Each season seems to bring with it certain classic tales. Christmas brings us “A Christmas Carole,” by Charles Dickens, and when I think about Halloween and of some of the favorite stories I enjoyed at that particular time of year, I can’t help but recall “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow,” written by Washington Irving.
According to Wikipedia, the story is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (based on Tarrytown, New York) a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. It tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle” of the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”. Ichabod mysteriously disappears from town, leaving Katrina to marry Brom Bones, who was “to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related”. Although the nature of the Headless Horseman is left open to interpretation, the story implies that the Horseman was really Brom Bones in disguise. Alas, poor Ichabod, meeting his fate over the love of a woman.
Wikipedia tells us Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe, January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
When I was in college, fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your mindset, I had to take one semester of Poe. One of my favorite stories of his is “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Poe first published in 1843. It follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a “vulture eye”. The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in the hallucination that the man’s heart is still beating under the floorboards.
This brings me to the master of suspense and the psychological thriller, Sir Alfred
Hitchcock. Who would ever forget that shower scene in “Psycho”? I understand Janet Leigh was never able to take a shower again after that, but only bathed. I read “Psycho“ initially received mixed reviews, but outstanding box office returns prompted a re-review which was overwhelmingly positive and led to four Academy Award nominations. “Psycho” is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films and is highly praised as a work of cinematic art by international critics.
In this season of ghosts and witches, what is your favorite tale of the macabre? Dare to speak the name …. Dare to share …. but beware of things that go bump in the night.