This is an essay written by William Bohnak, the 20-year-old Ohio native who is walking every state in the continental U.S. for Alzheimer's awareness and fundraising. He made a point to come to Sleepy Hollow on time on Halloween, but describes how the weather - and the village - let him down.
I arrived to the Sleepy Hollow area late Thursday night (October 27) after struggling with the rain, and wintry mix all trip long. At this point I was used to traveling in terrible conditions. I had dealt with Hurricane Irene, and some other nasty rain storms along the way, so for me the little rain shower that I went through that night, was nothing.
I was just looking forward to an amazing week, in what I thought would be the coolest place to spend my favorite holiday – Halloween. This wonderful couple named Fred and Linda Salek, were so kind to let me stay with them during the frightful weekend and the Halloween activities. They were used to bringing in strangers and treating them like family. To them it is some of the best times they have spent in the Tarrytown area. They had heard of my story from the and the reporter’s attempt to find me try to find a warm house to stay in.
By the time I arrived to the Salek house, I was more than dead tired. I ended up forcing myself to watch, what some may argue as the best baseball game ever, where the St. Louis Cardinals ended up coming back twice from a deficit to win an eye-opening game towards claiming another World Series Championship. After the game I had no trouble falling asleep.
I woke up Friday more excited than I had been in a while. The first thing I did was grab a bite to eat and then I ended up walking around the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow area enjoying the beautiful weather that we were having that day. Along my path I ended up walking down to the Sleepy Hollow bridge, and checked out the . From that point I didn't walk far before I was standing on the burying grounds, where I traveled inside the place for a good two-and-a-half hours, scouting for famous people, like Washington Irving himself. After looking at just about every area of the cemetery I decided to make my way down to Beekman St, where the village was throwing a festival for kids, followed by a block party for the rest of the residents.
Even though I was too old to really do the activities at the children’s festival, I rather did enjoy myself. It brought back memories of Halloweens back home when I was a young child. They had face painting, pumpkin decorating, a hay maze, free snacks (always a plus), and a group of "mad Scientists" even came and showed the children how to make slime. It was really neat.
The Patch had also reached out to local organizations, asking them to donate tickets for me to attend Halloween events while I was here, which at the same time was going to save me some funds. I had been donated by the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery a ticket to do a cemetery tour by lantern at 10 pm that night, and tickets from the Historic Hudson Valley to go to , which could be used all the way through Sunday.
At the street festival, the Patch reporter was nice enough to introduce me to Ken Wray, the mayor of Tarrytown. He was delighted to meet me, and thought what I was doing was a wonderful cause. He told me that he might be able to make a few phone calls, trying to get me set up in the local churches to give speeches and at the same time raise funds for my cause. However this never happened. That’s politics for you.
Although I was really excited about the events that I was set to go on, I was slightly disappointed that no one would had offered a ticket to the famous Haunted Hayride. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and my favorite supernatural character has always been the Headless Horseman. I loved him so much that in third grade I even dressed up as him for Halloween, complete with a wooden horse my uncle had practically built unto me. One of my dreams was always to go see the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. It would honestly make for the best Halloween ever. After doing some research on the computer, while I was planning my trip, I realized that I wanted to make a valiant effort in making sure I was in Sleepy Hollow for Halloween weekend. I had heard that the hayride was the scariest hayride in the Unites States, and that made the decision final that I would spend Halloween in this town.
Because of this I decided that night that I had to go on the Haunted Hayride. I had a few hours to kill before the Cemetery tour, so I decided to make my dream a reality. I went and bought a ticket for the Hayride with my own money, just so I could say that I went on it. When I bought the ticket, some lady next to me was arguing with one of the ticket ladies telling her that she ripped her off. I don't know what the full story was about but the lady was not happy at all. I ended up getting in line for the hayride, listening to the band nearby play some spooky music. The line was moving so slow.
I kept checking my phone to see what time it was. I had gotten in line just before 7:30 pm. Almost two hours later, I had barely made any progress in line. I wasn't even in the firehouse yet. I knew I had to leave at 9:30 to make sure I made it to the cemetery in time. I didn't want to blow off the tour, especially since the Cemetery was nice enough to give me the ticket. I left the line at 9:34, and went back to the ticket lady. I knew there weren't any refunds but I told her my situation, and I asked her if I made it back here BEFORE 11 pm, would the hayride still be running? She assured me that yes, even if I was still in line after 11, that they would not send me home, they would make sure that I went on the ride. I felt better about the whole situation now. (I knew I couldn't go on Saturday night, because I had already promised a pastor in Croton Heights that I would come to his Church and give a talk on my trip so far.) So I made the decision that I would go to the cemetery tour first, and even if the tour wasn't over, I would leave at 10:40 to make sure I made it in time to get on the hayride.
When I got to the cemetery, I told them my situation, and they had no issue with me leaving early, although they wished I could have stayed for the whole thing. The cemetery was cool. Although I had walked it during the day, it was a lot neater to see it during the dark. The tour was supposed to last for two hours, but I knew there was no way I could do the entire thing. On the tour they ended up checking out Rockefeller's mausoleum, and Andrew Carnegie's burial place as well, along with a few other people's grave. I was having an awesome time, and I almost thought about staying there and finishing the rest of the tour, but I reminded myself that I had to go to the Hayride, because A) I used my own money, and B) that's the main reason I came to this town. I told my tour guide that I was leaving, and once I dropped off my lantern, and made it to the main gate, I sprinted all the way back to Beekman St. to make sure I made it back in plenty of time.
I arrived back to the Hayride area at exactly 10:51, nine minutes before it was supposed to end, but when I got there, there was an unfamiliar look to it. They were taking down the hayride line! I quickly asked a person politely when the next hayride was coming through and he said that they were done for the day. I then showed him my phone, which had the time on it and told him that it wasn't 11 yet. He told me and I quote "Look, kid, you should have been here earlier, there's nothing I can do.” Another man came and saw that I was talking to him and when I argued my case to him he said "Well if the hayride was so important to you, you should have stayed in line, and stuck it out. I reminded both of them that it wasn't 11 yet, and that I had specifically asked someone who sold tickets if this thing would still be going at this time. Their answer: "Not my Problem.” I went to another person and really started to argue my case, and the answers started getting worse: "You know, all day I have to deal with tourists like you and to be perfectly frank with you I'm sick of dealing with you guys’ bullshit.” I was stunned.
I kept thinking to myself, for a town that depends on tourism, you guys don't really treat those people with respect. The worst part about it was that six other groups came up to these guys asking the same questions, when was the next hayride. I don't understand why they closed the ride early. With the people that came up and wanted to get on it, that was more than enough for another hayride.
My fun weekend in Sleepy Hollow had just changed 360 degrees. I almost didn't want to be there anymore, but then finally something good came along. A women, named Robin, who worked at the hayride came up to me, and took my side. She didn't understand why they couldn't wait an extra 10 minutes. She told me she would find someone to get me on a hayride if I really wanted to, but she was afraid that I wouldn't get the whole experience. She believed that most of the people have left their job duties in the forest by then. I told her that I couldn't do it the following day because I wasn't going to be in town, and she told me, with the weather the town was going to get, it was highly unlikely they were going to even have the Hayride tomorrow anyway, but instead that they were going to postpone it to Sunday. I told her that if she felt confident that they were going to do it Sunday, I would return and go on it then.
She told me if they did do it Sunday I should go find her, and she would make sure that I was the first one on it. I felt a little bit better after talking to Robin, but I still couldn't believe how rude the people running the hayride were acting. I guess the cold was too much for them to wait out just a little bit longer. I went back to Fred and Linda's house and ended up watching Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, at least there I saw the Headless Horseman.
I went to bed and woke up the next morning to a different environment outside. When I had gotten out of bed, and looked out my window there was snow on the ground. It wasn't a snow flurries either, it was a lot of snow. A few inches at least! I felt more like it was the Christmas season than Halloween. I didn't stay that long Saturday, since I was heading back up to Croton Falls for the night so that I could give a talk to the Croton Falls Community Church the following morning.
I must have just had gotten out of the village just in time, because not much later the power on Castle Heights Ave, where I had been staying, went out. That meant no lights, no heat, and no hot water. In Croton Falls the weather was the same. By the end of the night there was at least 8 inches of snow on the ground. Cars were getting stuck, and power was out everywhere. I never imagined seeing this much snow in October!
The following morning the snow was no longer falling, and most of the roads were plowed pretty decently. I gave my talk to the few church members who were fortunate enough to make it there after the nasty storm, and after that I headed back to Sleepy Hollow. When I arrived back to the village, it seemed like a ghost town (no pun intended). There was nobody outside, other than workers trying to get the village lively again. To my dismay everything in the village was canceled yet again. That meant there was no parade, no Horseman’s Hollow, and worst of all, no more Hayride. I was so upset.
To make matters worse the village was not giving refunds for the tickets, but instead letting you use the tickets for next year. I thought this was the dumbest thing, because the village has to know that a lot people, such as myself were not going to be able to come next year. They expected people to waste more gas, time, and money just to come back to their town. It seemed like a huge scam to me. The village just made a whole bunch of money towards their town, with the chance that people don't return back next year. They made a profit over people's misfortune.
I went back to the house I was staying at, which still didn't have power and heat (and wouldn’t for the next four days), and that night by candlelight attempted to carve a pumpkin just in time for Halloween. A little snow wasn't going to totally ruin my holiday. That night with barely any phone battery I went on Back Talk with Ed Kornel- WOR 710AM where he interviewed me on my charity organization. The whole time I was just praying that my battery would stay alive. Luckily it did, and the show went rather well.
Instead of staying in Sleepy Hollow for Halloween, with no power or any festivities going on, I ended up catching a train down Grand Central Station and spent the evening in NYC. People were dressed up in costumes everywhere. Little kids were going around business to business trick-or -treating getting all types of goodies in their bags. I ended up grabbing something to eat before I headed down to watch the famous Halloween parade. In the parade I ended up seeing every single costume imaginable. From famous celebrities, to superheroes, to the classic monsters, to even items around the house. The most creative costumes. It was an experience that I definitely will never forget. As it got late into the night I decided it was time to pack up shop and call it an evening. I caught a train back to Tarrytown, and went back to the house with no heat or power still. I thought about my trip to Sleepy Hollow as I slowly started drifting to sleep. It may have not been the most traditional Halloween, nor what I was expecting, but in some odd way it became one of the most memorable Halloweens of my life. I will truly never forget.
- William Bohnak, http://ajourneyforthememories.com/