The Charm of Sleepy Hollow In The Fall

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Halloween might come only once a year, but in Sleepy Hollow, the magic potion runs all year round.

Sleepy Hollow, located in Westchester, New York, is one of those towns that was carved into the home of the darkest holiday of the year. Whenever Halloween rolls around, the town pulls out everything they can that will strike fear into anyone of all age’s eyes.

There is the Pumpkin Blaze, with its burning pumpkins, the haunted hayrides with its jump scares and multiple statues dedicated to the spirit of Halloween, The Headless Horsemen.

But, none of these come close to the oldest attraction in Sleepy Hollow, which is the cemetery.

Built atop a hill and covering over ninety acres of land, with a section of it going over the Pocantico River, the formerly named Tarrytown Cemetery is home to some of the richest, and scariest, people who have ever walked the earth. With three acres of that graveyard being the setting for Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Despite the fact that the cemetery was built to help the dead rest in peace, the graveyard can be the liveliest place in all of Sleepy Hollow, any time of the year.

Tours of the graveyard are offered throughout the year, weather permitting, but during the month of October, most space is preserved by eager visitors. The first to sell out is the night time tours that are done via lantern light.

Erin Newcome is one of the tour guides during the daytime and refers to himself as someone with lengthy knowledge of the eerie cemetery.

“This graveyard became one of the first national parks. People would come up here and have picnics next to the tombstones of their dead,” Newcome said. “In fact, you can still purchase a plot of land here if you want to.”

The graveyard has many famous people like Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller and probably the most important person there, Washington Irving. The man who not only cofounded the cemetery with his friend Jacob Storm but was also a key part of this town’s culture.

“Washington Irving was called stupid by his tutors, he didn’t last long in law, but he is the father of both Christmas and Halloween literature,” Newcome said.

The latter is what makes Washington Irving so beloved by the town, his famous story about the Headless Horseman actually took place in the very same area where he was ultimately buried.

“The story of the Headless Horseman actually took place around the area of the Old Dutch Church before it became a part of the cemetery. You might be more familiar with the Disney movie made about the event called ‘The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,'” she said.

The story is a simple one, during the Revolutionary War, which had battles fought in this very graveyard before its construction, a soldier rebel had his head blow clean off during a fight with the redcoats. Now every night, this man rises from the grave and rides around the area searching for a new head to replace the one he lost.

It’s the perfect tale for Halloween and the people, tourists and residents alike, love Irving for creating such a wonderful character.

Newcome stated that tourists have a strong liking toward Irving, so much, that they leave with a piece of him.

“People will sometimes jump the gate and snag a bit of his tombstone as a souvenir. It used to be squarer on the top. Now its rounded out.”

The love for Irving doesn’t stop at breaking stones off his grave, as former attendees of the Sleepy Hollow schools will tell you.

Anthony Suarez, a junior Computer Science major, has vivid memories of the town from back when he went to grade school there.

“It’s like Halloween all the time,” Suarez said. “It’s never out of season.”

The education system in Sleepy Hollow even uses Irving and the season as a section in their curriculum. From an early age, the children are taught the ways of the Headless Horseman.

“We read the Headless Horseman. We are told stories about the Headless Horseman. The grade school goes to the Dutch church for a field trips,” Suarez said as he reminisced. ” Speaking of which, the church stands spooky on its own, all year. But don’t worry, it’s a historical trip and the kids don’t get traumatized by it.”

Suarez even talks about Irving being the key part of the town’s identity, right down to the golden tombstone.

“The golden tombstone was for the Headless Horseman, it was a really nice golden one,” he started to say. “But people kept stealing it, so we stopped putting it up after a point. Now there’s only a plot of land with two stones marking the start and the end of the grave. It’s now just a giant plot of land.”

Suarez says his town made the tombstone golden because no one thought anyone would take part in the trick-or-treating and take a tombstone.

“It’s a tombstone man, plenty of people have nice tombstones.”

Along with his tombstone, the Headless Horseman also leaves the grave, as the greatest mascot ever.

“The Headless Horseman is the mascot for our school, and it’s awesome. I like Irving and his writing. The Headless Horseman is cool, like in general. He also had his own diner called “The Horseman Restaurant & Pizza,”” Suarez said.

Despite all of this love for the Headless Horseman and the degree that Sleepy Hallow celebrates Halloween, the village wasn’t always so popular. After all, it used to be a part of Tarrytown until only eleven years ago.

So, one has to wonder, where did all the hype for Sleepy Hollow come from?

According to Suarez, the fame came from a show that began airing in 2013, “Sleepy Hollow”,  which Suarez says was not filmed in the town. Instead, it’s filmed in North Carolina and Georgia.

“The show is what brings in all the tourists,” he said. “It’s good for the town, people spend money.”

Suarez, naturally, also celebrates Halloween and stocked up on candy for the children this year.

“The kids around here really like to trick-or-treat around here, which is also a nice thing about the area.”

Suarez believes, if someone were to unmask the Halloween hype, the history, the graves, and the mascots, one would see what a great place Sleepy Hollow is.