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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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short storySpeculative fiction

Initial release
October 5, 1949 (USA)

United States

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie poster

Washington Irving (story), Kenneth Grahame (story), Erdman Penner (story), Winston Hibler (story), Joe Rinaldi (story), Ted Sears (story), Homer Brightman (story), Harry Reeves (story)

Mr. Toad, Angus MacBadger, Cyril Proudbottom, Prosecutor, Judge, Ratty, Moley, Weasel, Winkie

Adapted from
The Wind in the Willows, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Story by
Washington Irving, Kenneth Grahame, Winston Hibler, Ted Sears

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"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story of speculative fiction by American author Washington Irving, contained in his collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.. Written while Irving was living abroad in Birmingham, England, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was first published in 1820. Along with Irving's companion piece "Rip Van Winkle", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is among the earliest examples of American fiction with enduring popularity, especially during Halloween because of a character known as the headless horseman believed to be a Hessian soldier who lost his head to a cannonball in battle.


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie scenes

Washington irving the legend of sleepy hollow audiobook pdf


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie scenes

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by name of Sleepy Hollow ... A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie scenes

The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. Some residents say this town was bewitched during the early days of the Dutch settlement. Other residents say an old Native American chief, the wizard of his tribe, held his powwows here before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. The most infamous spectre in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman, said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper that had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during "some nameless battle" of the American Revolutionary War, and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head".

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The "Legend" relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. Crane, a Yankee and an outsider, sees marriage to Katrina as a means of procuring Van Tassel's extravagant wealth. Bones, the local hero, vies with Ichabod for Katrina's hand, playing a series of pranks on the jittery schoolmaster, and the fate of Sleepy Hollow's fortune weighs in the balance for some time. The tension between the three is soon brought to a head. On a placid autumn night, the ambitious Crane attends a harvest party at the Van Tassels' homestead. He dances, partakes in the feast, and listens to ghostly legends told by Brom and the locals, but his true aim is to propose to Katrina after the guests leave. His intentions, however, are ill-fated.

After having failed to secure Katrina's hand, Ichabod rides home "heavy-hearted and crestfallen" through the woods between Van Tassel's farmstead and the Sleepy Hollow settlement. As he passes several purportedly haunted spots, his active imagination is engorged by the ghost stories told at Baltus' harvest party. After nervously passing under a lightning-stricken tulip tree purportedly haunted by the ghost of British spy Major André, Ichabod encounters a cloaked rider at an intersection in a menacing swamp. Unsettled by his fellow traveler's eerie size and silence, the teacher is horrified to discover that his companion's head is not on his shoulders, but on his saddle. In a frenzied race to the bridge adjacent to the Old Dutch Burying Ground, where the Hessian is said to "vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone" upon crossing it, Ichabod rides for his life, desperately goading his temperamental plow horse down the Hollow. However, to Crane's horror, the ghoul clambers over the bridge, rears his horse, and hurls his severed head into Ichabod's terrified face.

The next morning, Ichabod has mysteriously disappeared from town, leaving Katrina to marry Brom Bones, who was said "to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related." Indeed, the only relics of the schoolmaster's flight are his wandering horse, trampled saddle, discarded hat, and a mysterious shattered pumpkin. Although the nature of the Headless Horseman is left open to interpretation, the story implies that the ghost was really Brom (an agile stunt rider) in disguise. Irving's narrator concludes, however, by stating that the old Dutch wives continue to promote the belief that Ichabod was "spirited away by supernatural means," and a legend develops around his disappearance and sightings of his melancholy spirit.


Irving wrote The Sketch Book during a tour of Europe, and parts of the tale may also be traced to European origins. Headless horsemen were staples of Northern European storytelling, featuring in German, Irish (e.g., Dullahan), Scandinavian (e.g., the Wild Hunt), and English legends, and were included in Robert Burns's poem "Tam o' Shanter" (1790) and Bürger's Der wilde Jäger, translated as The Wild Huntsman (1796). Usually viewed as omens of ill-fortune for those who chose to disregard their apparitions, these specters found their victims in proud, scheming persons and characters with hubris and arrogance. One particularly influential rendition of this folktale was recorded by the German folklorist Karl Musäus.

During the height of the American Revolutionary War, Irving writes that the country surrounding Tarry Town "was one of those highly-favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry."

After the Battle of White Plains in October 1776, the country south of the Bronx River was abandoned by the Continental Army and occupied by the British. The Americans were fortified north of Peekskill, leaving Westchester County a 30-mile stretch of scorched and desolated no-man's land, vulnerable to outlaws, raiders, and vigilantes. Besides droves of Loyalist rangers and British light infantry, Hessian Jägers—renowned sharpshooters and horsemen—were among the raiders who often skirmished with Patriot militias. The Headless Horseman, said to be a decapitated Hessian soldier, may have indeed been based loosely on the discovery of just such a Jäger's headless corpse found in Sleepy Hollow after a violent skirmish, and later buried by the Van Tassel family, in an unmarked grave in the Old Dutch Burying Ground. The dénouement of the fictional tale is set at the bridge over the Pocantico River, in the area of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground in Sleepy Hollow.

Irving, while he was an aide-de-camp to New York Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins, met an army captain named Ichabod Crane in Sackets Harbor, New York during an inspection tour of fortifications in 1814. Irving may have patterned the character in "The Legend" after Jesse Merwin, who taught at the local schoolhouse in Kinderhook, further north along the Hudson River, where Irving spent several months in 1809. The inspiration for the character of Katrina Van Tassel is uncertain, although both Catriena Ecker Van Tessel and her niece Eleanor Van Tassel Brush are buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and have been proposed as models.

The story was the longest one published as part of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (commonly referred to as The Sketch Book), which Irving issued serially throughout 1819 and 1820, using the pseudonym "Geoffrey Crayon". Alongside "Rip Van Winkle", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is one of Irving's most anthologized, studied, and adapted sketches. Both stories are often paired together in books and other representations, and both are included in surveys of early American literature and Romanticism. Irving's depictions of regional culture and his themes of progress versus tradition, supernatural intervention in the commonplace, and the plight of the individual outsider in an homogeneous community permeate both stories and helped to develop a unique sense of American cultural and existential selfhood during the early nineteenth century.

Film and television variations

Notable film and television variations include:

  • The Headless Horseman (1922), a silent film directed by Edward Venturini and starring Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane. It was filmed on location in New York's Hudson River Valley.
  • The Headless Horseman (1934), a ComiColor Cartoon short produced by Ub Iwerks.
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), an animated cartoon adaptation of the story directed by James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, and Jack Kinney, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and narrated by Bing Crosby. (It is paired with a similar treatment of Kenneth Grahame's novel The Wind in the Willows (1908).) The climactic ride is more extended than in the original story, and the possibility is stressed that the visually impressive Horseman is in fact a ghost rather than a human in disguise. Later the Sleepy Hollow portion of the film was separated from the companion film and shown separately as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958).
  • Tales of Washington Irving, a one-hour animated television special, original airdate November 1, 1970, presented adaptations of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle. Produced by Air Programs International (API)
  • A short animated version produced in 1972, narrated by John Carradine and shown in theaters a year later with Charlotte's Web (1973).
  • "The Headless Horseman of Halloween" (1976), an episode of The Scooby-Doo Show.
  • A CBS special titled Once Upon A Midnight Dreary featured an adaptation of the story, narrated by Vincent Price, featuring Rene Auberjonois as Ichabod Crane, Guy Boyd as Brom Bones, Pamela Brown as Katrina Van Tassell, and Robert Foster as the Headless Horseman.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980), a television film directed by Henning Schellerup that aired on NBC, was filmed in Utah, and starred Jeff Goldblum as Ichabod Crane, Meg Foster as Katrina, and Richard Butkus as Brahm Bones. Executive producer Charles Sellier was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the movie. The film, not closely adapted from the original story, depicts Crane as a skeptic regarding ghosts and the supernatural, although it foreshadows Tim Burton's similar 1999 treatment.
  • "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1985), an episode of Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends, stars Ed Begley, Jr. as Ichabod Crane, Beverly D'Angelo as Katrina Van Tassel, Tim Thomerson as Brom, and Charles Durning as Doffue Van Tassel, who is also the narrator. It was produced and hosted by Shelley Duvall.
  • In 1988, PBS and Rabbit Ears Productions produced a multi-award-winning animated adaptation and a subsequent book depicting the story. The production was illustrated, directed, and adapted by Robert Van Nutt, composed by Tim Story, and narrated by Glenn Close.
  • An episode of The Real Ghostbusters, which featured a descendant of Ichabod Crane's, cursed by a headless apparition on a motorcycle who viciously pursues men to whom she is attracted.
  • The "Chopper", an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, starring Darren McGavin, which features a headless motorcycle rider who decapitates his victims, an allusion to the traditional Headless Horseman legend.
  • "The Tale of the Midnight Ride", a season 3 episode of the Nickelodeon horror anthology television series Are You Afraid of the Dark?, serves as a sequel to the classic story. In this episode a boy named Ian Matthews moves to Sleepy Hollow, New York, where he develops a crush on Katie. One night after the Halloween dance, they see the ghost of Ichabod Crane and send him over the bridge that the Headless Horseman cannot cross, unintentionally prompting the Headless Horseman to pursue them instead of Crane.
  • "Sugar-Frosted Frights", an episode of Rocko's Modern Life, parodies the character as the Hopping Hessian, who carries his right leg instead of his head.
  • In "Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars" (1997), the second-season premiere of the PBS series Wishbone, Wishbone imagines himself as Ichabod Crane and re-enacts the Headless Horseman story in his imagination when his owner, Joe Talbot, goes on a Halloween night scavenger hunt along with his two schoolmates, David Barnes and Samantha Kepler. In Wishbone's imagination, he is scared off by the Headless Horseman. Like the original story, the episode strongly implies that Brom is the Headless Horseman when his horse's collar resembles the Horseman's horse collar.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999), a Canadian-American television film starring Brent Carver and Rachelle Lefevre. It was filmed in Montreal and directed by Pierre Gang.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999), a feature film adaption directed by Tim Burton which takes many liberties with the plot and characters, changing Crane from the local schoolmaster into a police constable sent from New York City to investigate recent murders, and the Horseman is used as a weapon against the local landowners. Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, Christopher Walken plays the Headless Horseman, Christina Ricci plays Katrina, and Casper Van Dien plays Brom.
  • The Night of the Headless Horseman (1999), an hour-long computer animated FOX TV special utilizing motion capture.
  • Sleepy Hollow High (2000), a B-rated, direct to video VHS and DVD horror film, in which a group of teenagers is sent to Sleepy Hollow Park Grounds to clean up vandalism and graffiti. They soon realize that someone is taking the Legend of Sleepy Hollow too far.
  • The Haunted Pumpkin of Sleepy Hollow (2002), an 45-minute animated special from PorchLight Entertainment.
  • The Hollow (2004), a TV movie that premiered on the ABC Family Channel, starring Kevin Zegers and Kaley Cuoco that focuses on a teenage descendant of Ichabod Crane.
  • "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell" (2004), an episode of the TV show Charmed, in which a headless horseman murders the teachers at Magic School by beheading them.
  • Sleepy Hollow (2013), a fantasy mystery drama series co-created by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove, and Len Wiseman airing on the Fox network. In the series, Ichabod Crane is reimagined as an English professor and turncoat during the American Revolutionary War, who awakens in the 21st century and encounters the Headless Horseman, a felled mercenary Crane had decapitated 250 years prior. Crane teams up with Abbie Mills, a lieutenant in the town of Sleepy Hollow's sheriff's department, and together they try to stop the murderous Horseman (who is purportedly Death), and uncover a conspiracy involving supernatural forces.
  • Murder, She Wrote Season 3, Episode 11 "The Night of Headless Horseman", was aired on 1/4/1987 about a shy lovelorn poet (Thom Bray) was run down by headless horseman.
  • Stage and music adaptations

  • "Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (2002), a play in two acts by Christopher Cook, which made its European premiere in 2014 in Kent, England.
  • In Sleepy Hollow (1913), a piano suite by Eastwood Lane
  • Sleepy Hollow (1948), a Broadway musical, with music by George Lessner and book and lyrics by Russell Maloney and Miriam Battista. It lasted 12 performances.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1989), a one-act stage adaptation by Kathryn Schultz Miller.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Speaker & Orchestra (1999), a 15-minute composition by Robert Lichtenberger; it premiered October 2001 by Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra (Lincoln, NE) conducted by Tyler White.
  • "Ride Of The Headless Horseman" (from The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow), a tone poem for orchestra by Robert Wendel was premiered in 2001 by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in Concert (2004), part musical theater, radio drama, and festival, an annual production with music by Steven J. Smith, Jr. and lyrics by Jensen Oler and Smith; it premiered in Lehi, Utah at Olympic Park on October 8, 2004.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2009), an opera, with music and libretto by Robert Milne; available for production through Arts Ascending, Inc.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2009), an opera, with music by William Withem and libretto by Melanie Helton; it premiered March 27, 2009, in the Concert Auditorium at Michigan State University.
  • Sleepy Hollow (2009), a musical with book and lyrics by Jim Christian and music by Tom Edward Clark. It premiered at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah on October 30, 2009. It received the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Musical Theatre Award.
  • Irving's Legend (2010–present) a dramatic retelling by Jonathan Kruk is a one-person performance staged by Historic Hudson Valley at the story's setting, The Old Dutch Church, during weekends in October.
  • The Hollow (2011). Book by Hunter Foster, music & lyrics by Matt Conner, directed by Matt Gardiner; premiered at Signature Theatre in Washington, DC (Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director).
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted by Darkstuff Productions at the Bierkeller Theatre Bristol, England Christmas 2012.
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollows, a novelty Doo-Wop song, recorded by Monotones of Book of Love fame
  • Legend of the Headless Rider is a song by Mercyful Fate, fronted by King Diamond, on their In the Shadows album.
  • Undead Ahead is a song by Motionless In White, and appears on their album Creatures.
  • Head over Hills, a song by Blitzkid
  • Tarrytown Tales, a play by Sean P. Harrington.
  • Audio adaptations

  • Ed Begley was the narrator for a recording on both LP and audio cassette by Caedmon Records (ISBN 978-9995389598).
  • Boris Karloff narrated a version of the story on a 1977 LP (Mr. Pickwick Records, Pickwick SPC 5156) with original songs and sound effects.
  • Ronald Colman was the host and narrator for a radio adaptation on NBC's Favorite Story on July 2, 1946 (requested by Walter Huston as that actor's favorite story).
  • An adaptation was broadcast on September 19, 1947 on NBC University of the Air: American Novels.
  • Martin Donegan was the narrator for a recording on CMS Records.
  • Hurd Hatfield was the narrator for a recording on Spoken Arts Records in the 1960s.
  • George Guidall was the narrator for a 1999 unabridged recording on CD for Recorded Books (ISBN 978-1-4025-5119-2).
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1998) - An abridged version narrated by Winifred Phillips and produced for the Radio Tales series on National Public Radio. The program was released on audiocassette by Durkin Hayes Publishing Ltd in 1998 as a part of both its DH Audio catalog and its "Paperback Audio" line (ISBN 0886469031).
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2005). Produced by The Colonial Radio Theatre on the Air and released by Blackstone Audio. Faithfully adapted from the book by Washington Irving, this production has an elaborate music score by Jeffrey Gage, sound effects, and a full cast. Originally released as a "Halloween Pick" by Barnes & Noble bookstores, the production went on to win the Ogle Award for "Best Fantasy Production of 2005." The cast includes Lincoln Clark as Ichabod Crane, Joseph Zamparelli Jr. as Brom Bones, and Diane Capen as Katrina Van Tassel. The book was dramatized, produced and directed by Jerry Robbins. On Halloween 2005, the production was broadcast coast to coast on XM Radio's Sonic Theater, and repeated the following year. It continues to be one of Colonial's most popular titles in release.
  • BBC Radio 7 (and later BBC Radio 4 Extra) has repeatedly broadcast a three-part reading of the story with Martin Jarvis as the Narrator.
  • Historic Hudson Valley produced with Platters, a dramatic reading of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (2008) with musical effects by Matt Noble. Parent's Choice gave it the Silver award in 2009, noting; "Here, master storyteller Jonathan Kruk delivers the story as an audio book, with colorful eloquence backed by orchestral radiance. While remaining true to Irving’s original text, Kruk boosts the story’s energy through his highly skilled reading."
  • "Ichabod Crane, Master of the Occult" (2012) is a sequel to the original story, written by D. K. Thompson and produced by Marshal Latham on the Journey Into podcast.
  • Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod Crane in the television series Sleepy Hollow, was the narrator for a 2014 recording for Audible Studios.
  • Geographic impact

  • Annually since 1996, before Halloween, the nonprofit organization Historic Hudson Valley has held "Legend Weekend", an event at the Philipsburg Manor House in Sleepy Hollow, featuring a rider portraying the Headless Horseman and a storyteller retelling "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" as an historic celebration attended by thousands.
  • In 1997, the village of North Tarrytown, New York (as the village had been called since the late 19th century), where many events of the story took place, officially changed its name to Sleepy Hollow. Its high school teams are named "the Horsemen".
  • In 2006, a large statue depicting the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane was placed along Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown, New York.
  • Place names

  • Town and village names:
  • Sleepy Hollow, Illinois, many of the street names reflect characters from the tale, and the image of the Headless Horseman can be found on many of the city's landmarks and publications.
  • Sleepy Hollow, Marin County, California, has Irving Drive, Legend Road, Ichabod Court, Katrina Lane, Van Tassel Court, Baltus Lane, Crane Drive, and Van Winkle Drive.
  • Subdivision names:
  • Bethel, Connecticut, "Sleepy Hollow Estates", Ichabod Lane, Legend Drive, and Katrina Circle.
  • Roanoke, Virginia, and Longwood, Florida, "Sleepy Hollow", street names such as Ichabod and Horseman.
  • Pearland, Texas, "Sleepy Hollow", street names such as Washington Irving Drive, Sleepy Hollow Drive, Crane Drive, Tarrytown Lane, and Brom Bones Boulevard.
  • Port Jervis, New York, Sleepy Hollow Road
  • Falls Church, Virginia, Street names Sleepy Hollow Road, Crane Drive, Ichabod Place, and Horseman Lane. There is also a Sleepy Hollow Park and Sleepy Hollow Bath & Racquet Club.
  • Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Sleepy Hollow Road
  • Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, Sleepy Hollow Lane
  • Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania, Sleepy Hollow Road
  • Hampden Township, Pennsylvania, "Sleepy Hollow", Ichabod Court, Brom Court, and Katrina Court.
  • State Parks:
  • Sleepy Hollow State Park, Laingsburg, Michigan
  • Schools:
  • The Ichabod Crane School District, Valatie, New York. The school's sports teams are called "The Riders" and a silhouette of Ichabod Crane on his horse is often representative of the home team while a silhouette of the Headless Horseman is representative of the opponent. The wings in the junior high school are also named for characters and places, such as Katrina Van Tassel and Sleepy Hollow.
  • Sleepy Hollow Elementary
  • Orinda, California, has Washington Lane, Sleepy Hollow Lane, Tarry Lane, Van Ripper Lane, Van Tassel Lane, Tappan Lane, and Crane Court.
  • Pinson, Alabama's Sleepy Hollow Subdivision has Sleepy Hollow Drive
  • References

    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Wikipedia
    The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (film) IMDbThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow (film) Rotten TomatoesThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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