The Ghosts of Raven Rock
“Nowhere in this part of the country are the ravens to be found, though it is thought that they may have been plentiful a century or more ago. The crows, who are known to be inveterate neighbors of their larger cousins, perhaps drove them out. Upon their exodus these birds of ill omen left their names in more than one lonely spot, to couple with dark associations.
Raven Rock is a detached portion of the steep, rocky, eastern side of Buttermilk Hill, which a deep fissure has long separated from the mass, and the fragment, becoming independent territory, set up a mythology of its own. Not content with one legend, it has two, at least, to boast.”–Chronicles of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, by Edgar Mayhew Bacon
These days, Raven Rock seems to be devoid of both Ravens and Crows. At the time of this writing and the author’s most recent visit only a solitary vulture circled overhead. The loud thrum of cars on the Sawmill River Parkway drowned out the cheery chirps of unseen songbirds and other forest sounds.
Raven Rock is located in the Rockefeller State Park Preserve on the eastern side of Buttermilk Hill, along the furthest trail you can take. The preserve is home to other semi-recognizable spots of local folklore and history including Carl’s Mill, Spook Rock, and the home of Hulda of Bohemia. In an area of nearly 1800 acres of land, with 1400 acres of forest; it’s only natural for there to be a haunting or two; maybe more.
It is still a lonely spot, as Bacon describes, despite the closeness of civilization seen through the trees. It’s another one of those places in Sleepy Hollow Country whose presence still seems to cling to its legend even when it appears that those stories have long vanished from the land. In Bacon’s text, he describes it as a rock, but in reality, it looms as a massive leaning cliff, jutting out of the craggy slope and reaching towards you.
The pervading story surrounding Raven Rock contains no Ravens but a familiarly tragic character of so many ghost stories:
“A woman, so we have read, wandered out of the path of a blinding snowstorm and sought shelter from the blast of the wind in the ravine behind Raven Rock. The snow drifted in upon her and she went to sleep never to waken again. Ever since, that cleft has been a melancholy place of refuge, for it is said that the spirit of the poor wayfarer meets the belated wanderer with cries that sound like the screaming of the wind, and gestures that remind one of the sweep of snowdrifts, warning others away from the spot that she found so fatal.”–Chronicles of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, by Edgar Mayhew Bacon
Poking around, visitors can easily find a craggy crevice worthy of the location where the poor woman met her fate. One can’t help but wonder what would have brought her to such a remote area of the world. Few likely find their way to this rock in good weather, so how many visit with the ground covered in snow? Perhaps this is why the unnamed wailing woman of Raven Rock is no longer a familiar entity; she haunts stories and memory only.
Two other ghosts reportedly haunt the rock, although details for those are exceedingly thin, if again, familiarly tragic:
“An Indian girl, who perished of a jealous lover, has an older claim; and the ravens used to tell of…a Colonial Dame, who fled from the dreadful attentions of a too amorous Tory raider in the dark days of “The Old War.””–Chronicles of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, by Edgar Mayhew Bacon
Raven Rock is not an easy place to get to and takes about an hour of solid walking from the Buttermilk Hill Trail, along the Old Orchard trail, south towards Ferguson Lake, connecting to the Goat trail where the turn for the rock begins. Still, it’s another half a mile down a steep slope to where the rock looms amongst the trees.
When you arrive, sit and take in the forest around you and do your best to ignore the sounds of the world. Imagine the escarpment, once the home of croaking Ravens, so many that those passing by took notice of the ‘unkindness’ of them about the place. Or maybe they only saw them as crows and the ‘murder’ their large number created. Perhaps that is how such a place as seemingly ‘unkind’ and ‘murderous’ as Raven Rock came to be and from that simple fact, ghosts became the only natural conclusion.