Location: 540 N Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY Google MapThe town of Sleepy Hollow located on the eastern side of the Hudson River in the State of New York was the inspiration for one of Washington Irving’s most acclaimed short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, published in 1820. Although the story itself is fictional (based off the tale of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off during the American Revolution), the town already had a history of ghost tales, which were bewitching to Irving, giving rise to great American horror fiction.The most significant site in Sleepy Hollow is the cemetery (originally conceptualized by Irving and Captain Jacob Storm), which was our prime destination. But I must agree with Irving, once we passed the welcome sign, entering from the north, the town immediately takes on a lively but spooky atmosphere. An unusually warm mid-morning sun in the middle of winter seemed to do nothing to stop the trees from noticing us. I swear the trees of Sleepy Hollow have a life of their own. It’s hard to say if they were welcoming us into the town with their long, tumorous hands or if they were warning us to turn back as we drove along. But they weren’t the only creatures of nature who seemed to want to communicate.Once we reached the cemetery, birds could be heard coming from every direction. The chattering of crows, finches, and sparrows echoed along the hills and valleys of what should’ve been a place of peace and rest. The screeching and squawking was so loud that it was difficult to stay focused. But, in truth, we rarely saw a bird, only the occasional crow who came to spy on us as we spied on the tombs of the dead. And the tombs were, indeed, worth spying on.Many notable people are laid to rest in the grassy knolls of Sleepy Hollow cemetery. Surprisingly, Irving’s plot is quite humble among some of the more large and intricately detailed graveyard monuments. I found a few shorter lists of famous people buried at the cemetery, which can be found here and hereBut humble headstones are just as intriguing as expensive ones. Graves dating as far back as the Civil War are overlooked by the statue of a soldier (a Civil War Monument) and an Old Glory (American flag). It should also be mentioned that many stones have been weathered to the point where the dates are no longer visible, but it doesn’t distract from the history of the cemetery. Instead, I think it rather adds to the enticing mystery of the place.And let’s not forget, there is a bridge. If you are familiar with Irving’s story, then you would know how Ichabod Crane meets his fate – trying to outrun a headless horseman across a bridge. There are no horses on cemetery grounds and there is certainly no tomb for Ichabod; he’s fictional. But there is an enchanting bridge that crosses the Pocantico River, no doubt maintained by the historic society, and although it’s not the original bridge as depicted in the story, I appreciate how the design adds to the folklore and legendary atmosphere.The cemetery is ever expanding and its open to visitors. But stick to the path. I was tripped up more than a few times when I wandered off giving a few crows among some smirking statues a good laugh.
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D.P. Joynes is a genre -crossing author hosting fairy tales and folklore and, sometimes, torn love in realms of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror.
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