Sleepy Hollow is a real village near Tarrytown, New York, and has long been known for a famous short story by Washington Irving called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” which tells the tale of a superstitious schoolmaster who is seemingly terrified (possibly to death) by the apparition of a local legend, a fearsome headless horseman who chases riders on midnight roads.
In the story, Sleepy Hollow as a community is very taken with folklore, legends, superstitions, and all things creepy, and in a grand example of life imitating art, the fame that this story conveyed on the hamlet means that tourists still flock to Sleepy Hollow to find out more about the Headless Horseman and his supernatural deeds.
But the horseman isn’t the only spooky thing in Sleep Hollow. There’s also Hulda the witch.
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Hulda was a healer, or “witch,” who lived in a cottage in the woods near Sleepy Hollow in the eighteenth century. A historian, Edgar Mayhew Bacon, who published a book of stories about Tarrytown and its environs, wrote that “he was a brave man who passed the cottage of the witch, even in the daytime.” Irving even borrowed her name for one of the characters in his spooky tale.
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Despite being shunned by the community, she would leave baskets of herbs at the doors of the sick, and even managed to kill several British soldiers herself before dying during the Revolutionary War.
Though buried in an unmarked grave for centuries, Hulda was finally given a tombstone of her own in the graveyard in 2019, when residents recognized at last that their prejudice was misplaced and Hulda had only ever tried to help them.