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Scary Stories for Halloween: Past and Present

Arthur Rackham’s illustrations arguably best interpret Irving’s work, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A copy of my treasured book sells on the artisan website, Etsy. Click on above Rackham tree, witch and black cat to purchase. It still looks like  Old Bedford Road!

 

Is it ever time to make your classic book change?

 

Do you have scary stories on the ready for your Halloween, past and present? On special days, those rich with cultural traditions, we often live the stories that we once read and remember. For All Hallow’s Eve, stuffed black birds with pointed beaks may conjure Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.   You may have been sleeping through Eighth Grade English if “Nevermore!” doesn’t strike you as vaguely familiar.

Do we ever outgrow Poe?

Coming of age on Sleepy Hollow Road, annual Halloween rituals were also like living inside a world famous story. We all knew about the Headless Horseman galloping through the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow’s cemetery. Brom Bones. Katrina. The “genius of famine,” creepy school teacher, Icabod Crane. I often wonder why some stories remain in one’s memory, when others can barely remember them.  Washington Irving was a master of his own voice – his unmistakable sentences and metaphors, tightly woven like exquisite tapestries that have endured centuries. I was always so proud to be from the place described by this great American writer, and Irving’s story for Halloween remains the exact time and place of my spectacularly scary young adulthood, running around with friends disguised with the purpose of terrifying and making mischief.

“If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.” – Washington Irving

I moved to Rhode Island from Connecticut in June. The media at that time was reporting fewer cases of Covid and I was able to cross borders without fear of state mandated quarantine in a 2004 Chevy S10 blue truck filled with belongings. Who says extreme measures don’t change you?

As we follow the “pandemic is getting worse” tide, and get ready for a Halloween without the prospect of giving chocolate to children dressed as ghosts or crocodiles, I reckoned that this year may be the right time to find a new author to identify 31 October with. Grey clouds edged away the full blue moon and our carved pumpkins, lit lanterns and torches blazed against the lonely, sad, dark skies.  I need something a little more high test to ignite my imagination, I thought – a story a little more bizarre than the year we have actually all been living!  It was easy to lament last year’s Halloween, when a young author named Kent Starrett read from his first book at Books on the Pond. What a time we had!

A (staged) grim reaper genuinely scared folks by walking past the window and we were frightened by Starrett’s bizarrely normal but terrifying story.

Kent also introduced me to the work of H.P. Lovecraft. I am intrigued by the author, who wrote his entire life and died in poverty and obscurity of cancer at age 46.

“I am Providence,” he wrote about the city he loved; and the one I am starting to know. 

 

Alexandra Lehmann

Disclaimer: These little stories may or may not have happened. They reflect the author’s present recollections of experiences over time; memory has its own version of events. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been recreated.

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