Nestled against the Hudson River at the far end of the Tappan Zee Bridge lies the small hamlet of Tarrytown. A quiet village, it has a large history, most notably as the setting for the classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Though these days, Sleepy Hollow is its own entity, having broken apart from Tarrytown in 1996. Why is any of this relevant? Because it’s one of literature’s most famous towns and is the perfect spot for a Halloween getaway.
Recently I spent a weekend in Tarrytown. Well, Irvington to be exact but it’s yet another town dedicated to the memory of Washington Irving, the writer of Sleepy Hollow as well as Rip Van Winkle. In case it wasn’t obvious, Irvington is named after Washington Irving, and a statue of Rip Van Winkle sits outside of the town hall in honor of him.
Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow both offer a number of attractions for spook seekers, a few of which I was able to experience for myself. On Saturday, my wife, our friends and I visited the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, an area slightly north of Sleepy Hollow, for the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. Featuring massive displays of carved pumpkins amazingly posed and lit, the Blaze was definitely a sight. One of the first things we saw was a rendering of the Tappan Zee Bridge, all in pumpkins, dubbed the Pumpkin Zee Bridge. Things only got better from there.
A Jurassic Park, a Circus Train, even a Pumpkin Planetarium featuring shooting stars and supernovas are bound to astonish even the most jaded visitor. After all, they wowed me and I’m mostly anhedonic.
Following up the Jack O’Lantern Blaze, we visited the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to join one of their many walking tours. We signed up for “Murder and Mayhem,” an evening walking tour. They provided us with kerosene lanterns to light our way and brought us around to some of the creepier plots in the cemetery.
A few of the stops included a woman who was dubbed “the wickedest woman in New York,” the victims of what was called “the Sleepy Hollow Massacre” and Leona Helmsley. It was a two-hour tour, so definitely worth the price of admission given everything that we saw.
Oh, and we also made a stop at the cross that was used by the Ramones for their Pet Sematary music video.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get many decent pictures, what with the pitch darkness and everything, but the few I did snap came out pretty good (I think, at least).
There are many other attractions (is attractions the right word for the graves of famous dead people?) hidden in the cemetery, like Washington Irving’s plot (duh), Andrew Carnegie’s resting place and the William Rockefeller mausoleum. The cemetery also allows free, self-guided tours so you can visit during the day and check out the sights without fear of running into the Headless Horseman.
Just kidding. The Headless Horseman shows up during the day, too.
That’s all that we had time to experience while in Sleepy Hollow but there’s plenty of other things to check out. Like the Horseman’s Hollow, a haunted house event that takes place in the historic Phillipsburg Manor. Though I wanted to experience Horseman’s Hollow, I was outvoted by my travelling companions so I had to make do with taking pictures of the effigies hanging in the parking lot. If you’re into haunted houses and being scared out of your gourd, check out the Hollow. (In fact, let me know how it is, too!)
Do also visit the Headless Horsemen monuments right across the street. The marble carving is an elegant tribute to the classic tale but the iron statue in the middle of the roadway is an amazing sight. Believe it or not, we almost missed it when we visited the area during the day. (No, I have no idea how we overlooked something so large.)
There’s also Sunnyside, a tour of Washington Irving’s home. The tour features a number of artworks inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as a look at the space where Irving wrote his famous stories. Sunnyside is named after the town as it was called during Irving’s day.
You can also check out a short performance of the Legend in the Old Dutch Church, which is a spit and a stone’s throw from the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Tickets for the show are $25 and it only lasts for about 45 minutes. Not having seen it myself, I can’t say the cost is justified, but I’d think any kind of live performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is worth it, especially during the Halloween season.
Even though I only experienced a fraction of what Sleepy Hollow boasts, I still had a great time. All in all, the town is a great choice for a spooky, Halloween filled getaway, second only to Salem, MA. If you’re looking for an inexpensive jaunt out of town and want to fill it with as many family-friendly creeps as you can, Spooky Hollow is a great choice. But you may need to plan on next year; it’s a little close to Halloween to go now.