The year was 1878, and I was an American by birth and a proud member of the prestigious Donahue family of Ireland. I had inherited a worthy mansion within the province of Leinster in Ireland, from a late uncle whom I had high esteem and regarded as a second father. The trip from New York to Ireland in ship was long and wearisome. However, I was able to repose in Dublin, before I headed the next day to Leinster.
At around noon, I had arrived finally at the arresting Donahue Mansion of the sylvan region. My first impression was reverent and awe-inspiring. It was a stately house embedded, with Gothic architecture superbly located on the top of a lone hill. Its solid configuration consisted of a center block and two wings. It was colossally built of limestone and had four semi-columns, with elegant Corinthian capitals that ornamented the front façade. The veritable essence of the mansion was reflective, in the Renaissant presence of apparent antiquity established. There was a magnificent portico in front of two sunken and senticous gardens behind, with a raised grassy platform for a sundial and a large rose garden also.
Once inside, I had descried the ample flight of stairs that led to the main entrance of the mansion. There was a large and very lofty hall, which was similar to a mansion, I had seen in Virginia several years ago. The fabulous hall contained plaques and oil portraits, and to the right on entering was the excellent library. The drawing room had a southern and esthetic aspect, and contained manifold portraits of the Donahue family. The state dining room was detached from the main block and had covered ceilings near. The grand stairs led to the chambers above, and my chamber was prepared for my arrival. The butler, an elderly fellow of propriety, had cordially welcomed me to the mansion.
Indeed, the trip from Dublin was full of the picturesque country landscape of the vastidity of rusticity I had adored, as a rakish child. It had not been since my childhood that I had not visited or seen Ireland. Never had I glimpsed, at such beauty that exceeded any prosaic mention of her esthetic grandeur. I had expected to discover a land with much myth and fables, but I did not anticipate the mystery and horror that awaited me.
That night a certain gentleman, by the name of Mr. Flanagan had visited me. Mr. Flanagan was the family solicitor, who was instructed to effectuate and impose the terms of the will stipulated, by the late Colin Donahue my uncle. After the pleasant formalities shared and expressed, we proceeded to formalizing the will, and my signature that was required. Once I had signed, we had a glass of some customary Irish Whisky to celebrate the grand festive occasion. Then Mr. Flanagan departed the mansion, but not before he said to me words in his thick Irish brogue that I remembered so plainly.
"I shall be on my way Mr. Donahue, for my duly task is done for the day. I shall return tomorrow in the early morning sir. Take care now, and it is my hope that you enjoy the mansion and your stay here in Ireland."
After his decession the carriage drove off to the obscure causeway that led to the bridge and the active stir of the bog. The night was fraught with mystery, and the cold draft was felt, as the westerly wind blew deceptively. Suddenly, the weird noises began to increase at degrees, and the mist from the marsh engulfed the sky in an indiscernible condition. And the solitary road with the fog was blinding the driver.
Soon the skittish horses halted their advance. Something harrowing had spooked them into an unsettling frenzy. It was a prescient omen that would conclude, in the death of the solicitor Mr. Flanagan. As he looked out to see the commotion and speak to the driver, a daunting lucent black coach with two black horses emerged and traversed swiftly, through the dim and nebulous patch of road. It was then that a fierce headless horseman the solicitor descried, while he trembled with trepidation and disbelief. The occurrence was not merely fortuitous, but instead a visible sign of the Plutonian reaper. The noise had intensified into a heavy sound that engrossed the night rapidly. The name of the solicitor was uttered, as Mr. Flanagan's mouth was agape with horror. The headless horseman whose light coach was in front of the solicitor's carriage had come forth, as the driver attempted to flee, but he was thwarted in his attempt. When he reached the other side of the wooden bridge, the speedy coach of the feared and daunting "Gan Ceann" was side to side by the solicitor's carriage. Mr. Flanagan could see the ghastly guise of the fiend, who bore no countenance or head, beneath the dark cape that surged as he rode. A heavy paroxysm of fright constricted his body and impeded his movements for a moment.
Then one of the wheels of the carriage of the solicitor had broken, and the carriage had labascated to the side of the road. The driver had jumped off and was disabled, as Mr. Flanagan had been injured. He had suffered a fracture on his left leg that hindered his escape. He tried to reach the woodlands of the marsh, but he was caught by the Gan Ceann, who grabbed him as he chased him on his coach. Mr. Flanagan took a final gasp and screamed, as the flesh of his skin began to peel off. The taut grasp of the fiend's inflammable gloves began to consume the solicitor and reduce his body into ashes, whence they were gathered by the reaper in a censer, and put into the briquettes of his charnel coach of death.
The next morning I awoke to discover that the solicitor was missing and had not presented himself at the mansion, as we had previously agreed. His absence was so uncommon and unexplainable. I had been waiting for several hours for Mr. Flanagan, before news of his odd disappearance had reached the mansion. It was reported that his carriage was found off the causeway near the marsh. However, his driver was not located, by the inquisitive authorities. These same authorities had arrived at the mansion to inquire, about the whereabouts of the solicitor. When asked I stated that indeed he was here in the previous night, tending to the matter of the will and deed of the property. I had explained that the deed was not an escrow and yesterday was the last time I saw Mr. Flanagan alive. From what I had observed of him, and the little that I knew of him and of his acquaintanceship he appeared to not be the type of individual, who would vanish without notice. This I found very strange, and as well the occurrence of his bizarre disappearance.
After the authorities had left the mansion, I pondered what had really happened to Mr. Flanagan. I had only spent a night at the mansion, when I was confronted, with this disturbing episode. Never did I imagine myself in the middle of a mystery that would involve me. Even though I was curious to know what exactly caused his disappearance, I had to concentrate on the affairs of the mansion. There was an obvious question I was forced to consider, who would be my new solicitor to help me administer these endeavors, while I was in Ireland.
I spent the day dealing, with the local aristocracy and acclimating myself, to the surroundings. It would take a week before I had adapted to the current situation I was facing. I was accepted into the inner circle of the Irish society and had invited some guests to the mansion. But the ominous token of the curse would manifest, in the Cimmerian coach of death.
The night was cold and eerie, when my guest Mr. McNeal had left the estate. He was a prominent banker to be revered by the villagers, and he was an intimate friend of my late uncle. Unfortunately for him, his fate was sealed. As his carriage crossed the bridge, the familiar mist of the bog formed and encompassed the opaque night entirely. The wind began to blow, as the caws of the ravens were heard.
It was then that the luculent black coach with two black horses emerged, through the heavy foggy patch of road. This time the coach of death was behind the sluggish carriage of Mr. McNeal. The driver of the carriage of the banker had stopped, due to the poor visibility of the weather. He could go forth no more, as Mr. McNeal stuck his head out to investigate. Then as the fog cleared for an instant, the name of Mr. McNeal was audible. The baleful coach of death led, by the nefandous Gan Ceann came towards the larger carriage that was led by the driver of Mr. McNeal, as the image of the headless horseman brought an abrupt heightened anxiety to alarm the horses. Mr. McNeal implored the driver to drive on, but the driver was unable, as the Devil threw a ball of fire onto the man burning his body completely and he died. Mr. McNeal's reaction was absolute fear, as he was horrified, by the terror induced. His cheeks were demonstratively rubicund. He was uncertain of what to do, so he thought he was safe inside the carriage; but he was not.
The horses of his carriage were freed, as they galloped away. The coach of the fiend got closer and closer, until Mr. McNeal got off the carriage and started to run into the marsh. However, he did not get far, and was reached by the reaper of the souls, who grabbed him as Mr. McNeal's body was consumed by the blazing fire of the brimstone of Abaddon. As with the other condemned persons his soul was gathered, by the nocturnal reaper. The episode ended with sheer horror, and the mist had gradually evaporated. The coach of death disappeared into the foggy veil of the night.
It was another victim, and another inexplicable disappearance that went unsolved. His disappearance was associated, by the accretion of many sequential events that were unfolding afterwards. An inextricable difficulty and an ill-fated occurrence, were being attributed to the disappearances of the acquisitive men. It would not take long, for the eager authorities to visit the mansion and inquire. I was truly unaware of the strange disappearance of Mr. McNeal, and totally shocked by the distressing news of his conspicuous vanishment. However, there was nothing I could reveal to the authorities that would give any plausible clues to assist in their thorough investigation. My recollection of the night was amicable and convivial, but not significant to be helpful.
After they had departed the estate, I pondered in my mind, the redounding facts to this ironic mystery that was confounding the authorities and me too. The disappearances of the men had left an impressionable tincture in my contemplation. I found the mystery to be unique and disconcerting especially, when these disappearances occurred near the estate. I spent the day absorbed in the tangibility of these peculiar circumstances and was becoming discomforted by these irreconcilable events.
An unusual occurrence would transpire next, while I was in the dining hall having dinner in the evening. A stranger had been knocking on the front door. It was lo and behold, the driver of Mr. Flanagan's carriage. He was in a terrible state of profound apprehension and had gone on a brannigan. He wanted to speak in urgency to me. He was let in by the butler, who escorted him to the dining hall, but not before he informed me. He had an important revelation to share with me, as I looked askance. What he revealed was shocking and surreal. He described the horrific incident that happened, and the unfathomable devil that had taken the soul of the doomed solicitor. I was doubtful about his account, since it was too absurd and mired in fatuous and refractory lore. But there was an impregnable conviction drawn in his vivid expressions. It almost seemed that his account was credible, as he explained the details explicitly. When I asked him, if he was certain what he espied, he affirmed his words. Indeed, he was visibly shaken, by the incident that he was in hiding. He was fearful of the devil that he saw on that night. I had reassured him that his safety would be protected, but I advised him to speak to the authorities at once in the morning. This was my condition, and he acquiesced.
However the following day, he disappeared from the estate. He was not present, when I sought him in his room, and he did not mention his departure. I never saw him again afterwards. I was resolute in discovering the truth, so I went into the village to speak to the local inhabitants. There I was able to have an interesting conversation with a handful of individuals, who reiterated the claim of the carriage driver, when referring to the dauntless Gan Ceann. This was obvious and led to the forgone conclusion that an unthinkable mystery had remained insoluble. Although the facts could be irrefragable, the disappearances could not be. And the disappearances then continued, within the veil of secrecy and enigma. The startling incidents were now occurring in the morning and afternoon, not only in the night. This was a change in the pattern of the disappearances.
That night, I began to have a recherché dream that started placidly, but then became a horrible nightmare. I had seen a most frightening episode that concluded in the death of my late uncle Colin Donahue in the swale, at the hands of the Gan Ceann. I saw in my nightmare so vividly, how the headless horseman called the name of my uncle and killed him. He snatched his soul into the censer of the black coach. I then found myself standing, before the causeway of the marsh, and the coach of death as it came speeding toward me. I had shivered in horror and fright, when the coach approached me. I could not move and was at the mercy of the fiend. I had closed my eyes, and saw and felt his blazing gloves touch me, as I heard the hooves of the horses and whip. The next thing I realized I was awakened in my bed. I took a deep sigh, for it was only a terrible nightmare.
The question that I had on my mind was, what did this nightmare mean? I had a bidden visitor that Friday night at the mansion, despite the troublesome incidents that were occurring. Her name was Aideen MacGregor, a delightful young woman, who had belonged to the Irish high society. Her propriety was impeccable as was her intellect. We had been walking in the corridor that afternoon, when I had offered to escort her home. She had politely refused my cordial offer, and instead she appeared to be not frightened with the baffling episodes of terror. Perhaps it was because she had mentioned that the driver would be taking another route and more precaution. Nonetheless, she departed the mansion and unfortunately, I would never see her alive again.
As her sluggish carriage began to leave the grounds of the estate, she began to notice a thick mist had engulfed the area apparently. A heavy thump she heard that caused her to be suspicious of what was transpiring, as the carriage began to speed off. When she looked next, the driver was no longer on top. He had disappeared, and the carriage was being led by the tandem of horses, as the harness of the driver had unfastened. The carriage had reached the bog, as the mist had broadened and blurred the vision of Lady MacGregor. Suddenly, the carriage stopped at the bridge by the causeway.
It was then that through the dense cloud of fog, the stealthy coach of the Gan Ceann came. She had gotten off the carriage unharmed, as an unspeakable fear had entered into her mind, when she attempted to scurry away. But as she heard her name being called, she stopped and turned around. It was the Gan Ceann, with his familiar cape of intimidation and his headless guise. She was in complete shock, and could not move a single muscle any longer, as the Gan Ceann had then ridden and grabbed her soul, whilst her body became ashes. The flaming gloves of the fiendish Gan Ceann had burned her body entirely and killing her instantly.
That night I awoke drenched in a pouring sweat, as I sensed the insufferable death of Lady MacGregor. The following morning, I was told about the disappearance of Lady MacGregor and quickly had presumed her to be another victim of the lore of the Gan Ceann. Eventually, no one then dared to cross the malevolent bridge that was being called, the "Death Bridge. And a rapid fear and hysteria had spread throughout the area, within an illimitable dominion. The marsh was called the "Infernal Abode of Hell." Perhaps I was foolish and did not believe in the perils of myth. But soon my doubts would be converted into belief.
I was in the garden of the estate, when a nobleman by the name of Sir Gallahan had paid a visit. He was a man of stout constitution physically and bore the decorum that was evident and admirable. There was an urgent matter that brought him to the mansion, and desire to speak to me. After we politely had met, I offered him a salutatory expression. He was candid with his expressions and words. We had gone inside to have our private conversation in the parlor. I then noticed the serious look in his troublesome eyes and this definite inquietude in his mien. It was clear that there was a definite purpose, for his visit. But the question that intrigued me why did he come and wish to speak to me so surreptitiously? Once we sat in our chairs in the parlor, he spoke to me at length, about the legend of the Gan Ceann.
"Perhaps, you will deem me mad Mr. Donahue, when I tell you through my admission that the mysterious disappearances are not mere coincidences but instead, they are linked to the veneration and folklore of the Gan Ceann. I know that you are thinking that this is all rubbish and moot freet, and what I acknowledge is absurd and has no basis of proof. This position I held before, until the abnormal disappearances began to happen."
"I must admit Sir Gallahan that I too have recently been following this illogical notion of this headless horseman riding in a coach seeking the souls of his victims. I was raised by the stories of the Banshee and the Dullahan. However, I am a man of logic before resorting to any whimsical myth."
"I feared that you would not truly believe my account, but you will, when I explain to you in details, and with efficiency the truth Mr. Donahue," he replied.
"What truth sir?" I inquired, with a raring fascination.
He began to relate the story of the phthartic Gan Ceann and how it was intertwined, with my late uncle Colin Donahue.
"You see Mr. Donahue the Gan Ceann has always been a fixture embedded in the history of Ireland and the folklore of the Irish people. It is a paradox much like the witches of Salem in America. I suppose there is a common origin, with all these legends and myths. But the Gan Ceann is no myth. It is an actual being that exists, when summoned. Your impetuous uncle Colin Donahue made a pact, with the Devil invoking his name, through black magic. I was present and a witness to this occurrence. It all betided upon one eerie night, during an idoneous ritual of spiritualism, when your uncle learned how to elicit the Gan Ceann. After he had mastered the technique and learned the incantation, he invoked the Gan Ceann."
His story was compelling indeed, but too unbelievable to hearken. "Surely, you do not expect me to believe this conjectural tale of yours Sir Gallahan. What reason would he have?" I asked.
"He was dying of phthisis Mr. Donahue."
"That I did not know, but even so, what does this have to do, with the ongoing mysterious disappearances occurring?"
"Everything! You see all the persons who disappeared men and women all were detested by your uncle, and had betrayed him in the end. The solicitor had stolen money from your uncle. Mr. McNeal the banker had stolen property from your uncle. Lady MacGregor had attempted to seduce your uncle to marry her, and usurp his pelf. And the others as well stole. Whether or not you believe me that is for you to decide. I have come to warn you. You are the only one, who can end the malediction and send this Gan Ceann back to hell."
"But how? If this is true then, how do you suppose we effectuate that?"
"That is where I come in. I shall assist you in that endeavour. But we must go now," he responded.
"To the bog! We must go now, before the fog appears. If we invoke his name and make him appear, then we shall be at an advantage, whilst he at a clear disadvantage," he replied quickly.
We left on horseback and along the way, he explained to me that only gold could limit his power enough to thwart him. But first the incantation had to be done. Once we immediately arrived at the causeway by the marsh, we began the ritual. Even though it was bitterly cold outside, the sky was transparent. In the middle of the bridge, we stood, as I called the name of the Gan Ceann.
It was then that the fiend emerged riding his dark black coach of death. He was before our very own eyes still. What happened next was unbelievable. What I did not know was that it was a clever ploy or planned deception on the part of Sir Gallahan. He had planned my death. But the mist had begun to form and cover the circumference of the marsh and road.
"What is going on here Sir Gallahan?" I asked.
"You are the last one left standing in my way Mr. Donahue. If I eliminate you, I shall finally have the mansion," he said, with vehemence.
"What are you saying?"
"He is here, come for him. Come for Robert Donahue!" He screamed at the Gan Ceann.
The wheels of the Coach of Death had begun to spin, as the horses came toward us. I looked in absolute horror, as the Gan Ceann advanced. I could not move, as sheer fright had left me motionless, but he did not come for me. Instead, he came for Sir Gallahan, who was not expecting his immediate death and recoiled in dismay as he receded. He had called out the name of Sir Gallahan. When he got closer, Sir Gallahan attempted to run, after he realized that he was coming for him. The dread of being killed and his soul snatched was an overriding sense of panic. Gold was the only object that prevented his quench for souls.
Thus, in a matter of minutes Mr. Gallahan's soul was taken. He ran to the road, as he sought the refuge of the trees. But he would never make it to the trees and perished. He cried out as the Gan Ceann grabbed him from behind. His body was consumed in the fiery and incandescent gloves of the fiend, who gathered his soul and ashes into the censer. I had sensed, I was to be his next victim, as I was yet motionless and inexpressible, for a minute. I was in awe of the being called the Gan Ceann (The Headless Horseman).
The coach remained immovable and quiescent, for a minute also. Then, the coach headed toward me as the horses stirred, with a deadly fury and flick of the whip. They charged like the venerable horses of Rome and led the blazing coach of fire ahead. I was in extremis, and ran to the trees and the decayed moss of the clammy quagmire, as he followed me. I had stumbled on the ground, as he reached me within the bog. But a miraculous thing happened that would spare my life and soul. I had waited for my death, as his dark black coach got closer. He passed me by and disappeared into the blurry fog. The golden amulet I had been wearing, ever since my childhood had saved me. It was a welcomed benediction. But he did not call my name, as with the others. I Robert Donahue had survived the memorable encounter, with the Coach of Death.
The meticulous plan of Sir Gallahan failed, as he tried to appropriate the mansion. He died as his soul was collected, by the Gan Ceann. As for me, I had returned to the extricable mansion remembering the horrible episode. Legends of folklore have dared to mention the dreaded name of the notorious fiend lurking, behind the long, narrow causeway of unspeakable demise. It is a harrowing nightmare that does not succumb, until its need for souls has been quenched, with such blatant expediency. And the daunting caws of the ravens are heard echoing in the cleft of the birch trees, when the glow of the steady moonlight permeates the drear bog of murk. The mighty wind of the night blows, with potent compulsion. The reverberation intensifies, as the eerie sound of horses are heard swiftly, as a dark black coach emerges, through the encompassing brume that has emanated. It is the reaper of the night, who seeks the souls of the condemned. The tale of the Gan Ceann is fraught with much danger and trepidation.
You, who search for the explanatory relevancy of this story, shall discover the haunting mystery concealed, in the existential world that bears the purport of reality and phantasy. It is the unique mystery that defines the mystique of the coach that the villagers call, the malediction of the death coach.