October 6, 2019: Sleepy Hollow, Day 2 of 2

We started the day at Washington Irving’s house, and we ended the day at Washington Irving’s house, which is fitting as he’s the man who put Sleepy Hollow on the map. Called Sunnyside, his estate is south of Sleepy Hollow in Irvington (named after Irving while he was still alive). He took a building on an idyllic property and transformed it into a Dutch-inspired fairy tale cottage covered in creeping vegetation.

It’s been a long time since I toured the place, so we decided to do that, stopping first at a monument dedicated to him at the intersection of Sunnyside Lane and Broadway. The marble and bronze shrine features a bronze bust of the author bookended by bronze reliefs of two characters from his stories, King Boabdil from Mementoes of Boabdil, and Rip Van Winkle from the story of the same name. It’s the “Guys, Washington Irving wrote more than The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” monument.

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the house, so I can’t show you his book-lined office with its little curtained-off couch-bed nook behind his desk. Or the bedroom where he died, which still has his bed (although he was found on the floor). It’s a quick, but satisfying tour, with multiple tour guides in period clothes explaining their part of the house. It ended with an exhibit of Sleepy Hollow-inspired merchandise, including a Christopher Walken action figure from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and a box of Sleepy Hollow fruit snacks from 1995.

After strolling the gorgeous grounds, which are right on the banks of the Hudson and shaded by massive trees, at least one of which dates to the Revolutionary War (so it was there to shade Irving himself). The only intrusion is the commuter trains that streaks through the property every half hour or so.

Then we were off to Rockefeller State Park Preserve to find Spook Rock.

Spook Rock is a boulder at the center of a few ghost legends dating far back in the history of the area. I knew exactly where it was on the map. Unfortunately, I can’t read maps and didn’t know where it was in real life. By the time I realized I had misread the map, it was too late to find it and everybody was tired, so we wrote it off as a beautiful autumn stroll through the woods, and a reason to return in the future. When life cuts off your head, you replace it with a pumpkin and keep going.

To make up for it, we visited something not on our itinerary and not in Sleepy Hollow, either. We went about five mile east to the village of Valhalla to visit Kenisco Cemetery. A lot of famous people are buried there: Lou Gehrig, Anne Bancroft, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Rober Deniro…’s parents. But we were there to see Danny Kaye—who has nothing to do with Halloween, but I’ll need an OTIS Christmas post soon enough.

Our last act in Sleepy Hollow (or the Sleepy Hollow area) was to return to Sunnyside to watch The Sleepy Hollow Experience. For it, a troupe of actors performs the story at night using various buildings and parts of the landscape. I’d seen the performance with different actors in Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, two years ago, but I was interested to see how they adapted it to this new landscape, one which was owned by the man who wrote the story they were performing.

It was a great time. I’ll do a separate piece on The Sleepy Hollow Experience shortly, comparing it and the Sturbridge Village performance.

After it was over, the maniacal laugh of the Headless Horseman echoing through the dark and the chill of the wind from his steed still tickling our cheeks, we drove the three and a half hours home, a short distance that still somehow makes Sleepy Hollow seem like a million miles away and part of a different life.