MAYHEM IN THE MANOR, Philipse Manor residents hope for a safer Halloween

Philipse Manor was made for trick-or-treating. It’s laid out in a near-perfect flat grid, enjoys wide well-lit streets, is self-contained, and nearly every house is stocked with candy, happy to give to the multitudes who knock on their doors each Halloween night.

Throw in the fact that it sits across the street from Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and it becomes almost too perfect as a spooky destination. “It’s always been a wonderful neighborhood for trick-or-treating,” said resident Mary Ellen Joy, “and it’s always been where many children come from everywhere. And no one in the community has ever had a problem with other neighborhood children coming.”

However, some residents feel that last year the yearly celebration took a turn for the worse. Mobs of kids – including far more teenagers than usual – descended on the Manor, resulting in an excess of property damage and changing the tone of the holiday. “They started to scare the little trick-or-treaters,” said Village Trustee Karin Koplimae-Wompa.

Residents describe groups of up to 60 kids, aged 11-16, roaming the streets, dressed all in black, armed with cartons of eggs and canisters of shaving cream. They seemed to take over the Manor. The sheer numbers intimidated some residents, who stood by powerless and watched kids hurl eggs at houses, scream obscenities, and intimidate other children. “I called the police,” said resident Evelyn Stupel. “I called the police twice and said you really have to get over here. Now. This is totally and completely out of control.”

Koplimae-Wompa lived in the Manor for 12 years, and said she felt that last year’s holiday was worse than any other year she’s experienced. “I turned down Harwood and stopped at the corner of Harwood and Bellwood and there were mobs.” It became so intense her family decided to leave the Manor for the night, though they didn’t escape unscathed. “My husband’s car was hit with eggs as he was driving out,” she said.

It may seem silly to complain about eggs and shaving cream, but a few eggs can cause a lot of damage. A number of residents had to repaint their homes after last year’s barrage, at a cost of upwards of $5,000-$10,000. Many expressed fear that elderly residents could slip on the eggs and seriously hurt themselves. Others reported coming out in the morning to find obscenities scrawled in shaving cream all over the streets and sidewalks. “Some of my neighbors said they found liquor bottles under the bushes.” added Stupel.

Police patrolling the Manor confiscate any eggs they come across, and each year the Department ends up with dozens of eggs and more shaving cream than they could use in a year.

Yet still the neighborhood is mercilessly egged. It turns out that huge quantities of eggs are stashed in bushes all over the Manor days before Halloween, so that when the police take someone’s eggs away, they just go to their hidden stash and stock up.

Perhaps more troubling than the property damage, however, was the damage to the spirit of the evening. The energy given off by these large groups was menacing and confrontational, with reports of eggs thrown even at the police cars trying to maintain order. Stupel related a story from a neighbor up the street from her house. "Two young girls, maybe 12 or 13, banged on her door and they were crying and they said, ‘Could you please call our mother?’ They were being harassed and they were afraid."

Former resident Jane Moffitt concurred. “There was a little girl in a pink bunny suit, standing on the lawn next to a house, back up against the house with her Mom… the little girl was very frightened. That’s not Halloween.”

After the holiday, over 30 residents met at a Philipse Manor Improvement Association meeting to discuss the events of Halloween and talk about what could be done to avoid a repeat this year. One thing that became clear was that while they do not condone the eggs and other unruly behavior, it wasn’t what was foremost in their minds. “Vandalism is one thing,” said Koplimae-Wompa, “but the real fear is that someone is going to get hurt.”

So what can be done? One of the suggestions by the PMIA committee was to impose a curfew upon the Manor, and Koplimae-Wompa admits that Board of Trustees considered it but decided against it. For one thing, any curfew would, by law, have to extend to the entire village. But also, she said, “The focus is not to arrest the children and hold the parents responsible, the focus is to get this under control.”

To that end, the first thought is deterrence. Says Koplimae-Wompa, “We’re going to be putting the maximum number of police officers on overtime on Halloween, so we’re hoping to have 9 to 10 officers patrolling the Manor.” Also, police barricades will be set up, blocking entrance into the Manor except for the north and south end of Bellwood.

There may be some other plans formulated, but they had not been finalized as of press time. According to Sleepy Hollow Police Lieutenant Greg Camp, the department is quite familiar with the issue at hand, and will act if needed. “We’ll bring kids in for serious things.” he said. “If we catch them throwing eggs at houses, we’ll bring them in.”

Beyond that, the village is reaching out to the community for help. Mayors Zegarelli and Fixell met with School Superintendent Dr. Howard Smith and the principals of the High School, Middle School, and Washington Irving school to talk about how the villages and schools can cooperate on this and other matters. “We absolutely don’t want any students of this district running around creating mayhem,” says Dr. Smith. As a result of this meeting, they are planning a series of focused conversations between teachers and students during extended home room classes just before Halloween. Also, a letter will be sent home to the parents asking for their cooperation in setting appropriate ground rules and expectations for their children’s behavior. “Our message needs to be directed as much to parents as students,” explained Dr. Smith, “because without parental support, anything we might say is kind of hollow.”

The support of parents throughout the community is key to a safer, more enjoyable Halloween in the Manor for everyone. The Philipse Manor Improvement Association and the Sleepy Hollow Manor Association will be handing out fliers to parents, asking them not to buy eggs and shaving cream for their kids. Local merchants are also being asked to use common sense when kids show up looking to buy egregious amounts of their "weapons of choice."

In a perfect world, Halloween in the Manor is a lot of fun for people of all ages. Unfortunately, with this year’s holiday falling on a Friday, some residents are preparing for the worst. Stupel understands that Halloween in Sleepy Hollow will never be dull. But still, she says, “I shouldn’t have to stand in front of my house and guard my property.”

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About the Author: David Neilsen