There once was a valley that was said to be the quietest place in the world. It was just off the eastern shore of the Hudson River. For as long as anyone could remember, it had been called Sleepy Hollow.
The folks who lived in Sleepy Hollow were a strange lot. They heard voices and saw strange things. It was known that Sleepy Hollow was haunted.
The spirit that most often haunted the enchanted valley was a man riding on his horse. But the man did not have a head. People loved to talk about the ghost.
"He was a soldier," someone would start.
"They buried him in the churchyard," someone else would quickly say.
The people of Sleepy Hollow called this spirit the Headless Horseman.
One of those people was Ichabod Crane, a tall, sweet-tempered teacher. He taught in a plain schoolhouse that stood in a lonely spot at the foot of a green hill. Ichabod's students could not help but think that their teacher's arms and legs were just a bit too long for his body.
"He looks like a scarecrow!" they would whisper as they watched Ichabod walk to school on windy days, his clothes fluttering around him.
Ichabod loved all scary things, so Sleepy Hollow was the perfect place for him. One of his favorite things to do was stretch out next to the river and read spooky stories.
The only thing that Ichabod loved more than a scary story was a young lady named Katrina Van Tassel. Katrina was one of Ichabod's music students. She was known throughout Sleepy Hollow for her beauty.
"I am only a schoolteacher," Ichabod would say, "but I know I could make her happy."
The only man who Ichabod worried might hurt his chances with Katrina was Brom Bones. With a burly frame and broad shoulders, Brom was a threat to the gangly Ichabod. He was known throughout Sleepy Hollow for his strength and his great skill in horsemanship.
"Oh, Brom Bones!" the women would say. "He is so strong and brave!"
"Wherever there is a fight or a party," the men would chuckle, "Brom isn't far behind!"
Although Katrina showed interest in Brom, Ichabod would not give up.
"I shall not lose!" Ichabod thought. He went about courting the lovely Katrina, visiting her home and taking her for long walks in the moonlight.
Brom became jealous when he found out that Ichabod was also seeing Katrina. Brom found ways to make things difficult for the young teacher. He began playing practical jokes. One night, he went into the old schoolhouse and turned everything topsy-turvy. Brom always tried to make Ichabod look silly in front of Katrina.
One autumn afternoon, a messenger arrived at Ichabod's schoolhouse to give him an invitation.
"What is the invitation for?" asked his students curiously.
"Why, it is for a party tonight at the Van Tassels'," replied Ichabod. He knew that this was his chance to sweep the fair Katrina off her feet. "She will forget she ever met Brom Bones!" he exclaimed.
The classroom was abuzz with excitement. Ichabod even agreed to dismiss his students a full hour early. He needed time to primp.
After the students burst out of the schoolhouse doors, Ichabod began to groom himself for the big event. He combed his hair, studying his reflection in
a mirror that hung in the schoolhouse. Finally, Ichabod stepped back and looked at himself.
"Perfect!" he declared.
Ichabod proudly mounted his horse like a knight in search of adventure. But he was far from being a brave knight. The horse he rode to the Van Tassels' was not even his own. It was an old plow horse with a tangled mane.
It was a strange sight to see Ichabod riding an old horse. His elbows stuck out like grasshoppers' legs. His arms flapped about like wings. As he rode, his black coat fluttered around him in the wind.
Ichabod was confident when he walked into the party. But his shoulders dropped a bit when he saw his rival, Brom Bones. He was in a corner with some people. Brom had arrived on his favorite horse, Daredevil. Daredevil was just as mischievous as his owner -- no one had ever been able to tame him. Ichabod could hear Brom's booming voice.
"And then I lifted all five men with one hand!" Brom bragged.
Ichabod sighed. Would Katrina really choose him over Brom?
Suddenly music floated throughout the manor house and the guests began to trickle into the ballroom.
"May I have the honor of this dance?" Ichabod asked Katrina quickly.
Soon they were whirling across the floor. Katrina smiled happily, but Brom was anything but happy. He stood in the corner, jealously watching Ichabod.
Before Ichabod left the party, he joined a few people who were telling tales of the haunted land. Soon they were talking about the Headless Horseman. It seemed that he had been spotted several times lately.
"He has been seen at one of his favorite places -- the bridge that leads to the church," someone said.
It was almost midnight when Ichabod left. There was hardly a sound except for the chirp of the crickets. Even though Ichabod loved all things spooky, he began to feel nervous. His heart was beating loudly. He remembered all of the ghost stories he had heard at the party.
"I must be brave!" said Ichabod, his voice trembling.
Ichabod had never felt so lonely. He began to whistle to keep his spirits up. He thought he heard someone else whistling, but it was just the wind sweeping through the dry autumn branches.
Suddenly, Ichabod jumped in his saddle. Straight up ahead was something white hanging in the middle of a tree.
"A ghost!" yelped Ichabod.
But the nervous schoolteacher saw that it was not a ghost. The tree was only white where it had been struck by lightning.
Ichabod was almost at the very spot where the Headless Horseman had been seen. Soon he began to hear a thumping noise. Ichabod turned his head towards the noise. He saw a huge figure standing in the shadows.
"Wh-who are you?" shouted Ichabod.
Ichabod turned his head to get a better look at his unwelcome guest. The
figure was a large man riding a great black horse. Ichabod's teeth began to chatter. Then he saw that the man was...headless!
"The Headless Horseman!" Ichabod gasped.
"Faster, faster!" Ichabod told his horse.
When Ichabod looked behind him, he screamed in horror. The Headless Horseman was about to throw his head! Ichabod dodged, but it was too late. He fell off his horse.
The Headless Horseman rode off into the night.
The next morning, a search party found Ichabod's horse. And a little ways from his horse, they found his hat and a shattered pumpkin.
Ichabod never came back to Sleepy Hollow. When the townspeople told the story, Brom Bones always had a smile on his face. Was it just Brom throwing a pumpkin or did Ichabod really see the Headless Horseman? No one knows for sure. It has become one of the many mysteries of Sleepy Hollow.
They say dogs are man's best friend. Sometimes those friendships extend beyond the grave. In the next section, read about the dog named Ghost in "White Dog."