HEADLESS HORSEMAN

Real Name: Peter Vermeer

Identity/Class: Human, WWII era

Occupation: Unrevealed

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: None

Enemies: Gretchen, Major Liberty (John Liberty), Paul Revere, Hendrick Vermeer

Known Relatives: Hendrick Vermeer (uncle, deceased)

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Sleepy Hollow, New York

First Appearance: U.S.A.Comics#3/2 (January, 1942)

Powers/Abilities: Vermeer was an above average horse rider, capable of mounting his horse with a "nimble leap" despite having his vision obscured by his head-covering disguise. He had extremely strong hands, allowing him to easily throttle his uncle.

 

Height: 5'9" (by approximation)
Weight: 165 lbs. (by approximation)
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown

 

History:
(
U.S.A.Comics#3/2 (fb) - BTS) - After losing a sizeable amount gambling, wastrel Peter Vermeer desperately needed large sums of money fast to pay off his debts. Believing himself the sole beneficiary listed in his rich Uncle Hendrick's will, Peter decided to murder the old man; since Hendrick lived on the outskirts of Sleepy Hollow, Peter took inspiration from the local legend and disguised himself as the Headless Horseman when he went to carry out the dire deed, wearing a coat with raised shoulders so that it concealed his head.

(U.S.A.Comics#3/2) - Breaking into Hendrick's house the Horseman confronted Hendrick and strangled the terrified man to death. His dying screams brought the maid Gretchen to the room in time to witness the Horseman fleeing the scene.

   The murder was reported in the papers, drawing the interest of the hero Major Liberty, as Hendrick had been his college dean years earlier. Liberty decided to investigate, and using his power to raise ghosts he enlisted the aid of Paul Revere. As a result, they were covertly observing Hendrick's house when Peter later attended the reading of Hendrick's will, and witnessed as Peter became outraged to learn that the estate would be split equally between himself and Gretchen. His angry protests that she was just a servant while he was a blood relation were met shot down by the lawyer, who made it clear that Hendrick had been very fond of the maid and there was nothing Peter could do to contest the will.

(U.S.A.Comics#3/2 (fb) - BTS) - Aware that half the estate wasn't sufficient to pay off the gambling debts, Peter decided to kill Gretchen too.

(U.S.A.Comics#3/2) - Once the lawyer departed, Peter stormed off to the barn where he had hidden his Horseman disguise and his steed, unaware he was being tailed by Liberty and Revere, and they witnessed both him entering the barn and the Horseman emerging mere minutes later. The Horseman rode back to Hendrick's house, entered Gretchen's room through the window, and began to strangle the sleeping maid, but was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Revere's ghost. Spooked by the apparition, the Horseman turned round in time to see Major Liberty also arriving, and in a split second the villain charged by the hero, striking him down with a glancing blow. Diving back through the window, the Horseman leapt onto his steed and fled across the countryside, but Revere summoned his own ghost horse and with Liberty riding double they pursued. Desperately trying to evade them, the Horseman rode into a churchyard, but Revere woke the spirits of those buried in the church's graveyard and as they rose to bar the Horseman's way the villain's scared steed reared in terror, throwing the Horseman off. Liberty quickly tackled the Horseman to the ground, but he fought back, kicking the hero away, only to be kicked himself in turn by the spectral Revere. A couple of final punches from Liberty ended the fight, and the Horseman was unmasked, confirming the two vigilantes' suspicions that he was Peter. Threatened with a beating, Peter confessed both his motive and his crimes. Spotting an approaching police car, the hero told Peter to give himself up, and Peter, frantic after encountering real ghosts, did so, providing the surprised officers with a full confession.

 

Comments: Created by Paul Sturm and Syd Shores.

   And he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for that meddling superhero and the ghosts of American patriots!

   It's got to be said that Peter's cunning plan wasn't all that cunning. If a rich person is murdered, those who will inherit are generally the first suspects. Granted the disguise might have scared the victim, making him marginally easier to kill, and hidden Peter's identity from any witnesses, but if no one had witnessed the murder, then the disguise would have provided absolutely nothing in terms of diverting the police away from the most obvious suspect. And even with that witness claiming a ghost killed the victim, any detective worth his salt is still going to suspect Peter - as indeed Major Liberty immediately did. At least in other cases where people elected to disguise themselves as the Horseman in order to eliminate someone, those imposters relied on terror at seeing the "ghost" causing the victim to suffer heart attacks or crash cars, thus making the murders look like natural causes or accidents - still somewhat unreliable schemes, but at least ones that wouldn't have the police immediately homing in on the obvious living suspects.

   Presumably Hendrick and Peter were the only surviving members of the Vermeer family, as if there had been any others then Peter wouldn't have been so sure he was the sole benefactor of Hendrick's will.

   I suspect that the surname Vermeer was inspired by the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

   The first page of the story has a image of Major Liberty hanging onto the Horseman's saddle as the Horseman rides along holding his grinning head in his hand; not only does this scene not appear in the actual story, but at no point does Peter's disguise include him carrying a severed head nor any similar substitute.

 

Profile by Loki.

  

CLARIFICATIONS:
Headless Horseman has no known connections to:


Hendrick Vermeer

A lover of books, the wealthy Hendrick Vermeer had been a college dean before retiring to his home in Sleepy Hollow, where he was cared for by his maid Gretchen, whose devoted service touched Hendrick to the point of including the young woman in his will. Sadly his final years were cut short by his greedy nephew, Peter, who decided to inherit early. Confronted by what appeared to be the Headless Horseman, Hendrick backed away in terror entreating the intruder to speak, then cried out desperately for Gretchen's help just before the Horseman's hands grasped his throat and swiftly strangled the life out of him.

 

Comments: We're not told which college Hendrick was dean at; it might have been Freedom University in Connecticut, where John Liberty taught, but this is by no means a certainty. The story doesn't explicitly state that Hendrick was a book lover, but he's murdered in a room with several large and very full bookshelves.

--U.S.A.Comics#3/2


Gretchen

Gretchen was Hendrick Vermeer's faithful maid, and witnessed the aftermath of Hendrick's murder, entering his study after hearing her master's screams in time to witness the "Headless Horseman" fleeing the scene. At the reading of Hendrick's will the old man's lawyer revealed that Gretchen was to inherit half of Hendrick's estate, much to her surprise and the anger of Hendrick's other heir, Peter. Unfortunately for Gretchen, Peter was also Hendrick's true killer and decided to eliminate her too. He broke into her room that night as she was sleeping, waking her only as he began to throttle her, but she was saved by the intervention of the ghost of Paul Revere, followed moments later by the specter-summoning superhero Major Liberty. 

--U.S.A.Comics#3/2



images: (without ads)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p4, pan6 (main image)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p4, pan2 (Peter headshot)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p2, pan1 (the Horseman confronts Hendrick)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p6, pan2 (unmasked)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p1, pan1 (splash page image - this scene never happened)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p1, pan2 (Hendrick)
U.S.A.Comics#3/2, p5, pan1 (Gretchen - and yes, her being strangled is the clearest shot we have of her face)


Appearances:
U.S.A.Comics#3/2 (January, 1942) - Paul Sturm (writer), Syd Shores (pencils and possibly inks), Joe Simon (editor)


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

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

Non-Marvel Copyright info
All other characters mentioned or pictured are  and 1941-2099 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. If you like this stuff, you should check out the real thing!
Please visit The Marvel Official Site at:
http://www.marvel.com

Special Thanks to www.g-mart.com for hosting the Appendix, Master List, etc.!

Back to Characters