onthresholds_iron scroll porch in Shepardstown

The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land.

           ~ from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Because this is the appropriate time of year for ghost stories, I decided to reread Washington Irving’s classic tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow—it’s been many, many years since I actually read the original. Over the years, I had heard the name Ichabod Crane so often that it was like he was part of the family (on my mother’s side there was some kind of odd obsession with the spindly pedagogue). I had forgotten, though, that Ichabod Crane was a schoolteacher who sang and danced and loved to eat (the passages about food are amazing), and that it was his broken heart (sort of) that led him to take that fateful ride where he encountered his biggest fear (real or imagined?).

And while the story is very much about place—a haunted place (the details are wonderful), I had forgotten too (if I ever knew), that it’s really all about storytelling—it is a story within a story within a story—and in the end we still don’t know the truth about the Headless Horseman or poor Ichabod Crane. But that is really beside the point… the point, I think, is that stories change and grow and go on and on and on…especially in places like Sleepy Hollow.

(Also, it’s short enough to read in between giving out candy)