Thursday, November 14, 2013

Coachman’s Warning

The legend Coachman’s Warning is a classic. The original legend first appeared in 1906. Since, many versions of this story have been told. It is often stated that these stories are “true” in order to give them an added punch.

The following is just one version:

English Manor House
Last year, my cousin Alyssa visited friends from college for a week at their stately English manor house in the English countryside. 

The guest bedroom she stayed in overlooked what was once the carriage sweep that led to the manor’s front entrance. 

Earlier in the day one of her high heels had gotten caught by one of the old fashioned cobblestones that still lay along this path. She had managed to catch herself just before she fell.

The first night she had trouble falling asleep being in new surroundings. It did not help that her bed was lumpy and moonlight flooded into the room through thin curtains. As Alyssa tossed and turned the bedside clock struck 12 midnight.

Sometime after this, she heard what she thought were squeaky wheels and then what sounded like horse hooves strike the cobblestones below her window. She heard what she thought was a man’s voice talking soothingly to his team. 

Now curious, she got up and walked to the window to confirm or deny what she had heard.

To her amazement she saw an old-fashioned horse drawn hearse. There wasn’t a coffin inside but the windows showed the back of the hearse contained several people. The coachman sat high on the box and was still talking to his team as she noticed he wore a layered coat and top hat. 

He turned toward where she stood at the window and shouted out, “There’s room for one more.”

My cousin shocked backed into the room and lay down. She admitted that she was so scared she placed the bedclothes over her head. When morning finally came she didn’t know for sure whether she had actually gotten up and seen this hearse or if it had just been a dream. 

She told me when she returned home she was never so glad to see a place in her rear-view mirror.

Several months later, she was shopping at one of her favorite stores in London. She was on the top floor, her hands full of shopping bags when she decided to take the elevator. 

When the door slid open she noticed the car was full. When she hesitated the elevator operator stated, “There’s room for one more.”

She then saw his face was the same as the hearse coachman’s face. Alyssa managed to reply, “No, thank you. I’ll walk down.” 

As she turned away the elevator door shut. Within seconds she heard a loud clang and then a terrible rushing sound. She heard voices screaming and shouting. After a crashing sound all was silent. The elevator had snapped and plummeted to the bottom--killing all its passengers.

Another version of this legend was written by E.F. Benson and published in Pall Mall magazine under the title, The Bus Conductor. This story involves a bus, bus driver and a car that crashes into the bus killing everyone on board. In this version the coachman's phantom seems to haunt the protagonist wherever he goes. 

In 1944, Bennett Cerf told another version in his anthology Famous Ghost Stories. This version involves a young New York woman who visits her relatives on a Carolina plantation. Each version has the pre-warning and the element of “There’s room for one more” just before an accident kills several people.

This legend was used
as the basis for the 1945
film, Dead of Night.

This legend was also the inspiration for an episode entitled Twenty-Two on Rod Serling’s series The Twilight Zone. It is one of Serling’s classic dream sequences. Here is a link to this episode from the second season. 

No comments: