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For a Haunted Evening: “Sleepy Hollow Cemetery”

As I mentioned in my last Sleepy Hollow post, the plans I had made for this day had gone awry so the first item on my to-do list became an early dinner at J.P. Doyle’s, in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

Next up was a nighttime, lantern tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Yep I was volunteering to visit a cemetery during the dead of night. 

I am a lover of cemeteries. Not for visiting those I had known but as a way to stand on hollowed ground (no pun intended). Historic cemeteries where significant activities happened in the past or where notable people are buried are often included on my itineraries much to the chagrin of those who accompany me on these outings. 

Despite this I have never toured one in the evening. 

Until now.

Among the long list of spooky events in Sleepy Hollow this October was this evening lantern cemetery tour which highly peaked my interest. I knew it was a one of a kind activity and I was in. Tickets were selling out unbelievably fast. 

There are many famous people buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery such as: Elizabeth Arden, Harry and Leona and Helmsley, Vincent and Brooke Astor, Walter Chrysler, Willam and his brother John D. Rockefeller, as well as members of the Wells Fargo family, one of whom created the traveler’s check, something I used quite frequently back in the day. 

But sadly I was not to see any of these graves on my tour. The tour I took was the classic tour that is offered during the day only in the darkness so as to add a spookier spin. 

Like my favorite cemetery in Brooklyn, Greenwood, Sleepy Hollow is too large to see everything all at once. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has over eighty-five acres. While I didn't walk them all, it certainly felt like I tried. 

Now I realize I choose to do this at nighttime but I wasn't quite prepared for how dark it would be. I was foolish to think that there were be some lights throughout the cemetery. There was not a single one. 

There was a kerosine lamp for each pair to share throughout the walk.  I also had a glow stick that I had brought with me. Both were essentially useless. I could not see anything, not even my footsteps as I held the lamp over my feet. The kerosine smelt awful and was heavy. Now I know why people in the 1800s dressed so terribly, no one could see!

The lack of sight would turn out to be the most frightening part of this walk. I wasn't scared of seeing any ghosts in fact quite the opposite. I would have loved to stumble upon the Headless Horseman just so I could get a safe ride out of there!

I was petrified I would fall and break my leg and be stuck there for all eternity. It was all I could do to focus on the real reason I was there so as not to let the experience pass me by.

The first grave we stopped at was Samuel Gompers, founder and longest serving leader of the American Federation of Labor (Union). My excitement turned out to be greater than my fear.

There was the burial site of Francis Church, the editor famous for penning the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter. That was pretty cool. 

While there were many other sites and stories on my tour the following three were my favorites. 

There was of course the grave of Washington Irving, which no visit to Sleepy Hollow would be complete without. He is of course the author of many popular works most notably The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. At the grave site we learned more about the man, than the author, such as the fact that his great love Mathilda Hoffman died at sixteen causing Irving to remain single for the rest of his life. 

Andrew Carnegie was technically the last stop on our tour but I am saving my most favorite gravesite for last. Carnegie was a self-made man who made his fortune on the railroad but had no intent on keeping it all for himself. His legacy lives on through his numerous charitable works like the New York Public Library.   

This past July 1st I visited Bryn Athyn and the homes of John Pitcairn Jr. who was a life long friend of Andrew Carnegie since childhood. Thus it felt appropriate for my tour to end here.

Although this next stop was not my last it was the absolute highlight of my night. It was seeing the mausoleum of fictional soap opera character Barnabas Collins! 

Despite his fictional existence he is still very real to me. I am a HUGE fan of Dark Shadows the show from the 1960s of which he originates. 

Since he is not really interned here this is officially known as the Receiving Vault that producer Dan Curtis used as a stand in. Now the outside of the crypt states “1900” but on the show it reads “Collins”. 

Inside there is a picture of Barnabas as well as some trinkets left to memorialize him. Try as I might to take a photo near him the lighting wasn't fantastic, but I was still was super excited. This made my whole evening worth it. Fright and all.

Next time I am Sleepy Hollow I plan to visit Lyndhurst Castle as it is still on my 2017/18 to do list. That is the Mecca of Dark Shadows culture. It is the home of the Collins family and where the interior scenes of their mansion took place. Earlier this year I visited The Griswold Inn in Connecticut where many exterior shots were filmed for the show. It is all coming full circle for me.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery opened in 1849 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. 

What I love about places like this are that one hundred percent of tour costs go towards the preservation of the grounds. It is this funding that enables these treasures will live on for all those visitors yet to come.

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