Variations: Dullaghan, Far Dorocha, Gan Ceann, Headless Horseman
The Headless Horseman was popularized in1 820 by Washington Irving's American retelling of the German folklore short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
No such being existed in Irish lore or folktales until after the potato famine started in 1845. Suddenly, people started to say that on occasion the BANSHEE was being accompanied by a headless man riding upon a horse, particularly at midnight on Feast Days. The man was carrying his head, which was smiling ear to ear and was the color and texture of moldy cheese. The head was sometimes in hand or tied to the saddle. Even the horse was said to be headless by some. There were also claims that the headless man drove a coach made of human thigh bones and was pulled by six black horses with skull heads, their eyes lit by candles in their sockets. (This version is akin to the DEATH COACH.) Whether by coach or on horseback, the dullahan races down roads, spreading disease as it travels and causing entire households to suddenly fall ill. The horseman uses a bullwhip to lash out the eyes of anyone on the roadside who sees him, as he is cursed with poor eyesight himself. The lucky victims only get covered with a bucket of blood he throws at them as he charges by. The dullahan is exceedingly greedy and any momentary offering thrown to it will be accepted.
Source: Curran, Vampires, 57; Indian Antiquary, 300; Leatherdale, Dracula: The Novel and the Legend, 79

Encyclopedia of vampire mythology . 2014.

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