Many travelers come to Sleepy Hollow in search of its best-known spirit—the Headless Horseman, made famous by Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." However, these ghost seekers may not be aware of a second local legend, which has haunted the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery for over 100 years: the Bronze Lady.
Larger than life and cast in bronze, the towering figure watches over the mausoleum of Civil War General Samuel Thomas. Though her rather sleepy visage appears more sad than threatening, legend says that at night she comes to life and wanders the cemetery grounds, terrifying anyone who may have entered on a dare.
According to lore, as you get closer to the Bronze Lady, you'll hear her weeping. If you knock on the door to the general’s mausoleum (once, or three times, depending on whose instructions you follow), you’ll have bad dreams that night.
Finally, if you dare to approach and sit in the Bronze Lady’s lap, she'll allegedly cry tears of blood. If you further insult the statue—say, by hitting it in the face—you’ll be cursed for life. Thrill-seeking visitors have been known to run screaming from the cemetery after a supposed encounter with the Bronze Lady.
The statue was commissioned by General Thomas' widow upon his death in 1903. According to The New York Times, the statue's name is actually “Recuillment, or Grief.” A prominent sculptor of the time, Andrew O’Connor, Jr., created the Lady. Jesse Phoebe Brown, O’Connor’s muse and mistress, modeled for the statue. You can see her likeness in a number of other sculptures by O’Connor, including this one.
Though the Bronze Lady is one of the more popular monuments in Sleepy Hollow's Cemetery, the widow who commissioned it was not so happy with the finished product. She told O’Connor she had hoped for something more “gay”—a rather odd request for a statue meant for a mausoleum. So, O’Connor cast another, happier head. But as soon as Mrs. Thomas told him she liked it, he smashed it on the floor, telling her: “I just made this to show you that I could do it. I should never let such a monstrosity out of my studio.’’
As for the Bronze Lady’s supposed supernatural powers, some Sleepy Hollow locals claimed to have tempted fate when they were younger by insulting the statue; they never suffered a curse. But Emily Storms Arminio, a 10th generation Sleepy Hollow native, said her grandmother told her if you touch the Bronze Lady on the face and say a prayer, either something very good or very bad will happen.
“I scoffed at the tale,” Arminio told The New York Times. “But two days after I touched the Bronze Lady's face, a storm brought down a tree limb that crushed my Camaro.’'
Approach the Bronze Lady yourself at your own peril in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, located in Sleepy Hollow, New York, open to the public daily from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.