Many, especially around Halloween, have heard the spooky tale of “The Headless Horseman” and his rides into Sleepy Hollow. But the original story from which it was derived is actually much scarier – and much more gruesome. So read on about “The Dullahan” of Ireland – if you dare…..
The Dullahan (or “dark man”) is a ghost from Irish mythology. He is also known “Gan Ceann” (Without Head). While usually male, there are some female versions of the story. The Dullahan stalks the lonely country roads of rural Ireland. When the moon is shining brightly, he enters the mortal world to summon the souls for the dead.
He appears in the form of a hideous, decapitated corpse, dressed in black robes and seated on his black horse. In one hand, he clutches a whip made from a dead man’s spine. Under his other arm, he carries his severed head which glows with an eerie light. He uses it as a lantern to light his way along the darkened roads of the Irish countryside. By holding his head up high, he can see great distances, even on the darkest night.
WARNING – HERE COMES THE REALLY GORY PART…The Dullahan’s massive severed head is covered in rotting flesh and smells like moldy cheese. The mouth is usually in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head. Its small, black eyes are constantly moving about and can search for fresh victims across the countryside even during the darkest nights. The entire head glows with the phosphorescence of decaying matter
Sometimes the Dullahan is seen riding a headless black horse that gallops through the night, sparks and flames shooting from its nostrils, spreading terror in its wake. At other times, he appears on a carriage drawn by six black horses. The carriage is lit with candles and made from coffins, tomb stones and human bones. It travels so fast that the friction from the horses’ hooves is said to set fire to the hedges along the sides of the road.
When the Dullahan is on the loose, nobody in Ireland dares to leave their home for fear of running into him. Nothing can stop him and all gates, door and locks open of their own accord when he approaches. Its disembodied head is permitted to speak just once on each journey it undertakes, and then has only the ability to call the name of the person whose death it heralds. A Dullahan will stop its snorting horse before the door of a house and shout the name of the person about to die, drawing forth the soul at the call. He may also stop at the very spot where a person will die.
He does not like to be seen and if he catches you watching him, he will blind you by lashing out your eyeballs with his whip or throwing a basin of blood in your face.
The Dullahan’s only weakness is that he has an irrational fear of gold. Even a single gold pin can be enough to frighten him off and send him galloping into the darkness
Here is a version of the original story:
One night, a man in Galway was on his way home when all of a sudden he heard the sound of a horse’s hooves pounding along the road behind him. He turned around and when he saw what emerged from the darkness, all he could do was stare in dread. It was the Dullahan. The man tried to run, but it was no use. Nothing can outrun the Dullahan. Desperate to escape, the man searched his pockets and found his gold wedding ring. He tossed it into the road and ran. There was a loud roar that split the silence of the night and when he glanced back over his shoulder, he saw that the Dullahan was gone.