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phantom carriages


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A fairly common motif in legends of the 19th century or earlier is that the ghost of some local aristocrat or landowner rides about the countryside at night in a spectral black carriage; its horses may be headless, or fire-breathing, or luminous, and similarly monstrous black dogs may precede it. Recorded versions show considerable relish for these macabre details. A famous instance is the carriage of Lady Howard of Tavistock (Devon), who died in 1671 after marrying, and allegedly murdering, four husbands in turn; it is made of bones, with a skull at each corner, and runs nightly from Tavistock to Okehampton Castle (Brown, 1979: 32).

Besides these elaborate but fanciful tales, there were sober personal anecdotes about sightings of phantom funerals which were dreaded as death omens, foreshadowing real funerals.


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