Buffalo, especially during Halloween time, is filled with ghost tours, walking tours, and stories of haunted sites. Our city even made it on to the Discovery Channel for our eerie buildings.
But, what you may not know is that Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has a Buffalo connection.
The literary Ichabod Crane – the lanky, scarecrow-esque school teacher who is haunted by the headless horseman – actually differs vastly from the real life Ichabod Crane. The real life Ichabod Crane, according to The American Primer, was a 48-year career soldier of the United States Officer Corps.
The American Primer shows that Irving enjoyed unusual names and was inspired to use Ichabod Crane’s name after meeting the soldier in the War of 1812. During the war, Irving served as an aide-de-camp to New York governor Daniel Tompkins and helped Tompkins with inspecting state defenses, including an artillery battery at Fort Pike that Crane built and presided over.
Decades later, in 1840, Crane made his debut into Buffalo history. According to Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume VIII, Col. Ichabod Crane led eight companies of the 2d Artillery, in Buffalo, to protect the city during the Patriot War, a Canada-United States border conflict where raiders fought against British forces of Upper Canada between December 1837 and December 1838, per the New York Almanack.
During this time, Crane was stationed at what is now Wilcox Mansion/Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site located on Delaware Ave, noted Cynthia Van Ness, director of library & archives at the Buffalo History Museum.
So the next time you read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, or even walk down Delaware Ave., you’ll remember that this legendary folkloric character was inspired by a guy who…. if you believe in ghosts… might still be wandering Buffalo’s streets trying to escape from his arch nemesis, the Headless Horseman.