Many Americans have read and enjoyed the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” the short story by Washington Irving. And I would assume that we enjoy it because it combines horse chases, ghosts and goblins and dimly lit bridges.
The passage reads:
An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor
From Wikimedia Commons
Last year I wrote two posts about unusual sounds that I recorded at a rural country bridge in Greene County, Illinois.
These posts can be found here:
I had gone to the location with a friend who knew of two bigfoot sightings at this bridge. We heard very loud but distant vocals in response to our own calls. So I left a recorder underneath the bridge and recorded for several months. At that time I recorded wood knocks, metal banging and an unseen large animal running across the bridge. Someone mentioned to be me that whatever large animal was running across that bridge kind of reminded them of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
Click here to listen: Running Across Bridge
That got me to thinking that possibly what has inspired this recurrent theme of the headless horseman throughout Irish, English and German folklore is a quadrupedal bigfoot. Obviously if someone sees an animal as large as an adult sasquatch running on all fours in the nighttime they could possibly think that it was a horse running without a rider.
I have long held the opinion (as have others) that many of our folktales have been influenced and inspired by the large hairy wildmen that our ancestors encountered in the woods of medieval Europe.