My retelling of the classic ghost story. Condensed to fit into the kind of story to tell around the campfire. Happy Halloween!
"I almost had her," thought Ichabod Crane as he leaned against his horse's neck. The half-asleep schoolteacher was riding away from a Halloween party held in his town of Sleepy Hollow. At that party he had attempted to propose to the wealthy daughter of the town mayor. This was his ultimate chance to slither his way into a better life, away from the rancid nest of children he had to attend to every school day, away from his dumb colleagues who wouldn't understand great literature if they were buried in the books of the finest authors in the world, away from his run down house and it's constant creaking noises. Instead, he bulked at the proposal out of nervousness, and left the party knowing he would have to return to his wretched life of loud children, foolish colleagues, and unsanitary house.
"It's all that god-forsaken Brom's fault!" he thought to himself. He and another man with the nickname "Brom Bones" had been competing for the hand of the mayor's daughter. Bones flaunted his physical prowess, skilled horseback riding, and ability to put on an awestruck show for any crowd he could find, but Ichabod knew well his unparalleled intellect could trump any talent Bones had. A large, muscle-headed oaf had so little chance against him, it was almost pitiable. In Ichabod's mind, these were irrefutable facts.
And yet, Bones did something at the party that completely threw off Ichabod. When everyone gathered around to tell ghost stories, Bones Jumped up and told a story that made Ichabod feel like he was melting. Bones told the story of a Hessian soldier who fought in the American Revolution. In an unspecified battle, the poor wretch lost his head when a stray cannon shot blasted it clean off his shoulders. The wretch's soul know haunts the thick woods of Sleepy Hollow. The headless specter rides upon his pitch black horse attacking those unfortunate to cross paths with him swing his sword erratically, presumably to take their head to replace his. The only way to escape this ghastly abomination is the cross the bridge of the creek, as it appears the specter cannot cross running water. Hearing this story resulted in Ichabod being struck with fear, the lingering dread following him as he tried to propose to the mayor's daughter. Ichabod blames that fear for causing him to miss his chance.
"I'll find a way to get back at Bones. When I am wealthy and on top of town, I'll use that money to make Bones a miserable." Ichabod gleefully contemplated all the ways he could ruin the lug's life.
It was then Ichabod realized that he was all alone in the woods of Sleepy Hollow. He had waited for everyone else to leave the party before he left due to his extreme dislike of crowds. He looked around the dark woods with rising nervousness. The only sounds he could hear was the clip-clopping of his horse's hooves and rustling of the leaves as the occasional gusts passed the area. The light fog slithered around the legs of his horse, the thick branches of the numerous trees allowed little of moon's light to shine a path. As his horse clip-clopped along the path, Ichabod noticed the path growing thinner, the trees becoming more numerous, the space between the trees thinner, as though the woods were boxing him in. Occasionally his horse would crush a leaf and Ichabod would receive a sudden jolt in response. The deafening silence and enclosed area caused the previously tired teacher to become wide awake. His eyes and ears were catching every sight and sound that seemed to be sign of coming danger.
Ichabod tightened his coat and shook his head head. "It's just a story," he told himself. He was better than this, letting a harmless little ghost story get the better of him.
Ichabod soon came across a straight, narrow, empty path. At this point the thick black clouds had almost completely enveloped the moon, and the fog was solidifying around his horse. He took a deep breath and goaded his to horse to pick up the pace a little. He could see how straight the path was even in the darkness, as his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so he knew it was safe to go a little faster. At this point, he wanted nothing more than to get out of these woods.
As he neared the end of the straight pathway, his ears suddenly perked. Something had broken the silence Ichabod had grown accustomed to. Off in the distance, he could hear a horse's clip clops that were growing louder and louder. He could to tell by the sound of the clops that the the horse in question was moving at an alarmingly fast pace. And that horse was coming from behind him. And it was getting closer fast.
Ichabod turned around while urging his horse to move forward. As he looked at the narrow path behind him, he slowly began the make out what was tailing him. In span of a few seconds, Ichabod would come to realize that his worst nightmare had come to him. First, he made out a man on horse. Then he made out that the horse was pitch black. Then he saw both the horse and the man were abnormally large. Then he saw that man was holding an old-fashioned blade. Then he saw the worst thing of all: the man chasing him had no head on his shoulders.
Instantly filled with fear, Ichabod turned to where his horse was facing and spurred his horse with all his might. His horse suddenly took off like bullet down the path. Ichabod, more awake then he's ever been before, locked his eyes ahead of him, knowing that if his horse crashed into a tree, Ichabod would meet his doom.
Ichabod and the headless horseman rode through the forest at breakneck speed. Ichabod tried to desperately to steer his horse to the bridge, knowing he would be safe if he crossed it. But he turned pale white when he realized to ghost horse's clip-clops were getting slowly but surely louder.
He looked behind him for a second, and this time, he saw the abomination in all of it's terror. It's horse's eyes had no pupils, and it's facial features almost seemed like they were rotting like a corpse. The horseman was wildly swinging his blade, and the blade looked clean and sharp enough to cut through anything. The horseman also seemed to be carrying something under his free arm. But worst of all, the specter was just a few feet away from him; and getting closer.
Ichabod slammed his spurs into his horse with utmost desperation, but while his horse did move faster, the horseman's horse moved faster still. Ichabod looked ahead, and to his utter joy he saw the bridge. Desperately giving his horse more spurs, Ichabod developed tunnel vision and tried to ignore the specter behind him to focus on what's ahead. Finally, he crossed the bridge, just in time for his horse to stop and rest from exhaustion on the other side.
Ichabod feeling triumphant, looked over at the abomination on the other side, only to see a new kind of horror. While the horseman had stopped chasing him, the specter was know holding what was previously under his arm above his head, poised to toss it at Ichabod. Ichabod watched in terror as he realized it was a dead, rotting head, probably the one the horseman lost in the war. Before Ichabod could react, the horseman threw his head at Ichabod.
The next morning, the school staff found the Ichabod failed to show up to work. They soon found that he wasn't home, and nobody had any idea where he was. Soon, the residents of Sleepy Hollow found Ichabod's hat at the bridge over the creek and his abandoned horse. No sign of the teacher. Brom Bones married to mayor's daughter at a later date, giving only a nervous laugh when he was questioned over Ichabod's disappearance.
The townsfolk never heard from Ichabod Crane again. Some go with mundane explanation that he simply fled town and went to live elsewhere. But others knew for an irrefutable fact that he had been spirited away by the headless horseman...