Animal Ghosts or Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter by Elliott O'Donnell
III HORSES AND THE UNKNOWN
A slip--a single slip, and we should be entirely at its mercy.
Our own horse was now out of control. A series of violent plunges, which nearly succeeded in unseating me, had enabled her to get the check of the bit between her teeth so as to render it utterly useless; and she had then started off at a speed I can only liken to flying. Fortunately we were now on a more or less level ground, and the road, every inch of which our horse knew, was smooth and broad.
I glanced at the Colonel convulsively clutching the reins; he was clinging to his seat for dear life, his hat gone. I wanted to speak, but I knew it was useless--the shrieking of the air as it roared past us deadened all sounds. Once or twice I glanced over the side of the trap. The rapidity with which we were moving caused a hideous delusion--the ground appeared to be gliding from beneath us; and I experienced the sensation of resting on nothing. Despite our danger, however, from natural causes--a danger which, I knew, could not have been more acute--my fears were wholly of the superphysical. It was not the horror of being dashed to pieces I dreaded--it was the horror of the phantom horse--of its sinister, hostile appearance--of its unknown powers. What would it do if it overtook us? With each successive breath I drew I felt sure the fateful event--the long-anticipated crisis--had come.
At last my expectations were realized. The teeth of the gigantic steed closed down on me, its nostrils hissed resistance out of me--I swerved, tottered, fell; and as I sank on the ground my senses left me.
On coming to I found myself in a propped-up position on the floor of a tiny room with someone pouring brandy down my throat. Happily, beyond a severe shock, I had sustained no injury--a sufficiently miraculous circumstance, as the trap had come to grief in failing to clear the lodge gates, the horse had skinned its knees, and the Colonel had fractured his shoulder. Of the phantom horse not a glimpse had been seen. Even the Colonel, strange to relate, though he had managed to peep round, had not seen it. He had heard and felt a Presence, that was all; and after listening to my experience, he owned he was truly thankful he was only clair-audient.
"A gift like yours," he said, with more candour than kindness, "is a curse, not a blessing. And now I have your corroboration, I might as well tell you that we have long suspected the ghost to be a horse, and have attributed its hauntings to the fact that, some time ago, when exploring in the cave, several prehistoric remains of horses were found, one of which we kept, whilst we presented the others to a neighbouring museum. I dare say there are heaps more."
"Undoubtedly there are," I said, "but take my advice and leave them alone--re-inter the remains you have already unearthed--and thus put a stop to the hauntings. If you go on excavating and keep the bones you find, the disturbances will, in all probability, increase, and the hauntings will become not only many but multiform."
Needless to say the Colonel carried out my injunctions to the letter. Far from continuing his work of excavation he lost no time in restoring the bones he had kept to their original resting-place; after which, as I predicted, the hauntings ceased.
This case, to me, is very satisfactory, as it testifies to what was unquestionably an actual phantasm of the dead--of a dead horse--albeit that horse was prehistoric; and such horses are all the more likely to be earth-bound on account of their wild, untamed natures.
Here is another account of a phantom horse taken from Mr. Stead's _Real Ghost Stories_. It is written by an Afrikander who, in a letter to Mr. Stead, says:
"I am not a believer in ghosts, nor never was; but seeing you wanted a census of them, I can't help giving you a remarkable experience of mine. It was some three summers back, and I was out with a party of Boer hunters. We had crossed the Northern boundary of the Transvaal, and were camped on the ridges of the Sembombo. I had been out from sunrise, and was returning about dusk with the skin of a fine black ostrich thrown across the saddle in front of me, in the best of spirits at my good luck. Making straight for the camp, I had hardly entered a thick bush when I thought that I heard somebody behind me. Looking behind, I saw a man mounted on a white horse. You can imagine my surprise, for my horse was the only one in camp, and we were the only party in the country. Without considering I quickened my pace into a canter, and on doing so my follower appeared to do the same. At this I lost all confidence, and made a run for it, with my follower in hot pursuit, as it appeared to my imagination; and I did race for it (the skin went flying in about two minutes, and my rifle would have done the same had it not been strapped over my shoulders). This I kept up until I rode into camp right among the pals cooking the evening meal. The Boers about the camp were quick in their enquiries as to my distressed condition, and regaining confidence, I was putting them off as best I could, when the old boss (an old Boer of some sixty-eight or seventy years), looking up from the fire, said: