Skip to main content
News & Events

Things to do
and places to be

3 Things to Know about ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

3 Things to Know about ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

February 15, 2022 | share

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is noted as one of the most enduring examples of early popular American fiction. Written by American author Washington Irving, the story first appeared in “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.,” a collection of 34 essays and short stories.

Headless Specters, a European Storytelling Staple

Washington Irving actually wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow during a tour of Europe. During the late 1700s, headless horsemen were quite the staple in German, Irish, Scandinavian and British legends.

Seeing the specter of a headless horsemen was considered a omen of ill fated fortune.

The Headless Hessian Soldier

Irving notes that during the American Revolutionary War, Sleepy Hollow, then called Tarrytown had been all but abandoned by the Continental Army and occupied by the British. During the occupation, Tarrytown was home to all kinds of inhabitants, from British redcoats to cowboys and outlaws, to raiders, vigilantes and, of course, German sharpshooters who rode on horseback. These sharpshooters were called Hessian Jägers and were employed by the British throne to fight as part of its military.

It is widely believed to this day that The Headless Horsemen was inspired by the story of a headless Hessian who was found in Sleepy Hollow after a skirmish. 

Geoffrey Crayon and Diedrich Knickerbocker

While Washington Irving was the author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and thee collection of short stories and essays in which it appeared, “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.”

But Irving, who loved to say it wasn’t actually he who had written the story, loved authoring through pseudonyms and Sleepy Hollow is no different. While the larger collection was said to be authored by a Geoffrey Crayon, another pseudonym, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ claims to be authored by none other than fictional Duthc historian Diedrich Knickerbocker, the apparent author of Irving’s first novel, “A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker,” whichw as published in 1809.