116. Haunted by the hunter!
Windsor and Eton harbours one of London's most fascinating ghostly legends. During the reign of Richard II a huntsman saved the life of the King, rescuing him from a possible mauling by a large stag. Herne risked life and limb to save the King, and as he lay injured it was said that a strange old man emerged from the woods and claimed he could save the life of the brave hunter. Richard stated that should his saviour survive, he would make the man his head huntsman. With that, the mysterious old man bound a pair of stag antlers to the head of wounded warrior and took him into the forest.
However others who hunted in the forest were angered by the old man's actions and threatened that should the hunter live, they would seek out the healer and kill him. The old man told the displeased hunters that Herne, the mauled man, would not serve as leader for long, but because the fellow hunters had wished ill will upon the brave man, they would in turn be cursed and not live until old age.
The hunter who rescued the King recovered, but was soon dismissed from his leadership after proving inadequate at providing sport for the monarch. In disappointment, Herne the Hunter hung himself from a large oak in the woods, and after his death those cursed huntsmen also gradually perished one by one.
Legend has it that when nights are stormy and dark clouds gather overhead, Herne gallops out of the forest on horseback - behind him an army of phantom huntsmen, and ahead of them a spectral pack of hounds sent off into the night. It is said that should the country ever be threatened, Herne will appear, but it seems that the apparitions and their energy has faded, for their last alleged appearance took place in the December of 1936 when Edward VIII abdicated.
Photo by Mystic Moon on flickr