Day 6: Arnold and the Headless Cabbie

Day 6: Urban Legends: Haunted trains, phantom locomotives and the like. Part II.

Howdy, everyone. So it’s currently 10:26 pm and tonight we are going to talk about Hey Arnold once more! Season 4, episode 6 specifically – “Headless Cabbie, Friday the 13th”.

This urban legend is based on the headless horsemen, and didn’t scare me as much as the phantom conductor.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the legend, basically The Legend of Sleepy Hollow tells the story of Ichabod Crane. Crane would like to marry a particular girl in order to underhandedly secure her family fortune, but there is another suitor. At a party, he proposes to the woman and she turns him down. The party-goers tell a bunch of ghost stories and Crane rides home on horseback thinking about the supernatural tales.

Just then, an alleged ghost (or the rival suitor for the girl’s hand) shows up, does a bunch of spooky things, throws a pumpkin and Crane is knocked off his horse in fear. He disappeared from the town the next morning, never to be heard from again.

What always interested me with this story is that it’s an actual place. Sleepy Hollow is located in upstate New York. Each year, I always told myself after learning of the legend that I would go visit the alleged site. Along with Salem, MA, I would take photos and expose the ghouls myself.

Sadly, I still haven’t been to either place. Funnily enough, in High School during my sophomore year a bunch of literature students went on a trip there. Our class was supposed to go as well, but since the teacher was an overgrown manchild who rode his longboard skateboard in the hallways to class (not kidding) he literally told us that he “forgot and didn’t think anyone would be interested anyway”.

I remember telling him that I’d always wanted to visit, especially after reading The Crucible. It was my chance to relive history! Up close and personal!

He kind of just shrugged and said sorry before starting class. I think he cared. I guess.

Looking back, all of my high school English teachers were pretty loosey goosey. Weird.

Anyway, in the episode the kids are having a sleepover. Arnold, Gerald, Sid, Stinky and Herold are telling ghost stories and then decide to go get ice cream. In order to get to the parlor quickly, they cut through City Park. I know there have been many discussions on the location Hey Arnold is set in, and theories that it is a mix of New York City, Brooklyn, and Seattle.  I always thought the show was in New York, and City Park (in my mind) is Central Park.

As these things go, the legend slowly begins to materialize. A demon scotty-dog, a horse clopping in the distance (which turns out to be Eugene clogging in a dimly lit public park after dark), a man with a golden hook for a hand, a red scarf caught in a bare tree, and a headless cabbie.

Which by the way, for some reason I always thought it was a caddie instead of cabbie. I don’t even play gulf to make that mental association.

The kids freak out and the “headless” cabbie and his passenger are revealed to be two of the boarders from Arnold’s home. Ernie takes the kids for ice cream and gets them back safely to the boarding house to presumably restart the slumber party. On his way back towards the park to pick up fares for extra cash, the (evil witch) spirit from the story stops Ernie and asks for a ride in the carriage. She mentions something about losing her scotty dog, and offers the man a red scarf.

The episode ends, and like the Haunted Train, we the audience are left to wonder what happened. Obviously, Ernie doesn’t die. He doesn’t get decapitated. But does he see through the woman?

In Arnold’s original retelling of the tale, I always wondered why the cabbie didn’t just toss the lady out of the carriage car. Maybe I’m being harsh and looking at it through a modern lens, but the carriage ride is simply an Uber in terms of modernity. There has to be some sort of protocol where the driver could have softly suggested that maybe he wasn’t the best man for this job. Politeness is great and all, but is it worth risking your life for? Worth dying for, over a scotty dog in a little sweater that does not flatter or compliment his toy body type? Would a green tartan pattern not suit his coat more?

(Red scarf and red sweater on ‘lost ‘ dog being a possible allegory for sacrifice and a loss of sanity aside…)

I’m being a bit silly here, but you can understand my reasoning. Ernie is a modern man, so I am sure he threw her out of the carriage, abandoned it, or refused to speed up whist fog illuminated cobbled stone in front of him – limiting his peripheral. After all, those tunnels in (presumably) Central Park are super dark in the day time, so at night in fog it would be near impossible and dangerous to speed ahead.

The issue of the man with the golden hand would come into play as well, since he would be a witness to the imposed crime. I’m sure he was still there after encountering the kids, because people really are weird like that in Central Park. Some of the worst are the fake Buddhist monks wandering around The Pond near 5th Ave.

They could have changed locations since I last visited, but boy are they scammers. The grifters place prayer beads around your wrist and place their hands together as if they were blessing you. While you are in awe at their kindness, they quietly pull out a sheet of paper asking for a donation in order to keep the bracelet. I am just remembering now also seeing them on one of the streets leading up to the Javits Center for some convention I attended earlier this year as well.

I wonder how many people they ‘get’ and swindle out of their money?

Tangent aside, I think Ernie would have enough sense to fight the creepy woman off and keep his head. The headless horsemen legend is fascinating though. I’m typing this with the easter egg event triggered at night in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There are so many stories and battles a ghost archetype like this could be applied to. It’s scary, but also plausible in its own way.

If you were to die as gruesomely as that, wouldn’t you want to come back and haunt those who completed the dastardly deed?

Or would you just let it go, and move on to the afterlife?

Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below! Along with your favorite urban legend, and why you enjoy the tale!

I’m going to wrap up this post early tonight, as I just washed my hair before writing and that is always a task. Plus, I staved off the urge to add in another personal story – which took years off my health and drained what little life force I had left tonight. I was going to tell you all about how when I was eight years old I mistook a jacket and hat hanging on a coat rack as the headless horsemen at my cousin’s new jersey country home. But…I’m not sure if the personal stories are annoying or endearing to you all, so I’ll leave it here.

The cabbie rides through City Park at night, Hey Arnold episode 66
The cabbie rides through City Park at night, Hey Arnold Episode 66

These posts are very casual compared to my usual, more serious work. It’s nice to just take it easy once in a while, and go with the flow. ~  ☺

☆ In Asian Spaces

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Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

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