A 68 year old man with prostatic carcinoma developed spinal cord compression. The sole presenting feature was painless gait ataxia indistinguishable from cerebellar ataxia. He was investigated for cerebellar disease but the correct diagnosis was made when he subsequently presented with paraplegia and classical signs of spinal cord compression. Surgical decompression failed to produce neurological recovery. We discuss the importance of recognizing this unusual presentation of spinal cord compression, its possible mechanism and evidence that it may be under-reported.