The Legend of the Headless Horseman of Locust Level

By Dakota and Calvin Bricker

         Two miles southeast of the farming community of Welsh Run, Pennsylvania, is a large flat area called Locust Level. Since early colonial days a road has run through the Locust Level area from Welsh Run to the Hagerstown area. Today the road is known as Locust Level Rd., and we live on it. The 165 year old one-room Locust Level schoolhouse still stands in the middle of Locust Level, and for 125 years the children of the area attended school there. Across the road from the school stood a blacksmith shop for many years.

        One hundred and thirty-five years ago, the area was haunted by a headless horseman and was so for about 35 years. The story was told that during dark moonless nights travelers on horse or in a carriage when passing through Locust Level would unexpectedly see  the ghostly image of a headless man, dressed in colonial clothing and riding a ghostly white horse with fiery red eyes. He would ride up beside them and follow them for a short distance. The travelers became very scared at the sight of the ghost. Sometimes it was reported that the headless horseman carried his head under his left arm, but what terrified the travelers was that the headless horseman leaped off his horse and sat upon their saddle horn or in their carriage and rode with them for a short distance. When the ghostly white horse reappeared beside the travelers, the headless horseman leaped back on his fiery red-eyed horse and disappeared into the darkness.

        A doctor from Welsh Run while returning home through Locust Level from treating a patient late on a Moonless night had the horrifying thrill of the headless horseman's leaping upon his saddle horn and riding for a very long distance. The good doctor was somewhat terrified by the unwanted rider.

        At the time the older, local people thought that the headless horseman was the ghost of a weird and    German doctor who had lived near Locust Level School in colonial days 225 years ago. He was not very friendly and preferred to be alone. Some neighbors thought he was a witch and stayed away from him. One day, neighbors found his body with its head mysteriously cut off. They buried the old doctor but never found his head or who was responsible for this horrible crime.

        It was that on certain days you could hear the hammering of hammers and clanging of horseshoes and the grinding and filing of horse hooves at the blacksmith shop across the road from Locust Level School. Everybody thought that it was the horseman shoeing his horse. They could hear the sounds but  didn't see anything. During this time the blacksmith, his neighbors and the schoolchildren stayed away from the shop. The hauntings at the blacksmith shop occurred from about 1865 until the 1900s, the same time that the headless horseman was haunting Locust Level.

        Will the headless horseman return to his old haunting ground at Locust Level? Who knows! Maybe he hasn't left! Maybe he is unable to perform the haunting during this age of automobiles and bright lights. Maybe somebody should ride his or her bicycle through Locust Level on a very dark moonless night and see if out of the darkness comes galloping a headless horseman riding a ghostly white horse with fiery red eyes. This story is based upon a local legend written by john Palmer in the early twentieth century. Mr. Palmer was born in the 1870s and lived in the Welsh Run area all his life. He died 45 years ago. Mr. Palmer was a local surveyor, justice of the peace, genealogist and historian. His papers on local history were recently found on the attic of his old house by his granddaughter and made available to the public.

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