Friday, October 10, 2008

Horsemen Hauntings

Germany Valley abounds with the tales of ghostly horses and horsemen. I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

I remember a story about an apparently benevolent ghost horseman who frequented these parts, and whom you could still hear some nights as he followed people going from one house to the other. This occurred on nights in the full moon, and people could see it just fine, it never spoke, and it rode just a few yards behind a person. As far as I know, this horseman never harmed anyone, it would just scare the heck out of you.
Not the Headless Horseman in the lane, but here is an artist rendering of another West Virginia Headless Horseman. Drawn by my brother, Jason Burns.

There are also tales of a not so friendly headless horseman. My granddad told me about a headless horseman that haunted a particular stretch of road, locally known as “The Lane”. The story took place in the summer months, and that this headless horseman chased a local man named Oren Bent. Oren was riding a lazy, old sway-backed horse named “Nelliegur”, and he was coming out of The Lane one evening about dark, after visiting some friends. The headless horseman took after him just after he passed the old cemetery and it chased him all the way home. He said the rider was carrying what he took to be his head in his left hand. Oren said it looked like a big round thing that was wrapped in white cloth and it was dripping blood. Oren that sparks was flying off the horses hooves as the horseshoes hit the rocks in the road. Oren said the horseman rode up beside of old Nelliegur, and the ghost horse snorted and scared her, and she took off running as hard as she could. Nelliegur hadn’t been known to break out into a run for several years prior to this, and was considered to be the laziest horse in five counties. The next day, when Oren told the community of his ordeal, the men doubted his word and followed him up to where this supposedly took place, and the men tracked Nelliegur from where she left the friends home the previous evening. She had been plodding along as usual, until just after passing the old cemetery, where she broke into a flat run. Oddly enough, beside her hoof prints were the hoof prints of another horse that was very large, and every few feet or so, there were droplets of blood scattered in the dust of the road. The men were shocked, nobody around there could explain the hoof prints of the large horse, nobody around there had a horse that large, nor could they explain the droplets of blood. For the next few weeks, Oren couldn’t get Nelliegur to go anywhere near The Lane, in fact, she would lie down in the road to keep from going through that section.

Burns Holler Road

It has long been known that Burns holler is also haunted by a headless horseman. To this day, you can be lying in bed at my parents house, and on some quiet nights you can hear the sound of a shod horse walking (or running) up and down the holler. Everyone in my family has heard this on several occasions, and we don’t make a big deal out of it. I remember one night about 8 O’clock I was walking back from my Granddad’s house up on the hill and I was heading toward home. To get from my granddad’s house to our house, I had to walk down off the hill, around the turn and down through Burns holler before crossing the creek and walking up the hill to our house. On this night, just as I rounded the turn in the road, I heard the unmistakable sound of a horses hooves clanging off the rocks and clomping up the holler road toward me. I just about pissed my pants. I took off running as hard as I could, I practically jumped across the bridge over the creek, and hell-belled it toward home. I was really stepping it off, until I forgot about the little drainage ditch near my grandmaw’s old house, and I tripped in it. Well, I just rolled with the fall and hit the ground running, I didn’t miss a beat! I was just sure the headless horseman was right behind me. I was breathing so hard though, there was no way I could’ve heard it if it was. I know what I heard that night though, and at that time, there were no horses within miles of our holler. I have never been able to come up with an explanation for that one.

One thing for sure, I learned a lesson that night, and after that I always made sure I was home before dark or else I had a big flashlight with me. There’s always been weird stuff that goes on in Burns holler after the sun goes down.

Does anyone out there reading this have stories about a headless horseman from your neck of the woods?


Shirley Stewart Burns, Ph.D. said...

Great story! Very well told. I can almost hear the click clack of the horse's hooves.

Granny Sue said...


We don't have a headless horseman, but there is a story about a headless dog and Larry of course has the story of the headless woman. There are several stories of headless pedlars, too, in central WV.

tipper said...

Great post!! Loved Jason's drawing too. I don't have a story about a headless horseman-but I wish I did.

The Tile Lady said...

I'm so glad I found you! Just love your blog! These stories are so perfect for this time of year! Great job! And great drawings by Jason, as well.

The Tile Lady said...

Drawing...I meant. Have you seen The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature? I think you would love that's a forum of southern writing. I'll send you the link if you are interested.

Matthew Burns said...

Tile Lady--- I would love to have the link to the blog you mentioned. Glad you like my blog. I try to keep it interesting. I appreciate all the kind words.

Granny Sue---Burns Holler is also haunted by a black ghost dog. He may appear in a future post. Also, there was a haint in the attic of our farmhouse that would rock in a rocking chair and her head would spin around if you approached her. Needless to say, we were wary of the attic.

Tipper---I know of several other headless horseman stories from that area around Pendleton County. Maybe there's something in the water that makes you lose your head!! If you figure out a way, I'll give you the one from Burns holler.


The Tile Lady said...

Matthew, that url is It's called The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. They like to print stories and poems first but then once they have appeared on their website, you can print them anywhere else and they like to be "mentioned" if you use the story or poem in a blog. I just started making submissions to them myself. I did a piece of narrative non-fiction (it was almost a poem) called Trains. And I wrote a story last night that I am considering submitting, based on something that actually happened to my great-grandmother, called At the Spring. Good luck....and keep it up on this wonderful blog! It's fascinating!

Corker2 said...

This story is pretty good!

Can't really think of anything around here that is of a headless horseman, but there are a few other story's and haunting's in this area. I'll probably post some of them later on in my Blog.

Jason Burns said...

The attic in the farmhouse was haunted by a headless man, not a woman.

Matthew Burns said...

The way I remember it, it was a woman in the attic. There was also the woman in the pruple dress and Capt. Daugherty, the peg leg Civil War Captain.

I remember it was a woman in the attic because a school teacher lived there before we did, and only stayed one night because she heard something in the attic and went up to check, and the woman in the rocking chair spun around and around and laughed.


Jason Burns said...

The way I always heard it was a man. And it was Capt. Daugherty - the same ghost that walked the stairs. Of course, it could have been either, but I always heard it was the man ghost, not the woman in the purple dress.

Matthew Burns said...

I'd always heard it was a woman. It was neither Capt. Daugherty or the puple dress lady. This was another ghost altogether. This was suppoedly an old woman who sat in a rocking chair there at the top of the attic steps.

Who knows? That place was so spooky, its hard to tell how many ghosts were there.

The purple lady was supposedly the ghost of the Kisamore woman that died in childbirth and that is buried out on the hill from the house. I have a picture of the rock that is her tombstone. The purple dress woman was only in the cold room upstairs and the room directly underneath, never it the attic as far as I remember.

Capt. Daugherty was from over around Franklin, the hotel over there was named for him. Captian Daugherty the ghost only walked the steps out of the attic and down to the bottom of the steps. I never knew him to appear anywhere else.

I don't know who the old rocking chair woman was in life, but when the schoolteacher saw her, she moved out the same day!

Just the way I remember it, surely I couldn't have made this all up?