Just when you thought Sleepy Hollow was all about Halloween, we have a new attraction: Virgin Mary in a tree.
"We're trying for tourism, but we had no idea," said Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio of the steady stream of people from here and elsewhere that seems to continually come to the tree at Cortlandt and Chestnut since Sunday.
I walk by several times a day myself and there's always at least a small group there, taking pictures, adding candles, getting in real close to see the shape of the Virgin. Even nonbelievers might agree the image is pretty good when you compare it to the Virgin on a candle or the drawing taped just above it.
Giaccio said he's been making a point of driving by daily to monitor the scene himself. There appeared to be out-of-towners, he said, making their way up on foot from the train station. There was a Channel 5 film crew. And even in Monday night's rain, when he thought he'd see no one, still there was a small crowd. Down from the hundreds on the first night's excitement to always at least 10 to 15 folks.
The village might have to start considering erecting something permanent at this site like many such spontaneous "sacred" sights that become monuments. It seems it's only a matter of time before we start attracting pilgrims from much farther than the women from Ossining and Rockland County whom I spoke to on separate occasions.
In West New York, New Jersey on July 13, there was just an outline of the Virgin detected in a similar sidewalk tree knot (clearly not as detailed as ours in which you can discern face, robes, clasped hands), and the Mayor there decreed that he would make a shrine of the thing. You can see video from News Channel 7 of that here.
This got me wondering about the process, if there was any, of officially decreeing a site sacred. Will there be someone from the Vatican coming to surmise our tree's validity soon? Turns out the Vatican in May just issued the first English-language version of their apparition assessment technique (it's been in the books in Latin since the 1970s), according to an article in the Huffington Post.
The “Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations” seems pointed at ruling out singular crazies, but this is clearly not the case with our tree of hundreds of unique visitors who seem largely in agreement that this is miraculous.
Miraculous, maybe, but not so unique. It seems Mary is very busy. Here's a short timeline I found from a several-year span of sightings, in a possibly heretic yet very well-researched article on the history of Marian Apparations:
The Los Angeles Times reports a sighting of the Virgin Mary at the Hidalgo Metro station in Mexico City. She appeared in a water stain left on the subway floor.
Reuters reports a sighting of the Virgin Mary at the La Conga Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. She appeared inside the dual-paned glass door of a freezer, but faded away after a single day.
The Virgin Mary makes daily appearances in the toilet of a Nigerian family.
The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports a sighting of the Virgin Mary in the frost pattern trapped between the two glass panes of a living room window in Fond du Lac, Saskatchewan. As a bonus, Mary has also been appearing on a greenhouse in Ile-a-la-Crosse.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports a sighting of the Virgin Mary on a fencepost in Coogee, Australia.
CNN reports a sighting of the Virgin Mary in a Passaic, New Jersey tree stump.
Online casino GoldenPalace.com wins the intense bidding war over a grilled-cheese sandwich with a woman's face on it. According to the seller, Florida jewelry designer Diana Duyser: "I would like all people to know that I do believe that this is the Virgin Mary Mother of God." The price: $28,000.
At first our Mayor Ken Wray was concerned about traffic control, but so far the barricades police erected have been sufficient as most seem to come on foot.
Some folks asked the police if they could add flowers to the site, and by Tuesday there were beatiful new plants in what was once a dirt patch. Giaccio was thrilled for the beautification of Cortlandt. "Maybe we could have a Jesus tree, a Moses tree..."
And who knows to what levels this surprise fame could reach. Giaccio said he'd bring up the issue of potential permanence at tonight's regular board meeting. As of yet, he said, the administration hadn't thought so far down the road. "It's all new. It's all good," he said.
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