Herne the Hunter is an antlered ghost, associated with Windsor Forest and Great Park in the English county of Berkshire.
The first recorded mention of Herne appears in William Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Windsor and little else was written about him until the 16th century.
Shakespeare describes Herne as “a spirit” and “sometime a keeper…in Windsor forest” who is seen to “walk round an oak, with great ragg’d horns” at midnight during winter-time.
Samuel Ireland (chief victim of the Ireland Shakespeare forgeries by his son William Henry Ireland; who purported to have found lost manuscripts of the playwright) expanded on the story as follows. “The story of this Herne, who was keeper in the forest in the time of Elizabeth, reads thus: That having committed some great offence, for which he feared to lose his situation and fall into disgrace, he was induced to hang himself on this tree.” Ireland suggests that the unholy method of his death gave cause to his unquiet spirit to haunt the forest.
The hauntings have been reported in Windsor Forest (covering all of East Berkshire and parts of south Buckinghamshire, northeast Hampshire and northwest Surry) and specifically the Great Park. Some hauntings report he appears antlered beneath the tree on which he was hanged, known as “Herne’s Oak”, others claim to see him riding his horse, accompanied by other wild huntsmen and the captured souls of those he encounters on his journey. He is described as having a phosphorescent glow and is accompanied by a horned owl, demon hounds and other creatures of the forest.