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Esha Knows Stuff

just a  little bit of everything

The Dark And Strange Tales of Washington Irving

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Washington Irving is best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". These dark and strange tales have captivated readers for generations and cemented Irving's place as one of the most important early American writers. However, there is more to Irving than just these two famous stories. He wrote some dark and strange stories, which are just now being rediscovered. These tales are full of ghosts, witches, and other supernatural creatures, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into the macabre side of early American history. And did you know that he is also responsible for popularizing the term "Gotham"?

Here are some other interesting facts about this fascinating author.

1. Sleepy Hollow is a real place

That's right, Sleepy Hollow is indeed a real place in upstate New York. You can visit the sleepy little town by taking the Metro-North Railroad to Tarrytown, which is about 25 minutes from Grand Central Station. Once you arrive in Tarrytown, you can walk or take a taxi to Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving, the famous author who first wrote about them is buried there in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery — along with many other members of his family in 1859.

The village of Sleepy Hollow has a rich history of colonial and revolutionary era architecture preserved in the Historic District. The cemetery is located on the grounds of the Old Dutch Church, and I wouldn't be surprised if Irving haunts and taunts that area like a ghost. Visitors can see his gravesite near the back of the cemetery, and there is a small plaque that marks the spot. Besides Washington, notable figures are also buried there including Andrew Carnegie, Abner McWhorter, and the Gores, owners of the famous Sleepy Hollow Inn.

photo source | Chris Boese on Unsplash

2. Rip Van Winkle is a real person

Speaking of Tarrytown, Washington Irving was inspired to write "Rip Van Winkle" by a real person who lived in his hometown of Tarrytown, New York. The man's name was Rip Van Winkle, and he was a Dutch immigrant who lived in the area in the early 1800s. According to legend, Rip fell asleep in the Catskill Mountains and woke up 20 years later, only to find that his home and family had disappeared. Irving based the story on this legend, and it quickly became one of his most famous works.

photo source | Youtube

3. The Headless Horseman is based off of a Dutch folklore

The Headless Horseman, one of the most famous characters from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", is actually based on a Dutch folktale called "The Wild Hunt". This tale tells the story of a group of spectral riders who hunt down evil spirits. Irving first heard this story while he was living in Holland, and it later served as the inspiration for his famous short story. Although the Headless Horseman is now best known as a fictional character, he actually has his roots in folklore.

For centuries, people have been telling stories about this fearsome figure, and he continues to capture the public imagination even today. Thanks to Irving's tale, the Headless Horseman has become one of the most iconic figures in American folklore.

photo source | “Wodan’s Wild Hunt” (1882) by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, Public Domain

4. Thank Washington Irving for the term "Gotham"

Washington Irving is credited with popularizing the term "Gotham", which is now used to refer to New York City. He first used the term in his essay "A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty". In this essay, Irving described Gotham as a city that was so corrupt and foolish that it was laughable. The people of Gotham were always getting into silly predicaments, and Irving found it amusing.

Over time, the term "Gotham" began to be used to refer to New York City in general, and it has since become synonymous with the city. Batman uses "Gotham City" which historically comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "Got-Ham" meaning "Goat Village" given there is a lot of farming around the area. Might have been calling New Yorkers goats.

5. A man of many talents

Irving was not only a great writer and creator of the short story, but he was also an accomplished essayist. He wrote extensively about American history and culture, and he was one of the first American writers to achieve international acclaim. He was also a member of the Literary Society of America where his essays were praised for their wit and humor, and they remain some of his most popular works today. Call him a prolific biographer too. He wrote biographies of several important historical figures, including George Washington and Muhammad Ali Pasha. His biographies are noted for their entertaining style and for their accuracy.

Finally, Irving was also a noted historian. He wrote several histories of Early America, including "A History of New York" and "The Life of George Washington." His histories are noted for their accessibility and for their accuracy.

photo source |

The main take here is that overall, Sleepy Hollow is definitely worth a visit. And while you’re there, you can relive the legend of the Headless Horseman and visit the graves of the two most famous characters from Irving’s writings: Ichabod Crane, and the Headless Horseman himself.

And who knows? You might even catch a glimpse of the Headless Horseman galloping through the woods.

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1 Comment

Jun 07, 2023

didnt know that ,really liked it 😮

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