Frighteningstein is here

and this time it’s serious.

Any holiday that causes you to dress up your pet is a big deal for sure. And it couldn’t be a bigger deal than in the Rivertowns, where I live, and specifically Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and Irvington, where ever Washington Irving made his mark. North Tarrytown actually changed its name to Sleepy Hollow to make hay with the legend.

I paid an autumn visit to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown.

Fortified myself first with a iced CBD vanilla latte at the local café, where skeletons awaited me.

The coffee roaster, Dave, was hard at work, as always.

Is everyone named Dave these days? It certainly seems so. I was somewhat spooked while awaiting the “calm” I was assured would ensue with the CBD.

Visited my friend Stuart at the vinyl store he manages part time, also in Tarrytown. Serendipitous sighting of the Monster Mash. A childhood spooky favorite.

Witches hang out in Tarrytown these days, near the Tappan Zee.

Guess paddleboards are more popular than broomsticks these days. Witches are fun!

At the cemetery, caught a couple of Irving acolytes paying homage to the great man. Does anyone actually read Washington Irving these days?

Hannah and Kira said they came to the burial ground “because it’s only an hour and a half away.” Okay, perhaps a good reason. There are some especially nice markers here. She saw beauty everywhere.

The two ladies must have made it here from Brooklyn. Nice crypts all around.

The anonymous ones are the best kind, I think. You can only imagine the nameless ghosts that lurk here. Perfect description of the place comes from Whitman: the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

It’s easy enough to find Irving’s grave. He’s the equivalent of big business here this season.

Irving made his home at Sunnyside, his wisteria-covered 1830s “snuggery” on the east bank of the Hudson. His nieces, he said, were afraid that the vine threatened to take over the whole estate. From the veranda you could see the sun set over the Palisades. When the new long-distance north-south train tracks materialized at the back of his property in 1847, he fumed, complaining about being awoken at night by the “constant calamity” of the train. 

Though Irving is known today mainly for “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” in his day he produced a dozen and a half popular histories, biographies and collections of essays as well as novels and stories. He traveled extensively on The Continent – he served as an ambassador to Spain — as a true man of the world, feted everywhere, dazzling literati and royals alike with his intellect. The nickname “Gotham” for New York City originates with Irving. His only rival as a nineteenth century rock star was Dickens, whom he hosted at Sunnyside. Fans grabbed tufts of Dickens’ fur coat as souvenirs when the novelist did his American tour in 1842. Cool to imagine the two men seated on the fainting couch in the parlor, comparing notes.

Scary sights in the suburbs seem only more terrifying by day.

Everything but the kitchen sink. Dead flowers of the season. Boarded up windows a nice touch.

Witches, goblins and ghosts are the order of the day. The bigger the better.

The Headless Horseman still makes an appearance.

At Irving’s grave site, a family made the pilgrimage from Miami. They come every year in October.

I heard the father intone to his school-age kids: “If somebody is a prominent public figure, you shouldn’t take a picture of their grave.” Never heard that adage before. The tombstones seem to have a mind of their own.

Driving away from the Cemetery, a duet comes on, Sinatra and Luther Van Dross of all people, singing “Witchcraft.”

Those fingers in my hair
That sly come hither stare
That strips my conscience bare
It’s witchcraft
And I’ve got no defense for it
The heat is too intense for it
What good would common sense for it do…

Thinking about Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. It is said that her green makeup was copper-based and toxic, for which reason she couldn’t eat for the duration of the shoot and had to subsist on a liquid diet and drink only from a straw.

Of course she was even scarier as Miss Gulch.

An iconic Halloween scene appeared in Judy Garland’s star vehicle Meet Me in Saint Louis, when Tootie joins the big kids at the bonfire.

And, on a dare, throws flour in the face of a neighbor. More Judy Garland? The scariest thing in that movie, filmed five years after Wizard, was the sparkly snood she had to wear while singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Children are always a big part of the holiday, even today, when it seems every adult wants some kind of a sleazy/comical costume to wear at a drunken bash. For example, Adam and Eve. Really?

A far cry from the Victorians’ favorite costumes.

Households have set aside a big budget to decorate their homes. Some are more austere than others, in the more tony districts.

I hear every day from visitors that the Ellis Island abandoned hospital complex, where I serve as an Educator, is haunted. One was convinced that she caught the fragrance of chocolate in an area that hadn’t been occupied in a hundred years.

Are there bats here? someone asked me yesterday, with a hopeful tone. Well, I’ve seen some things… not bats though. Even some trees are zombies. Called that when they have hidden problems that can cause significant damage when you least expect it. More than a few at Ellis Island qualify, even though they are safely contained at the moment.

The paradox of the holiday. We feel safe, succored, despite the things that go bump in the night. Or, counterintuitively, because of them. The ghosts of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery are contained in their crypts, and people can go about safely.

For now.

1 Comment

Filed under Jean Zimmerman

One response to “Frighteningstein is here

  1. Sara Bramble

    Thank you for sharing your day with us. I work in Dobbs Ferry and I try to do something for Halloween every year in Tarrytown. Sara

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