Monster Monday: Herne the Hunter

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Herne the Hunter.

Herne the Hunter by George Cruikshank (1843)
Herne the Hunter by George Cruikshank (1843)

Herne the Hunter is a ghost that haunts Windsor Forest in the County of Berkshire in England. He is described as a man dressed in black with antlers on his head who glows with an eerie light. He usually appears in the winter at midnight riding a horse through the forest, carrying a horn and accompanied by demonic dogs and a horned owl. Sometimes he also appears under a special oak tree.

People report hearing strange cries and howls coming from the forest at night. Herne the Hunter can cause livestock in the area to go barren and cows’ and sheep’s milk to dry up. It is said he collects the souls of those who get lost in the woods or who are hanged for poaching.

Some people associate him with the pre-Christian “Horned God” and the tradition of the Wild Hunt. Others consider him a local figure. William Shakespeare mentions him in the Merry Wives of Windsor as the keeper of the forest during the reign of Richard II who disgraced himself in some way and hanged himself from an oak tree. As punishment, he haunts the forest. Others say he is a hunter from the reign of Henry VIII who was caught poaching in the forest.



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