyes whipped out
because that’s a thing they do,
but your life isn’t immediately in peril.
What the Dullahan is though is a grave forewarning.
If you seen one, it’s not good.
You, or someone you love, will die,
你 或者你爱的某人个 会死
or suffer in some terrible, horrible, eyeless way.
The Dullahan story first appeared in writing in the 19th century in collections of Irish folklore
like Fairy legends and traditions of the south of Ireland by Thomas Crofton Croker,
and Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry by W.B. Yeats
which introduced Irish legends to the masses.
The Dullahan can be either male or female,
always travels by horse, and is headless.
Most of the time, their head is still with them.
Sometimes it floats close to their bodies
or is tucked under their arm, or is even inside their pocket.
In many stories, the horse is headless, too.
Dullahan can also travel in packs.
In “The Harvest Dinner”, a carriage full of headless passengers
is driven by a headless driver,
and pulled by headless horses.
Other accounts of the Dullahan show them in the company of Banshees,
racing human riders,
and even bowling with their own skulls.
That would be the party of a lifetime.
In the aptly named “the death coach”
a Dullahan wields a long whip and drives a team of headless horses.
His carriage wheels are made from human thigh bones
the carriage is lit by two hanging skulls
In some versions, the whip they carry is even more horrifying,
it’s actually made from a human spine.
The Dullahan is the personification of death.
The headless corpse was something the Irish were all too familiar with.
They were a predominantly Catholic culture,
with many stories and paintings that depict martyred saints
walking around carrying their heads
as a symbol of how they were executed.
Even before Catholicism was introduced in the 4th century,
early Celts would take and preserve the heads of slain enemies
to dehumanize them.
They believed the head was where the soul was located.
So removing the head damages the spirit.
Decapitation was practiced in Medieval Ireland
both in battle and as a form of punishment.
During late Tudor rule,
the British government even offered “head money”,
to anyone who could present the head of a known rebel to the crown.
There are written accounts of these beheadings, and also archeological evidence.
Across Ireland, both male and female skeletons have been discovered
with their heads forcibly removed.
This might explain tales of headless monsters,
but what about the headless horses?
Well, the Irish believed one of the greatest insults
was to bury a human with a dead animal.
And, in fact, many skeletons have been found
buried with dead animals with missing heads.
So the Dullahan’s headless horse may have come from this tradition.
The Dullahan is a reminder to never “lose one’s head”
both literally and metaphorically.
The appearance of a Dullahan often occurs
after the victim has succumbed to lustful thoughts
or has been drinking too heavily.
It serves as a midnight warning,
that keeps men and women at home, sober, and in their own beds.
它警告人们待在家中 保持清醒 乖乖躺在床上
Oral folklore, religion, and literary history
口口相传的故事 宗教 以及文学作品
all have a hand in creating this monster.
One of the most terrifying things about the Dullahan
is that it closely resembles
the gruesome realities of Medieval Ireland
and combines fact and fiction,
blurring real beheadings with imaginary ones.
And you thought the Headless Horseman
was just a Halloween story.
There’s a famous tale about a pumpkin-headed demon