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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Headless Horseman of Putnam Road

When I was a little boy, my father used to tell me bedtime stories about the Headless Horseman of Putnam Road. Being three or four years old, I was naturally unacquainted with Washington Irving, and therefore unaware that the story had a more horrible pedigree, or that my dad’s version was even more grisly than Irving’s. My dad knew his audience and at Halloween the images swirled mingling with my father’s voice and transported me in my dreams to a place, as Washington Irving might say, more fit for “ghosts and goblins than a mortal man.”
Until I drifted off to sleep,however, I knew the terrible Headless Horseman was hiding in my closet planning and waiting to get me as soon as I let down the sheet; with flames and sword he waited to fill my small bedroom and descend upon me. And then.. and then.. Ohhhh the rest is too terrible to imagine! Thank God I had my sheet to protect me! In Washington Irving’s words:
“These, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many specters in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in diverse shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils.”
And so daylight too dispelled my “phantoms of the mind” as I scampered downstairs to have my breakfast and tried on my costume for Halloween Night.
It was one of the most terrible, and wonderfully terrifying experiences that my Dad and Washington Irving could have given me at Halloween time and I loved every minute of it.


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