Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sleepy Hollow is Still Clearly Haunted

We humans have been artificially scaring ourselves since we were tiny little people who sat crouched in caves telling each other stories waiting for Woolly Mammoth season to begin. The human psyche differs from the animal one most in its ability to comprehend abstractions, which leads to the ability to be both frightened and to know (or at least reasonably assume) that no actual harm will befall one. That's the theory, anyway.

This is the season of plastic masks and candy and slutty vampire nurse costumes all doing service to celebrate what started off as the Celtic celebration of the end of summer, Samhain and the Christian All Saints Day. In other words, it's all about death. Leaves fall, it grows cold and the long winter months begin. Even if you don't find the idea of ghosts and vampires particularly scary, the thought of a rural 16th century winter should scare the bejesus out of you. Like I said, it's all about death.

But back to this, the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. My dashing inamorato and I have been feeding ourselves a steady diet of monster movies, spook houses (well, two) and have an action packed Halloween weekend ahead of us. But mostly I want to talk about the town of Sleepy Hollow and the Horseman's Hollow haunted spook walk. As all of us know, Sleepy Hollow is the small town in the Hudson Valley that was the site of Washington Irving's famous tale of cowardice, bullying and - most importantly! - headlessness. Sleepy Hollow, just north of Tarrytown, is a forty-five minute rain ride from Grand Central Station. There is a 17th century church with vast and beautiful cemetery in which both Washington Irving and Katrina Van Tassel are buried. Across the road is Philipsburg Manor, a 17th century estate. Which is, from what I saw, inhabited by all sorts of spooks and ghosts and devils and tortured souls. And, of course, a horseman without a head.

The Horseman's Hollow "haunted experience" is both spooky, scary and period perfect. The production design, whether it was accomplished by supernatural means, or otherwise is impressive. The walk is also nicely paced. Trav and I went fairly early in the evening and we saw very few of the other people walking through, until there was a slight bottleneck after a (very scary to this easily startled clausterphobe) maze. All the spooks and monsters were a creepy assortment of dead Red Coats, eviscerated farmers, blacksmiths, schoolmasters and 18th century devil worshippers. And things that have no name. Sometimes they are right in front of you cackling with the hollow laughter of the damned. And sometimes they sneak up quietly behind you. I don't think I need to tell you which is scarier.

As you can see above, Trav was nearly eaten by evil Jack Pumpkinhead. The whole thing was absolutely loads of spooky fun and more than worth the $20 admission. I don't want to say too much as half the fun was being constantly surprised. One thing that particularly impressed me is that there weren't any dead (see what I did here?) spots. When one was walking between the major installations, there was always something to look at. You never had the feeling of "waiting for the next thing". And though I felt I spent most of the time walking in the open, I could never see what was ahead. And then, I saw a fleeting glimpse of a mounted figure on a large white charger, and yes, that figure had no head.

For a delightful recounting of the rest of our day in the village of Sleepy Hollow, as told by Mr. S.D., click here.

For information and tickets to Horseman's Hollow in Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For train schedules to Sleepy Hollow (the Philipse Manor stop on the Hudson River Line) click here.

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