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Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Is Tour Guide's Haunt

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. — Linda Ford asked the group of people whether they still wanted to take a tour, even though the drizzling rain promised to pick up steam. She didn’t mind giving the tour and had, in fact, given tours in worse weather in her career.

The group said they didn’t mind the rain, so once everyone had gotten ready, Ford picked up a kerosene lantern and began walking. Ford has been a tour guide at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for a little over a year.

“The first night tour I gave, I got lost,” she said. “I was like a ship run aground, and I ended up in a place that was a good distance from where I thought I was. It was shocking how far off course I had gotten. Fortunately, I recognized a couple of monuments and was able to talk about them.”

Since that “little bit of panic,” Ford has mastered the layout of the cemetery through somewhat of a baptism by fire, she said.

“You can blindfold me, bring me anywhere in the cemetery, take the blindfold off and I’ll know where I am and where I need to go to get where I need to be,” she said. “But, you know, that was earned.”

Ford lives in Connecticut now, but she grew up in Sleepy Hollow. She traces her love of local history back to the house where she grew up: it used to belong to Captain Jacob Ackerman, the first lighthouse keeper.

“My brother and I were sure his ghost was in the attic,” she said.

Ford became a tour guide after interest in the cemetery tours picked up. Revenue from the tours goes to the non-profit cemetery’s historic fund. Interest in the tours has not slowed down, and Ford says it’s a little bit of outside tourists and local residents.

“This season I’m also developing some new theme tours and we’re training additional guides because there’s wonderful, increased interest,” she said.

Ford says the cemetery often will get tourists from New Jersey, Long Island and Upstate New York. Every other year, a group from Australia takes a literary tour of the mid-Atlantic states and stops by the cemetery to visit Washington Irving’s grave.

“One of the biggest thrills of my professional life is standing on the steps of Washington Irving’s family plot and telling the legend of Sleepy Hollow,” she said. “Being able to gesture to the churchyard that Ichabod Crane was trying to reach… it’s awesome.”

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