The Sleepy Hollow Carriage Ride is an adventure in spooktacular history…
Is that the headless horseman’s horse being prepared for a night’s riding?
After you’ve loaded up and your driver has given out the command “Walk on,” she’ll invite you to listen to the telling of a story that that took place long ago.
Just like Sleepy Hollow New York, a real little town on the shore of the Hudson River, your carriage driver tells you that the land you’re taking your carriage ride through was once owned by early Dutch Settlers.
Our carriage horse was appropriately named Dutch; his huge Percheron hooves make deep clip clop sounds as he leisurely walked down the narrow “streets” behind the settlement buildings. The lamp post light and the settlement’s rustic buildings made it easy to envision what it was like in the early times of our country when the Washington Irving first told the story of Ichabod Crane,
Passing by the glowing interior of the settlement’s eating establishments we found it not hard to imagine looking into similar building, from an earlier period, filled not with laughing Disney guests, but with Dutch settlers celebrating fall festivities.
With Dutch you travel under the twisted branches of live oak draped dramatically in Spanish moss as you do the unusual in Disney – you get off the path most traveled and take a turn away from the abundant Halloween Lights of the campground. You are heading instead towards a dark opening in the trees. You are leaving the village limits.
The moonlight was silvery as we passed along the shore of the lake – which does a wonderful job of making you see in your minds eye the Hudson River being described by your story teller. The stalks of corn and pumpkins placed along the way planting a Jack O’ Lantern headed horseman firmly in your mind.
Like many “dirt” roads in Florida this one was actually a sand road. Unlike any other horse drawn vehicle you may have enjoyed on a Florida city street, here you actually feel the carriage turning through the sand and the very specific sensation of it shifting across the loose and boggy ruts. The path you are taking by buggy could be a long ride home some night a hundred years ago in Florida. The spontaneous hooting of a truly wild owl, and the whine of cicadas creating more mood then anything planned and taped ever could.
It was two adults who took a ride this particular autumnal night and, maybe, that’s what made it “worse” for us. We fully expected to see the “Headless Horseman” – at every turn in fact. Let’s just say it was more than the slight lurch of the carriage as Dutch hesitated to listen to something odd on the road before him that caused my iron grip.
As our carriage driver coaxed Dutch forward, every nerve was listening for a rustle in the trees. A rustle that might be provided for you by one of the many deer we saw at Fort Wilderness, only minimally shy of people, or perhaps that sudden shaking of a bush might come from an armadillo as it darts across an opening in a glade. Like something out of the far distance past armadillos, like the deer, are also possibly seen any modern day evening around the settlement and neither are as elusive – or assertive – as The Headless Horseman that the ride – I pause here to wonder, “Is it tries to find or tries to avoid?” – most October nights.
Dutch’s dapple grey coat seemed eerily luminous as night shadows slid across him. We found we where straining our eyes looking to each side of the carriage, wanting to “see” the spooks before they could frighten us. Sure we were grown ups and “expected them,” as part of the ride. Well, never fear – we still shrieked like little girls when a specter from the past loomed alongside us.
Enjoy the lovely carriage ride. Enjoy the moonlight. Take a moment to get in touch with the real Florida even as you are woven into a story of the Halloween “un-real.”
Remember how easy it must have been in earlier times to be frightened by a shadow in the dark or the odd sound of a bird.
We really don’t need elaborate costumes or vampire stories, to start seeing spirits all around us. The well placed pumpkin patch, lights reflecting eerily across a lake from an old building, a good story, and a real live horse clopping along does more then you can imagine until your there.
We hung out a bit by the Black Smith’s shop the evening we took the ride. We watched families of different sizes and ages clamber up and drive off. We watched the same families return later laughing at their after dark thrill.
Children and adults, horse people and the “not so horsy” all suggested “You should take the ride!”
– And so do we.
No gore, no grossness and nothing that will haunt you dreams longer then the Headless Horseman has haunted American Halloween traditions – a plus plus Halloween treat.