When autumn is in the air, my husband and I always head up to the Hudson Valley, specifically to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Even though I’m not doing research on the area any more for The Wishing Thread, there’s always something new to discover and I know we’ll be going back to the area for years to come.
This year, we kicked off the autumn with a last-minute visit to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is a HUGE cemetery connected to the grounds of the 17th-century Old Dutch Church.
My husband and I have walked through many graveyards and cemeteries together, sometimes formally on tours like this one, and sometimes because we just stumbled across a tiny plot tucked behind a country church.
Cemeteries tell such fascinating stories of people’s lives—and of the life of a community.
What’s amazing about the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is the range of headstones, from the most humble and weather-worn (like Washington Irving’s small plot or Andrew Carnegie’s humble cross) to the most extravagant (like Leona Helmsley’s monumental mausoleum–apparently she wanted the biggest on the site).
The cemetery hosts different kinds tours; the one we took was the classic tour. We carried oil lamps through the grounds as the sun set and the “rock orchard” became very dark—and I learned a valuable lesson about lantern-holding.
You know the cool way people in movies hold the lanterns up by their faces? That’s just about the worst thing you could do if you want to see at night, since it instantly blinds you. Better to hold a lamp at your feet.
But here’s my impression of “the spooky figure in the graveyard with the lantern” anyway. I don’t think I make a particularly scary figure, especially when I’m happy to be on a quirky date with my husband on a fall evening. I swear it got spookier when the sun went down.
The night was dark and cool, the cemetery beautiful, eerie, and peaceful–gives a person a lot to think about. If you’re in the Tarrytown or Sleepy Hollow area, I would recommend a stop here.
QUESTION: Have you ever taken a cemetery tour or walked through an old cemetery?
Lisa Van Allen
The Wishing Thread (Ballantine 2013)