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American Horror: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Washington Irving’s“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is an 1820 short story about a headless horseman in the village of Sleepy Hollow near Tarry Town, NY. It was said that the village was cursed by witches before it was discovered by Hendrick Hudson. The village carries a witching influence that gives anyone who resides there a sixth sense. The primary sighting is that of the ghost of a Hessian Trooper whose head was decapitated by a cannonball during the Revolutionary War. The Headless Horseman is spotted haunting near the town’s church, where his body had been buried. During the night, he races on his horse back to the scene of battle in search of his head but quickly returns to the churchyard before dawn.


Ichabod Crane, an unattractive, lanky schoolmaster from Connecticut, relocated to Sleepy Hollow at the request of the Union to teach the children. Ichabod was fascinated by the dark realm and would often spend time with the Dutch housewives, listening to their ghost stories, and in return, he would tell them about witchcraft, which he firmly believed in. Aside from teaching, he was a singing master in the neighborhood, and would instruct the young folks in psalmody. Katrina Van Tassel, a beautiful, blossoming girl and daughter of Dutch farmer, Baltus Van Tassel, became one of his musical disciples. However, Katrina caught Ichabod’s eye and he even imagined starting a family with on her father’s farm. As he entered the Van Tassels’ home, he knew that Katrina was the one for him. He had to gain her heart, but the young woman had other suitors, one by the name of Abraham Van Brunt, otherwise known as Brom Bones. Brom Bones was skilled in horsemanship and was always causing mischief with his gang of riders. Katrina did not discourage Bones’ advances; her other suitors had given up. Ichabod would make his advances quietly by visiting the farm more frequently. Old Baltus was protective of his daughter, whereas her mother thought Katrina was old enough to take care of herself. Ichabod continued his advances with Katrina, but when Bones heard about it, he was no stranger to chivalry. Bones would start playing practical jokes on Ichabod, and he became the target of their mischief. They smoked out his singing school and snuck into the schoolhouse late at night despite Ichabod’s witch traps, so he would believe witches would hold meetings in his classroom.


One autumn day, the scholars were invited to a merry-making at Mynheer Van Tassel’s. Eager to arrive before Katrina, Ichabod borrowed a horse from an old Dutchman, Hans Van Ripper. The horse was old but still had a vicious character, much like his owner. Ichabod arrived around evening at the castle of Heer Van Tassel; however, everyone’s eyes were on Brom Bones, who arrived on his horse, Daredevil. A vicious creature that could only be tamed by Brom. Ichabod, grateful for the feast, chuckled and enjoyed himself. Admiring what could be his one day and thought how good it would feel to turn his back on everyone at the schoolhouse. Old Baltus greeted his guests beliefly but honestly, everyone moved to the sound room, where Ichabod danced with Katrina, and Brom jealously watched. After the dance, Ichabod overheard the story Old Van Tassel was telling. There was a crowd surrounding him, all telling their own ghost stories, some of which were about the encounters with the Headless Horseman. Old Brouwer, a nonbeliever in all things supernatural, tells about how he met the Headless Horseman when returning to Sleepy Hollow. When he reached the bridge, the goblin rider turned into a skeleton and threw him into the brook, then jumped into the treetops with a clap of lightning. Brom Bones recalls how the Headless Horse challenged him to a race for a bowl of punch. He was no match for Daredevil, but as they reached the church bridge, the Headless Horseman had vanished. Ichabod thanked everyone by tellings of witchcraft and strange hauntings he had encountered back in Connecticut. Soon after, everyone started going home; Ichabod stayed behind with Katrina. It is not known what happened between them but Ichabod was left with feeling played.


He left the castle during witching hour, with only silence and darkness among him. He replayed the ghost and goblin stories in his mind. He approached a tree in the center of the road, a tree with a tragic backstory. For it is told that Major André was taken prisoner. Some say to hear mourning cries and wailings where he was taken. Ichabod began whistling as he passed the tree but grew paranoid. He saw something hanging from the branches of but it was just white branches from a lightning strike. Before he could breathe, he heard a groan but managed to cross the tree safely. About 200 yards from the tree was a bridge that was hard to cross. It stood above a haunted stream. His heart was beating fast and even old Gunpowder struggled to move. Ichabod’s fear grew and he kicked Gunpowder’s ribs in hopes, he would cross the bridge but the horse moved in the opposite direction. In the shadows, Ichabod could see some huge, misshapen, black and towering; like a monster ready to attack. With nowhere to run, Ichabod called out to this beast but received no answer. He hummed a psalm tune. After sometime, the figure moved into the middle of the road and revealed itself as the Headless Horseman. Trotting on his black steed, alongside Ichabod. In an attempt of catching the goblin rider off guard, he quickened his speed; however, the horseman did the same.


Petrified, Ichabod tried to sing his psalm tune but it was as if his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. What filled him more with fear was aside from being headless, his head was strapped on his saddle. Nearing the entrance of Sleepy Hollow, Gunpowder runs in the other direction, headed to bridge that leads to the church. With great speed, Gunpowder’s Sunday saddle falls off. Ichabod sees the church nearby and tries to reach the bridge, recalling Bone’s story. Passing the bridge, Ichabod looks back to see if the Headless Horseman has disappeared, but his hit with a missile on the head and falls to the ground, trampled by Gunpowder and the goblin rider. In the morning, nobody had seen Ichabod; only Van Ripper’s horse was found with no saddle. When searching for him, all that was found was a pumpkin and Ichabod’s hat near the bridge. After Ichabod’s disappearance, the schoolhouse was moved in an other location in Sleepy Hollow. With no rival, Brom Bones won Katrina, and now laughs when the part of the pumpkin is mention; which leads others to believe he knows more.


Nobody knows what exactly happened to Ichabod, some say he fled Sleepy Hollow after that fearful night, others say he was dragged by the Headless Horseman. The Dutch housewives believe Ichabod was spirited away and tell his story around the fire. After the schoolhouse was abandoned, it withered away; some even claim it is haunted by Ichabod Crane as his psalm whistle can be heard through Sleepy Hollow. What do you think?

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