In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Washington Irving story that seems to increasingly imbue its village namesake with a literary yet spooky mystique, the haunted part of the story is really only a ruse. The real Sleepy Hollow, however, when you tap into a certain village vein, seems decidedly, if quietly, haunted.
In the second installment of an ongoing oral history recording series at Warner Library, the microphone turned from former GM workers to residents who live with a ghost in their house, or – in the case of one woman – attract them like gnats wherever they go. Only one person I interviewed was willing to risk using their real name while baring what many might find unbelievable, even crazy. All were self-conscience about being judged – by their children, by their boyfriends, by a future spooked would-be purchaser of their property…
So, we’ll call them: “Stacy,” a bartender at J.P. Doyle’s and the Set Back Inn, who has encountered a different male ghost at both; “Meredith” who even wanted to keep the identity of her former pet/now-ghost private but continually forgot in the midst of her emotion in the recording session to stick to the fake cat name; and “Pam,” a Sleepy Hollow Manor resident (living very near to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery) with one ghost she actually seems sort of fond of.
Whatever your opinion of the subject matter, asking people to reveal their ghosts exposes more than one’s affinity to the supernatural. Our intimate interviews dipped into religion, fear of death, and an aging woman’s loneliness and isolation.
The one interviewee who would share her name – it turns out – lived with a ghost that wasn’t “quite”. Tanya Monier, of the Weber Park neighborhood, said her house has something odd about it, but [spoiler alert if you’re listening to the audio] the visions she was seeing when she moved in were due to a neural problem and not something in the woodwork. Nonetheless, exploring the history of her house and hearing tales of its former inhabitants – the man who had died there, unfinished basement projects preserved; the larger-than-life overworked hands of the wife – brought Monier closer to her living neighbors. Used to California and its newer homes, she found herself discovering the joys of peeling back the layers of her multi-storied house.
Pam has a surprisingly good attitude about cohabitating with a dead person.
“It’s just part of the charm that is living in Sleepy Hollow,” she said.
When her family moved into their Manor-area house, the neighbors all seemed to agree it was haunted – as do her houseguests to this day. First, her housekeeper said she saw a man wearing black from head to toe, that he too was “black” in a dead, shadowy kind of way. The housekeeper erected a little shrine and made peace with the ghost; she told Pam not to worry. Later, after smaller odd brushes with something uncanny, Pam came home one day to see a worker (they indeed had hired a roof crew) still at work on her roof. But she immediately realized the crew had already gone home, and this one man, whose image was gone as soon as she saw it, was just as her housekeeper had described him.
Stacy is so sensitive to ghosts, they have become a painful burden. “Are you kidding me?” she’ll ask as she gets tapped – again – on the shoulder by stranger apparitions that no one else sees. For this growing problem, she sees not a therapist every week but a psychic.
Tarrytown’s Elena Swan, her psychic, apparently warned her not to set foot in our famous cemetery; it would just be too much. Stacy has seen – out of place, she knows – a Confederate soldier at J.P. Doyle’s beer garden and, at the Set Back Inn, a guy who she thinks may be a man whom, in the 1980s, was either killed or killed himself. She only wishes she could commune with her own loved ones.
The spectrum of ghost experiences from one interviewee to the next was so diverse that it became most interesting when Stacy (of the many stranger ghosts) got paired with Meredith (never had a ghost until her long-dead cat started waking her up in the morning and hasn’t stopped for a year).
“It’s annoying,” they both said in agreement of their very different experiences, though to Meredith’s story you can add both love and grief.
Pam (of the Dark Shadowed man) is not only not scared of her specter, but she hopes someday he’ll share his story with her, as she hasn’t been able to uncover the history of her 1920s house.
In the meantime, these brave women share their stories with us, and I’m sure you will enjoy them – posted in full and in shorter clips on the www.thehudsonindependent.com and on SoundCloud.com/warnerlibraryhiSTORIES.
Next up for the hiSTORIES series: Life on the Homefront, an oral history circle for those living in Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow during WWII, Friday, Oct. 16, 2 p.m. at Warner Library. RSVP to share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting/calling the reference desk at 914-631-7734