Is the Dullahan the Origin Story of the Headless Horseman?
Heads up! Washington Irving made Ireland’s original headless horseman famous in the United States with the story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving’s monster was pretty tough but the dullahan of Irish counties Sligo and Down rides with a glowing head the color of moldy cheese beneath his arm or strapped to his saddle, its eyes darting frantically about and a wide grin splitting its rotting cheeks. When the dullahan stops his midnight-hued horse outside of a household, the head speaks a name—the name of the chosen victim. That person’s soul is whisked away to become the possession of the dullahan while the horse’s hooves spark against the ground and flames erupt from his steed’s nostrils as they speed to the next name on their horrid list.
In other parts of the country, the dullahan drives a black coach called a coach-a-bower pulled by six black horses who are urged on by the whipping sound of a human spinal column. A shrieking banshee may accompany him on his ride, though I can think of better first dates. There is no escape from the dullahan unless you carry a piece of gold with you at all times, as he’s afraid of the shiny metal.