The Phantom Horsemen (Creepy History 19)

The Headless Horseman

“The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” by John Quidor (1858), depicting a scene from Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

During October 2015 I presented a series of Creepy History articles in the lead-up to Halloween, and have been planning to extend that series throughout 2016 as they were so popular. So this is the first in an occasional return to Creepy History. The series will pop up on Windows into History from time to time, whenever I happen to stumble upon something spooky during my exploration of old books and magazines.

The following quote is taken from Itinerarium Germaniae, Galliae, Angliae, Italiae, cum Indice Locorum, Rerum atque Verborum by Paul Hentzner, first published in 1612, but recounting a European tour taken over the course of three years from 1596. The translated extract was included in England as seen by Foreigners in the days of Elizabeth and James the First, a collection of travels journals and extracts from journals, collected by William Brenchley Rye and published in 1865. I have already explored some other interesting quotes from this journal in Journals 12, posted on 22nd and 29th February 2016, if you would like to take a look at that.

We came to Canterbury on foot. Being tired, we refreshed ourselves with a mouthful of bread and some ale, and immediately mounted post-horses, and arrived about two or three hours after nightfall at Dover. In our way to it, which was rough and dangerous enough, the following accident happened to us. Our guide or postillion, a youth, was before with two of our company, about the distance of a musket-shot, we by not following quick enough had lost sight of our friends; we came afterwards to where the road divided, on the right it was down hill and marshy, on the left was a small hill; whilst we stopped here in doubt, and consulted which of the roads we should take, we saw all on a sudden on our right-hand some horsemen, their stature, dress, and horses exactly resembling those of our friends; glad of having found them again, we determined to set on after them; but it happened through God’s mercy, that though we called to them, they did not answer us, but kept on down the marshy road, at such a rate that their horses’ feet struck fire at every stroke, which made us with reason begin to suspect that they were robbers, having had warning of such, or rather that they were nocturnal spectres, which as we were afterwards told, are frequently seen in those places; there were likewise a great many Jack-o’-lanthorns, so that we were quite seized with horror and amazement. But fortunately for us, our guide soon after sounded his horn, and we following the noise, turned down the left-hand road, and arrived safe to our companions; who, when we had asked them if they had not seen the horsemen who had gone by us? answered, not a soul. Our opinions, according to custom, were various upon this matter; but whatever the thing was, we were without doubt in imminent danger, from which that we escaped the glory is to be ascribed to God alone.

If you would like to read the previous Creepy History articles, containing lots of spooky quotes from old books, you can find them by clicking on the Contents page – the link is on the menu bar under the banner. If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.


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