Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"You don't understand...he didn't have a head!"

"It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet." 
- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Halloween is my second favorite holiday. I love the fact that for one day, without judgement, I can be anything I want to be*. No matter how bizarre, how garish, how strange or gruesome, this one day allows everyone the freedom to indulge in an alter ego...

...and in stories of things that go bump in the night.

Ghost stories have always fascinated me. I collect them: true, made up, doesn't matter. If there's something in a story that can't be explained, that sends a shiver through me or makes me look over my shoulder while I'm reading it, I'm in! And no story has ever quite affected me like Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

"The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard."  - Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

I grew up on the Disney version of the Headless Horseman but that made him no less terrifying. Every year I'd insist we watch it and every year I'd go to be with the light on and the sound of hoofs in my ears.  I just knew that "this year" he'd ride to my neighborhood. What would I do when he arrived? Did I expect him to knock? Honestly I don't know. I just know this headless specter on horseback terrified me!

It wasn't until Tim Burton gave us his vision of Sleepy Hollow that I became more enamored with the legend than frightened. Still, the idea of a guy walking around without a head is just so wrong to me. No arms, no fingers, no legs even, fine: but without a head-no thanks! To this day I get a bit creeped out when driving home at night by myself. The thought of having unexpected company riding up behind me on a dark horse with red glowing eyes freaks me out. Am I too old for this type of fear? Possibly. Should I stop indulging in stories that scare me? Probably.

It's foolish really to continue to indulge myself in tales of the strange and unusual. I can't tell you why I do it. Just as I can't tell you why, out of all the genres out there I've chosen horror as my home. It's a strange addiction, this need to write about the dark places of the world. Maybe I do it so that the horrors of reality seem less terrifying. Why write horror and enjoy horror? That question is a blog series in and of itself. I read a fascinating take on the answer at Roland Yeomans' blog yesterday. It's definitely worth the read if you're curious.

Also for the curious, check out the possible roots of the Headless Horseman: the Irish ghost called the Dullahan. And you thought Irving's ghost was scary?! If you ask me, he went easy on us...

And if for some reason you've gone through life without having actually READ "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" GO HERE NOW!! It's a short read but definitely worth the time. 

Oh, and speaking of creepy, I dare you to read Susan Hill's classic "The Woman in Black". You can read it and/or download it HERE for free. I started it several months ago and have not been able to finish it. Maybe I'm a weenie (and no I haven't seen the movie yet) but this story is seriously frightening! Enjoy! (PS: This link takes a moment to open as there are a lot of ads on the side but as far as I can see, the entire story is there without having to download anything.)

Have a wonderful, fun, and safe Halloween! If you're like us, you'll be hanging out at home, watching scary movies and giving out candy. But if you're out and about this evening, pay extra special attention to what could be approaching in your rear view mirror. If it's a headless rider on horseback, don't blame me...

...just drive faster.

"The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire."
- Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

*Don't you wish every day could be this accommodating?


  1. Burton's version of the Sleepy Hollow legend was awesome.

  2. nothing like being good ol' fashioned scared out of your wits.

    i also enjoyed woman in black. probably too tame for today's cinema-going audiences, but old school scares for sure. not seen the film yet.

  3. Still haven't seen the Tim Burton version. Maybe it will be on tv tonight?
    Definitely a fun holiday!

  4. I'm a big chicken--I don't like to be scared! I'll be sticking close to the computer tonight and far away from all the scary movies on TV!

  5. I didn't know The Woman In Black was originally a book. Off to check that out!

    Happy Halloween. :)

  6. Alex: I agree! It is one of my favorite movies!

    Monica: i love all the old fashioned scary movies! Classic horror gets my vote everytime. I'm not a big fan of the horror movies today. The Woman in Black (which I have yet to see) looks like my cup of old fashioned scary.

    Mary: Was it on? I forgot that we didn't have Ah well...we spent the evening watching Vincent Price!

    Lin: I understand. Why do you think I haven't read all of The Woman in Black yet? It's one thing to write's another to read it!

    Golden: I hope you enjoy it! I still have to finish it!


Well, hello! I'm so glad you made it. Come inside and sit by the hearth. I'll take your coat and hat. The kettle is singing and there's cake and candles and good conversation. Settle in and make yourself at home. Don't mind the wolfhounds; they're friendly if you give them a bit of lemon curd.