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On the way down to the 150th Anniversary Re-enactment of The Battle of Gettysburg, I stopped in Tarrytown, NY to do a little investigation on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” What I found was quite interesting. Only a couple years ago I had looked up Sleepy Hollow and could not find it on a map anywhere, but on the way down to Gettysburg it suddenly appeared on a highway sign. Apparently the “Village of Sleepy Hollow” is now trying to focus on their history and Sleepy Hollow has shown up on maps and GPS devices.

For a little context, I will start by explaining the pictures above. The first picture is that announcing the entrance to Sleepy Hollow, also known today as Tarrytown, NY. The second picture is a monument of Ichabod being chased by the Headless Horseman. More importantly, the next pictures include that of the Headless Horseman’s bridge, said to have been built where the original wooden bridge would have sat, over the same spot of the river that the Headless Horseman would have chased Ichabod over in the legend. The bridge today is dedicated to Washington Irving, author of the legend. The last four pictures depict the Old Dutch Church, its graveyard, and the caretaker with the key to the church. The last picture shows me with the graves of Katrina Van Tassel and her husband.

However, how true is the legend? The only characters from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” who were real were actually Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. The Headless Horseman was a Hessian mercenary who lost his head in a battle via cannon ball. He was buried at the Old Dutch Church, (the oldest church in New York State) 50 paces North of the church, in an unmarked grave. Researchers have tried to exhume him but have yet to find any trace of him. It is only through the church accounts that we know he was once there. However, despite literally being a Headless Horseman, he never came back from the dead to chase after heads.

Ichabod was a soldier in the War of 1812, and when Irving wrote of him as an awkward school teacher, Ichabod actually approached Irving, and told him he had some nerve to make him such a character. Ichabod is now buried in Staten Island today.

The rest of the names used in Irving’s legend actually come from Irving walking through the Old Dutch Church’s cemetery (known as Sleepy Hollow Cemetery today) and picking up names off tombstones. The oldest graves are closest to the church, some bearing Dutch engraving. Hence, though Katrina Van Tassel in Irving’s sense was not real, it is still possible to stand by her grave today.