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Sleepy Hollow's Old Dutch Church and Burial Ground: New York

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Sleepy Hollow, just outside of New York City, is one of the United States' most legendary towns thanks in part to the writing of Washington Irving. Irving's short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," featured Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman in a gothic tale that still captivates audiences to this day. The legend is said to be loosely inspired by a spirit that roams the Old Dutch Church and Burial Ground of Sleepy Hollow.

Construction began on the Old Dutch Church and Burial Ground way back in the mid 1680's; ultimately finishing a little over a decade later. During the American Revolution, the land was seized by New York due to the family who owned it remaining loyal to Britain instead of siding with the people of America. The church got its first renovation at the end of the 1700's but, by the 1830's, it was in need of more help due to a fire that caused extensive damage. Today, over 300 years after it originally opened, the old church still holds Sunday service during the summer months.

The ghostly activity associated with the Old Dutch Church is concentrated mainly to the cemetery on its grounds. The cemetery is as old as the church itself, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States. The most famous ghost in the cemetery is that of the "Headless Horseman." Just as in Irving's story, though his story was fiction, it was said to be based on the ghost that roams the old burial grounds. The headless specter is said to be a military officer who fought in the Revolution when his head was shot clear off due to cannon fire. According to some, he still prowls the church in hopes of finding his lost head. Others say he is still on patrol, completely ignoring the fact he is minus a head. It appears as though the ghost never leaves the grounds, remaining confined to the land of the cemetery.

Whether it's just a legend or there is some truth to it, I'd love to visit and find out for myself. In addition to the headless horseman, the inspiration for Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane, his friend Samuel Youngs, is also buried in the old cemetery.

I'd say it's worth checking out if you're ever in town!

Photo By: Dirk M. de Boer


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