Sleepy Hollow’s Haunted Hayride Rides Again, New Productions; Same Old Hay – (A Student’s Perspective)

Sleepy Hollow’s annual haunted hayride, which has practically been around for as long as the legend itself, put on a new twist this year. The event took place on October 16th, 17th, 23rd, and 30th (the 24th was cancelled due to heavy rain) beginning at Sleepy Hollow High School and continuing through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Even back to the many years before Sleepy Hollow’s brand new high school was up and running, the school’s gymnasium would be buzzing with people, ranging from the little boys and girls who begged their moms and dads to let them go, to the parents themselves, who looked on with glazed-over expressions, silently calculating the long line and wait that was left.

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Top: A grand Halloween finale on Beekman Avenue
Bottom: “Thriller” dancers

While there has always been a ready supply of Sleepy’s own locals available to take a few hours off from their weekend nights to be chased after by masked gremlins, there is also a surprisingly vast amount of people from different towns who come to join in the festivities. Even a year ago, hopping onto that hayride, one would expect to see a whole range of grotesque sights. The students always put on a great event. Wandering through the dark trails of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, regulars knew all too well what lay ahead. An ominous trail full of sights ranging from scenes from popular horror flicks, to the extremely popular skeleton with chainsaw, who would repeatedly bang on the back of the truck until someone screamed. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the whole ordeal, especially for the students, was the fact that one of those monstrous figures who was scaring the living daylights out of them, could be in fact, the very classmate they sit next to in homeroom.

Yet this year, the chainsaw-bearing creature took a leave of absence, as did the rest of the student body who would regularly participate in the “spooking.”

This year, the Hollow’s Haunted Hayride was taken over by a professional organization, which worked with the Village of Sleepy Hollow and other local groups to produce a new version of the traditional haunted hayride.

Upon walking into the high school’s gymnasium, one would think they had stumbled onto a horror movie set. Guests were greeted at the entrance by an incredibly social Ichabod Crane, who would strike up conversation, asking questions like, what origin one’s name was from.

Volunteers, dressed up in horridly realistic masks and makeup, barely broke character, and gave the line-waiting experience a bit of a kick. Not to mention, the bat-woman on stilts who strutted around the floor, flapping her huge wings, offering many a great “photo-op” with eager children. The line-waiting tradition was to always have ample entertainment to ensure that no one was bored. In the past, local dance groups would perform Halloween-inspired dance numbers and songs. This organization had a similar idea; roughly every 20 minutes, performers dressed as dead witches would take to the floor with unnatural movements and convulsive gestures. Their dancing ranged from this style, to amazing gymnastic balancing feats, to the forever popular and widely crowd-appreciated dance spin-off of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” All of this, including a DJ, helped to keep the mood energizing and festive.

Another aspect of the hayride experience was changed as well. Once making it through the giant human-bodied mass of a wait, a crowd would pile into their designated truck, and settle in the hay. As the ride got going, a designated “reader” would play a spooky soundtrack, and read a dark, adapted tale of the Legend, which definitely added to the spook factor as the truck slowly wound its way through the misty graveyard. This modified version of the tale included a much more sinister plot, full of bloodthirsty vampires and creatures from the underworld.

Instead of it being a random fright fest, the haunted path upon which the hayride traveled reflected added-on scenes from the actual legend. One could see a frightened Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel running from misshapen figures, a beheading, chilling witches, etc. The ride appropriately ended with the traditional headless horseman riding alongside the truck – one aspect that remained unchanged from years past.

This new take on the annual event aroused some mixed feelings from the student audience. While some thought the hayride was appropriate and found the new layout interesting, others expressed views of it not being satisfyingly scary enough, or found themselves missing their own classmates’ handiwork.

Regardless of differing opinions, this year’s “Haunting of Sleepy Hollow” Hayride was by far a great success, providing sheer entertainment for a variety of ages, and giving members of the community, as well as many of other visitors, plenty to scream about.

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About the Author: Amelia Rose