The Phantom Buggy

Sergeant Hobson of the Western Australia Police Force started his shift at five in March 1917. As he rode his bicycle along Beaufort Street, the early morning light struggled to break through the heavy clouds.

Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. A fast-moving horse put him on alert. Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. Where was it coming from? Ka-lop, ka-lop. It was too early for a horse to be travelling that fast. He stopped cycling, placed his feet on the ground, and held onto the handlebars as he listened. The sound became louder as the horse approached.

He looked north. No horse. He looked south. No horse. Puzzled, he looked north again. A driverless horse and buggy flew past his line of sight, travelling on the wrong side of the road. “Bloody hell,” he swore as he scrambled back onto his bicycle.

A horse and buggy circa 1905. Courtesy of the State Library of Western Australia (Call Number: 006595PD).

Galloping furiously, the horse sped along Beaufort Street towards Perth. Sergeant Hobson pedalled behind as fast as he could. He kept an eye on his target as he approached the Perth Police Court on the corner of Roe Street. A constable leaned on a light pole. “You there! Give me a hand!” he implored. The constable stood to attention and looked at him in confusion. “Useless,” he mumbled as he turned back to the horse.

Huffing and puffing, Sergeant Hobson pushed harder as he approached the Beaufort Street bridge. Making his way across, he glimpsed several constables hovering on the corner of Wellington Street near the Grand Central Coffee Palace. “Help me with this horse!” he roared as he raced past. They looked at each other and shrugged.

Constables to whom the sergeant called out to stop the horse, began to wonder if the early morning air had affected his reason…

Frustrated, hot, and sweaty, the Sergeant continued down Barrack Street, never losing sight of the runaway horse. Early morning workers threw curious glances his way, but he paid them no mind. He passed Murray Street. He passed Hay Street. Despite his best efforts, he could not catch up.

He maintained his speed as the St Georges Terrace intersection loomed before him. Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. The horse and buggy rattled and banged and turned roughly onto the Terrace. Sergeant Hobson followed behind. He rounded the corner and dropped his gaze for a moment to maintain his balance. When he looked up again, he brought the bicycle to a screeching halt. The horse and buggy had vanished.

Ka-lop, ka-lop, ka-lop. He could hear the sound of hooves in the distance. Back on his bicycle, he rode slowly. Ka-lop, ka-lop. Where was it? The sound stopped. Footsteps and the clink of glass bottles followed. He peered down Sherwood Court. The milkman looked over at him. “Everything orright, Sarge?” Sergeant Hobson hesitated. “You didn’t happen to see a runaway horse and buggy, did you? I was following it, but it…it’s gone.” The man shook his head. “No, sir. Just me at this time of the morning. And your good self, of course.” He gave a cursory nod and went back to work. Sergeant Hobson left him to it and looked back down St Georges Terrace in disbelief. Perth was stirring. There was no sign of the horse and buggy.

In the dim light of some cold misty morning the phantom trap and the ghostly horse may appear to the sergeant again, and the mystery of its disappearance will be solved.

This is a fictional story based upon a real event that was recorded in The Daily News on 12 March 1917. You can read the article here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article81028638

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