Hey folks, it’s October and that means Halloween is almost here and with it a plethora of scary stories, legends, myths, and
creepy monsters. Even though here in Arizona we do not get to witness the magical transforming of leaves and the crisp cool air of fall that I long for, October is still my favorite month out of the year. This October is putting a modern twist on one of my favorite stories: Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Fox is airing a brand new TV series titled “Sleepy Hollow,” where a man from the Revolutionary War named Ichabod Crane wakes up in 2013 Sleepy Hollow.
As a kid living in Philadelphia, my family and I made many trips up to New England. In New York, around the Tappan Zee Bridge, there are fitting signs for Sleepy Hollow. Seeing these signs, my imagination dived into Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow and I pictured the iconic Headless Horseman looking for his next victim. I often thought how awesome it would be to live in a historic town like Sleepy Hollow.
Unfortunately, present day Sleepy Hollow is not as historical as I once thought.The town of Sleepy Hollow, New York only existed in stories until 1996 when North Tarrytown changed its name in honor of Irving’s popular story. Many believed North Tarrytown was the inspiration for the tale, but it was not undisputed.The town of Kinderhook, New York also claimed to have inspired Irving as the setting for his story.
The real Ichabod Crane was an U.S. Army officer who fought in the War of 1812 that Washington Irving met in 1814 in upstate New York. While we do not know if Irving fancied the man, we certainly know he fancied Crane’s creepy name enough to use his full name in the story. Irving did fancy a man named Jesse Merwin and based his Revolutionary War Ichabod Crane after Merwin who was a schoolmaster in Kinderhook. The Headless Horseman is hard to put a face on, but the character is most likely inspired from either the many stories of witchcraft from the Dutch in New York, or all the tales of ghoulish horsemen from Medieval Europe. Irving actually wrote “Sleepy Hollow” while he was studying in Birmingham, England, so it is also possible he used folklore from England and Scotland as an inspiration for “Sleepy Hollow” and many of his other stories.
The new modern series “Sleepy Hollow” uses the Headless Horsemen as a part of a larger story from the most widely read book in the world (sorry Washington Irving it is not yours), the Bible.In the Book of Revelation, there is a description of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Headless Horseman is said to be the first of the four.The series takes an interesting approach on Irving’s tale and has Ichabod Crane wake up 250 years in the future.In the future he again meets the Headless Horseman, and the series takes off from there.As a historian and anthropologist, it would be a dream come true to meet someone from 1776.I have thousands of questions I would ask Ichabod Crane, but what would you ask him?
Have any burning questions about Sleepy Hollow or history in general? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on twitter @sparkysquill.