In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee lies a small market town which is generally known by the name of Tarry Town. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley among high hills which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. This sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow. The dominant spirit that haunts this enchanted region is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head–the specter is known, at all the country firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. — Adapted from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The words of Irving’s famed Legend are alive and well in the present day village of Sleepy Hollow, New York and its neighboring Hudson River towns and at no time are they more celebrated than during Halloween. A large sculpture of the Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane stands near the Old Dutch Church and burying ground where local residents who inspired the characters of Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones are laid to rest. The Old Dutch burial ground is thought to be the haunt of the infamous Horseman and Irving himself is buried nearby in the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Leading the Halloween festivities in the area is Historic Hudson Valley (HHV), a not-for-profit organization that aims to preserve the area’s fascinating history. Each year, the Hudson River Valley and HHV play host to a plethora of Halloween events that celebrate the region’s rich past and offer both family fun and frightful thrills.
Harvest Tales and History at Sunnyside
A short 2-mile drive south from Sleepy Hollow will bring you to the Village of Irvington. Named for the author, Irvington is where you’ll find Sunnyide, Irving’s beautiful home overlooking the majestic Hudson. Throughout the month of October, a visit to Sunnyside features “The Legend Behind the Legend,” a family-friendly daytime experience where visitors are treated to tours of Irving’s charming homestead and the surrounding gardens which boat sweeping river views. Other activities include shadow puppet shows depicting the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and woodland walks with costumed storytellers sharing some of Irving’s spooky tales.
Storytelling at it’s Best – Irving’s Legend Comes Alive
Back at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, master storyteller Jonathan Kruk tells The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in a dramatic 45-minute performance each weekend throughout the season. By the glow of candlelight, Kruk shares the classic yarn with dramatic flair, bringing the characters and scene to life with different voices and accompanying organ music.
Nearby, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery offers both daytime and evening tours including the very popular classic lantern tour throughout October. Tours are rich in history and each one is 2-hours long. They are best for older kids and adults.
Jack o’ Lanterns Blazing Bright at Van Cortlandt Manor
Traveling about 10 miles up the river will bring you to Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, home to Historic Hudson Valley’s most popular Halloween event, The Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze. The Blaze, as it’s come to be known, is in it’s 10th year and delights visitors with a spectacular display of over 5,000 glowing jack o’ lanterns artfully displayed throughout the Manor’s grounds.
The lanterns are arranged by theme and feature everything from an intricately carved series of pumpkins decorated by insects, flowers, fish and Celtic knots to enormous multi-jack o’ lanterns sculptures of dinosaurs, a huge spiderweb and this year, a cake celebrating the event’s 10-year anniversary. The Blaze is so popular that it is held over 6 weeks from October 4th through November 16th. Each night offers visitors one of six arrival times and weekend slots sell out far in advance.
The Scariest Legend – A Night of Haunts at Philipsburg Manor
Older kids and adults who enjoy a real thrill will revel in a frightful evening exploring Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor. Located just across the street from the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, this Historic Hudson Valley restoration property is transformed by haunted house professional Lance Hallowell into a forbidding village that is home to all manner of eerie inhabitants including the Horseman himself. Visitors to Horseman’s Hallow enter into a fully immersive and interactive landscape that is nothing short of terrifying and the event is not recommended for kids under 10. That said, my daughter went with a group of 11-year old friends last fall and has been sleeping with her desk lamp on at night ever since!
For more information and tickets for these fantastic Halloween events, visit Historic Hudson Valley’s website.