The Headsman
A Scenerio Seed for Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green

From: Morrigan (
Date: Tuesday November 25th , 2003
In 1991, James Neal Harvey's book "The Headsman" came out. With obvious connections to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", it neverthless told a fine, creepy story, a variation on the "town with a secret" theme. Of particular interest to Delta Green people is the way the police investigation into the crimes of the story is handled. The hero of the Headsman, Braddock (NY) Sherif Jud McElroy, would be right at home in Delta Green games. Following the obligatory bibliographic information on Harvey's book, I present the stats for the villain of the piece, the ominous Headsman.
Harvey, James Neal. "The Headsman" (Jove Books, a division of the Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 1991). ISBN 0-515-11209-7.
The Headsman of Hounslow, axe murderer and guardian of morality
Description: The Headsman is described as a large - more bulky and muscular than tall - powerfully built human male. The word 'hulking' is used fairly often, actually. The Headsman's upper arms, upper back, and shoulders were described as being exceptionally muscular and strong, and he is said to be extremely powerful, powerful enough physically to subdue grown, healthy men with a single blow. The Headsman's uniform - a stereotypical executioner's costume - of black tunic, close-fitting tights, and gloves was said to have tattered into rags during his last appearance, in 1991. The Headsman wore a close-fitting hood over his head, whose slanting eye-holes had a feline cast.
The Headsman's signature weapon was a very large bipennis, or double-bladed ("double bitted") battle axe, the sort used by executioners to sever the heads of criminals. The blades were identical, and were dramatically curved, so as to increase the chances of severing the neck when swung by a standing axeman at a prone victim. The steel of the head of this axe is polished to a mirror shine, while the handle fashioned from well-oiled hickory. According to the Headsman himself, this axe was fashioned by a master armorer in the English town of Hounslow in 1690.
Notes: Many of the settlers who founded the town of Braddock, in upstate New York, migrated there from the town of Hounslow, England, and many of them aboard the HMS New Hope in 1705. At that time, Hounslow lay just west of London, but today, it has probably been absorbed into that metropolis, and would be a neighborhood if it retained any independent existence at all. The original Headsman was among these settlers. Both in England, in Hounslow, and in Braddock, the people employed an executioner to mete out sentences of death on criminals. This executioner - called the Headsman because his technique was to chop off the criminal's head with a large battle axe - also happened to be a psychopathic murderer who had no compunctions about committing a few murders when his civic duties slowed down.
As the town of Braddock grew and prospered, the need for such executions dwindled, and the Headsman had to resort to his own devices more and more often to keep his proficiency up and to satisfy his unholy need for blood.

Both when acting on behalf of the town government and on his own, the Headsman was often called upon to punish individuals of questionable moral character: adulterers, habitual drunks, homosexuals, pederasts, and so forth. The Headsman always believed that he was discharging a duty given him by God when he took a life, especially those of such moral degenerates.
Eventually, the original Headsman disappeared, but a sort of urban legend or fairy tale about him appeared in Braddock. The Headsman punished those of questionable moral character just as often as he punished recognizable criminals, and he soon became a sort of spook story used by parents in Braddock to encourage moral behavior in their children. The problem with this story was that, periodically, the Headsman would seemingly return from beyond the grave, to murder morally questionable individuals once more. The most recent time this occurred was in 1991, when the Headsman killed at least five Braddock locals before he was killed by the then-sheriff.
In 1991, it was believed that the Headsman was simply a murderer seeking to cash in on the local legend for its fear factor and the authorities could account for everything the Headsman did rationally. For example, the sheriff emptied his .357 revolver into the Headsman at a distance of less than two feet, without causing visible injury. The sherif attributed this to the Headsman wearing a bullet proof vest and/or some other form of armor. However, in his final confrontation with the Headsman, the murderer told the sheriff that:
"I am in Emmett Stark's body now, as I have been in the bodies of other hosts many times. Whenever God has commanded me to serve the people of Braddock, I have returned"
This opens the possibility that the Headsman was either someone already possessed by some blood-maddened fiend when he first came to America, or that the animus of the original Headsman survived corporeal death to possess others serially down though the years. If this were true, then the supernatural capabilities of the Headsman - at least vast resistance to harm and extreme physical strength - can be explained as changes which the possessing entity wrought in whatever host it was using at the time, to enable it to kill more easily.
The Headsman's host in 1991 was slain by the sherif, using the Headsman's own axe, in mortal combat. The extreme resiliency displayed by the Headsman in this confrontation suggests that the Headsman can only be killed by his own weapon. Whether he is a guise adopted by human murderers for various purposes over the years, a sort of shared delusion, or an actual avenging spirit able to act from beyond the grave, the Headsman prefers to adopt the tactics of a ghost. He appears, commits a murder, then disappears seemingly into nowhere, leaving no trace of his actions except a headless corpse.
Oh, and the Headsman likes to take the heads of his victims with him. Pleasant dreams.
Note: The following characteristic scores apply to the Headsman himself, not to the host body. If the Keeper chooses for the Headsman to be an entirely human murderer - perhaps a psychopath or someone consciously cashing in on Braddock's legend - the difference will still hold. The Headsman will simply present a more feeble public self to the world.
STR: 21 [1]
SAN: 0
DEX: 14
POW: 17 [4]
CON: 16
HP: 17
APP: 12 [3]
SIZ: 18 [2]
EDU: 11
INT: 11 [5]
  • [1] If the headsman's physical strength is not superhuman, he is at least as strong as it is possible for a human male to be without having superhuman strength.
  • [2] The Headsman is big, although not so much tall as very, very brawny.
  • [3] The Headsman himself is never seen. When the mask comes off, it's the
    face of the host body, and the APPearance score of that host body is used.
    This APPearance score applies to the specter in full regalia.
  • [4] Exactly how the Headsman relates to magic is unknown. He certainly isn't
    the sort to cast spells. The Headsman does seem to be pretty tough, though,
    so he has been given this POWer score to resist magic. Keeper's should feel
    free to modify this score to suit how the Headsman will be used in their games.
  • [5] The Headsman does appear able to reason - he has cunningly orchestrated
    attacks and the evidence left behind for maximum shock value - but he seems
    to prefer sledgehammer tactics: just pounding his way through obstacles and
    opponents with brute force.
Damage Bonus: + 1d6
Armor: The Headsman resisted having a .357 Magnum revolver emptied into him
at a range of less than two feet. He wasn't knocked back, there were no visible injuries, and the Headsman displayed no pain from having been so severely shot. The person who did the shooting was only sure of one thing - that he did in fact hit the Headsman with every shot fired. This would give the Headsman at least 12 points of armor - since .357 Magnum bullets do 1d8 + 1d4 points of damage - either through some form of mundane but highly effective body armor, like a bullet proof vest, or through supernatural toughness.
There is another possibility which Keepers may wish to explore. The person who emptied his .357 Magnum revolver into the Headsman at such close range - the then-sherif of Braddock - was only able to kill the Headsman using the Headsman's own axe. If the Keeper desires a highly supernatural Headsman, then the Headsman may only be killed by a blow struck with his own executioner's axe.
Fear Aura: Those persons actively stalked by the Headsman come under the influence of his fear aura, which causes them to make illogical actions that help the Headsman to catch, and kill, them: they run upstairs instead of down, run away from help instead of towards it, discard potential weapons, that sort of thing. If the victim fails a Luck roll, so long as the victim is within 10 feet of the Headsman, or the victim can see him with their naked eye, that victim automatically fails all Luck, Idea, and Know rolls, experiences a -15% penalty to all skills, cannot concentrate well enough to cast spells, and must make a SAN check or lose 1d6 points, over and above
the SAN loss described for the Headsman below. They will make the aforementioned poor decisions: run upstairs instead of down, run away from help instead of towards it, discard potential weapons, etc.
SAN Loss: 0/ 1d6
  • Strike with hand/ punch 60%, 1d3 + 1d6
  • Strike with foot/ kick 30%, 2d6
  • Strike with head/ headbutt 10%, 1d4 + 1d6
  • Grapple 25%, special
  • Executioner's axe 60%, 3d6 + 2