Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Goblin Ride

Hang up Hooks, and Shears to scare
Hence the Hag, that rides the Mare,
Till they be all over wet,
With the mire, and the sweat;
This observ’d, the Manes shall be
Of your horses, all knot-free.”
- Another Charm For Stables, Robert Herrick

In 1796 a Frenchman named Jacques L’Esperance, called by many “Jaco,” lived in Grosse Pointe on the banks of Lake St. Claire. After inhabiting the land from his father Jaco became an exquisite horse breeder. He could be seen riding his favorite horse, Lightning, along the banks of the lake daily. One evening Jacques was out until dawn, dancing the night away to the fiddle music of one Antoine Griffard. At dawn he went to the stable to harness his prized horse but found a confusing sight. Her mane was tangled with burs and she was covered in foam. Jacques was angered by this, but took it that someone had taken the mare out for a joyride as a practical joke. However, for days afterward he found the same situation in his own stable. Each time she seemed to be weary, as if someone had been riding her all night. Determined to put an end to this Jaco placed a lock on the stable door and laid ashes upon the ground to capture the culprit’s footprints the next morning. The next morning the lock was in tact and the ashes were not disturbed, yet Lightning was in the same horrid condition that he had previously found her in.
Jaco confided in a friend who proposed that the culprit was le lutin, in fact a particular hobgoblin who had haunted the Pointe for years. This hobgoblin, called “the horned beast,” it was said, would take a disliking to certain men and ride their horses ragged in the night. Jaco’s friend told him that he should brand his horses with crosses and place amulets and charms about their necks to ward of the horned beast. Jacques went home discouraged by the visit, as he did not believe the legend.
He decided to learn for himself who it was that was taking his horse by cover of night. On a night when the moon was bright and full in the sky Jacques positioned himself, armed with his rifle, near his window where he could see the stables, but could not himself be seen from the outside of his home. All was still for most of the night. Disheartened, Jaco began to rise from his position to head off to bed. Suddenly the neighing of frightened horses rose from the barn and Jacques saw the door open noiselessly of it’s own accord. Next Jacques watched in horror as his prized Lightning flew from the stable with a grotesque horned goblin riding upon her back! The creature appeared to be a baboon covered in black bristling hair and a pair of horns upon it’s head. The goblin road the mare without bit nor bridle and instead tugged at her mane with one hand while whipping her with a thorn switch with the other.
Jaco had a flash of brilliance, remembering the old formula used by the laity to exorcize demons. He grabbed a flask of holy water, at this time it being customary to have holy water at the head of one’s bed, and threw it down upon the lutin as it passed beneath his bedroom window. The demon shrieked as the water splashed it and the horse reared. Both horse and rider then plunged full speed into the lake! Jaco ran after them, but both horse and rider had been swallowed up by the chill waters of the lake. Jaco then fired his rifle to awaken his neighbors who came rushing to see what had happened. He then related his story to all who would listen. From that day forward Jacques branded all of his horses with the sign of the cross to prevent the return of the goblin rider.

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