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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Sedgemoor
    Published on Wednesday 31 December 2008 – Shields Gazzette ‘Ghost Rider on the Road’

    IN 1924, the writer and diarist Luke Speedwell set about journeying throughout the United Kingdom with friends in a motorcar he nicknamed The Happy Dragon.

    Speedwell stopped at various places of historical interest, and dutifully told readers of a national newspaper of his experiences.

    On one occasion Speedwell and his entourage passed through lonely Sedgemoor, in Somerset.

    The journalist paused the vehicle momentarily and, pointing to his right at a windswept stretch of moor, said: "There is the very spot where Monmouth’s mob army, with their pikes and hayforks and matchlocks, met the King’s men.

    "There was the rout, and the massacre of rebels. Many a good man fell. I wonder whether their spirits ever haunt this spot?"

    It wasn’t long before Speedwell had good cause to ponder further over his words.

    A dense mist had settled over the windswept stretch of road, and, conscious of the deepening gloom, he once again put The Happy Dragon into gear and proceeded on his way.

    After half a mile, and just after midnight, Speedwell suddenly noticed something in front of him.

    Coming towards the vehicle was a large horse and its rider, bathed in an eerie glow.

    The man sitting upon the steed, he noticed, was garbed all in white.

    Many a soul would have just carried on without stopping, but Speedwell’s journalistic curiosity got the better of him, and he slowed the vehicle down to a crawl.

    It was then that he noticed something distinctly odd; even though the huge horse was within inches of the car as it passed, not a single sound came from its hooves as they moved upon the ground.

    Speedwell wound down the window and attempted to speak to the horseman, but the ghostly figure paid him no heed at all.

    With an expressionless face, staring straight ahead, he simply kept on riding.

    By this juncture Speedwell was feeling distinctly nervous, and attempted to lighten the mood inside the bus by cracking a joke.

    Once again he tried to hail the phantom rider, but still there was no response.

    By this time, of course, Speedwell’s associates were feeling rather alarmed.

    They too could sense that there was something quite other-worldly about the horse and the strangely-garbed man upon its back.

    Speedwell decided enough was enough, and The Happy Dragon and its passengers, to quote his own words, "sped on like one possessed".

    Of course, critics would argue that travelling along a lonely, windswept road out on the moors may well make the imagination work overtime.

    The witnesses had already had the thought of ghosts and such-like implanted in their consciousness by Speedwell just minutes earlier, so could they have simply thought they saw something that was never really there?

    It’s unlikely. All the witnesses saw the same thing; a spectral horseman dressed in white. They all agreed that its hooves had been eerily silent.

    It is hard to believe that they suffered from some sort of collective hallucination when their testimonies dovetailed so accurately.

    We do not need to look for sophisticated solutions from the world of pop-psychology; the truth is that Speedwell and the others saw a ghost, plain and simple. Who was the rider? We do not know.

    Was he connected in some way with the battle that had taken place nearby long ago? Perhaps, but we cannot be sure.

    All we can say with certainty is that a phantom horseman glided by that dark and misty night.

    Whither he had come from, and to whither he was going, will probably forever remain a mystery.