Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Gadding about in Sleepy Hollow

"IN the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee,...there lies a small market-town or rural port...which is...generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town..."

Crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, the longest in the state of New York.
"Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquility...
From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW..."

"A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his pow-wows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole nine fold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols...
The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head..."

Bewitching indeed. This mesmerizing tale hooked me and my sister when young with suspense and lore that was tantalizing and yet not tooo macabre. When my niece moved across the mighty Tappan Zee Bridge from Sleepy Hollow, we knew we had to visit.

Sleepy Hollow is not only surrounded by the high hills that Irving wrote about, the cemetery sits on one of them, arching above the Old Dutch Church.

It is everything you might imagine a cemetery to be...

The wind was blowing balmy and mysterious as we stepped into the setting of the story itself. We visited and paid homage at Washington Irving's grave - where else COULD he be buried? - and thanked him for his creative and fantastic imagination.

In that storybook place you could easily imagine "the ploughboy, loitering homeward of a still...evening, [who] has often fancied Ichabod's voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow."

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