On a dark moody night, deep in the heart of Horseman’s Hollow, ghouls lurk in the shadows behind bundled stalks of corn and along the lantern-lit path that winds its way toward an old gristmill. They appear before us suddenly, their neon mouths and bloodied faces glaring as they creep and bow, urging us around spooky dark corners toward a stucco farmhouse pulsating with screams. Gesturing in the low candle light, they move us past blighted cemetery yards, broken wagons and dilapidated sheds filled with creepy skulls, quivering half-dead bodies, witches, ghosts and scariest of all, the bulging eyes of the insane. It was one of those mysterious October nights, crisp and smoky with a layer of fallen leaves on the path ~ perfect for a good scare. I had come to this haunted house with my friend, Angela, who was visiting from Texas. Halloween is Angela’s favorite holiday so I saw it as a challenge to find the scariest activity possible. Paying a visit to the haunted house in Sleepy Hollow, NY, seemed obvious since activities involving author, Washington Irving’s, gothic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, really ramp up at this time of year. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but suffice it to say that by the time we had worked our way through the haunted house, I was once again familiar with the sound of my own voice screaming! Not knowing what was going to happen at every turn left me shrieking and staggering to the end with a grateful smile on my face!
Irving is credited with having created the genre of the short story and his unforgettable characters were there that night in every way, shape and form: Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel. As scenes from the tale came to life I couldn’t help but think of how the experience mirrored some of the core features of a good novel - the rich eerie setting punctuated with unique but believable characters mixed in with an element of surprise. I never dreamed that haunted house could be so enlightening.
But there was much more happening here and that was the joy of laughing and screaming with a dear friend and the camaraderie we felt with other people who, like us, were there just to have a good time. It was therapeutic on many levels and made me realize how important it is every now and then for adults to play and get silly. Halloween is the perfect excuse! There’s still time to check out a haunted house or maybe pick up a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and let the storyteller take you alongside Ichabod Crane’s horror struck ride through the sandy hollow of shaded trees and his encounter with the headless horseman … Happy Halloween!