Chilling American Authors and Their Spine-Tingling Stories of Yore – Part 4

Heartfelt History
Chilling American Authors and Their Spine-Tingling Stories of Yore
Part 4

Heartfelt History of The Week – 10/23/2016

We conclude our October series with a well-known American author who was born in 1783 and named after the first President of The United States. He like Poe, Lovecraft and Chambers lived in New York City for a time and he even coined the term “Gotham” for the metropolis.  


Photo: “The miscellaneous works of Oliver Goldsmith, with an account of his life and writings … A new edition … Edited by Washington Irving”, “Collections. I. General Collections”

Washington Irving

“Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains…”

      ― The beginning of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle


The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Distant view at Tarrytown” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. Public Domain

New York City was Irving’s home as a child but the Hudson River Valley just to the north was the place where he spent much of his life.  The “magical hues” along the Hudson that Irving mentioned in Rip Van Winkle were transformed into a shadowy and apparitional landscape in his popular tale that takes place in the nearby village of Tarrytown, NY and its surroundings:

“There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land...” 


“The Hudson River. By Pen and Pencil. For Tourists and others. Illustrated with … engravings from drawings by J. D. Woodward” – Public Domain

Irving builds upon the lore of Tarrytown by sharing local Revolutionary War history.  He does this by referencing the story of Major John André, a British intelligence officer who was captured by three members of the Continental Army near an old, gnarled tulip-tree…


Picture of John André in the London Tower: Public Domain

“All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André’s tree”


The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The capture of Major Andre” The New York Public Library Digital Collections

Irving reinforces the frightening ambiance with other ghost stories such as the woman in white:  “Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow…”


“The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.”

Heartfelt History’s spine-tingling story of the week:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ichabod pursued by the Headless Horseman: Public Domain


Click the play button below to listen to the spine-tingling conclusion of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. (3)


Image taken from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Originally published/produced in New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899. Held and digitized by the British Library, and uploaded to Flickr Commons.


 “It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance…”

Photo: Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow, NY scanned by Dave Parker, cropped by Before My Ken – postcard dated 1907


Portrait: The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor: Public Domain




1) Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

2) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

3) recording of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Portion of Part 2 – public domain

Other photos, text in the public domain