Monday, July 13, 2015

Sleepy Hollow

A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.
Last week, after a great visit with my publisher, I took a day trip to the village of Sleepy Hollow. I'm not going to tell you which classic story was set in Sleepy Hollow, because if you don't already know...uh...well, I have no inoffensive way to complete that statement. But if you like to take literary detours, this area is a must. 

First, I visited Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving (the dude who wrote the unnamed story).

I'm sure he named his estate after its angle toward the sun, but whenever the tour guide said "Sunnyside," it made me think of eggs. But it was a fantastic tour, and learning more about the man inspired me to read more of his work, which I began to devour that very night.

I then went to Philipsburg Manor, referenced without a name in the story, but confirmed to be the location by Irving in a later essay, and watched a restored waterwheel grind corn into cornmeal just as it would have back then. This place is basically a living history museum and worth an afternoon.
His greatest treasure of historic lore, however, was discovered in an old goblin-looking mill, situated among rocks and water-falls, with clanking wheels, and rushing streams, and all kinds of uncouth noises. A horse-shoe, nailed to the door to keep off witches and evil spirits, showed that this mill was subject to awful visitations.

No trip to Sleepy Hollow would be complete (unless you're too cool for this stuff...and you're not!) without spending time at the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favourite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms... Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the day time; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favourite haunts of the headless horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered.

Sadly, the bridge is no longer there. And sadlier(?), I never saw the horseman. But I did see something just as creepy! A tree in the process of swallowing a tombstone.

I located the unassuming burial place of Washington Irving and paid my respects (see, I'm trying not to smile in the photo).

I also sought out the graves of people thought to have inspired characters in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (Oops! I just told you the title of the story.) For example, Katrina Van Tassel may have been inspired by...Catriena Van Tessel.

And finally...
To pass this bridge, was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was captured... This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark... Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen, black and towering.

Time to run, Ichabod!