What are the supernatural elements in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

Expert Answers
iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is, among other things, the tale of a town obsessed with superstitious accounts of the supernatural, and much of Washington Irving's narrative focuses on descriptions of the rich folklore that's so popular in the region. Take, for instance, the following passage in the third paragraph of the story (which can be read in full by using eNotes' delightful online library of texts):

The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

By Irving's description, we can assume that many legends of the supernatural haunt the region, and that the inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow love telling tales of all manner of ghosts and ghouls. 

The supernatural elements of the story stop with these folk tales, however. While the story is full of accounts of the supernatural, there are never actually direct experiences with the supernatural. Indeed, the only encounter we get with the Headless Horseman occurs when the specter supposedly chases the terrified Ichabod Crane through the woods on horseback. Later on, Irving strongly suggests that this horseman was simply Brom Bones trying to run Crane out of town, and so it seems as though the main supernatural element of the story, the Headless Horseman, does not even exist. As such, the supernatural elements of "Sleepy Hollow" abound in accounts of local legends and folklore, but they do not actually exist in real life. 

Read the study guide:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question