The very name “Hollow” takes me there. It’s a resonant geonym. Near Franklin, Pennsylvania, my early hometown, runs a route called Deep Hollow Road. For me, with its lush, thick trees and shadowed valley, it always exemplified what the term “Hollow” intended. And of course, there was Sleepy Hollow. Now that my article on various movies based on the Irving story has appeared in Horror Homeroom (it’s free), I’m again thinking about my dance with that particular story. In fact, after I submitted the article I watched yet another version of the tale, Pierre Gang’s 1999 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This film on Sci Fi (before it became SyFy) purports to follow the original closely. It nevertheless has to pad out the story and does so with religion.
Religion—specifically the Bible—and the tale as represented in Fox’s four-season series Sleepy Hollow is what started me on the current leg of my journey. I sent an article to the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture on the topic and when it was accepted I expanded the idea into the book Holy Horror. So it is that I’ve tried to watch as many versions of the story as I can. There have been many made-for-television renditions. Some are available for free on the various services that draw from my pocket monthly. Others cause me to debate whether I want to pay for seeing a sub-par effort for the sake of completeness. The scholar’s heart still beats within me, I guess. The Gang version expands the story with a church scene, not in the original tale. To inculcate the Bible, however, Tim Burton’s film of the same year was necessary.
For me no story better encapsulates October. Perhaps it’s the crucial role of the pumpkin. Perhaps it’s the ambiguity of the headless horseman himself—is he a hoax or something more? These kinds of questions are answered by various filmmakers but since the viewer ultimately decides the question is left up to us. If I were still an academic my next book project would be clear. Instead I’m trying to bask in the wonder that is October—the season of transition from bright blue skies and colorful leaves to long, chill nights and bare trees. Our time outdoors becomes more focused so that we might get back to the warmth inside. And if we’re looking for a tale to read that’s not really that scary, but which captures the ghosts of the American imagination, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” beckons.