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Old Dutch Church at Sleepy Hollow
Many communities have a signature event that sets them apart from others. It's their claim to fame. Their annual extravaganza. Events range from mega-productions like the long-running flowery flotilla, the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California to the testosterone fueled Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally in sparsely populated Winnemucca, Nevada.
In the Village of Sleepy Hollow, New York, it all comes together on October 31st. Halloween. All-Hallows' Eve. The day before the Day of the Dead. If you've ever heard the name Sleepy Hollow you are probably familiar with the namesake tale penned by American writer Washington Irving in 1820. In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the climax comes when hapless Ichabod Crane is pursued by a Headless Horseman through a cemetery. In the story, the cemetery where the abbreviated equestrian chases Ichabod is actually the Old Dutch Churchyard which adjoins present day Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, but never mind it's close enough for marketing purposes. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was originally named the rather uninspired Tarrytown Cemetery and the Village of Sleepy Hollow didn't change its name from North Tarrytown until the late 1990's
Ah yes, the cemetery. Ask the proverbial man-on-the-street to conjure up an image of a cemetery and it's likely he'll envision something akin to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Sleepy Hollow has it all; spooky lilting 18th century death's head tombstones, twisting narrow roads, majestic mausoleums and magnificent statuary, perfectly placed onto a hilly woodland canvas. It's a cemetery with a capital "C". It's the perfect place to spend Halloween. Most cemetery administrators are understandably skittish about Halloween. The goblin-centric holiday often brings out the worst in people and because cemeteries have relatively low security, they are often vandalized by tombstone topplers and mayhem makers. Not so for Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Administrators and the nonprofit Sleepy Hollow Historic Fund look forward to it. It's party time or more specifically, lantern tour time.
For months Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has been lining up volunteers and taking reservations for their Halloween Lantern Tours.
Stepping inside the Louvre will cost you $14.00. Want the audio guide? Another 8 bucks. How about seeing one of the temporary exhibitions? That'll set you back another $16.00. How about an espresso to caffeinate the experience? Plunk down $5.00, please. While no trip to Paris is complete without a foray to the Louve, spending that much money every day is going to result in a quick evaporation of your resources. You came to Paris to see fabulous art, but dang some days you get overwhelmed with the prices and the crowds. What to do? How about seeing world-class sculpture by some of the same artists whose works are exhibited in Paris' pricy museums and galleries for free? Get thee to a cemetery. First up is P re Lachaise Cemetery, the world's first "garden cemetery," established in 1804.
P re Lachaise
48 51'35.95"N 2 23'20.51"E (Main Entrance)
A dozen years ago about the only ambulatory people in this magnificent cemetery were black-shrouded Goths who were on a pilgrimage to see the grave of their fallen high priest, Jim Morrison, or local Parisians who were out for a quiet stroll. That has all changed. P re Lachaise has been discovered. Not to worry, you'll still be quite alone, at least by big city standards. You may have company around the permanent homes of some of the major celebrities, but wander off the main paths and you'll get the serenity you want and at all times you'll be surrounded by the magnificent sculpture you came to Paris to see. Better yet, it's all FREE ... but first things first.
(P re Lachaise)
Did you know that before Disneyland opened in 1955, Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale was the number one tourist destination in the Los Angeles area? Or that the popularity of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn as a recreation site led to the establishment of Central Park in Manhattan in 1858?
Cemeteries, those places most of us strive to stay out of, are once again popular tourist destinations. Why? Part of the reason is that cemeteries, and historic cemeteries in particular, have become more "tourist-friendly." With the rise in cremation (ashes and urns take a fraction of the space of a traditional burial plot) older cemeteries, many of which are essentially filled up, now have room for thousands more permanent residents. And they want us to visit. They've got free maps, ice cream socials, trolley tours, hayrack rides, lantern tours, outdoor movies, plays, concerts and more. Of course, they'd like us to consider staying there... forever. Not to worry; there aren't any high-pressure sales tactics. Cemetery administrators are very patient people.
Whether you're on a star search, looking for a place for a pleasant stroll or want to view and touch fabulous art, you'll find it all in America's historic cemeteries. Here are a few top tourist-friendly cemetery picks. Even if you don't plan to be in these locales in the near future, you can always fly there by plugging the GPS coordinates into Google Earth.
WESTWOOD VILLAGE MEMORIAL PARK (34 3'31.07"N 118 26'30.47"W)
You won't need a map for this postage-stamp-size cemetery just a stone's throw from Rodeo Drive. There are hundreds of celebrities at your feet and in crypts. Of course, the most visited celebrity is Marilyn Monroe. And the empty crypt next to her? Reserved for the man who first exposed her in all her glory to the public: Hugh Hefner.