The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Beyond The Picket Fence

Columnist, Sherryanne De La Boise
(her mother resides in Stronghurst)

Tarrytown Hotel

Sometimes, I run my column ideas past non-Quill readers. I made the mistake of running this week's past my minister and got quite an earful about the evils of mistaking the wanderings of a sleeping mind for my God given, fully awake reality. I know my mind wanders when I sleep. For in graduate school, when presented with a particularly vexing problem, I would often just go to sleep, let my subconscious brain take over, and awaken with a solution. My minister has a problem with how I solve a problem.

Years ago, I read Washington Irving's book (the entire book, not the glossy kiddie version), "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." His writing style is similar to mine, in that he wanders and fills the page with errata, then brings a zing to the end.

Previously, I had been to Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and crossed that bridge, unaware of its history. Yet, when I met him, I recognized Ichabod Crane. Met him my first day of graduate school. The head of the program was a dead ringer: tall, lanky, dry with a Dutch accent. I could not help but laugh, uncontrollably. How was I going to survive studying under Ichabod Crane? The poor, pompous teacher, who had prevented any suitor from getting near his beautiful student. He monopolizes her, dreaming of the wealth he will have as her husband. But, when he asks for her hand, he is turned down flat.

Defeated, he rides his borrowed horse back to his tiny rented room, when the legendary headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow gives him chase, and throws that head right at him. Terrified Ichabod is thrown from his horse and runs away in abject terror, never to be seen again. The next morning, the horseman's head is found, a smashed pumpkin.

Sleepy Hollow is adjacent to where Mr. Dobbs had his ferry (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.) and Tarrytown, where Dutch husbands "tarry-ed" a while at the region's only watering hole. We had gone to Tarrytown to curl in their annual Boo Spiel. Our hotel is on a hill overlooking the Henry Hudson River. The original estate mansion looms above it, at the zenith of the rise. Painted stark white, it gave me the shivers to look up at it.

I've always thought "Psycho" had a flaw in in: Why would that woman, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), stay at a motel next to such a creepy house? I'd never knowingly stay in a motel in a rotten neighborhood. And, yet, we checked right into a hotel next to a creepy house. The desk manager offers us a free upgrade, because there is a conference checking in that would like to have all the rooms on our corridor. He offers us a balcony bedroom in the "historic" house on the hill. He tells us that typically, there is a year waiting list to stay there ("Maybe it's a bridal suite,' I think). He sells us on the beautiful balcony overlooking the Hudson River all the way down to Manhattan. We order dinner in, wrap ourselves in blankets and dine ál fresco (more like ál freez-o remembers my husband, for it was the last weekend in October).

The room had a plantation style, mahogany canopied bed with beautiful antique furniture. The ceilings were 20' high, with long windows and heavy drapes that went to the floor. The wooden floorboards were wide and creaked in a nice way that reminded me of how the floors creak in the Stronghurst house.

My mind likes to consider different outcomes to situations. My dreams are usually about past events, with the facts jumbled. There are some dreams that I have experienced repeatedly over the years, as I work out distressing life events. In that fog between asleep and awake, I was surprised to dream that a brunette woman was indicating that I should move over and make room for her in the bed. She was in a high necked, flowing peignoir set, rather ivory in color. Her hairstyle was old fashioned. She made the room cold and damp.

My husband is a very good source of heat, but I have to steal the covers to get him to warm my side of the bed. So, I yanked the covers away from him and waited to drift back to sleep. I could hear two children playing and thought, "It's rather late for the folks in the next room to have their children up.' But, then I dreamt a little boy in short pants chased his toy train under our bed.

At breakfast, I told my husband about the strange dreams. My husband said that he had heard children about 2 am, after he discovered I had usurped all of the bedding. Our waitress brought over the hotel manager, who told us that, last night, we were the only folks staying in the "heritage listed house. No children." He wanted to know if I had found the Tarrytown Hotel on the internet. I said that Orbitz had offered us a cheap rate and gave them lots of stars. It was near the curling rink. That was enough research for me.

That day was filled with curling, going with a classmate on a cemetery tour, dinner with in-laws. We got back to the room late and fell right into bed. This time, I slept on the other side. As I returned from a midnight bathroom run, I saw her trying to get into the bed.

Now, I was angry. For, no one else gets the privilege of sleeping with MY husband. I shooed that hussy right out onto the balcony and slammed the doors. No need to steal covers: I was roasting mad.

The people in the next room heard the ruckus and looked out their window to see a woman on the balcony, just for a brief moment. I, myself, did not go out onto that balcony. They told the manager about the purported apparition incident at breakfast. They were thrilled. They knew, from the internet, that our room 293 is haunted by a woman who died there. Arriving a day early, they checked into the room next door, but were to be the occupants of our room the following nights. They had brought poltergeist monitoring equipment. They had snapped a picture of my arm shooing a grey puff of smoke (which could have been a cloud illuminated by the very full moon).

Looking at the husband, I know that they are wasting their time and money. For, my husband is a catch. I get why she is coming from the afterlife for a little romp. For that other guy: naw, she's not going to flesh out.

The manager now reveals that he has a log of sightings and of ghost hunters who have attempted to make sightings of the woman who died in that bedroom. So much for that free "upgrade." Our names are added to the log, as my husband, very honestly, states he only heard the children and felt the cold because I had deprived him of blankets.

As I am writing this, I am listening to the online church service. Who would have guessed that I could multi-task church? Last week, I raked leaves to "How Great Thou Art," and thought about drowning out the sermon (once I heard the scripture reading) with the power blower. Our minister has been very comforting to those who have been suffering from the side effects of living through a pandemic. Today, he is saying that a positive effect of COVID is the cancelling of Halloween, clearly a non-Christian festival (cannot use the word "holiday" with a non-Christian event). He rails on, "The dearly departed are to be in our prayers, not on our dance floors:"

He condemns those middle-aged German women on YouTube, who dress in witches costumes to dance a choreographed dance around a campfire. I had made the mistake of telling him how attractive I found that dance (Even learned the steps). Perhaps, because we traditionally built women of middle age become invisible in the Bible and in society, their joy and style is just fab.

"And, just this past week, one of us confessed to letting Satan confuse her with night-time illusions. Even allowing, her name to be recorded in a log of devil worshipers." Too bad it's raining, I'd like to turn on the leaf blower.