When 25-year-old Barbara Keating moved to the United States from Chile, she didn’t envision she’d be spending a Friday night gingerly walking through a haunted Revolutionary War camp, hoping not to be too scared by human-sized killer spiders and goblins.
Barbara Keating and her husband, Michael, headed to “Horseman’s Hollow,” a haunted barnyard tour based on Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at Philipsburg Manor in Tarrytown earlier this month. Visitors made their way along a candlelit path and through a five-foot tall corn maze while zombies dressed up in colonial clothing lurked about.
Michael Keating wasn’t exactly of great help in quelling his wife’s fears. “For me, it will be fun watching my wife scream.”
The couple met when Michael Keating was traveling around Chile. Barbara Keating moved to the U.S. three years ago, and the two married. The Wayne, N.J., couple had spent Halloween with their two-year-old son the day before but decided it was their turn for an adult version of trick-or-treating.
More than 1,800 visitors attended “Horseman’s Hollow” on the night the Keatings went. All six entry times were sold out for Saturday night, the final night of the tours, according to Robin Bolson, Digital Media Associate for Historic Hudson Valley which organized the event.
For Barbara Keating, Halloween has taken on cultural significance. “I love the story. It’s an American symbol. Like Christmas and Santa Claus,” she said. Keating explained that it’s the day after Halloween, November 1st, or All Saints’ Day, that is celebrated as a national holiday in Chile when families throughout Latin America visit cemeteries in memory of their loved ones.
For Michael Keating, Halloween is about “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” “It scared the heck out of me when I was a kid,” Keating said, adding, “I still think it’s a great story, because it has historical truth to it.”
Ryan Pearlman and Maria Kassab of White Plains also remembered the story of the headless horsemen from when they were children. The 38-year-old Pearlman said, “The history was one of the reasons we wanted to check it out.” The couple said they read up on Philipsburg Manor before their visit.
According to Historic Hudson Valley’s website, the 300-year-old Philipsburg Manor was a “thriving farming, milling, and trading center” run by the Philips’ family and made up of a diverse group of European tenant farmers. The manor also depended on “a community of 23 enslaved Africans to operate the complex.”
Irving set “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” around Philipsburg Manor in 1790.
In the short story, after schoolmaster Ichabod Crane failed to secure an engagement to the daughter of a wealthy farmer, he was chased by a headless horseman (the ghost of a Hessian soldier or more likely another of the young lady’s male suitors) and was never heard from again.
The Fernandez brothers said they talked about the tale with their wife and girlfriend on the drive in to Tarrytown from Queens. “Washington Irving was one of my favorite authors growing up,” Miguel Fernandez said.
Historic Hudson Valley’s Bolson said, “There’s so much history here,” and that it’s important for people of all ages to learn about it. She said the 13-night event in which tickets went for 20 dollars is “essential” for helping to raise money for educational programs about the area’s colonial past.
It’s a history that Michael Keating said he was glad to introduce to his wife. The couple said they look forward to bringing their two-year-old son but that would need to wait until he’s a little older.
Victoria Pasquantonio is a graduate of Pelham High School and a student at the Columbia University School of Journalism.
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