One of my favorite ghost stories is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. So, when Mom was approached to do a ritual at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for a kid’s paranormal television show, I was thrilled to go along. When our car first pulled into the cemetery parking lot, I was astounded by the sheer size of the place. The endless rows of old graves amongst the fallen leaves and stark grey sky was an impressive sight. We were given a brief private tour of the cemetery before leaving to grab some dinner at a nearby diner. As the shadows lengthened, I asked when Mom and Sandy were going to start the circle.
“Oh, that will take place later tonight, once it gets dark,” said Mom.
“What? How long are we going to be there?” I asked.
“All night,” Sandy sighed, sipping her coffee.
“You mean to tell me that we’re going to spend Halloween night in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery?”
“Yes. I thought you knew that,” said Mom, as if walking around a haunted cemetery at night was the most normal thing in the world. “I’m going to do a ritual that climaxes at midnight. We should start wrapping up at about one o’clock in the morning, unless of course the film crew wants to do multiple takes.”
“Terrific…” I mumbled.
Of course, growing up Wiccan, Halloween (also known as Samhain) had always been a bit different in my family. While my mother encouraged me to participate in the secular activities of dressing in costume and going trick-or-treating, it was also a deeply spiritual event. One of my earliest Halloween memories involves sitting around a flickering jack-o’-lantern in our darkened living room listening to my mother tell me about the history of All Hallows Eve. She told me about how the veil between the Spirit World and the Living waxes and wanes throughout the year, becoming thinnest on Halloween Night. Mom raised me not to fear the dead, but to honor our ancestral spirits as they watch over and guide us on our life mission.
So, that’s how I found myself standing in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at midnight on Halloween Night. While Mom tried to make contact with a trapped spirit, I went wandering off into the cemetery with my friend and coven member, Carrie. I had been instructed to stay out of the way of the film crew. This was before the creation of Smart Phones or Kindles, so I didn’t have much to do to keep myself occupied. I wasn’t interested in the screeching teenagers and it was too dark to read. I wore one of my mother’s heavy, hooded cloaks and had bundled up in multiple layers, so at least I was warm. Carrie and I were standing near a section of graves that were in-between the parking lot and the filming area. I could just make out the cemetery gates and the outlines of a few tombstones.
We had been silent for a few minutes when out of the darkness, there came a low moaning. My spine tingled at the woeful sound. “Do you hear that?” I asked Carrie.
“What do you suppose that is?”
“I don’t know.”
The sound was coming from one of the nearby graves, but it was so dark that we couldn’t be sure which one it was.
“Maybe it’s a sick dog or some other animal,” I ventured.
“I don’t think so,” said Carrie.
My next thought was that it was a sound effect from the film crew. I looked over toward where one of them was standing in the parking lot. He seemed oblivious to the noise. Perhaps someone was playing a trick on us, but we were too far away from the staged area for that to make any sense. The unearthly wailing continued.
“Okay. Whatever it is, I’m leaving,” I said. I struck out into the darkness thinking that whatever lay in front of me was better than staying next to that moaning tombstone. I walked all the way back to where Mom was doing the ritual before I realized that Carrie wasn’t with me. To be fair, it was pitch black and I had sped away, so it was hard to tell.
I made my way back through the cemetery, trying not to trip over any gravestones as I went until I found Carrie again. The tombstone was still moaning.
“You left me with it!” Carrie hissed.
“I’m sorry. I thought that you were following me.”
“No…I’m too scared to move.”
“Well, come on. You can’t hear it once you step a few feet away. Let’s leave whatever it is alone.” I grabbed Carrie’s arm. “Sorry to have disturbed you,” I said to the invisible, but clearly audible spirit. “We’re leaving now. Have a Happy Halloween!” Then I dragged Carrie away as fast as we could go.
On the way home, Mom told us that she hadn’t been able to contact any spirits because of all the noise that the terrified teenagers kept making. The television crew had purposely spooked them to create an artificial atmosphere that wasn’t conducive to speaking with the spirits.
I nodded. “You can say that again. I think they annoyed any ones that were hanging out tonight. Carrie and I heard one ghost groaning. Perhaps, she or he did not like a bunch of noisy people tromping around the cemetery at night.”
“Yes. I wouldn’t have even done the show if I had known that they were going to make a spectacle of it.” Our eyes met in the car’s rearview mirror. “Remember, Tara. Always respect the dead for they are people too.”
Please Note: I have visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery many times since this story took place. Here are some pictures from a recent trip that I thought that you would enjoy.
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