Category Archives: Jack O Lantern Blaze

Trip Report: Blaze, Legends, and Sleepy Hollow

We had a great weekend up in Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding area — and the snow that was in the forecast never materialized.  Instead, we had a bit of rain, a bit of chill, but an otherwise perfect weekend for enjoying all that the area has to offer.  As Sunnyside curator Dina Friedman put it, “We like to think that we own the Halloween season here in Sleepy Hollow.” And they do.

On Friday night, we attended the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, an old Dutch estate up at Croton-on-Hudson lit up by more than 5,000 carved pumpkins.  Pictures of the event really don’t do it justice, but here’s a few shots I took to try to give you a feel for just how creepily cool it is.

Everything you see at the Blaze is made of pumpkins, attached to each other with stakes or posts. For example, here’s a bat, swooping down over your head as you enter the property.  Each wing is carved into its own pumpkin, then attached to the central piece containing the body.

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Squeak!

Next, here’s the approach to Van Cortlandt Manor, lit by lots of yowling, shrieking cats and, if you look closely, even a few brave mice:

Approaching Van Cortlandt Manor.  Beware of cat!

Approaching Van Cortlandt Manor. Beware of cat!

And once you reach the house, Mynherr Van Cortlandt and his wife are waiting there at the top of the stairs to greet you:

The Van Cortlandts preside over the Blaze.

The Van Cortlandts preside over the Blaze.

Rounding the corner, you’ll see a few of the Blaze’s creepier effects.  First, a jungle full of ghostly dinosaurs rage and roar:

Where the wild things are.

Where the wild things are.

Next, it’s a nest of spiders and snakes — including an eerily glowing spiderweb, one of the Blaze’s How’d they do that? moments:

Yuck.

Yuck.

Snakes.  Why'd it hafta be SNAKES?

Snakes. Why'd it hafta be SNAKES?

Here’s a sea of grinning faces, peering out from the clearing:

"We seeeeee yooooou....."

"We seeeeee yooooou....."

Henry Hudson’s ship churns through a ghostly sea of skeleton fish:

"The seas boiled...."

"The seas boiled...."

Meanwhile, skeletons danced:

Grim grinning ghosts.

Grim grinning ghosts.

…and ghostly bees buzzed around a hive — another one of the Blaze’s surprising effects:

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Finally, to give you an idea of the kind of artistry on display, here’s a close up of a pumpkin carved to look like a shell.  Incredible, isn’t it?

Amazing.

Amazing.

The next day, I spoke twice at Sunnyside, as part of their daytime Legends events.  Curator Dina Friedman and her staff were incredibly kind and helpful, and I had a good crowd, with lots of good questions.  Dina even recorded the talks for a series of podcasts Historic Hudson Valley is hoping to launch.  That took a bit of experimenting with the Zoom technology — hence, the first talk went unrecorded, but we managed to catch the second one.  I’ll let you know if and when the podcast will be up over at HHV.

Anyway, here’s just a few quick shots at Sunnyside.  Strangely enough, while I’ve been to Irving’s home many times and have tons of pictures of the place, I had never actually taken a picture of the place with my own camera. Here’s a shot of the path to Irving’s home.  You can see the kind of beautiful fall day we were having:

The road from Tarrytown to Sunnyside.  While today's visitors don't use this path, it's the road your carriage would have used to pull up to Irving's front door.

The road from Tarrytown to Sunnyside. While today's visitors don't use this path, it's the road your carriage would have used to pull up to Irving's front door.

Next, it’s the approach down the hill to Sunnyside, where guests were beginning to queue up to tour the home.  The Hudson River is visible just to the left:

A gorgeous fall day at Sunnyside.

A gorgeous fall day at Sunnyside.

Finally, here’s a shot of the front door — obscured by wisteria, but still giving an idea of its charm.  Both floors of the house were open for touring that day — a real bonus:

Sunnyside.

Sunnyside.

That evening, we went into Sleepy Hollow for the Evening Legends events at Phillipsburg Manor.  Here’s the approach to the property, spookily lit by colored lights, and reflected in ghostly image in the pond:

Phillipsburg Manor by night.

Phillipsburg Manor by night.

Legends evening is an opportunity to walk around the site of an old farm and mill and just watch spooky things happen.  We saw a great magician (who we jokingly called Ryan the Temp, due to his resemblance to a character on The Office), sang along with pirates, stood at the fence as the Headless Horseman galloped past, glowing pumpkin in hand (I tried to catch him with my camera, but missed) and shrieked only twice when we found we were being closely followed by a lumbering catlike creature.

As we passed the graveyard, we peeked over the fence and caught  a glimpse of a ghostly woman, wailing over the loss of her beloved:

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Every once in a while, we would spot her strolling slowly through the crowd, staring blankly ahead.  Other times, a ghostly violinist would wander the property, playing creaky off-key music.  To keep the spooks away, we huddled near one of several Sleepy Hollow scarecrows:

"What party be ye with??"

"What party be ye with??"

And finally, as we strolled past the barn, we caught a glimpse of ghosts wandering aimlessly about just inside:

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All in all, a memorable weekend.  Wanna go?  Check out Historic Hudson Valley for more details.

Legends of the Fall

Fall seems to be officially here. Temperatures have settled squarely into the low- to mid-70s, and the air is starting to get that delicious crisp edge.  Some evenings you can smell fireplace smoke, cutting its way through the chill to find your nose.  The weather is that odd combination of brisk and balmy, so you can wear shorts as you work in the yard, but still need a sweatshirt, preferably with the sleeves pushed up to your elbows. It’s my favorite time of year.

Fall also means Halloween is just around the corner, as hard as that is to believe.  My wife is an absolute Halloween Junkie.  While she’s not a fan of the horrifying, she does delight in the goofy fake-scary decorations, from signs that say “EEK!” to life-size plastic skeletons we do all sorts of terrible things to.  And at the end of the season, we’re always very careful to pack the skeletons up again with their upper bodies in one box and their legs in another.  That way, if they come to life and want to go on a killing spree, we’ve at least made them easier to outrun.  Because you can never be too sure.

We’ll also be heading up to Sleepy Hollow in mid-October, which is getting to be a habit with us. We’ll be taking part in the nighttime Legend Celebration  over at Philipsburg Manor (for the fainter of heart, there’s also a daylight version of events over at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside) and the spectacular Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor

If you’ve never been to either event, try like heck to make it.  I’ll try to do a better job taking pictures this year so I can put up a few to give you an idea of just how neat these events can be. Plus, I’m working with Historic Hudson Valley to see if we can come up with something fun and Washington Irvingish to do when I’m there.  I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I’m working hard on some sample chapters for my latest project, to see if I can make anything come of it.  I’m pleased with what I have so far — and Barb gave me some spectacularly good edits on the first chapter — but we’ll see what happens.  If this comes together, I really will explain everything that’s been going on for the last 18 months.  Hopefully, all will become clear at that time.