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Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell


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Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter

But there are many Wild Darrells; all Europe is overrun by them. They nightly tear, on their phantom horses, over the German and Norwegian forests and moor-lands that echo and re-echo with their hoarse shouts and the mournful baying of their grisly hounds.

Many travellers in Russia and Germany journeying through the forests at night have caught the sound of wails,--of moans that, starting from the far distance, have gradually come nearer and nearer. Then they have heard the winding of a horn, the shouting and cursing of the huntsman, and in a biting cold wind have seen the whole cavalcade sweep by.

According to various authorities on the subject this spectral chase goes by different names. In Thuringia and elsewhere, it is "Hakelnberg" or "Hackelnbarend,"--the story being that Hakelnberg, a German knight, who had devoted his whole life to the chase, on his death-bed had told the officiating priest that he cared not a jot for heaven, but only for hunting; the priest losing patience and exclaiming, "Then hunt till Doomsday."

So, in all weathers, in snow and ice, Hakelnberg, his horse and hounds, are seen careering after imaginary game.

There are similar stories current in the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, and practically all over Europe, and not only Europe, but in many of the states and departments of the New World. This being so, I think there must be a substantial substratum of truth underlying the beliefs, phantastic as they may appear, and yet, are no more phantastic than many of the stories we are asked to give absolute credence to in the Bible.

In Old Castile the spirit of a Moorish leader who won many victories over the Spaniards, and was drowned by reason of his heavy armour in a swamp of the River Duero, still haunts his burial-place, a piece of marshy ground, near Burgos. There, weird noises, such as the winding of a huntsman's horn and the neighing of a horse, are heard, and the phantasm of the dead Moor is seen mounted on a white horse followed by twelve huge, black hounds.

In Sweden many of the peasants say, when a noise like that of a coach and horses is heard rumbling past in the dead of night, "It is the White Rider," whilst in Norway they say of the same sounds, "It is the hunt of the Devil and his four horses." In Saxony the rider is believed to be Barbarossa, the celebrated hero of olden days. Near Fontainebleau, Hugh Capet is stated to ride a gigantic sable horse to the palace, where he hunted before the assassination of Henry IV; and in the Landes the rider is thought to be Judas Iscariot. In other parts of France the wild huntsman is known as Harlequin or Henequin, and in some parts of Brittany he is "Herod in pursuit of the Holy Innocents." (Alas, that no such Herod visits London! How welcome would he be, were he only to flout a few of the brawling brats who, allowed to go anywhere they please, make an inferno of every road they choose to play in.)

Here my notes on horses end; and although the evidence I have offered may have failed to convince many, I myself am fully satisfied that these noble and indispensable animals do not terminate their existence in this world, but pass on to another, and, let us all sincerely hope, far happier, plane.