Ghosts & Spooks,  Local History & Interest

John André’s Ghost

“Down the post road, on still autumn nights, belated wayfarers sometimes heard the sound of hoofs. A madly galloping horse seemed to approach, but no horse or horseman was visible to the keenest eyes…All agreed that the hoofbeats stopped as though the rider had reined in suddenly, and that they were never heard further south than the immense old tulip tree, known as André’s tree, that spread it’s gaunt ghost-like arms in the moonlight.”

Chronicles of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, by Edgar Mayhew Bacon

Two ghostly horseman. One gallops headless out of the pages of Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the other rides alongside from the pages of history books. The Van Tassel’s at their harvest feast sit around the crackling fire to regale guests with ghost stories. They speak of the Spook Rock, Raven Rock, the Headless Horseman, and they speak of none other than the poor tragic ghost of the British Spy Major John André. Here is where lore and legend blend with history.

On October 2nd 1780, Major John André was hanged on the other side of the Hudson River at Tappan. He was 28 years old. Yet, he does not seem to haunt the site of his execution and on certain crisp evenings towards the end of September, the sound of his horse’s hoof falls echo down the road and come to an abrupt stop at the spot where the creek still runs and where the old tulip tree used to stand and was reportedly destroyed by lighting around the same time as the reporting of traitor Benedict Arnold’s death.

The creek where André’s ghost comes to a halt.

Eyewitnesses never report seeing anything, but this auditory haunting was reported year after year around the anniversary of the famous capture on September 23rd. Not content to wail and moan near the site of the gallows, it would seem that André’s ghost instead returns to Tarrytown again and again to try and succeed in his mission. Each time, he fails and is doomed to repeat it again.

As with many ghosts, as the years go by the recollections fade and the sightings dwindle to nothing. Perhaps it is the busy cars on what was the old road drowning out the sound of hoofbeats, or perhaps the more we forget, the more the spook begins to fade; as if the haunting is only as present as memory is. Or, because this is Sleepy Hollow, there is only room for one phantom horseman galloping the streets searching in vain for something that is lost.