Sleepy Hollow Threesome

What better way to celebrate the Halloween season than with a trip to Sleepy Hollow, New York? Last weekend I did just that, seeing a trio of terrific attractions.

First up: an afternoon tour of the Lyndhurst Mansion, the Gothic Revival marvel that provided the exterior shots of Collinwood in the originalĀ Dark Shadows TV series. The mansion was dressed up for the season inside and out, creating a wonderful atmosphere even in daytime (at night, Lyndhurst stages “Jay Ghoul’s House of Curiosities”; this year’s event brings the murder-mystery game Clue to life). One of the surprising things I learned on the tour is just how faux the mansion is in its design (e.g. the dining room walls are painted to have the appearance of wallpaper), such fakery being en vogue at the time of its construction.

Nightfall brought a second excursion: the chiaroscuro splendor of a lantern-lit tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. This two-hour walk-through offered ultimate ambiance as well as vigorous exercise (along the cemetery’s sloping and mostly-unpaved pathways). Stops along the way included Washington Irving’s gravesite and the actual mausoleum used for Carolyn’s funeral scene inĀ House of Dark Shadows (we found a special surprise waiting for us when we were allowed to venture inside). For me, one of the highlights of the night was visiting the burial place of lesser-known poet Francis Saltus Saltus and learning of his macabre poem “The Delights of Doom.” Our tour guide, Sandy, was simply amazing; she brimmed with enthusiasm and personality as she showed us the sights and regaled us with tales. I wholeheartedly recommend requesting her if you ever decide to take one of the cemetery’s tours.

The evening concluded with a crossing over to the Horseman’s Hollow haunted attraction on the grounds of Philipsburg Manor. The actors sported splendid make-up and were positively fiendish in their performances. Although lacking the grand scale of the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, New York (reviewed here), Horseman’s Hollow is an enjoyable haunt, presenting good sets (I particularly liked the ghoulish schoolhouse) and genuine scares. The attraction was a bit difficult to access, in terms of parking and finding the entrance, but the long walk to it down a barely-lit beaten path proved just as eerie as anything encountered inside.

These three attractions formed a perfect trifecta of fall entertainment, and don’t even cover everything there is to experience in Sleepy Hollow. If the opportunity to make a trip there ever presents itself, I encourage you to race over there quicker than Ichabod on a midnight dash.

Scareful Measures

This past week, I was able to cross off an item that has long been listed on my Halloween Season bucket list: a trip to the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, New York. After finally experiencing the vaunted attraction firsthand, I can happily report that its renown is well deserved.

The night journey began with the hayride, which delivered plenty of thrills. As the riders sat with legs dangling off the sides of the wagon bed, we were brought frightfully close to the woodsy scene and the various sets adorning the trail. Spooks cropped up from every angle, but what completed the immersive experience was the ongoing narration about the Headless Horseman (who shows up both in saddle and on foot). My only complaint was that the hayride guide on our particular wagon droned her lines in such monotone voice, she made Ferris Bueller’s teacher sound like a revivalist preacher.

Next patrons had to navigate a series of themed haunts, including the Lunar Motel, the Horseman’s Tomb, and Two Raven’s Manor. I was dazzled by the darkly gorgeous arrangements, the grandness of their scale and their attention to fine detail. The scenes are nirvana for avid home-haunters, and if not for the slew of harrying actors hurrying visitors along, I would have been content to just stop and admire the incredible decorating.

Probably my favorite portion of the whole attraction was the corn maze; this agricultural labyrinth proved ripe with creepy ambiance. Uncanniness abounded, as the travelers could never quite be sure if the figures lurking in the stalks were mere props or momentary mimes waiting to spring into startling action. Timely as it was terrifying, the maze also managed to scare the It into people via the simple placement of a singular red balloon.

When respite from the terrors became necessary, there was an entertaining outdoor stage show conducted by illusionist Ryan Dutcher. The gift shops teemed with stunning (if steeply priced) decorations. And the titular treats of the Deadly Donuts cafe were truly to die for.

All in all, the event made for a memorable autumn evening. For anyone residing within a few hours’ drive of the Historic Hudson Valley, I highly recommended heading out to the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses.