Although I’ve currently been displaced by “post-tropical” superstorm Sandy and won’t be returning home until the lights come back on, I certainly didn’t let her ruin my pre-Halloween plans.
I spent this past weekend in two villages on the Hudson River less than 30 miles north of Manhattan that really know how to celebrate All Hollow’s Eve: Tarrytown and the village formerly known as North Tarrytown. In the late 1990s, North Tarrytown was officially renamed Sleepy Hollow in homage to its spooky literary history and most famous interred resident (next to Leona Helmsley, of course): Washington Irving.
Over two very full days, I immersed myself in everything and anything Washington Irving-related: a guided tour of Sunnyside, the author’s wisteria-clad Tarrytown home; a visit to the Irving family plot at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery complete with a sighting of the world’s most famous beheaded Hessian solider; and an evening spent at Philipsburg Manor, a historic agrarian estate transformed into a genuinely scary, somewhat historically accurate “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”-themed haunted house attraction called Horseman’s Hollow. I screamed at least six times (but my friends would probably claim a higher number).
In addition to a visit to the Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, a non-Irving-related highlight of my trip was a visit to Lyndhurst. Perched dramatically over the Hudson, the 1838 Gothic Revival manse that’s currently operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation is no doubt a grand, if not grandly curious castle of a home. However, it was Lyndhurst’s immaculately designed grounds — all 67 acres of them — that truly captivated me. The fact that a large swath of the estate’s lawn — not too far from the magnificent, steel-framed greenhouse (the nation’s first) — was covered with hundreds of colorful, crazy, student-crafted scarecrows probably had something to do with it.
Check out my photos from Lyndhurst’s annual Scarecrow Invasion, below. I was actually completely unaware of the tradition when I visited. When my friends and I were coming up Lyndhurst's winding drive, spotting the assemblage of scarecrows off in the distance was a somewhat unsettling surprise. It looked like they were moving.
And by the way, Judith Beil, curator of education at Lyndhurst, points out that the scarecrows’ distinctive garb is removed by volunteers at the end of the “environmental installation.” If reusable, the clothing is washed and donated to local shelters. As for some of those masks, here’s hoping that they get reused as well.