Here we are, My Pretties, it’s Halloween! But the Witching Hour is hours away, we have all day to dust off our hats, look over our flight map, and make a batch of chocolate mini muffins, with some Three Musketeers bars tucked inside.
My husband bought me a NEW BROOM!
I woke up early this morning to finish reading the Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
I had left off with the party at Van Tassels – I got off track when I started Google Imaging the foods mentioned – stop it! No wonder the standard of beauty for women in those days was fat and standing over a skillet!
At the party we see that Ichabod Crane has “set his hat” for Katrina Van Tassel, who many feel is the prettiest girl in the valley, and daughter of a very rich farmer. We find out she has many suitors, chief among them a big brawny popular fellow named Brom Bones. As the party rolls along and the ghost stories begin around the punch bowl, we begin to hear stories of the Horseman.
As we know, the Headless Horseman had been buried in an abandoned churchyard by an long-dead squire from the Van Tassel family. His head had been lost, and over the years people living in the little towns surrounding the Sleepy Hollow have reported seeing him, riding along at night, and assumed he was searching for his head. He was not necessarily violent, but obviously a frightful specter, someone to avoid, like the high school principal.
“The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.”
Of course, swaggering, joking Brom Bones is not afraid of anything. “This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire.”
And Brom seems to win the evening, because in the end, Ichabod Crane leaves alone. As the families head out cheerfully in their wagons – some of the “damsels” even leaving with their “swains” for a midnight ride – lonely Ichabond steers his borrowed nag toward the darkness of the Hollow, “with the air of one who had been sacking a henroost, rather than a fair lady’s heart.”
Irving lays it on thick – “All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark.”
Apparently, this tree really did exist in Irving’s childhood, and the story was told of a real life Revolutionary spy who was captured under or very near this tree, and later hanged for his part in Benedict Arnold’s treason. At the time, many people believed he had actually been hung from the tree. While eye-witness accounts deny the use of the tree for the hanging, historians agree the tree was important to the local people for a variety of reasons until it was apparently struck by lightening and dismembered by souvenir hounds sometime around 1800. They agree that Irving must have described it from his own memory, although he probably hadn’t seen it for 20 years when he wrote the story. According to historian Henry Steiner, the tree, a “Tulip” tree, measured 29 feet at the base, and stood 111 feet, with 109 diameter at the crown, and stood in the middle of a busy road. According to Steiner, the tree “stood roughly where Broadway passes Warner Library today…”
Now this is a busy modern scene, where there once stood a spooky wood and a big, intimidating tree. Irving describes the tree as though he’d seen it the previous day and it was still very much alive – “In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André’s tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.”
At this point Ichabod forget his failure at romance, and starts thinking about his surroundings, whistling shrilly as he forces himself past the tree. Thinking he’s “out of the woods,” he crosses a bridge into Wiley’s Swamp – “To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.”
And of course, as soon as he gets himself across that bridge, ” In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.”
Here I’ll leave you to read along alone, that’s the best way to finish this story. Maybe you’d like to whistle or sing a psalm to ward off the ghosts!