Encounter on a Country Road

There have been many stories of "Headless Horsemen" not the least of which being the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. My Grandma Belle used to talk about a "Headless Rider" who happened upon her uncle Harlen Casto and his wife Jane at there home in Jackson County West Virginia in the summer of 1912.

It was about dusk on a Sunday evening in late August and Harlen and Jane Casto were working in there garden in the front of their home, harlen mending a the fence on the north end and Jane pulling weeds in the south end. They lived at the mouth of a holler not unlike any other in West Virginia. it ran back for many miles and had no outlet on the back end, thus there were not a lot of travelers or a lot of traffic that came down that road, especially after dark with only moonlight to guide your way.

This night just as Harlen had finished mending the fence and was now out putting away his tools in the shed that stood just to the side of the house when he noticed a horse slowly moving around the bend and into the holler.

Harlen figured he had better ask if the person was lost or needed any help be fore he and Jane went inside for the evening. Harlen grabbed a lantern that was hanging just inside the tool shed and headed across the yard to the front gate. As Harlen got closer to the gate he called out to the figure on the horse but got no response. Harlen reached the front gate just as the rider was passing by and again called out to him while raising the lantern to get a better look at the stranger, but to his horror the body had no head...........

After staring in disbelief for a few seconds while he tried to come to grips with what he had seen, the horse ever so slowly continued on down the road when Harlen suddenly realized that Jane was still at the other end of the yard weeding the Garden. Jane was in the early months of pregnancy with her first child and Harlen had always heard that a traumatic sight or event could "Mark" an unborn infant.

Not wanting Jane to see what he had, he began to move quickly toward her as the horse was now only 30yards or so from where Jane knelt in the yard, not wanting to startle her Harlen did not call out but continued to rapidly move toward Jane, reaching her just as the horse and rider came upon where she was kneeling. As Harlen grasped Jane by the arm to lead her away, something in the road startled the horse and it to rare up slightly causing Jane to look up suddenly just as the headless rider was passing directly in front of her, the sight of which caused her to scream and then black out from fright. As Harlen held his wife in his arms the horse continued slowly on it's way down the old dirt road until through distance and the darkness of the falling night the rider faded from view.

The next day after seeing that Jane was going to be all right he got his neighbors to stay with her and he went to town to tell the county sheriff what he had seen, only to discover that two other couples had also witness what he and Jane had. The sheriff told Harlen that what they had seen was not a ghost but was an old widower named Mathew Johnson who lived alone at the end of the holler some seven miles in from Harlen and Janes home.

The following morning the sheriff had found the horse with the headless body of old man Johnson still on his back standing patiently in front of the barn doors. The horse had made it all the way home by itself, and after searching the entire area from town to the mouth of the holler where the horse was first cited, the authorities were never able to locate has head, nor were they able to explain what happened, only that something or someone had somehow separated old man Johnson from his head while he rode without even knocking him off his mount, nor scaring the animal into a frightened gallop as it had carried it's headless master at least seven mile back home.