Perhaps the best part of the day is
hearing master storyteller Jonathan
Kruk recite the entire original Legend
of Sleepy Hollow.
“The story is timeless and fascinating to hear all year, but it has special
resonance in the fall, as Halloween
approaches,” Kruk says.
Want more ghostly goings-on? You’ll
find pirates, a phantom fiddler, a haunted
boat and The White Lady of Raven Rock,
who, in another Irving story, perished in
the snow waiting for her lover to return
from the Revolutionary War. The kids
will enjoy the witches’ coven, where they
can play basketball with a skull and help
make witches’ brews. And, if you’re lucky,
you might see Rip Van Winkle—awake
Visitors are encouraged to come
in costume and to enjoy hot cocoa,
apple cider, popcorn and hot dogs from
the snack bar. If you’re too afraid of
the nighttime, there is also a daytime
program offering pumpkin carving, a
magician, storytellers and more.
“fish” hung in an undersea kingdom.
He also likes the skeleton progression
that starts as fingers poking up from the
ground and gets progressively larger as
hands, arms and then the full skeleton
emerges. “It’s not scary,” he insists.
This year, playing on the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery
of the river and valley that bear his name,
Natiello and his crew are creating a one-third-scale pumpkin replica of Hudson’s
ship, the Half Moon, complete with the
explorer and his crew.
“Every year we think, what can we do
that hasn’t been done before,” he says.
“We always try to push the envelope of
Ablaze at Van Cortlandt Manor
Another 10 miles upriver, in Croton,
stands Van Cortlandt Manor and its annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, featuring a dazzling display of more than 5,000
hand-carved pumpkins that cast a creepy
orange glow over the landscape.
Michael Natiello, the local sculptor
and painter who created the Blaze,
admits that he never thought his preferred medium would be a fruit. ( Yes,
pumpkins are fruits, like tomatoes.)
However, his background in large installation artworks made him the perfect
choice for the project when it began
six years ago. He plans the installation,
creates the designs of both the individ-al pumpkins and the larger pumpkin
sculptures, and even does some carving.
“We also have a lot of volunteers to help
scoop the guts out,” he says, gratefully.
Here you meander through a dark
woodland manor among dinosaurs,
snakes, giant spider webs, ghosts, fish,
mushrooms, flowers and clowns—all
made of pumpkins. In recent years the
setting has been professionally lighted,
and appropriately spooky music has
been added to enhance the experience.
Natiello’s favorites include the
aquarium with hundreds of pumpkin
A bevy of Jack O’Lanterns at Philipsburg Manor.
Who is Jack O’Lantern?
The tradition of pumpkin
carving began in Ireland,
where people carved scary
faces into turnips on All
Hallows’ Eve. But why
are these creepy carvings
Well, dear reader,
therein lies a tale … the
tale of Stingy Jack. The
Irish say that Stingy Jack
was a drunk and a trickster.
He even fooled the devil—
more than once—to save
his dark soul from eternal
damnation. Indeed, one
time Jack tricked the devil,
who was about to take
Jack to the netherworld,
into climbing a tree to
pick him an apple—a last
meal, if you will. While the
devil was up the tree, Jack
placed crosses around it so
the devil could not come
down until he promised not
to carry Jack off to hell.
When Jack died, his
wicked ways caused St.
Peter to send him away
from the gates of heaven.
The devil, however, kept
his word and prevented
Jack’s entrance into hell.
Instead, he sent Jack off to
roam the earth for eternity,
with only a glowing coal
ember placed inside a
carved-out turnip to light
his way. He became known
as Jack of the Lantern, and
then Jack O’Lantern.
and then Scotland and
England, people carved
their own lanterns to keep
Stingy Jack away on All
Hallows’ Eve, when the
dead walk among us.
They used homegrown
produce such as turnips,
potatoes and beets. When
they came to the United
States in the 18th and 19th
centuries, they found a
better canvas for Jack’s