”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a gothic story by American author Washington Irving, contained in his collection of 34 essays and short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.. Written while Irving was living abroad in Birmingham, England, ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in 1820. Along with Irving's companion piece ”Rip Van Winkle”, ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is among the earliest examples of American fiction with enduring popularity, especially during Halloween because of a character known as the Headless Horseman believed to be a Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannonball in battle.
The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen known as Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow is renowned for its ghosts and the haunting atmosphere that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. Some residents say this town was bewitched during the early days of the Dutch settlement, while others claim that the mysterious atmosphere was caused by an old Native American chief, the ”wizard of his tribe ... before the country was discovered by Master Hendrik Hudson.” The most infamous spectre in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman, supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head had been shot off by a stray cannonball during ”some nameless battle” of the Revolution, and who ”rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”.