Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Headless Horseman Symbol

(“Sleepy Hollow” was perhaps the most beautiful and lush version of the legend with all the ambiance and feel of the original story, but what was done to the plot and script was such an abomination that it taught me the very important premise that no matter how beautiful something looks, whether it’s a bimbo on a reality show or a Tim Burton piece of work, if there’s nothing on the inside, it bores you very quickly. Tim Burton is an amazing artist and just a miserable writer and director. I wish he’d just focus on art direction for movies before he ruins anything else from “Willy Wonka” to “Planet of the Apes,” “Alice in Wonderland” or the upcoming “Dark Shadows” which I can already make some assumptions about).

If I were to take everything I believe about Halloween and wrap it into one symbol, it wouldn’t be candy corn, plastic Jack O’Lantern baskets filled with candy, chimney smoke, or skeletons. It would be the Headless Horseman.

The first time I heard the story in grade school, I was completely mesmerized. Not so much by what the story said, but what it didn’t say. It left my mind galloping like the Hessian’s horse into a dark leaf-littered forest. In that moment, every symbol that would some day define me rushed to my mind and I knew right then and there that was an autumn forest.

In the midst of the autumnal death of the forest there emerged a phantom on horseback offering up the death of the humans, as well, crashing through crispy, curling, mildewed leaves and crackling splintering tree branches to feed the coming winter’s blight. (Autumnforest)

As a short story writer, I always scoff at the concept that anything written in a short story could influence and impress people for decades and even centuries, but “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving was written in 1820! The story took place in the late 1700s in a Dutch settlement. Ichabod Crane competes with a local man for a young woman’s hand. Ichabod goes missing and it’s believed his head was taken by the headless horsemen (the ghost of a Hessian trooper).

A lot of classic stories have been repeatedly portrayed in plays, musicals and movies such as vampires and Frankenstein, but the headless horseman is another very near and dear favorite for all, especially around Halloween time. It’s always been my dream to experience a Halloween event in the woods in the Northeast when someone rushes out on horseback in the headless costume and I get to experience the pounding of the earth, the kicking up of leaves, and the sinister laughter of my pursuer.

If Halloween could be orgasmic, that dream encounter just might be the “screaming” one!


  1. My favortite too! I have Disney's album somewhere. That was my first introduction to this fantastic tale! I still enjoy the book I think my son is old enough to read it. I'll have to dig it out for him.

  2. Becca;
    Isn't it just magical? It will always be to me the ultimate Halloween tale. It's always been my dream as a writer to write something that so embodies a season and an atmosphere...

  3. I do n't know. It freaks me out!
    I understand that this is the point, but still...

  4. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my ultimate seasonal treats! I love collecting any and everything connected to Sleepy Hollow in any way shape or form. If anyone has anything let me know!

  5. Halloweenman666;
    I sure hope you share your collection. I'd love to see it!

  6. Yeah, I agree about Sleepy Hollow. It was a beautiful film to watch and Johnny Depp was an excellent Ichabod. I didn't like the ending, but it's honestly my favorite film version of the story. (crazy but true)

  7. Dr. Heckle;
    I do agree that it was the best...but in a dream world, Tim Burton would have done art direction/cinematography and a director who had a deep love for the story would have done it "real" instead of taking it on such a weird bend with the investigator and all that.

  8. My favorite story of all time too! I did love that movie version the best, even being the typical "Hollywood" film. The Horseman (my son calls him "Headless") has always fascinated me. So much so that in years past I donned the costume and rode my own black stallion on Halloween night- much to the fright and delight of many!

  9. Rowan;
    I would love to spend Halloween with you!!!!

  10. I prefer the tale of Tam o'Shanter (written by Robbie Burns before The Headless Horseman was, but there are obvious parallels between the stories), but The Headless Horseman's my favourite "Hallowe'en" story as well.