Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane Return to Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane have returned to Sleepy Hollow for Halloween, and this time they won't be disappearing afterward into the mists of legend.

Just in time to frighten young trick-or-treaters, an 18-foot-high steel sculpture of the Horseman and his gangly patsy was erected Tuesday morning alongside Route 9, not far from the grave of Washington Irving, author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

A cheer rose from a crowd of about 50 as the rust-colored structure was lowered into place. Two small dogs in pumpkin costumes looked on.

"This is so exciting," said Elena Malunis, chairwoman of the committee that brought the monument to Sleepy Hollow. "I drive down Route 9 every day, and I've been imagining what it would look like."

The sculpture, like the 1819 short story, depicts the mild-mannered Crane riding for his life on old Gunpowder, closely followed by the decapitated Horseman, who is about to throw his head -- or is it just a leering jack-o'-lantern? -- at the terrorized schoolteacher.

Weighing 11 tons and embedded in concrete, the sculpture is likely to become an instant symbol of the village and a magnet for history and literature buffs visiting Sleepy Hollow country. Ten years ago, after a General Motors plant closed, the same motive led residents to change the name of the village from the pedestrian North Tarrytown to the more tourist-friendly Sleepy Hollow.

"It's really redeeming our past," said Mayor Philip Zegarelli, who first proposed the sculpture. "Here is this marvelous adventure, rooted in our history, that has been here all this time and has been written about and known worldwide. Now we are essentially recapturing our heritage."

The location of the monument in Sleepy Hollow, on the Hudson River about 10 miles north of New York City, corresponds to the setting of the climax of Irving's tale. The Old Dutch Church and the Pocantico River, named in the story, are nearby. Irving, who died in 1859, is buried up the road at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

The sculpture was designed and built by the Milgo-Bufkin firm in Brooklyn. It used computer-guided lasers to cut through 20 plates of three-eighths-inch-thick steel, which were then bolted together with spacers between the plates. The spacers and cutouts in the plates produced an unusually airy, kinetic sculpture.

"It has depth and light," the mayor said. "It's packed with action." Subdued nighttime lighting will be installed next year, along with some landscaping, he said.

The sculpture was trucked in overnight to avoid traffic, arriving on site at 6:30 a.m. Zegarelli said getting it into place for Halloween is "delightful and lucky."

"We were hoping this would be the day, but we weren't sure," he said.

To meet highway restrictions, two feet of Gunpowder's extended front right leg had to be sawed off. Despite careful measurements, however, it stuck out a quarter-inch too much and en route the sculpture scraped a tollbooth on Interstate 87 in Yonkers, leaving a tiny scratch on the rear horse's back foot. The leg was bolted back in place on site and the sculpture was raised at 7:48 a.m.

The $175,000 cost was covered mostly with private funds and a state grant, the mayor said, and further contributions are expected to cut the village's expense to zero.

The mayor said the village has rallied from the loss of the GM plant, and a residential-commercial-office development is planned for the vacant site.

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The Associated Press

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