Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Headless Horseman Horror Story (Classics)

In the spirit of Halloween, this month I will suggest some creepy, ghostly short stories by famous authors.  Don’t worry. I’m not into the ghastly chilling scene. I don’t like horror movies and rarely read scary books, with an exception of some Stephen King novels.  I don’t really care to be scared senseless by watching dolls come to life or people inversely crab crawling up a staircase.  I prefer my ghosts to be friendlier, like Casper.  With that said, Washington Irving’s classic short story about a headless horseman chasing a scared school teacher, is a milder kind of fright. 

You can read the short story first, available online at

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a short story about a gangly, superstitious, nerdy school teacher named Ichabod Crane, who comes to teach in the small village of Sleepy Hollow.  It isn't long before he is smitten by the coquettish Katrina Van Tassel.  Unfortunately, big and boisterous Abraham, aka Brom Bones, also has his eye on this flirty daughter of a wealthy farmer. 

Brom is a prankish bully, kind of like Biff Tannen in the movie Back to the Future. He pushes people around and plays jokes that only he and his gang consider funny. One night after a fabulous harvest party hosted by the Van Tassels, Brom thinks of an ingenious way to scare Ichabod away from Katrina. 


This fun and spooky short story made Washington Irving into a legend of his own.  It was first published in a book of short stories called The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent in 1820.  Almost 200 years later the story still enchants people of all ages.  It’s taught in school and every American knows (or probably should know) about it.  

Sleepy Hollow Towns
Did you know that North Tarrytown, NY, the inspiration for Irving's Sleepy Hollow setting, officially changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1997?  There’s also a Sleepy Hollow, Illinois where the streets are names after characters in the story, and a Sleepy Hollow, Marin Co, California to name a few. 

Want to see the beautiful home called “Sunnyside” which Irving bought in Tarrytown, NY after living in England for seventeen years?  You aren’t the only one.  Even Charles Dickens visited Irving here on his U.S. tour in 1842. Visit for more information.

Rip Van Winkle
Washington Irving is also the author of Rip Van Winkle, about a man who awoke after twenty years of sleep.  You can read about hen-pecked Rip and his epic escape at


Washington Irving was mentioned numerous times in the book Catch-22, where Captain Yossarian haphazardly censors enlisted men’s letters, sometimes crossing out articles or verbs, and other crazy variations of nonsense.  One time he blacked out everything but the letters “a,” “an,” and “the.”  With each censorship, the officer had to sign his name on the letter, but  on these crazy censored letters, Yossarian signed Washington Irving or Irving Washington depending on his mood. 

Happy Reading,


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1 comment:

  1. I have never read this story. I've seen the movie but now it's time to read the real story.