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Real-Life Mysteries That Would Make Great Episodes of Sleepy Hollow

Illustration for article titled Real-Life Mysteries That Would Make Great Episodes of emSleepy Hollow/em

During this sports-induced hiatus, we’re missing the historical and mythological free-for-all of Sleepy Hollow. (Dracula tried, but George Washington didn't even cameo! Whatever, show.) So to fill the void, here are five real-life historical mysteries that we're dying to see Sleepy explore.


1. The Wythe House

What it is: Home to the “father of jurisprudence” (killer title), the George Wythe house (constructed around 1754) is a Federal-style estate of house, outbuildings, and grounds situated in the center of what’s known today as Colonial Williamsburg. Given that Wythe was the first Virginian to sign the Declaration of Independence, and that the house itself is lovely, it was declared a historic landmark and has become a fixture in the tourist trade of modern-day Williamsburg—particularly the ghost tours, most of which suggest that the Wythe house is a hotbed of seemingly-supernatural activity.


In Sleepy Hollow:George Washington’s Bible contains a series of strange underlined letters that, when strung together, spell SEEK WYTHE ADVICE. After decrying the use of such punning, because who needs that, Abbie and Ichabod head to Colonial Williamsburg, where they get the creepy feeling that everyone in town is eager to deflect their interest in the Wythe any means necessary. As Abbie searches historical records, Ichabod goes undercover as one of the costumed actors throughout the city to investigate this problem from the inside, and also to correct them about two or three dozen things. But will splitting up leave Ichabod vulnerable to a cast who seem a little too into their parts? All ends well: Ichabod and Katrina work together to break the enchantment on the town’s actors, and Abbie discovers the real unmarked grave of George Wythe, whose coffin contains an amulet to use against the Horsemen. After he quits, Ichabod has trouble explaining to his manager that these are the clothes he came in with.

Illustration for article titled Real-Life Mysteries That Would Make Great Episodes of emSleepy Hollow/em


2. George Harrison (the other one)

Who he is: A cold case for the ages. In 1996, excavation in Jamestown, VA, revealed the corpse of an unidentified young man who had been shot in the leg: forensics revealed the bullet had entered sideways, suggesting injuries sustained in a duel. His bone structure suggested overall health, his coffin suggested he was fancy, and the wound was bad enough that he would have died of blood loss, meaning they could rule out the 17th century’s #1 murderer, germs. The hunt was on! Turns out the gent in question was George Harrison, who died in 1624 after dueling one Richard Stephens, making the bullet injury a perfectly honorable way for someone back then to die. But the plot thickens: apparently the bullet used was non-regulation for a dueling pistol. Did this mean Ye Olde Foule Playe?


In Sleepy Hollow: While investigating the murder of one of the vendors at Sleepy Hollow’s annual Antique Gun Show, Ichabod discovers a hidden-away pistol that looks as though the muzzle has been tampered with. A little of Abbie’s detective work reveals the gun was stolen from a dig in Jamestown, and that the bullet last fired from it killed George Harrison—and was carved with the sigil of the Archangel Michael. Who wanted vengeance on George Harrison? And who is searching for the gun now? After the gun is stolen from the Sleepy Hollow Police Sheriff’s SWAT precinct, they end up in a standoff with a religious zealot (and pawn of the Horseman of War), a descendant of Richard Stephens who knows the truth about Harrison’s ties to Katrina’s coven. Abbie will have to destroy the mystical weapon before it can be used to shoot Ichabod and cause the Apocalypse. B-plot: Ichabod listens to music by the other George Harrison, thinks it’s mostly fine but a little light on harpsichord.

3. Banastre Tartleton

Who he is: This amazingly-named young British commander was, depending on who you spoke to, a canny military leader who routed the opposition regularly and often outshone his much-older military superiors, or a monster who made Patriot widows serve him lavish meals and then burned their farms as he dug up the corpses of their husbands. Good times.


In Sleepy Hollow: A man found dead just outside Sleepy Hollow city limits turns out to have purchased a Revolutionary flag, captured by Tartleton in 1780 and sold at auction in New York more than two hundred years later. When Abbie and Ichabod track down the flag, it’s already been used as a portal to bring Tartleton back through time to provide ruthless strategy for the Horsemen! As soon as he meets Ichabod, a snide-off ensues and nothing else gets done until Abbie just lights Tartleton on fire and ends it.

4. America's Stonehenge

What it is: America's Stonehenge (its current name, a 1982 downgrade from the way cooler Mystery Hill) has been a bone of historical contention since the early 20th century, when rumors flew about who constructed it and why: for example, grooved stones were either bloodletting sacrificial altars or a lyre-drainers for soap, a measurable difference in the drama factor. Given what archeological digs on the grounds have turned up, it's most plausible that the Abenaki nation (or their forebears) were responsible, but imagination has always run wild where Mystery Hill was concerned, and in the mid-20th century, owner William Goodwin kept floating the idea that Irish monks pre-dating Columbus had paddled over and done it themselves. Today, the site is a tourist attraction and, no joke, an alpaca farm.

Illustration for article titled Real-Life Mysteries That Would Make Great Episodes of emSleepy Hollow/em

(Photo: America's Stonehenge)

In Sleepy Hollow: While investigating the murder of a man in Sleepy Hollow who had non-local dirt under his fingernails, Abbie and Ichabod receive an anonymous message about seeking answers at Mystery Hill. While wondering who could have made such things before the American colonials (the Abenaki), Ichabod sees a cairn marked with a sigil also in the margins of Washington's Bible. As they debate whether Washington left this place as a sanctuary (nope, just the Abenaki), they're set upon by a Hessian! How could he have found them? Does Captain Irving have secret alliances among the followers of the Horsemen? An alpaca, possessed by the spirit of Sheriff Corbin, knocks the gunman out of the way just in time, and Abbie and Ichabod run to safety as the Hessian vanishes, screaming, into the cave, which collapses, taking its secrets with it (the secrets of the Abenaki, mostly).


5. Margaret Corbin

Who she was: Margaret Corbin enlisted in the Revolutionary armed forces alongside her husband John. During the November 16, 1776 siege on Fort Washington in New York, she loaded the cannon beside her husband until he was killed, at which point she took over, and wreaked such havoc on the British that she was eventually beaten back with targeted return fire. She was the first woman to receive American military pension, and spent much of her time after the war smoking pipes and talking to soldiers, much to the chagrin of the ladies’ societies who had been hoping to make her a model “Molly Pitcher” paragon of devoted, selfless camp following. She eventually died, presumably from being too awesome, and a plaque in her honor now stands in Fort Tryon Park.


In Sleepy Hollow: A woman appears at the edge of town, claiming to be from a different era and demanding a smoke. Abbie, who by this point is carrying a case load entirely of crimes relating to early Americana, sees the woman’s reaction to Irving’s headless-horseman street sign, and immediately brings the woman to Ichabod’s cabin for safekeeping, guessing she’s more than she seems. Even stranger, the woman recognizes the cabin itself. As it turns out, Corbin’s attachment to Sleepy Hollow goes back a lot farther than she expected: he’s a secret descendant of Margaret Corbin, who’s standing before them in the flesh. Turns out Corbin wasn’t just a killer cannon shot, but a spy for Washington in her own right, and friendly with the occult. The real cause of her death was at the hands of the Horseman of War, and when Ichabod woke did she. Since she’s awake, the rising of the third Horseman isn’t far behind! they manage to vanquish his return at the last second, but only at the cost of Margaret’s life. Her spirit joins that of her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson in the spiritual beyond; she continues to pop up alongside Sheriff Corbin throughout the series in moments of strife, offering advice in a haze of pipe smoke.

This is, of course, just a wish list; the Sleepy Hollow team could be doing any number of things when they come back from hiatus. And though the premise of the show initially seemed a bit gonzo, given some of these heritage sites and the larger-than-life figures that inhabited them, it makes things simpler just to chalk everything up to magic; history left to itself is just a tangle of bizarre coincidences, interesting personal stories, and really terrible race relations. Still, let’s hope Sleepy Hollow gets enough seasons to at least hit up the Colonial Williamsburg connection. (It’s already there, how hard would it be?)


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