HEADLESS HORSEMAN

Real Name: Bones Bullinger (see comments)

Identity/Class: Human

Occupation: Attorney

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: Formerly a trio of hired hitmen (Louie, two unidentified others)

Enemies: Duke Durbano, Kim Carter, Matt Carter, the Headless Horseman, trio of hired hitmen (Louie, two unidentified others)

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: An unidentified town near Sleepy Hollow, New York

First Appearance: Supernatural Thrillers#6 (November, 1973)

Powers/Abilities: As the Headless Horseman Bullinger wore a luminescent costume that made him appear to be glowing skeleton carrying a fire-engulfed skull in one hand. He rode a horse whose eyes were somehow made to glow. He displayed no real offensive abilities other than throwing the burning skull at targets, relying more on fear to accomplish his goals.

   Bones Bullinger was a trained attorney, and presumably therefore knowledgeable about the law, at least those on the New York statutes. Given his impersonation of the Headless Horseman he was likely a competent rider. 

Height: Unrevealed (see comments)
Weight: Unrevealed
Eyes: Unrevealed
Hair: White

History:
(
Supernatural Thrillers#6 (fb) - BTS) - Bones Bullinger was an attorney working out of an office near Sleepy Hollow who secretly ran a protection racket extorting local businessmen. Exploiting the local legend of the Headless Horsemen, he had a special costume secretly made so he could disguise himself as the ghost to terrorize anyone who stood up to him. When local cop Matt Carter came to suspect Bullinger and even began to figure out his Horseman deception, Bullinger murdered him, somehow making the death seem like an accident (see comments). Matt's widow Kim, whom Bones had a secret attraction to (see comments), refused to believe that Matt's death wasn't murder, and enlisted Matt's best friend, private investigator Duke Durbano, to look into the case. For six months Duke poked around, and though he failed to turn up any evidence to prove Matt's death was deliberate or to tie Bones to any wrong-doing, the interference nevertheless irritated Bones until he decided he had to eliminate Kim. To this end he hired a trio of professional hitmen from New York City, offering them ten grand to kill the widow with a bomb.

(Supernatural Thrillers#6) - On the night of the hit Bones waited in his office to hear from his hired assassins, and eventually got a call from their car phone to inform him that not only had Kim being taken care of, but so had Duke, as he had been in Kim's house when the bomb was thrown threw her window. Unaware they had actually failed, since Duke had managed to throw the bomb back out the window before it exploded, Bones told the hitmen to lay low until he contacted them so that there was no chance he could be connected to the bombing. With the thugs having also mentioned that they were just about to get on the Interstate back to the city, Bones decided it was now time to also eliminate the hitmen so they could never be linked back to him and to this end he pulled his Horseman costume out the closet.

   Knowing the route they would have to take, Bones intercepted their car disguised as the Horseman (see comments), causing them to swerve in terror and crash into a bridge. The vehicle ignited (possibly set alight by the Horseman), killing all inside. However Duke had been pursuing the hitmen too, and had been forced off the road by them only moments before the Horseman intervened. As such the Horseman suddenly spotted a shaken Duke now observing the crash, and rode down on the detective. Despite believing he must be hallucinating as a result of his own accident, Duke tried to flee, but the Horseman caught up with him and threw his burning skull at the terrified man, screaming "Die, meddler, die!", after which Duke passed out.

(Supernatural Thrillers#6 - BTS) - Leaving Duke alive, Bones returned to his office and placed his costume back in the closet (see comments). However, some time later, possibly the next evening, something (probably the real Horseman) scared Bones so severely that he suffered a fatal heart attack and died. His body was found by the police behind his office, with no marks on the body suggesting any foul play, but an expression of abject terror frozen on his face.

Comments: Created by Gary Friedrich, George Tuska and Jack Abel.

   Was it the Horseman who attacked Bullinger's hired assassins, or Bullinger in disguise as the Horseman? The history listed above assumes the latter. While it was definitely the real ghost who chased Duke Durbano at the end of the tale, given that Bullinger was already dead by that juncture, I think it was Bullinger the first time round. My reasons are threefold: One, the Horseman's confirmed attacks all took place in Sleepy Hollow on the road leading to the bridge, whereas the hitmen were attacked on the interstate. Yes, Bullinger was found dead behind his office, apparently killed by fright after seeing the Horseman, but we don't know where the encounter took placed, and he might have traveled some distance after encountering the real Horseman before his heart gave out. Two, the hitmen's attacker shouted "Die, meddler, die!" at Duke Durbano, distinguishing that encounter from all the others where the Horseman is always eerily silent. Three, the last time the readers see Bullinger as himself he has just pulled out his Horseman costume intending to immediately go to kill the hitmen; the next day Durbano finds the costume in the closet in Bullinger's office, while the police find Bullinger dead behind the office; so either he inexplicably changed his mind and hung the costume back up, then went outside and was scared to death, or he carried out his plan, killed the hitmen and scared Durbano, returned to his office and hung the costume back up, and then was later confronted by the real Horseman, triggering the heart attack that killed him. The only detail that seems to support it being the real Horseman all along is that immediately after the hitmen die, the Horseman chases Durbano until the detective is knocked out, and Durbano later wonders why Bullinger didn't finish him off, which might be seen as a hint that it was really the ghost; however, Bullinger might simply have wanted to avoid leaving any evidence of murder for the cops to find, since all the deaths he'd personally had a hand in up until that point had been caused by people panicking at the sight of the specter, meaning they looked like accidents.

   IF Bones wasn't the Horseman who drove the hitmen off the road, then his history above stops after he pulls the costume out the closet and resumes at the point where something scares him into a heart attack.

   For the sake of total accuracy, it has to be stated that we don't know for sure that it was the real Horseman who scared Bones into a heart at attack, and he might have randomly encountered something else that triggered his fatality. But if so, that would be one heck of a coincidence for him to be scared to death by something unrelated to the Horseman just after he'd been impersonating the Horseman for his own gain.

   The details of Matt Carter's demise aren't given, other than that the authorities thought it was an accident. The most obvious option is that Bones attacked him while disguised as the Horseman and somehow scared him into killing himself, similar to how he drove the hitmen into crashing their car, except that falls down somewhat when we learn that Matt already suspected Bones was posing as the Horseman, in which case being confronted by would be more likely to make Matt fight rather than flee in terror (much as Duke flees the first time, when he thinks the Horseman is a ghost, but fights the second, when he thinks it is Bones). As such, Bones may have figured out another way to murder Matt while making it look like an accident.

   Bones is revealed to have a thing for Kim Carter, Matt's widow, as he keeps a picture of her in his office, but when this crush developed is unrevealed; it may have been a long term thing from before he began playing the Horseman, or he might have only taken a shine to her after learning about her while researching the cop who was investigating him. Ultimately we don't really know.

   At first I assumed that Bones had to be a nickname, because who would name their kid that? But then I noticed that he's got the name inscribed on his office door, so either he's so proud of the nickname that he even uses it in his official capacity as a lawyer, or else his parents really did burden their offspring with that dubious moniker.

   In terms of estimating Bullinger's height, any estimate would be mostly guesswork. We only see him as himself when he's alone, with no one else to scale him off of, or (assuming it is him in the Horseman outfit the first time round) when he is mounted. Given his costume would have to make him appear taller, as it would have to go above his head to maintain the illusion he was headless, it's not even fair to assume he would have to be of at least average height.

   Bones calls the late Matt Carter "Matt Slater" at one point; since it's Carter every other time this can be written off as a slip of the tongue.

   Since there are no ties to the rest of the mainstream Marvel universe (Earth-616), there's no reason why Bullinger and his crimes need to be tied to the sliding timescale, and so may well have taken place in 1973, contemporaneous to when the story was published.

Profile by Loki.

CLARIFICATIONS:
The Headless Horseman (Bones Bullinger) has no known connections to:


Trio of hitmen

Louie and his two compatriots ("Bowtie" and "Mustache") were professional hitmen out of New York City. They accepted a $10,000 bounty from Bones Bullinger to murder Kim Carter, and were informed that she was also working with a private investigator, Duke Durbano. With Louie as the trio's driver, they drove up to Kim's house late one evening while Duke was visiting her, and Bowtie tossed a bomb threw the window. Louie then hastily drove away to avoid being caught in the blast. Hearing the explosion behind them, the trio assumed their targets slain, unaware that the quick-thinking Duke had saved himself and Kim by throwing the bomb back outside before it detonated. Confident of their success, Bowtie called Bones to inform him and tell him the trio were about to join the Interstate to head back to New York City. Bones told them to lie low until he contacted them, then ended the call, secretly intending to intercept the hitmen's car disguised as the Headless Horseman and silence the trio forever.

   Back in the vehicle the hitmen celebrated "the easiest hit we ever made" with a drink, with Mustache confidently proclaiming them home free, but Louie began to get worried that everything had gone too easily, a concern that grew as he spotted the lights of another vehicle (driven by Duke) suddenly come off a ramp behind them and close at high speed. Louie tried to lose the tail, narrowly avoiding a truck in front as he raced down the road with their pursuer hanging on to their back bumper. As Louie informed his two partners that their car could outrun the higher performance pursuer, the vehicle behind rammed them. Deciding to retaliate, Mustache leaned out his window and shot the windscreen of the car behind, his lucky shot creasing Duke's skull and causing him to swerve off road and crash. Seeing their pursuer go over a banking the hitmen momentarily thought themselves free and clear, but then Louie saw something coming down the wrong side of the road towards them, accompanied by a blinding light. As it neared the trio realized to their horror that the Headless Horseman was riding straight at them, his glowing bones lit further by the burning skull he carried in his right hand. Screaming in terror Louie swerved to avoid the apparition and crashed the car into the base of an overpass; the vehicle burst into flames (perhaps lit by the Horseman), killing all three hitmen.

--Supernatural Thrillers#6



images: (without ads)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p12, pan1 (main image)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p8, pan6 (headshot)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p8, pan4 (Bullinger in suit)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p13, pan5 (the Horseman confronts Duke)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p16, pan6 (Duke discovers Bones' costume)
Supernatural Thrillers#6, p11, pan6 (hitmen)
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Appearances:
Supernatural Thrillers#6 (November, 1973) - Gary Friedrich (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Jack Abel (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)


First Posted: 10/31/2022
Last updated:
10/31/2022

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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