Follow me as we tour the inner sanctum of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. We wander down dark and winding roads soaking up history marked only by slabs of stone. Shadowy figures dance across statuesque monuments that line the night sky. Gravel crunches beneath our feet as we follow the glistening reflection of light streaming from our lanterns while we lurk through this vast city of the dead—Are you afraid? We roam though the lush, rolling hills of the famous—or should I say infamous cemetery. We stop. There’s no turning back.
How appropriate! We are now standing at the grave of legendary author Washington Irving who wrote one of the greatest ghost stories ever to originate in the Hudson Valley—The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. You may want to hold on to your head at this moment. The phantom horseman could make an appearance when you least expect it. You see, he is searching for a replacement for his missing head—any head will do.
History tells us that the villainous headless horseman was actually based on a Hessian soldier who was beheaded by a cannonball during the American Revolution. Now, follow me as we make way toward the under ground Receiving Vault.
Everyone is dying to see the former crypt of Barnabas Collins, the 200-year-old vampire from the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows portrayed by the late Jonathan Frid. The burial scene in the 1970’s film, House of Dark Shadows, was filmed at this rural cemetery.
The skeleton key clanks in the keyhole, and the lock releases. Slowly the door creaks open, and you are welcomed with a waft of stale air—it’s getting late, and we move on.
Listen, you can hear the rushing waters of the Pocantico River cut their way through the darkest part of the cemetery. We’re getting closer to the Headless Horseman Bridge.
As we explore our mysterious surroundings, we admire the great works of art left behind to memorialize those who have left us from elite socialites to unfamiliar and peculiar residents. We learn about NYC real estate moguls, Leona and Harry Helmsley; steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie; noted spiritualist, Dr. Eugene Crowell; and the founder of Standard Oil, William Rockefeller—just to to name a few. Sadly, it’s time to turn in our lanterns.
As you can imagine, there is nothing dead about this 168 year-old cemetery. It’s just as spirited as the tour guides who share its rich past. Thousands of people journey to this celebrated cemetery each year to hear the tales of amazing individuals who have made history and left magnificent monuments to their success.
For more information on visiting the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, visit www.sleepyhollowcemetery.org.