By Jessica Voigts
Destination: Tarrytown New York
Book: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
A headless horseman, riding through the night; the disappearance of the schoolteacher; the tale of unrequited love – all these come together in the classic and much-beloved story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Beautifully written by Washington Irving, this short story is a creepy tale, one that sneaks up on the reader and lodges in the memory, several turns of phrase coming back at you at odd times throughout your life.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was published in 1820, and is set in Sleepy Hollow, which is located near Tarrytown, New York. You may have read Washington Irving’s many other tales, including Rip Van Winkle. The treasures of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow lie in the compelling descriptions, which make you feel as if you are there in the story with Ichabod Crane…
“Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley among high hills which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook murmurs through it and, with the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks the uniform tranquillity.
From the listless repose of the place, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow.”
“Just ahead, where a small brook crossed the road, a few rough logs lying side by side served for a bridge. A group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grapevines, threw a cavernous gloom over it.”
In the story, Ichabod Crane is a schoolteacher – quite a learned man, having “read several books quite through.” He (rather unsuccessfully) courts the beauty Katrina van Tassel, who is also being courted (successfully, we might add) by the strong Abraham “Bram Bones” van Brunt. One night after a harvest party at the van Tassels’, Crane rides home. He meets and is chased by a headless creature, riding hellbent alongside him with a specific purpose in mind. And what comes next will send shivers down your spine…
“Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash – he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider passed by like a whirlwind.”
Ichabod Crane was never seen again.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (get it free here on Guttenberg) is one of those classics I read again each year – along with Robert Burns’ poem Halloween , Robert Burns’ tale Tam O’Shanter (1790), and tales of the Wild Hunt (epitomized by Bürger’s Der Wilde Jäger [the Wild Huntsman], 1796).
If you, too, are a fan of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, you can visit the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, where the main spooky action of the tale was set (you can also visit another legend of Sleepy Hollow, this one in the cemetery of the church.
“An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. He saw the whitewashed walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. ‘If I can but reach that bridge,”‘thought Ichabod, ‘I am safe.’ Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath.”
And if you’re lucky to visit the Hudson Valley around Halloween, book a ticket to see Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk, accompanied by Jim Keyes on the organ, bring The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to life at the Old Dutch Church.
Old Dutch Church then
And The old Church now: