History

El Muerto: The Ghostly Ride of the Headless Horseman

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Ghost stories abound through centuries and generations. From medieval ages through modern times, ghost stories have captured the attention and imagination of fright-seeking fans and campfire kids. All ages and all cultures hesitantly partake. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, both skeptics and believers agree, ghost stories are unbelievable! However, when it comes to credibility, can you really doubt the ghost story when the source is an officer of the law? Make that two—two Texas Rangers–Creed Taylor and Bigfoot Wallace.

creed_taylor el muerto 680
Photo: texianlegacy.com

At the age of 15, Creed Taylor was already on his way to becoming a Texas hero. He helped defend the cannon at Gonzales, Texas from the Mexican army. Their flag flew with the battle cry “Come and Take It.” He participated in the Siege of Bexar. After the fall of the Alamo, he led his family to safety during the Runaway Scrape. Then he joined General Sam Houston’s Texian forces in San Jacinto to defeat Santa Anna.

Bigfoot Wallace, a.k.a William Alexander Anderson Wallace, came to Texas in 1837 to avenge the deaths of his brother and cousin who had been killed at the Battle of Goliad. He spent time in a Mexican prison where prisoners drew white and black beans to determine who would be executed or released. He drew gray and was set free! He also fought in several battles for Texas independence and had a colorful and illustrious career long before he joined the Texas Rangers and commanded his own ranger company.

bigfoot wallace- el muerto 680Photo: history.com

In the 1850s, Texas was still the wild, wild, west frontier. After the battles for Texas independence, skirmishes still raged daily with villainous Mexican and Comanche raiders. The Texas Rangers provided law and order. They chased outlaws, savages, murderers, criminal desperados, horse thieving culprits, and cattle rustlers. While Creed Taylor was out chasing Comanche raiders, Vidal, a well-known Mexican bandito, stole some of his prized mustangs. Taylor and a neighboring rancher by the name of Flores were quick to get on their trail. Along the way, they met Bigfoot Wallace and the three tracked Vidal, his bandits, and the horses.

When the three caught up with the outlaws, somehow it was not enough to just kill them. They wanted to set an example and send a message to future thieves. Creed and Wallace beheaded Vidal. They fixed his sombrero to his severed head and tied it so that it would dangle from the side of his saddle. His torso was set upright upon a wild mustang. Before long, stories began to surface about a headless horseman riding through remote sections of South Texas. Because Texas was predominantly Spanish-speaking at the time, the phenomenon was called El Muerto-the Dead One.

El MuertoPhoto: Flickr/Michael F

Eventually, a group of ranchers captured the pony near Alice, Texas in Jim Wells County. They removed Vidal’s skeletal remains for burial. The end.

Not quite! After the burial, soldiers near the Uvalde area reported seeing a headless rider. A couple near San Diego, Texas camping beside their covered wagon in 1917 reported seeing a headless rider speed by on a gray horse. And in 1969, a sighting was reported near Freer, Texas.

Needless to say, both Creed and Wallace had seen more than enough death. They had plenty of occasions to see ghosts. Whether they did or did not believe in them, they nevertheless created one ghoulish, gruesome, spine-chilling ghost for the ages with their headless horseman-El Muerto!