The Dullahan is a headless horseman from the Unseelie Court of the Irish fairy realm. Although in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the mysterious rider is implied to be only a man in disguise, the early American short story’s antagonist is modeled from legends of the Dullahan.
The Dullahan carry their grotesque, rictal heads with them, either aloft in their hands or in their saddlebags. (They in fact see through the heads’ eyes, though their sight extends vastly farther than human eyes, and through the pitch black of night). Unlike Death itself, the Dullahan rides a steaming stallion of jet black. The Dullahan maintain classic hallmarks of a Death Omen—if it bears a lantern, it is made of human skull. If it wields a crop, it is the spine of a corpse. In some parts of Ireland the Dullahan is seen in a drawn coach rather than on horseback, with a carriage of skin and wheel spokes of bone. Whatever the conveyance, it is surely a terrifying sight. Continue reading