In the same vein of zombie movies not existing in the worlds of zombie films, does the traditional story/legend of Sleepy Hollow (the jealous lover / school teacher story) exist in the show Sleepy Hollow as it does in the real world?

My instinct says it does not, as people living in Sleepy Hollow would have known the name Ichabod Crane and the legend of the headless horseman; it would be like living in the North Pole and having never heard of Santa Claus (which is actually not a great analogy due to the inaccessibility of the North Pole), or living in Transylvania and having never heard of Dracula (which also isn't a great analogy because he actually was a real person). Maybe like living in Mississippi and having never heard of Tom Sawyer, or living in London and having never heard of Peter Pan.

Actually, that last one is a good one to use. Consider the film "Hook", where both the story of Peter Pan and the person Peter Pan both co-exist.

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    @coleopterist ... Not speaking for the whole of America, but Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow are considered staples of American folk lore. It is coming up on Halloween. People take this stuff seriously here ... well as seriously as you can take a fictional character, that is. Oct 15, 2013 at 9:43
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    The story of Sleepy Hollow has been translated into multiple media and stories that are as common, if not more so due to their notoriety, as Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan to many in the U.S.; and to not know the story of the legend of Sleepy Hollow while IN Sleepy Hollow would be like living in the North Pole and having never heard of Santa Claus. Actually, that's a poor example due to the inaccessibility of the North Pole, BUT I THINK YOU GET WHAT I MEAN.
    – JoshDM
    Oct 15, 2013 at 14:43
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    I haven't seen this TV-show but it seems like a modern retelling of the classic story and thus something like a remake (or "reboot" as the zeitgeist likes it nowadays). So this TV-show in turn is the Sleepy Hollow story, which makes it unlikely that Irving's original story has ever existed in this universe. James Bond doesn't watch Bond movies. But I haven't seen the show, which makes this an uninformed comment rather than an answer.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:00
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    I'm in Indonesia, and I'm fully aware of who is Ichabod Crane and what is Sleepy Hollow.
    – Fikko3107
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:02
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    @JoshDM It wouldn't be too much different from yours I guess, but thus encouraged I'll see what I can come up with.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


First of all, I haven't seen the show myself and this answer is only based on Wikipedia combined with common sense (resummarizing my comments into a proper answer).

An interesting aspect is that the Ichabod Crane from the TV-show does in fact come originally from the 18th century. So the only reasonable possibility to combine the TV-show with the original story would be that Irving actually based his story on this same real Ichabod Crane and his adventures in the past. But I think in this case the writers of the TV-show would have adressed this aspect at one point or another and if not a single character in the TV-show ever adresses this point or seems to ever have heard about the traditional story, you can safely assume it doesn't exist for them.

Another way to view the TV-show would be like Wikipedia does, as "a modern-day retelling of the 1820 short story" and thus something like a remake. Thus this TV-show is the one and only Sleepy Hollow story and Irving's wouldn't exist in this universe, as people in stories don't hear their own stories, which would need them to be aware of being fictional. This is IMHO strengthened by Wikipedia's plot summary saying:

In 1781, Ichabod Crane "dies" in the midst of the Revolutionary War while on a mission for General George Washington. He rises from his "grave" in modern day Sleepy Hollow after the Headless Horseman, (revealed to be Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), is summoned back from his watery grave by an unknown party. The resurrection of the one causes the resurrection of the other due to the intertwining of their fates as a result of their blood mixing shortly after Crane decapitated the Headless Horseman on the field of battle.

So Crane's past history with the Horseman isn't similar to the original story and only given to provide some relationship to him, and Crane's anachronicity is done to provide an interesting out-of-time aspect to the show (and to carry over the "early U.S./colonial history"-aspect of the orignal story to some degree) rather than to hint at any actual relation of him to the Irving story.


While there have been television shows / films where the "source" media (or some iteration of said "source" media) exists and is referred to by the characters within the show as an (in)accurate account / bastardization of the actual events, I don't think Sleepy Hollow falls in with those shows.

If "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" the story did exist in this show, it would be something akin to "Washington Irving wrote this entertaining folklore story which is a bastardization of something that actually happened in real life and was probably passed down to him as a tale from someone else, and he was the first to put it to paper."

Since not one person has addressed it in-show so far, I reiterate my gut feeling from the initial question that the answer is "no, the tale which has become American folklore doesn't exist within the context of the show".

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