November 2019: Bits and Bites

Joan Feder

Feature Article
This article appeared in the October 29, 2019 (#1049) edition of ALL EARS®

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Join us on this spooky journey into the past as we explore the history of Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney Company. This time let’s look back at the legend behind Disney’s Headless Horseman.

The story of the Headless Horseman spans generations. In most tales, the Horseman is either missing his head completely or carrying it with him. In Ireland he is known as the dullahan, and in England, he is Sir Gawain. In the United States, the tale is one of a Hessian soldier killed in 1776. Decapitated by a cannonball, his head was left behind when his body was buried at the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Washington Irving retold the Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820. This time it took place in New York’s Hudson Valley in 1790. As with most modern renditions, the Headless Horseman rides on Halloween searching for his head.

Disney released its version, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, seventy years ago on October 8, 1949. Narrated by Bing Crosby, it is fairly faithful to Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Lanky Ichabod Crane is the new school master. He and brawny Brom Bones vie for the hand of the fair (and extremely rich) Katrina. At a party on Halloween eve, Brom terrorizes the superstitious Ichabod with the frightening tale of the Headless Horseman. Every year, on that very night, the Horseman appears, relentlessly searching for a head to snatch. The route he follows happens to be exactly the one Ichabod must take to get home!

Ichabod leaves the party urging his sluggish nag forward. Every twig snap stokes his overactive imagination. Could the Horseman be stalking him? No, of course not. Silly Ichabod. But suddenly—THERE HE IS—exactly as Brom described, cloaked in black, with a flaming jack-o’-lantern in hand! The chase is on. The Horseman closes in, hurtling the blazing pumpkin at Ichabod. It is a near miss, splattering just as Ichabod makes it to safety. The next morning, Ichabod has vanished, only his hat remains, trampled in the mud next to the shattered pumpkin.

The Headless Horseman is a big part of Disney’s Halloween celebrations. In Florida, at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party, the ride of the Horseman starts the parade. Headless Horseman Cheesecake and Straw Glow clips are sold at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. Guests can even take a Magic Shot with him in front of the Magic Kingdom.

At Disney’s California Adventure, the Headless Horseman is in the Frightfully Fun Parade, and there is a statue in his honor. This year there is also a Headless Horseman pin for sale.

Can’t get to the parks? No problem. ShopDisney has commemorative merchandise like the Headless Horseman mug. Enjoy the glowing jack-o’-lantern lid while sipping your favorite beverage from the torso. Or, how about a Headless Horseman Plush set, complete with separate jack-o’-lantern head? I don’t know about you, but I may need both to celebrate this Halloween!