El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas, shares with us the tale of El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

We’re all familiar with the legend of Sleepy Hollow and the terrifying headless horseman who stalked the local community in the story, but did you know that Texas has a headless horseman of its own?

The legend of El Muerto, or the “Dead One,” stretches back to the days of cattle rustlers and outlaws, dirt trails and cowboy fights. While some believe him to be merely a product of myth, there are those who claim he might have actually existed.

In 1850, one of the most famous of all Texas Rangers—Bigfoot Wallace—allegedly captured a Mexican outlaw simply known as Vidal, who had been raiding ranches and stealing cattle and horses. Texas Rangers had long been working to keep the incidents of theft at a minimum, but outlaws continued to sweep across the south. Rangers had done everything they could to send a clear message that thievery would not be tolerated, but their efforts had been largely unsuccessful.

Bigfoot Wallace reportedly executed Vidal upon his capture, tied his decapitated head and sombrero to the saddle horn of a wild mustang, secured his body in the animal’s saddle, and sent the horse out to roam the plains. Cowboys began to see the horse and its unfortunate rider aimlessly wandering through the hills and became so afraid that they shot at it with their guns. Over time, El Muerto became an omen of bad things to come and was credited in stories of the misfortunes of others. Once the horse had been cornered in present-day Uvalde, Texas, the body of the one-time rustler was finally laid to rest. This, however, would not be the last time El Muerto was seen. Stories began to spread like wildfire that he was still riding in the hills and among the ranches he had once stolen from.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

The legend of the headless horseman of Texas is still alive and well today, as many ranchers and travelers throughout west Texas have reported seeing the ghostly apparition on clear and moonlit evenings; a large and foreboding presence, seemingly destined to an eternity of riding headless through the plains on a wild mustang.

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything—including ghosts! In her book Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter explores more than 50 spooky sites.

About the author: As an active paranormal researcher for nearly 20 years, April Slaughter has delved into almost every facet of the unknown, from spirits and psychic phenomena to UFOs, Cryptozoology, and more. She is one of America’s leading researchers into the study of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), and is the first to introduce her personal experiences with Induced After Death Communication (IADC) to the paranormal field.

She began her journalism career in 2006, writing and working for TAPS Paramagazine—published by the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters. In 2008, she cofounded The Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit research and education corporation.

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