October Dreams: A Twentieth Anniversary Retrospective

The year 2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of the amazing Cemetery Dance anthology October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween. This subtitle says it all, as the book forms a treasure trove of holiday-themed writing, clocking in at a whopping 650 pages. Editors Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish strike a fine balance between original offerings and classic reprints (the volume features twenty-one fictional tales, plus one poem). Like the assorted sweets heaped inside a trick-or-treater’s candy bag, the table of contents brims with brand-name greats and the less well-known (but no less enjoyable).

October Dreams gives rise to tales covering the various aspects popularly associated with the holiday. There are tales of pumpkin carving: the graphic grotesquerie of Dean Koontz’s “The Black Pumpkin,” the more restrained yet extremely disturbing art of Charles L. Grant’s “Eyes.” Trick-or-treating stories galore, involving gruesome comeuppance in F. Paul Wilson’s visceral “Buckets,” and terrible revelation in Jack Ketchum’s gut-punching “Gone.” Old, dark houses loom throughout, from the shadowed abode in Richard Laymon’s shocker “Boo” to the utterly haunting structure in Tim Lebbon’s “Pay the Ghost.” Witches get their kicks from ill-treated children, whimsically in Gahan Wilson’s “Yesterday’s Witch,” and much more wickedly in creep-meister Ramsey Campbell’s “The Trick.” Self-reflexive tales take the telling of spook stories as their very subject, in Lewis Shiner’s ouroboros of an October narrative, “The Circle,” and Peter Straub’s foray into Faulknerian Southern Gothic in the novella “Pork Pie Hat.” The selections run the gamut from quiet realism (Ray Bradbury’s subtle yet unsettling “Heavy Set”) to fantastic flights of Lovecraftian terror (or descents, in the case of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s sublimely-titled “A Redress for Andromeda”).

The fictional narratives are greatly variegated in October Dreams, but the book adds even more into the mix with its inclusion of nonfiction pieces. Paula Guran’s “A Short History of Halloween” teems with information, offering plenty of savory tidbits in its baker’s-dozen-worth of pages. In “First of All, It Was October,” Gary A. Braunbeck engages in a broad survey of Halloween -themed/-related movies. Towards the volume’s end, Stefan Dziemianowicz’s “Trick-or-Read: A Reader’s Guide to Halloween Fiction” assures that there are further narrative neighborhoods to venture through.

But without a doubt, the most unexpected treat in October Dreams is the “My Favorite Halloween Memory” feature. These slices of personal memoir prove just as engaging and atmospheric as the fictional tales bracketing them. They remind the reader why Halloween is so beloved, and provide insight on how the narrators developed into writers–whether out of nostalgic hope of recapturing the delightful frights of childhood, or in the determination to surpass them.

Somewhat surprisingly, Ray Bradbury–the “October Dreamer Extraordinaire” to whom the anthology is dedicated–shares a sad rather than favorite Halloween memory (recounting his loss of holiday spirit following the death of his friend Federico Fellini on October 31st). At the start of the piece, Bradbury writes, “I often wonder why people wander around shouting to one another, ‘Happy Halloween!’ It is not supposed to be happy. We celebrate it with a certain amount of fervor and excitement, but at its core it is about those who have gone on ahead of us.” Looking back through the anthology today, I am sadly reminded of just how many of the writers (Bradbury included) gathered within the book have passed away in the twenty years since its publication. From the vantage point of 2020, October Dreams constitutes not just a celebration of Halloween; it forms a memorial to genre giants laid low. It also reinforces the function and import of Halloween horror: as the season turns dark and cold, we briefly make friends with death, that relentless predator who otherwise stalks us every moment of our lives.

After a gap of too many years, Cemetery Dance finally released a wonderful follow-up volume, October Dreams II. Two decades later, though, the first anthology remains the benchmark of Halloween writing, a book that has aged with tremendous grace. October dreams might typically turn nightmarish, but this collection affirms that they can be happily revisited.



Happy Halloween, Simpsons whizzes! Here it is: The Treehouse of Trivia Quiz. Thirty-one questions, pertaining to the first thirty Treehouse of Horror episodes (alas, TofH XXXI doesn’t air until tomorrow night). Good luck as you test your expertise. I will post the answers to the questions tomorrow, November 1st.


1. Which one of the following characters has never delivered a p.s.a-style warning to viewers about the disturbing nature of the Treehouse content that follows?

A. Marge
B. Homer
C. Bart
D. Lisa
E. Professor Frink


2. Match the Treehouse segment with the Twilight Zone episode that it borrows from:

___ “Hungry Are the Damned”
___ “The Genesis Tub”
___ “Clown Without Pity”
___ “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face”
___ “Bart’s Nightmare”
___ “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet”

A. “It’s a Good Life”
B. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
C. “The Masks”
D. “The Little People”
E. “To Serve Man”
F. “Living Doll”


3.To date, there have been three black-and-white segments of Treehouse. Name one of them.


4. Fill in the blank:   “___________________ make Homer go crazy.”


5. True or False? I Know What You Did Last Summer has never been parodied by a Treehouse segment.


6. Which one of the follow Halloween costumes has Bart never worn during a Treehouse episode?

A. Hobo
B. Charlie Brown
C. Eddie Munster
D. Frankenstein’s Monster
E. Dragon
F. Headsman
G. The Fly


7. Which one of the following Halloween costumes has Homer never worn during a Treehouse episode?

A. Ghost
B. Julius Caesar
C. I Dream of Jeannie
D. Herman Munster
E. Dr. Manhattan
F. Headless Man
G. Zorro


8. Besides with “The Shinning” segment (TofH V), Stephen King has been invoked on numerous occasions during Treehouse episodes. Cite at least one example. [Earn a bonus point if you can give at least three.]


9. In the closing of the “Homer3” segment (TofH VI), Homer appears in a live-action world, but the humans he walks among remain mute. Who are the only two celebrities ever to deliver lines as their flesh-and-blood selves on a Treehouse episode?


10. The film The Thing with Two Heads has been referenced repeatedly during Treehouse episodes. But which one of the following character pairs has never appeared with their heads grafted together on a single body?

A. Homer and Mr. Burns
B. Dr. Nick and Dr. Hibbard
C. Bart and Lisa
D. Skinner and Chalmers
E. Lisa and Krusty


11.Complete the line. Devil Ned: “But let that ill-gotten donut be _____________.”


12. In the “Send in the Clones” segment (TofH XIII), which character from another animated series appears amidst the herd of Homers?


13. Which one of the following characters has never appeared in a Treehouse episode as a droog from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange?

A. Homer
B. Bart
C. Moe
D. Maggie
E. Snake
F. Lenny


14. True or False? Clips from the first 666 episodes of The Simpsons have been used during the Treehouse of Horror series.


15. Identify one reference to Tim Burton’s work in a Treehouse episode. [Earn a bonus point if you can cite more than one example.]


16. Which one of the following is not a candy that appears in “The Sweets Hereafter” opening of TofH XXVIII?

A. Barterfinger
B. Nelson’s Crunch
C. Marge Bar
D. Peppermint Selma
E. Oh Homer!
F. Kirkish Taffy
G. Lisa’s Pieces
H. Bazooka Moe
I. Senior Mints


17. In the segment “You Gotta Know When to Golem” (TofH XVII), who is the voice of the female golem?


18.The Lard Lad Donuts statue has been incorporated repeatedly into Treehouse episodes. Give one example.


19. Which one of the following songs has never played during a Treehouse episode?

A. Pat Benatar’s “Hell is for Children”
B. Elvis Costello’s “Accidents Will Happen”
C. Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”
D. Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”
E. Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”
F. The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”
G. The Eagles’ “New Kid in Town”


20. In the segment “Desperately Xeeking Xena” (TofH X), the Collector (i.e. Comic Book Guy in the role of an archvillain) falls into a vat of molten Lucite. What pose does he deliberately assume before hardening?


21. Which has appeared more times onscreen as the episode title, Treehouse of Horror or The Simpsons Halloween Special?


22. Which one of the following Guillermo del Toro films was not referenced during the (del Toro-directed) opening of TofH XXIV? 

A. The Shape of Water
B. Pacific Rim
C. Cronos
D. Hellboy
E. Pan’s Labyrinth
F. Mimic
G. The Devil’s Backbone


23. Cite one example of a Treehouse reference to the facehugger or chestbuster from Alien. [Earn a bonus point if you can give an example of each.]


24. True or False? In “Reaper Madness” (TofH XIV), Homer tries to trick God by killing Selma and attaching Marge’s hair to her head.


25. Which one of the following has never been a Treehouse segment title?

A. “Dial D for Diddily”
B. “Dial M for Murder, or Press ‘#’ to Return to Main Menu”
C. “Dial N for Nerder”
D. “Dial Z for Zombies”


26. Cite one couch gag featured at the start of a Treehouse episode.


27. Who does Homer defeat in the Fogburyport Oyster-Eating Contest (TofH XXIX)?


28. Which one of the following is not a Rigellian alien?

A. Kang
B. Slithers
C. Kamala
D. Serak the Preparer
E. Kodos


29. Complete the dialogue (from the inaugural Treehouse of Horror): “‘Tell me, tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutionian shore.’ Quoth the raven, ‘ _______.'”


30. In the segment “BFF RIP!” (ToH XXVII), Lisa has an imaginary friend named Rachel. Who does Homer reveal as his childhood imaginary friend?


31. True or False? The theme music from John Carpenter’s Halloween has never been used during a Treehouse episode.


October: A Thirtieth Anniversary Retrospective

Al Sarrantonio is a revered scribe of Halloween-themed fiction, the author of assorted classic stories such as “Pumpkin Head” and “The Corn Dolly” (both collected in Toybox), as well as the tales and novels comprising the Orangefield Cycle. His 1990 novel October doesn’t seem to be as widely known, but it is no less rewarding a read.

Tellingly, Sarrantonio dedicates October to Charles L. Grant, the leading writer of quiet–style horror in the late 20th Century. Sarrantonio knows his precursors, and to no surprise also ventures into Bradbury Country here: the novel features a sinister encounter at a seedy midwestern carnival. The influence of Stephen King’s It (which is itself indebted to Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes) can also be detected, not just in the figure of a deadly, dreadful clown, but also in the focus on the generational recurrence of evil in a small East Coast town.

October opens somewhat slowly; there’s not a lot of action in the early pages, outside of a flashback scene of a Halloween party that takes a tragic turn for a group of high schoolers. Such pacing is surely deliberate, designed to make the eruption of violence mid-book that much more shocking. The narrative defies expectations, offering surprise yet satisfying twists. As if the notion of Abe Lincoln’s likeness on a killing spree isn’t striking enough, the novel contains moments of Cronenberg-worthy body horror guaranteed to test the reader’s gag reflex: “The thing in his mouth scrambled held his tongue in its pincers, pulled itself back toward the back of his throat–”

Similar to his Orangefield Cycle, Sarrantonio’s novel engages in a personification of festival ritual. “Saman, the Celtic Lord of Death” is rooted in mythic misinterpretation (not to mention mispronunciation)–the Celts did not actually worship some dark deity when celebrating Samhain (sow-en, meaning “End of Summer”). At least in October, Sarrantonio provides an intriguing terrestrial explanation: the figure is an ancient, chthonian, body-snatching creature hellbent on spreading carnage and chaos (especially on October 31st, a day sacred to the monstrosity after the cringing Celts–in the author’s fictional reworking of history–elevated it to godhood). The so-called Lord of Death is given a fantastic yet plausible backstory in October, and the uncanny creature hailed as such makes for a harrowing adversary here. Scenes late in the novel presented in Saman’s own, puppet-mastering viewpoint are the stuff of pure horror.

This proves to be a finely-plotted novel, with the disparate characters introduced in the early chapters later crossing paths in frightful ways. Tension mounts as the chapters, and their datelining titles, move ominously toward month’s end (the book builds to a bloody and fiery climax on Halloween night). October is also noteworthy for its well-established setting–the Hudson Valley community of New Polk, “the province of apple orchards and roadside stands.” Sarrantonio creates an even stronger sense of time, of seasonal transition: “Autumn was the bittersweet season, the beautiful, tender passing of the year from life toward death, from knowability to unknowability.” The darkening events of the narrative reflect natural earthly cycle, where bounty yields to barrenness:

Here, in the nightshade of these bare branches, autumn had already passed to winter. Dead apples. The ground was carpeted in unharvested fruit, saturated with the sharp, sick smell of rot. Insects moved into fruit corpses,, drilled holes into paling red skins. Pulp turned from crisp white to soft mealiness. Brown, the color of decay.

Within the the world of the novel, a central character (Eileen Connel) is the author of a book, Season of Witches, that has yet to get the recognition it richly deserves. The same no doubt holds true for October itself, Sarrantonio’s neglected masterpiece of autumnal terror.


Joe Hill-oween

Joe Hill seems to be everywhere this Halloween season…and this is a very good thing.

He recently participated in the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series (which I posted about here).

The hardcover collection of his comic series, Basketful of Heads, is now in bookstores.

He can be found spouting wisdom about the horror genre on the new season of Eli Roth’s History of Horror.

He appears on the season premiere of the Post Mortem with Mick Garris podcast (the episode is a must-listen for Hill’s closing anecdote alone, about catching fire while on the set of The Stand miniseries).

He discusses his book Full Throttle in the latest episode of the Book Club Girl podcast (I realize I never posted a review of the book here at Dispatches from the Macabre Republic. I read Full Throttle cover to cover twice, but I think I was ultimately too in awe to react to the experience. So let me just say this here about the book: it is mind-blowingly imaginative. One of the best collections of genre fiction that I have ever read).

His story “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” (which is collected in Full Throttle) is one of the animated segments on the Creepshow Halloween Special (released today on the Shudder network, and featuring stunningly grisly visuals, as well as terrific voiceover work by Joey King and Keifer Sutherland [the latter for the adaptation of Stephen King’s story “Survivor Type”]).

If you are a Hill fan, be sure to check out these items. They will stock your late October with enjoyment.


The Banshee of Sleepy Hollow?

In a previous post this week, I covered various written works that were inspired by Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Such narratives are unabashed in admitting their primary literary influence, but there’s another story that can be added to the list, one whose connection to “The Legend” is less overt but still discernible. I am talking about Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s 1903 novella “The Banshee’s Comb” (one of her Darby O’Gill tales).

Anticipating the classic Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Darby in “The Banshee’s Comb” has an encounter with the Costa Bower, a great “black coach that comes in the night to carry down to Croagmah the dead people the banshee keened for.” Significantly, said coach features a driver whose “head is cut off.” To be fair, the figure of the decapitated dullahan is a staple of Celtic lore, and many scholars would argue that Irving himself had the coach driver in mind when creating the Headless Horseman. The truth of such claim is debatable, but my interest here lies with Kavanagh’s apparent drawing on Irving when presenting the frightful driver in her tale. Darby actually refers to the figure as “the headless coachman,” a clear echo of the Headless Horseman. In the climax of “The Banshee’s Comb,” Darby sees the Costa Bower and what he mistakes for a dead passenger in its carriage (but who turns out to be Darby’s friend, Brian Connors, the king of the fairies, come to assist him). Similar to Irving’s playful tone in “The Legend,” Kavanagh’s scene puts the premium on comedic effect. The severed head of the coachman, who is given the prosaic name Shaun, starts weeping because of Darby’s resemblance to an old flame, Margit Ellen O’Gill: “If it wasn’t for yer bunchy red hair,” Shaun tells him, “an’ for the big brown wen that was on her forehead, ye’d be as like as two [peas].”

Other textual details in “The Banshee’s Comb” furnish further testament to its indebtedness to Irving’s tale. Despite his intimacy with the Good People, Darby maintains a deep dread “of all other kinds of ghosts,” and his trepidation (stemming from an overactive imagination) when sent out on a lonely errand by his wife on Halloween night recalls Ichabod Crane and his fearful trek through Sleepy Hollow after leaving the Van Tassel’s party. Approaching “the bridge in the hollow just below the berryin’-ground,” Darby spots “a slow, grey, formless thing without a head” and believes it to be “a powerful, unhowly monsther tower[ing] over him,” but it turns out to be only a neighbor’s wayward donkey. Darby’s ensuing hijinks with the beast are reminiscent of Ichabod’s experiences with the devilishly difficult horse Gunpowder. “The Banshee’s Comb” even makes mention of a “wild chase” of a wandering beggar woman by the phantom coach, “an’ if she’d been a second later raichin’ the chapel steps an’ laying her hand on the church-door it would have had her sure.”

In my essay “Eerie Rider: The Headless Horseman’s Forays into Pop Culture” (in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ultimate Annotated Edition), I discuss how the alleged “spiriting away” of Ichabod Crane by the Galloping Hessian connects back to fairy lore (that Irving likely learned from his literary idol, Walter Scott). It seems somewhat apropos, then, that Kavanagh recurs to Irving’s story and characters when scripting her humorous supernatural tale filled with elements of Celtic mythology. The Headless Horseman–legendary for his nightly beelining back and forth between churchyard and battlefield– has now come full circle.


[Citations of “The Banshee’s Comb” taken from its publication in Marvin Kaye’s anthology, The Ultimate Halloween]


“Gunpowder Plots”

From my 2014 collection Autumn Lauds, here’s a poem that takes a different perspective onto “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”


Gunpowder Plots

By Joe Nazare


He’s shagged and gaunt, has one eye ghosted over,
Hasn’t pulled a plow or done more than plod in years.
Yet every lazy day his mind races back to that midnight dash,
To the horrid goblin that gave such determined pursuit.
His own panic at the time rendered his course erratic;
He’d defied direction from his whip-happy, rib-kicking rider.
Unsaddled, the lanky man had struggled to remain mounted
But was shortly knocked headlong by braining gourd.

That hapless horseman has been long lost,
But his equine hope for a second endeavor never so.
If somehow he could escape the confines of this farm,
He would search every last stretch of the Hollow for
The black steed and its head-lacking commander,
And draw them back into chase toward the church bridge.
This time he wouldn’t let up until the other beast was
Completely outdistanced, left choking the dust of utter defeat.

With memory and reverie blinkering his mind’s eye,
He fails to note the approach of his owner, Van Ripper,
Who has rue in his look, and a pistol in his fist.
Old Gunpowder is blindsided by the fired shot;
The eponymous explosive scorches his wounded hide.
Still, he is unwilling to abandon his equestrian quest.
Destroyed but not dispirited, he’s off and running
Even as his sorry carcass keels to the ground.


Lore Report: “Skin Deep” (Episode 155); “Bottled Up” (Episode 156)


“Skin Deep” (Episode 155)


There are stories and legends we’ve told ourselves for centuries, from tribal campfires to Hollywood blockbusters. But many of the details have been worn away or buried beneath the waves of time. They were once part of the larger picture, but now they are all but forgotten. So today I want to take you on a journey into the past, to explore one of our favorite corners of folklore, and see what the shadows might be hiding. But be warned, because while the core of this legend might be familiar to most of you, there’s a darkness just beneath the surface, waiting to break free. And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, there are few creatures of folklore more terrifying than the werewolf.

Aaoooooo! Episode 155 of the Lore podcast goes heavy on the lycanthropy. Host Aaron Mahnke delves well beneath the surface here, delivering all the information the listener likely never knew before about werewolves. Mahnke unpacks the various ancient beliefs as to what a werewolf actually was (which included a connection to witches). He also covers the alleged causes of the hirsute condition, the various triggers of transformation, the personal traits of a werewolf when in human form, and the proposed (and often savage) “cures” for the afflicted. If such things as wound legends, backriders, werewolf trials, and the “Hounds of God” (a pack of benevolent werewolves) are unfamiliar to you, you will have a howling good time listening to “Skin Deep.”


“Bottled Up” (Episode 156)

Sometimes our guesswork prevents us from seeing the truth. We think we know something, but if we are given the chance to explore the true details, we can find ourselves surprised by what we discover. The lens through which we view the world is far from clear, so let’s spend some time trying to clean it up a bit. But be warned, because sometimes what lies within is entirely unexpected.

Episode 156 of the Lore podcast presents another subject quite germane to the Halloween season: witchcraft. Host Aaron Mahnke has dealt with witches in several previous episodes, but here he aims to surprise anyone who believes that he or she has heard the whole story already. Transporting listeners to the Essex County village of Canewdon in England (whose church tower–pictured above–sports an intriguing witch legend), Mahnke focuses on the objects and measures of “countermagic.” Prime among these is the fascinating, if disgusting, concoction known as a witch bottle–containing a hardly-potable brew (e.g., pins, nails, alcohol, human hair, fingernail clippings, urine) used to lure, trap, and even destroy witches. Mahnke momentarily invokes the notorious figure of Matthew Hopkins (portrayed by Vincent Price in the folk horror classic, Witchfinder General), but devotes more attention to the white witchery of “cunning folk” such as James Murrell. For those willing to cast aside their assumptions about the subject of witchcraft, “Bottled Up” serves as a terrific listen.



The Literature of Sleepy Hollow

(painting by William Wilgus)


While doing the research for my essay “Eerie Rider: The Headless Horseman’s Forays into Pop Culture” (in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ultimate Annotated Edition), I encountered countless written works inspired by Washington Irving’s 1820 tale. Plenty of these qualified as glorified fan fiction and were downright painful to read, but thankfully there were also many entertaining texts. Here’s a list of eight great reads that hearken back to Sleepy Hollow:


1. “Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

Not many readers realize nowadays that “The Legend” doesn’t constitute the only time Irving wrote about Sleepy Hollow. In this 1839 work creative nonfiction (presented as an essay by Irving’s pseudonymous narrator, Geoffrey Crayon), Sleepy Hollow is revisited in resplendent fashion. Crayon relates his connection to Diedrich Knickerbocker, fills in the backstory of how the latter learned of “The Legend,” and details the modern innovations that have now intruded upon the quaint village–doing all in a comedic tone that makes the essay a fine companion piece to the original story.


2. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Tellingly, the first ghost story interpolated in Straub’s 1979 novel (which revolves around the frightful fireside tales passed among the haunted members of the Chowder Society) is a variation on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (ultimately mashed up with The Turn of the Screw). The narrator recounts his experience decades earlier as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural New York village, and his encounter with the malevolent revenant of a man that perished from a grievous head injury. How thematically appropriate that Straub’s complex narrative of spook tales come to terrifying life draws upon Irving’s tale of a schoolmaster harassed by a seemingly all-too-real local legend.


3. Sleepy Hollow by Peter Lerangis

This 1999 novelization is a must-have for fans who just can’t get enough of the Tim Burton film adaptation. Lerangis follows the cinematic narrative faithfully, capturing Burton’s Hammer-Horror-style revision of Irving in vivid prose. A special treat is the scene at novel’s end involving the retreat of the no-longer-Headless Horseman with Lady Van Tassel into the Tree of the Dead–a scene presented here from the Horseman’s very own point of view.


4. Sleepy Hollow High by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore

This quartet of linked novels (Horseman [2005], Drowned [2005], Mischief, [2006], Enemies [2006]) is marketed as young adult fiction, but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Sleepy Hollow is besieged by a series of terrifying monsters, all linked in some fashion to the legendary Headless Horseman. The Horseman himself proves plenty frightening, but his character arc over the course of the four novels allows him to range beyond mere decapitating menace.


5. Rise Headless and RideBridge of Bones, and General of the Dead by Richard Gleaves

The first three volumes (2013/2014/2015) of the Jason Crane series (which also includes 2018’s Salem: Blood to Drink) are set square in a modern-day Sleepy Hollow that is haunted by its early history. These novels draw lovingly on the original “Legend” and transform its materials into an epic narrative centered on the Headless Horseman (whose mythos is thoroughly developed, and whose imagining here is unrivaled for inventiveness). Featuring a diverse cast enmeshed in supernatural intrigue, Gleaves’s books read like True Blood by way of Washington Irving, and are positively begging to be developed into a Netflix series (shot on location in Sleepy Hollow!).


6. Grimm Fairy Tales Presents: Sleepy Hollow by Dan Wickline

This modern retelling actually reimagines the Headless Horseman as an avenging hero–which isn’t to say that the figure (who looks from the neck stump down like Gene Simmons on steroids) has been stripped of menacing aura. Grue is splashed across the page in this graphically violent graphic novel, in which the Horseman stalks his prey with all the relentlessness and killer creativity of a classic cinematic slasher.


7. The Devil’s Patch by Austin Dragon

Irving’s story is reworked as a weird western in this 2015 novel (a sequel to Hollow Blood), in which a gunslinging posse travels far north of Sleepy Hollow in an attempt to kill the infernal Horseman in his new lair. I include this one on the list for its thrilling climax, blood-soaked and action-packed, and featuring one incredibly surreal image of the Horseman that will not be soon forgotten by the reader.


8. The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

Ichabod in a bodice-ripper? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Palombo pulls it off in this atmospheric and historically-accurate gothic romance. The novel also works as a “feminist retelling” (as Palombo terms it in her author’s note) of Irving’s story, as Katrina is situated here as narrator, central character, and ultimate recorder of the Horseman’s legend. Various female writers have offered their take on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in recent years, but this spellbinding book is head and shoulders above the rest.