The Real Headless Horseman - Spirit Realm Network

The Real Headless Horseman

Myths and legends throughout the ages and across the world were created to teach a lesson or pass down history. In other words, myths and legends are often laced with truth. That is likely the story of Ewen ‘of the Little Head’ MacLaine of Lochbury. It was very common in 16th century Scotland, for neighboring Clans to be in conflict with each other. It was also not rare for those conflicts to escalate into bloodshed battles. Ewen MacLaine would lose his life in such a battle of the Scottish Clans. 


The folklorist Charles John Tibbits published Folklore and Legends in 1889. In this version of the story of Ewen MacLaine; the Clan MacLaine was fighting with an unnamed Clan Chieftain which ultimately led to a scheduled sword fight amongst the two clans. The day prior to the battle Ewen consulted a well known and celebrated witch, to gain insight into the outcome of the upcoming clash. The witch used her foresight and told Ewen of an omen to watch out for to know what his faith would be. The omen was that if Ewen’s wife brought him and his men food and drink before the battle unasked, then the Clan MacLaine would be successful. If she had to be asked to serve refreshments, then that would be the sign of his clan’s failure in battle. This prediction sent a shiver down Ewen’s spine, as his wife was not the most agreeable woman.

The faithful day of reckoning fell upon the Clan MacLaine and as the morning progressed, Ewen noted that his wife did not bring them any food or drink. Reluctantly, Ewen requested he and men be brought nourishment. The woman of the house (later to always be known as the Black Crane) brought the men curds without spoons. Ewen, asked what they were to use to eat the curds with. His wife suggested they use hen beaks; Ewen’s men did their best to eat their curds with their hands and Ewen ate nothing at all. Despite, being aware of his likely fate, Ewen, bravely rode into battle on his pony. By this account it was a bloody battle and that Ewen had fallen off of his horse and had to go chasing after it before he could continue the battle. According to eyewitness reports, Ewen's arm did get entangled in a tree and this entrapment led to Ewen finally being defeated along with his horse. That day in or around 1538 Ewen-a-chin-vig (Hugh of the Little Head) died with honor from his many wounds. 

Ewen-a-chin-vig and his horse died bravely in battle but their vigorous spirits did not rest. The spirit of Ewen still wears the green cloak he wore in battle and in the darkest of nights, the hooves of his loyal steed can be heard and those of a keen eye can decipher the Spector horse’s hooves prints. To this day Ewen MacLaine is the guardian of his descendants and it is known within the family that if the spirit of Ewen is seen or heard a death in the family is about to occur and Ewen himself escorts his family to the other side. It was noted in life that Ewen MacLaine had a small head and it is how his Spector is most recognized when it is spotted.  

There is another variation of this legend and in this rendition, Ewen is the son of the Chieftain and is ready to take his father’s place as head of the Clan MacLaine and a bloody battle within the family occurs. Here Ewen is beheaded by one of his father’s men and his horse is killed along with him. This take of Ewen’s afterlife is a bit more sinister as his headless and restless spirit haunts the land of Scotland, tormenting the lives of his living descendants and innocent bystanders. Ewen’s spirit is bound to no particular area and the sounds of disembodied hooves makes the living’s blood run cold. 

It is this telling of the Legend of Ewen of the Little Head that inspired the infamous Headless Horseman in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. During the research period for this write up a possible rival clan that killed Ewen MacLaine was found: The Caledonian Mercury, published in Edinburgh on September 27, 1824 the Chief of Clanronald of the whole Clan of McDonell and McDonald had a very long standing history with the Clan MacLaine. Of course this is only a possibility and a theory. An update will be given if any further information is found. 

Myths and Legends are creations of their time and evolved over generations. The stories themselves can gain a whole new life of their own and impact the world in ways their authors’ could never imagine. However, never forget that these stories are made to keep real people alive long after they meet the end of their mortal life. Their real names and history deserve to be remembered and their otherworldly legends are to be embraced. 

Katrina The Good

A Little About Katrina the Good: Katrina is an aspiring and talented writer with a passion for blogging. As the resident blogger for The Spirit Realm Network, she focuses her talents on a variety of thought-provoking topics, everything from the Paranormal to Cryptozoology. By day, Katrina can be found working on the frontlines as a health care provider fighting the battle on Covid. The Spirit Realm Network is proud to have her as part of the network and we all look forward to many more thought-provoking articles from her.

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