Gary Denis, Sleepy Hollow: Birth of a Legend

(2015-11-24 001)Title: Sleepy Hollow: Birth of a Legend

Author: Gary Denis

Publication Information: Patuxent River, MD: The Author, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-511-64546-1

Library of Congress Classification: PS2067 .A1

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Irving, Washington, 1783-1859. Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow (N.Y.)—History
Tarrytown (N.Y.)—History

Note: I was sent a copy of this book by the author for review. I had hoped to get this review out before Halloween, but I have been swamped with school work.

This book was researched at the Historical Society. I mentioned it to Sara and she told me that Denis had come in to do extensive research. It has historical photographs and drawings to illustrate the text. This is about the background of Irving’s story, the real locations mentioned as well as the real people whom Irving might have based his characters upon. This is a book for true fans, like me,  of Irving’s story.

I had written blog entries (here, here. and here) about my search for the possible locations where the original Headless Horseman Bridge had been located. This generated a bit of interest. Denis discusses the location as well as pointing out that there were bridges built before the current bridge, constructed in 1912 with funds from William Rockefeller. Denis uses a different map than I did, but the bend in the Pocantico River that curved up and around the Old Dutch Church, is also on it, indicating that the old bridge was further east. When Route 9 was straightened, the course of the Pocantico was also changed.

Denis discusses many local landmarks, including: Andre’s tree, Sunnyside (Irving’s home), the Headless Horseman’s grave (an aerial photo with an X marking the spot where he might be buried), the mill pond at Philipsburg Manor, and mills and mill stones along the Pocantico. There are other topics discussed, among them: the Van Tassels, Ichabod Crane (the colonel whose name Irving used for his schoolmaster), Ichabod’s flight on Gunpowder, Brom Bones and the person (or persons) he was based upon, and the local families whose surnames start with Van.

This is a fun book. I enjoyed reading it. It gets you thinking about what Irving used to craft his tale, and the changes he made–which today would be called “literary license.”


One response to “Gary Denis, Sleepy Hollow: Birth of a Legend

  1. Hello Michael,

    I don’t know how I missed it, but I only now came across your review of my book. Thank you so much! You hit it right on the head when you said it was a book for “true fans of Irving’s story” — that was my target audience, exactly. This book was a true “labor of love,” and I thoroughly enjoyed the research it involved. I loved that you called it “a fun book” — I certainly had FUN researching and writing it! Thanks again!

    Best Wishes,


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