The Jack-o’-lantern Hallie and I carved for Halloween 2011. The Headless Horseman (Legend of Sleepy Hollow). I actually lived on a road called Sleepy Hollow when I was young. 😉 Spooky. I LOVED it there!
The Headless Horseman (http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/07/the_headless_horseman.html)
A New York Ghost Story
S. E. Schlosser
Listen to the story (4.3 mb download)
One cold winter night, early in the New Year, a certain Dutchman left the tavern in Tarrytown and started walking to his home in the hollow nearby. His path led next to the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery where a headless Hessian soldier was buried. At midnight, the Dutchman came within site of the graveyard. The weather had warmed up during the week, and the snow was almost gone from the road. It was a dark night with no moon, and the only light came from his lantern.
The Dutchman was nervous about passing the graveyard, remembering the rumors of a galloping ghost that he had heard at the tavern. He stumbled along, humming to himself to keep up his courage. Suddenly, his eye was caught by a light rising from the ground in the cemetery. He stopped, his heart pounding in fear. Before his startled eyes, a white mist burst forth from an unmarked grave and formed into a large horse carrying a headless rider.
The Dutchman let out a terrible scream as the horse leapt toward him at a full gallop. He took to his heels, running as fast as he could, making for the bridge since he knew that ghosts and evil spirits did not care to cross running water. He stumbled suddenly and fell, rolling off the road into a melting patch of snow. The headless rider thundered past him, and the man got a second look at the headless ghost. It was wearing a Hessian commander’s uniform.
The Dutchman waited a good hour after the ghost disappeared before crawling out of the bushes and making his way home. After fortifying himself with schnapps, the Dutchman told his wife about the ghost. By noon of the next day, the story was all over Tarrytown. The good Dutch folk were divided in their opinions. Some thought that the ghost must be roaming the roads at night in search of its head. Others claimed that the Hessian soldier rose from the grave to lead the Hessian soldiers in a charge up nearby Chatterton Hill, not knowing that the hill had already been taken by the British.
Whatever the reason, the Headless Horseman continues to roam the roads near Tarrytown on dark nights from that day to this.
Author’s Note: This is a retelling of the folktale which was used by Washington Irving to create his masterpiece, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The following is a hauntingly romantic poem that always comes to mind when I think of The Headless Horseman.
|by Alfred Noyes|
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding— Riding—riding— The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door. He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh. And he rode with a jeweled twinkle, His pistol butts a-twinkle, His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky. Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard, He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred; He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord's daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair. And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked; His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like moldy hay, But he loved the landlord's daughter, The landlord's red-lipped daughter, Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say— "One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize tonight, But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day, Then look for me by moonlight, Watch for me by moonlight, I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way." He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand, But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast; And he kissed its waves in the moonlight, (Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!) Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West. He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon; And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon, When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor, A red-coat troop came marching— Marching—marching— King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door. They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead, But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed; Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side. There was death at every window; And hell at one dark window; For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride. They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest. They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast. "Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say— Look for me by moonlight; Watch for me by moonlight; I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way! She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good. She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood. They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years, Till, now, on the stroke of midnight, Cold, on the stroke of midnight, The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers! The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest. Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast. She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again; For the road lay bare in the moonlight; Blank and bare in the moonlight; And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain. Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear; Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear? Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, The highwayman came riding, Riding, riding! The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still! Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night! Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light! Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath, Then her finger moved in the moonlight, Her musket shattered the moonlight, Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death. He turned; he spurred to the west; he did not know who stood Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood. Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew gray to hear How Bess, the landlord's daughter, The landlord's black-eyed daughter, Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there. Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky, With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high! Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat, When they shot him down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat. And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees, When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, A highwayman comes riding— Riding—riding— A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door. Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard; He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred; He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there But the landlord's black-eyed daughter, Bess, the landlord's daughter, Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
The fictional tale of the Headless Horseman is based on some true facts.
The story of the Headless Horseman takes place during the 1790s in a community referred to as “”Sleepy Hollow”” near Tarrytown, New York. Ichabod Crane (a schoolmaster from Connecticut) competes with Abraham “”Brom Bones”” Van Brunt (the local thug) for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel (daughter of a wealthy farmer). According to the story, a Hessian trooper (who lost his head to a cannonball during the American Revolution) was buried near the Old Dutch Church and was known to haunt the area every night in search of his missing head, harming anyone who stands in his way. One autumn night as Crane leaves a party at the Van Tassel Home, he encounters this Headless Horseman and is never heard from again.
Although the story itself is fictional, it is largely inspired by reality. The final showdown between Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman occurs on a bridge near the location where the Horseman is buried. The Old Dutch Burying Ground, the alleged gravesite of the Horseman, still stands in the Village of Sleepy Hollow. The bridge mentioned in the story is referred to as the “”Horseman’s Bridge”” and still exists as well although today takes on a more modern appearance. Additionally, the characters themselves are based on real residents of the area. It is believed that the character of Ichabod Crane was based on Jesse Merwin, a schoolteacher in Kinderhook. Although Kinderhook is further north in Columbia County, Washington Irving spent several months in Kinderhook during 1809, well before he published his story in 1820. Similarly, Katrina Van Tassel is thought to have been based Eleanor Van Tassel Brush, with her name coming from Eleanor’s aunt Catriena Ecker Van Texel. The gravesites of the Van Tassels, along with the supposed gravesite of the Headless Horseman, are still located within Old Dutch Burying Ground.
(Painting: “The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” by John Quidor)
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Have a wonderful Thursday!!! My baby is 13 today, so I’m going to go cry some bittersweet tears now. B’-bye. *sniff*