The fog rolls in…there is a chill in the air. Gloom and foreboding prevail. A horse is coming from a distance, but wait! The rider is headless, and he is coming for…YOU! A legend? A myth? Or, simply a part of Westchester’s history, perhaps?
For many of us who waxed nostalgic as the opening scenes of the movie “Sleepy Hollow” made their way on to the big screen in very Tim Burton-esque fashion, we sat proudly in the theatre. So much fame and lore surrounding one little “sleepy” village on the Hudson River in Westchester makes its way around the country and perhaps the world every year at Halloween. For those involved with Historic Hudson Valley, it is more like Christmas!
We have all heard the legend of Ichabod Crane, and his untimely demise in seeking the hand in marriage of the lovely Katrina Van Tassel. Was it Brom Bones who donned a costume and murdered him to get him out of the way? Or was it truly the headless horseman – the ghost of a Hessian Soldier seeking revenge for those who had killed him years prior? One may never know, but for the past few years, Historic Hudson Valley, the folk who bring us the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, have been providing fodder for fear at their event called “The Horseman’s Hollow”. Forget about those haunted houses you are used to. For a short trip to Philipsburg Manor located in Sleepy Hollow, you might just need a reality check on your sanity. Not for the faint-hearted (and yes, there is indeed a disclaimer on the website!), The Horseman’s Hollow transports you back to the 1750’s in horror style. Your ticket price buys you a trip on an interactive trail of scariness, with a wonderfully historic vibe. You might encounter ghosts…or vampires, madmen and other evil creatures of the night, who have been driven insane by the terror of the Horseman. They will try to stop you, and there will indeed be an appearance by the most famous, and macabre resident of Sleepy Hollow, and he may be looking for his head! If your vision of horror is of Freddie Kreuger, or Jason – you won’t get any of that here. Between 40-50 trained, professional actors are well versed in local history, and are are decked out in period costume and incredible stage make-up. If you survive the trail, and a maze of horror, you might end up at a party in honor of the Horseman. Washington Irving, the American author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and local resident, would be frightened but also very proud of the display, and its authenticity. For this particular Halloween activity, just remember to keep children under 14 (and perhaps those with a heart condition) home.
If its Washington Irving you seek, look no further than master storyteller, Jonathan Kruk, as he offers a reading in dramatic fashion, of Irving’s tale. The story of Ichabod, Katrina and the Horseman will be accompanied by period costume, and the strains of the organ music of Jim Keyes. Story buffs of all ages can catch the performance at the Old Dutch Church (yep, the one in the story!!), just across Route 9 from Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow.
Speaking of the Old Dutch Church, there is no better way than to spend an afternoon (or evening) at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Just inside the gates resides the church, and the cemetery sprawls over rolling hills and the Pocantico River, behind it. You can pick up a map to guide you at Philipsburg Manor, across the street, and there are also guided lantern tours available. Among the dead and buried, you will find the grave of Washington Irving, and Catriena Ecker van Tessel (hmm, the inspiration for Katrina Von Tassel, perhaps??). You will also find the burial spots of many rich and famous people, including Elizabeth Arden, Leona Helmsely, Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller and Walter Chrysler…just to name a few. For more information about the cemetery, and to view a map, visit here.
Think you can carve a good Jack-O-Lantern? Well, you ain’t seen nothing until you have experienced the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson. Again, those Historic Hudson Valley folk are at it to out-do every image of Halloween pumpkins you ever thought you had. This is the “fuggedaboutit” of pumpkins! Running for 21 nights, you can see more than 4,000 hand-carved and lighted jack o’lanterns in all various states of carving, and manipulation. The display is truly amazing, and the pumpkins are arranged in all sorts of configurations. You can see a snake, pirates and a pirate ship, dinosaurs, and even creatures based in Greek and Roman mythology. Period clad, and Halloween clad actors roam this historic property, bringing a wonderfully spooky vibe to the event.
While there are many, allegedly, haunted locations in Westchester, (drive down Buckout Road in Harrison and you might get a scare!), the folk along the Hudson River have cornered the market on historical creepiness. For information regarding the Horseman’s Hollow, the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and Jonathan Kruk’s storytelling event, please visit here. The website will give you a complete listing of dates and times, and you can purchase tickets right online.
Happy Halloween, Westchester, and…BOO!