REVIEW: Horseman’s Hollow terrifies in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

Horseman’s Hollow takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil and the insane. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell.

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. — Most of the scares that come from Horseman’s Hollow, the annual haunted attraction from the folks at Historic Hudson Valley, is not knowing what will come next. This haunted maze features scenes both inside and outside, with all of the surroundings disorienting, claustrophobic and appropriately scary.

Some slight spoilers ahead.

After visitors park their car in the overflow lot near the back of the Philipsburg Manor estate, there’s an atmospherically eerie walk around the ponds and farmhouses that make up this historic property. Check out the real lanterns that light the way from the cars to the ghost-filled environment.

It’s best to purchase tickets ahead of time online. Buying in advance will ensure no disappointments. Much like Historic Hudson Valley’s other area offerings — The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Irving’s Legend with Jonathan Kruk and The Legend Behind the Legend — performances and time slots sell out. Tickets run $20-$25 with a discount for members (like this reporter). There’s also a $15 add-on to jump to the head of the line, although that didn’t seem to be a necessity on a recent visit to Horseman’s Hollow.

After the lantern-lined walk, visitors queue up and head for the “hollow.” By the time the actual scares kick in, guests have almost made a full revolution around the enormous Philipsburg Manor. Taking in views of the farmhouses, one of them with a cool Headless Horseman projection, sets the mood during the pre-show. One of the pleasures is not knowing when the scare factor will be turned on.

This is a view of the Horseman's Hollow at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., on Oct. 3, 2014. Photo by Tom Nycz.
This is a view of the Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., on Oct. 3, 2014. Photo by Tom Nycz.

After entering the “hollow,” the story begins. The loose narrative follows suffering townspeople who are living at the mercy of the Headless Horseman and his cadre of undead, malevolent spirits.  Visitors walk through scene after scene of debauchery, degradation and darkness. The scares are recommended for the 10 and up crowd. Truth be told, there are haunted attractions out there that are far more intense than Horseman’s Hollow — attractions that this writer has no desire to ever experience. Historic Hudson Valley’s haunted addition is perfectly horror-filled and never delves into unbearable subject matter.

There are ghosts and the undead, vampire-looking creatures and monsters. The grand finale will be kept secret, but it’s a scene pulled right from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Horseman’s Hollow continues in 2015 through Sunday, Nov. 1. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell.
Horseman’s Hollow continues in 2015 through Sunday, Nov. 1. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell.

The troupe of actors who bring Horseman’s Hollow to life are dedicated to the scares but allow the visitors to breathe a little bit. There is no touching (at least when we walked through) or harassment. The scares continue for a good 35 minutes and often end in laughter.

The scenery and claustrophobic surroundings are wonderfully creative. The corn maze is frightening and disorienting. The maze-like structure featuring white cloth is the scariest room. The lighting adds the right level of creepiness, and the nearby historic buildings offer some authenticity, as if the Headless Horseman were ready to pounce on Ichabod Crane at any moment.

Because of the inevitable crowds there are inevitable slowdowns in the maze. This was a welcome respite from the screams. On occasion, the “scare” in front of us was somewhat spoiled and not reset in time for our passing. Again, with a family member’s nails ripping at my coat, this seemed perfectly OK for our crowd.

After the screams and laughs, and the grand, grand finale, it was easy to look back at Horseman’s Hollow as an enjoyable experience in the month of October. This is a strong entry in Historic Hudson Valley’s offerings. Again, this reporter has no desire to go any scarier with the Halloween-themed attractions in the area, so buyer beware. Horseman’s Hollow is intended for age 10 and up and works as a great night of ghosts and gasps. It’s sort of like a solid PG-13 movie, and that’s awesome enough.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Horseman’s Hollow finishes up Sunday, Nov. 1. Currently, that Sunday night is the only remaining date with tickets available. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *