This week the boys have special guest @CardinalAdventureshttps://www.youtube.com/@cardinaladventures joining them for Part 1 of the latest impromptu suite Deathcember!
“Look again, Charley Culnane,” said a hoarse voice, that seemed to proceed from under the right arm of the figure.
Charley did look again, and now in the proper place, for he clearly saw, under the aforesaid right arm, that head from which the voice had proceeded, and such a head no mortal ever saw before. It looked like a large cream cheese hung round with black puddings; no speck of colour enlivened the ashy paleness of the depressed features; the skin lay stretched over the unearthly surface, almost like the parchment head of a drum. Two fiery eyes of prodigious circumference, with a strange and irregular motion, flashed like meteors upon Charley, and to complete all, a mouth reached from either extremity of two ears, which peeped forth from under a profusion of matted locks of lustreless blackness. This head, which the figure had evidently hitherto concealed from Charley’s eyes, now burst upon his view in all its hideousness. Charley, although a lad of proverbial courage in the county of Cork, yet could not but feel his nerves a little shaken by this unexpected visit from the headless horseman, whom he considered his fellow-traveller must be. The cropped-eared head of the gigantic horse moved steadily forward, always keeping from six to eight yards in advance. The horseman, unaided by whip or spur, and disdaining the use of stirrups, which dangled uselessly from the saddle, followed at a trot by Charley’s side, his hideous head now lost behind the lappet of his coat, now starting forth in all its horror, as the motion of the horse caused his arm to move to and fro. The ground shook under the weight of its supernatural burden, and the water in the pools became agitated into waves as he trotted by them.
On they went—heads without bodies, and bodies without heads.—The deadly silence of night was broken only by the fearful clattering of hoofs, and the distant sound of thunder, which rumbled above the mystic hill of Cecaune a Mona Finnea. Charley, who was naturally a merry-hearted, and rather a talkative fellow, had hitherto felt tongue-tied by apprehension, but finding his companion showed no evil disposition towards him, and having become somewhat more reconciled to the Patagonian dimensions of the horseman and his headless steed, plucked up all his courage, and thus addressed the stranger:—
“Why, then, your honour rides mighty well without the stirrups!”
“Humph,” growled the head from under the horseman’s right arm.
“’Tis not an over civil answer,” thought Charley; “but no matter, he was taught in one of them riding-houses, may be, and thinks nothing at all about bumping his leather breeches at the rate of ten miles an hour. I’ll try him on the other track. Ahem!” said Charley, clearing his throat, and feeling at the same time rather daunted at this second attempt to establish a conversation. “Ahem! that’s a mighty neat coat of your honour’s, although ’tis a little too long in the waist for the present cut.”
“Humph,” growled again the head.
This second humph was a terrible thump in the face to poor Charley, who was fairly bothered to know what subject he could start that would prove more agreeable. “’Tis a sensible head,” thought Charley, “although an ugly one, for ’tis plain enough the man does not like flattery.” A third attempt, however, Charley was determined to make, and having failed in his observations as to the riding and coat of his fellow-traveller, thought he would just drop a trifling allusion to the wonderful headless horse, that was jogging on so sociably beside his old mare; and as Charley was considered about Carrick to be very knowing in horses, besides, being a full private in the Royal Mallow Light Horse Volunteers, which were every one of them mounted like real Hessians, he felt rather sanguine as to the result of his third attempt.
“To be sure, that’s a brave horse your honour rides,” recommenced the persevering Charley.
“You may say that, with your own ugly mouth,” growled the head.
Charley, though not much flattered by the compliment, nevertheless chuckled at his success in obtaining an answer, and thus continued:—
“May be your honour wouldn’t be after riding him across the country?”
“Will you try me, Charley?” said the head, with an inexpressible look of ghastly delight.
“Faith, and that’s what I’d do,” responded Charley, “only I’m afraid, the night being so dark, of laming the old mare, and I’ve every halfpenny of a hundred pounds on her heels.”
This was true enough; Charley’s courage was nothing dashed at the headless horseman’s proposal; and there never was a steeple-chase, nor a fox-chase, riding or leaping in the country, that Charley Culnane was not at it, and foremost in it.
“Will you take my word,” said the man who carried his head so snugly under his right arm, “for the safety of your mare?”
“Done,” said Charley; and away they started, helter skelter, over every thing, ditch and wall, pop, pop, the old mare never went in such style, even in broad daylight: and Charley had just the start of his companion, when the hoarse voice called out, “Charley Culnane, Charley, man, stop for your life, stop!”
Charley pulled up hard. “Ay,” said he, “you may beat me by the head, because it always goes so much before you; but if the bet was neck-and-neck, and that’s the go between the old mare and Desdemona, I’d win it hollow!”
It appeared as if the stranger was well aware of what was passing in Charley’s mind, for he suddenly broke out quite loquacious.
“Charley Culnane,” says he, “you have a stout soul in you, and are every inch of you a good rider. I’ve tried you, and I ought to know; and that’s the sort of man for my money. A hundred years it is since my horse and I broke our necks at the bottom of Kilcummer hill, and ever since I have been trying to get a man that dared to ride with me, and never found one before. Keep, as you have always done, at the tail of the hounds, never balk a ditch, nor turn away from a stone wall, and the headless horseman will never desert you nor the old mare.”
- excerpt from “Headless Horseman” by Thomas Crofton Croker
James: Rein It In
Freeman: Along for the Ride
Liam: Driving Force
Source: Book of the Dead pg. 86
Pathfinder Lore (Liam)
a death coach typically appears as a two-horse-drawn stagecoach without a driver. The horses are spectral, move incredibly fast, and can even fly. But more about that in the mechanical breakdown section of this episode. The few death coaches spotted were in Ustalav (my favorite country) and Taldor.
However, a death coach can also have a different appearance based on its origin. One of the examples given in the Book of the Dead is if one were to appear in the Realm of the Mammoth Lords, it would be in the form of a covered sleigh pulled by ghostly caribou (or stags). There are also whispers of sea-driven death coaches, but no one knows what they look like.
As far as ecology goes, it isn’t a living biological creature, but one can say they are “born.” I quote, “A death coach is a spiritual manifestation of the danger of travel” endquote. Whenever a heavily traveled road is deemed “safe” a death coach can appear to haunt that road to quench its hunger for souls.
Although a death coach is manifested, the sidebar for it is rather interesting. Believe it or not, there are spellcasters powerful enough to convince a death coach to supply them with the souls it can collect for dark, unholy, rituals. A dark bargain, but both parties involved get what they want. The death coach is guaranteed a hunting ground and the spellcaster(s) involved get the souls they want in return. Extra souls are a bonus for the death coach to keep.
The death coach in Pathfinder First Edition was 4 out of 5 deadly. It didn’t come with any lore or information outside of its appearance. One of the major changes (that I am a huge fan of by the way) is the removal of the driver in Pathfinder Second Edition’s rendition. If I as a player was facing off against a first-edition death coach, I would assume to target the driver, but with the removal of the driver, there is no question as to the source of its power. It's the coach itself, not the driver of the coach. Having the death coach powered and driven by unlife and void energy definitely gives off a much more horrific vibe.
Mythology and Folklore (James)
AKA Silent Coach, Headless Coach
Irish: Coiste Gan Cheann (deaf coach)
English: Coshta Bower [koe-SHH-ta], coach-a-bower
usually driven by a dullahan
explodes out of the graveyard like the batmobile
arrives at your doorstep if your death is upon you
Thomas Crofton Croker
“Hanlon’s Mills” another story from Croker
Mick Noonan was returning from his trip to a shoemaker and passed the ruins of the mill Old Hanlon
seemed be making noises as if it were still operational
then came upon a neighbour Darby who asked Mick to take his car and horse back to their local
Mic agreed and took the open road by the River Awbeg
as he rode he turned to see the moon's reflection in the river
this was then taken over the next time he looked with the image of a black coach
coach was drawn by 5 headless horses and a headless coachman all dressed in black
the following morning Mick learned that a local lord had died
Croker conflates this omen of death with the death of the local lord
appearance of Headless Coach = imminent death or misfortune
Croker also reports on a legend that has the coach originating from Castle Hyde near Doneraile [DUN-ar-AILE], in County Cork
said the coach would visit each house in the same order every time it came
if someone would open the door the person would be splashed with blood by the coachman
Irish nationalist, socialist and “urbane literary essayist”
“Home Life in Ireland” 1909
called this a “Soundless Coach”
gave an account from a witness in Connemara (western region of Ireland)
was just a silent shadow that flew by
this would later be contradicted by William Butler Yeats
“Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland”
he would go on to suggest that it’s called a “deaf coach” because the sound of it going by was so loud it would deafen you
Tony Locke from Mayo Folk Tales suggests that the Banshee is often depicted with the coach though I have found no other source that references this fact
rule of fear 1e
can be seen at times on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh
Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace (residence of British Monarch in Scotland) with a total length of a Scottish Mile ~1.81km / 1.12m
collects the souls of the dead on it’s trip through
some times a “hell-wain” can be spotted in the sky as well
hell-wain according to all I’ve been able to find a Mexican funeral rail car - not sure why this is found in a European sky, I imagine they’re just adopting the word to mean any particular funerary carriage be it automobile, carriage, trolly car, etc
it is odd how many american football coaches come up when one googles “Death Coach”
Death Coach: A Detective Walker Novel (2022) by Morgan Rivers according to Barnes and Noble “A psychosexual story that redefines the erotic thriller” not related but could not resist including it. I wish more of our work was tangentially related to erotica - actually about a life coach that kills their clients
Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) staring Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro (Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Sean Connery (Zardoz, the “good” Avengers, the dragon from that weird Dennis Quaid movie)
BBC mini series Strange (2002) staring Richard Coyle (best known for being a very supporting actor in the Prince of Perisa abomination) S1. E3 titled Costa Burra has a Banshee that is able to summon the Death Coach - link to an SD version of the ep in the show notes
Strange Mysteries #16 (1957) - features the death coach
Warhammer AoS Black Coach - just a sick mini for the DEATH faction
most of the pop culture seems to be completely en-twined with the Dullahan as expected