Archive Sleuth

Raven Rock

It’s widely known that many of the landmarks in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are based on real places in the villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, NY.  Some of the Legend‘s landmarks, such as the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, have become local tourist attractions complete with walking tour apps available for your iPad.

However some of the Legend‘s landmarks remain relatively obscure. A few years ago I began to wonder about one such place; Raven Rock. In Irving’s story, Ichabod Crane visits the home of his sweetheart Katrina Van Tassel for a dinner party. The elder villagers at the party begin telling Ichabod local ghost stories, including the story of Raven Rock:

“Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow”.

(Ichabod Crane riding past Raven Rock from an illustrated edition by Robert Van Nutt)

So I stopped by the Warner Library in Tarrytown to do a little research. In The Place Names of Historic Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown by Sleepy Hollow’s official Village Historian, Henry Steiner, I found this entry for Raven Rock:

“A ghostly woman in white is said to haunt a large rock in Pocantico Hills. The rock is in a dark and foreboding glen on the east side of Buttermilk Hill, southeast of Ferguson Lake”.

A second volume, Jeff Canning and Wally Buxton’s History of the Tarrytowns, gives an expanded description:

Raven Rock is part of Buttermilk Hill in the northern reaches of the Rockefeller estate near the old Hawthorne Traffic Circle. Legend tells us that three ghosts, not just Irving’s lady in white, roam the area.

The lady in white was a girl who got lost in a snowstorm and sought shelter from the fierce wind in a ravine by the rock. The snow drifted in and she perished during the night. It is believed that the spirit of the lady meets the wanderer with cries that resemble the howling of the wind, and gestures that remind one of drifting snow, warning all to stay away from the fatal spot.

A more ancient legend tells of an Indian maiden who was driven to her death at Raven Rock by a jealous lover. Her spirit is believed to roam the area, lamenting her fate.

The third spirit is that of a colonial girl who fled from the attentions of an amorous Tory raider during the Revolution and leaped from the rock to her death“.

So it looks like Raven Rock is a real place! And if I was going to find it I had to begin looking on the east side of Buttermilk Hill. But how would I know it when I saw it? Would it be just a big rock in the woods?

Well, I found a photograph in William Owens’s “Pocantico Hills 1609-1959“. So I made a photocopy, which I would use to compare with any large rocky cliffs I might find.

Next I consulted a USGS topographic map of the area, and noticed a trail that led northward & downhill to a dead-end on the east side of the hill.

So when I walked down the trail on a cold January day and saw this:

I felt like this:

This had to be Raven Rock! If ever there was a big scary rock that inspired ghost stories 200 years ago, this was it. So I mustered my courage and re-photographed the view from the Owens book for comparison:

I didn’t meet any “woman in white”, “Indian maidens”, or “colonial girls”; but with the wind growing colder and the sun setting soon I didn’t stick around too long either.

I’ve been back many times since then, and I’ll leave you with one last photo of a truly legendary place.

Raven Rock, Summer 2010.

For detailed hiking directions for reaching Raven Rock click here.

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24 comments on “Raven Rock

  1. Chavo Viejo, from Yuma,AZ
    April 11, 2011

    Hi Guy,

    Keep up the good work, I really enjoy it and sharing it with the folks @ my coffee place here in Yuma………..

    Stay Well, “Chavo Viejo” (old guy)

  2. becky
    April 11, 2011

    oooh… good sleuthing!

  3. David
    April 11, 2011

    You’ve done it again, Archive Sleuth!

  4. Laura
    April 18, 2011

    Hey, I really liked the blog. I never heard of Raven’s Rock so I liked how you explained where it’s mentioned and the ghost stories. I have heard of the “women in white” but didn’t know that’s where and how she died. Also I liked how you have a bunch of pictures in the post both serious and fun. Love the Disney Ichabod Crane pic thought it was cute. Also you did a good job taking those photos. Look forward to your next entry.

  5. Sarah Whitten-Grigsby
    July 25, 2011

    Archive Sleuth — may I use your photo of Raven Rock ? Or can you email and give me directions to get there so that I can take a photo of my own? Thank you.

  6. rearangers
    October 26, 2011

    Lucas, thanks so much for your great detective work! I am quite smitten w/Tarrytown and & Sleepy Hollow now, having recently learned I have long lost family buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I was recently in Sleepy Hollow to visit the gravesite & explore the cemetery – I felt as if I had come home! I am learning as much as I can about the area, Washington Irving & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In reading the book, I came to the part about the woman in white @ Raven Rock so Googled it and found this blog! GREAT information & wonderful pictures – thanks so much for sharing. When I visit again – and I will visit again – I will definitely go see this in person.

    • Lucas Buresch
      October 26, 2011

      Thanks! It means a lot to me to hear from folks who are enjoying the blog. I’ve posted hiking directions to Raven Rock on the blog. If you visit Raven Rock the next time you’re in the Sleepy Hollow area drop me a line, I’d love to hear you’re impressions.

  7. Rufus Rafft
    January 6, 2012

    Lucas, very creative story, You’re presentation of what might of been a dry, informative report was brought alive by Your sense of Humor!
    Rufus Rafft

  8. Dave Black
    February 21, 2012

    A few pictures from my February 20th, 2012 hike to Raven Rock with my sister:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34250882@N02/sets/72157629421061745/

    • Lucas Buresch
      February 21, 2012

      Thanks for sharing Dave. The photos are great, and I’m always thrilled to hear that someone’s made the trip to Raven Rock.

  9. Mark
    April 8, 2012

    Great work here. I just wanted to share my Raven Rock story with everyone. Back around 2001 I went hiking in the Rockefeller estate with a small group of friends. We had no plan, no idea where we were going, we followed the paths just to have some fun and get outdoors. We came across Raven Rock and stopped there for a break, partially because we were tired but more so because of how impressive and mysterious the rock really is. None of us knew anything about the ghost stories associated with the rock, we had never even heard the name Raven Rock before. Raven Rock amazed us, we sat under its slightly overhanging face for a while then left. The image of the rock stuck in my mind all these years until recently I decided that I wanted to go back, in my mind I knew that there was more to that place than just a nice area to take a break from hiking. I started looking at different maps to take a guess at where the rock may have been, until I came across this website and saw the maps and pictures that you have posted. At the moment I saw all of this I literally said out loud “I knew it!” because I always knew there was something special about that place after all of these years and I had finally confirmed it. I hiked to Raven Rock today using your hiking directions and it is exactly as I remember, it is truly an awesome thing to see but it is also a very dreadful place, it is eerie to be walking along the ridge line and all of a sudden come across such a dark and intimidating mass that just doesn’t seem to belong there. I was only disappointed to see that rock climbers have bolted parts of the rock to make a sport climbing route, which is permanent damage that takes away from the natural characteristics of the rock itself. Other than that the place looked exactly as I remembered and I plan on going back soon. If you have heard the story of the woman in white, you MUST to go Raven Rock because you will instantly be able to visualize it for yourself.

    • Lucas Buresch
      April 9, 2012

      Hi Mark,

      Glad to hear you were able to visit Raven Rock again. Hearing stories like yours really means a lot to me, and makes it all worthwhile. Thanks for reading the blog!

      Best,
      Lucas

  10. Trista Marie
    September 15, 2013

    Hi, Lucas!

    I finally visited Raven Rock and have you to thank for it! I lurked this page a few times before trekking the trek 🙂 Below is a link to my Facebook album. I made it “public” so hopefully you can view it.

    Thanks for the directions and info!

    https://www.facebook.com/gabbygoons/media_set?set=a.634050416615436.1073741832.100000314513236&type=1

  11. Paul Donnelly
    May 11, 2014

    I had many a childhood adventure to Raven Rock. There was an oil panting in the lobby of Hawthorne elementary school many years ago. Don’t know if it is still there.

    Paul D

    • Ray Brown
      January 18, 2015

      Paul, What years did you go to Hawthorne Elementary? I went to Kindergarten in 1959 through 4th grade 1964. The adventures of a Hike to Raven’s Rock have never left my Boy-hood Memories. It was an all day affair to get there and back, and a scary one for an 8 year old. Ray (Randy) Brown

      • Paul Donnelly
        January 20, 2015

        Ray, I grew up in Hawthorne. I was in Kindergarten at Hawthorne Elementary in 1966. I have been to Raven’s Rock many many times. From about age 8. I sent much of my childhood exploring the Rockefeller Estate and Buttermilk Hill. From the time of the Hawthorne Circle to today. I have great and wonderful memory’s.

  12. art
    October 7, 2014

    hello lucas: been to ravens rock numerous times in the 1960’s when I was a young lad.. we would cross rt 9a, then the saw mill pkwy, then saw mill river and walk straight up to the formation..we would hit it from the top…I would say it is about directly above where wendys restaurant is on rt 9a in hawthorne is.. this is about 1 mile south of the old hawthorne circle.. one word of caution.. be careful in the fall…copperheads known to frequent the area…

    • Ray Brown
      January 18, 2015

      Art, Where in Hawthorne did you live and how old are you? I lived up on Joyce Place in Hawthorne when our adventure to Raven’s Rock occurred. I was born in 1954 so my adventures happened around 1962-63 time frame.

      • art
        October 20, 2015

        grew up on brookline in hawthorne born in 1954 hawthorne elementary and so on to Westlake hs

  13. Ray Brown
    January 18, 2015

    Luca, Great job taking me down memory lane. I lived in Hawthorne over 50 years ago. Our house was up on Joyce Place and as a kid of around 8 years old I had heard of The Legend of Raven’s Rock. At that time we kids were only aware of the Indian Maiden Legend………………..She had fallen off the rock while trying to capture a Raven. We decided to hike up to the rock led my an older boy of maybe 12 or 13. It seemed such a dangerous mission for us. Just crossing The Sawmill Parkway was one of the dangers. We cut through Rosedale’s Nursery which I am glad to see still exists (Use to buy our Christmas Trees and Wreaths there) eventually found the trails up to the rock. We were too scared to go up to the rock. The Legend was frightening! Back then it was a scary adventure and it took us all day to get up and back, even though today I look on maps of the area and we were really not that far away. While using Google Earth to try and find the sites of my old boy-hood adventures, I found photos of Raven’s Rock which got me to your site. Thanks so much for bringing me back over 50 years to the innocent times of my youth when things were so much simpler, and when new adventures awaited every day……..Semper Fidelis, Ray Brown

  14. Ray Brown
    January 18, 2015

    Art, Where in Hawthorne did you live and how old are you?

  15. Pingback: New Legends of Sleepy Hollow: An Interview With Author Richard Gleaves - The Weekly Holler

  16. Frank Palmentiero
    February 9, 2017

    The Hawthorne elementary school which sits a few hundred yards off buttermilk mountain has a painting or a least had a painting of this legend in there entranceway, always thought that it was strange to have there

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This entry was posted on April 10, 2011 by in Caves, cliffs, and rocks, Historic sites, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Pocantico Hills.

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