I've been asked several times, "what made you start being interested in ghosts?"
It's hard to say exactly, but I would have to say I owe part of it to Walt Disney.
One of my earliest memories I can recall is playing with an imaginary friend in my back yard. He seemed perfectly real to me, and I still wonder if he could have been a ghost. His name was Robin, and in a flashback beneath an apple tree, I saw myself walking along railroad tracks with him. He felt the need to prove his steel nerves and stood on the tracks, waiting to jump off at the last second. He was too late. I remember seeing the shadow of the train pass and knowing he was dead.
All this at 4 years old.
In the next few years, I was introduced to cable television. The Disney Channel had a habit of playing "The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad" every autumn, and through this I became familiar with Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". It tells the story of a thin, awkward schoolmaster by the name of Ichabod Crane and his encounter with the ghost of the Headless Horseman.
A few years later, I bought my first book on ghosts. Some of those earliest books I still have today. It snowballed from there and I started researching my first few real ghost stories around the age of 13. By 16, I was seeking out haunted places on my own.
Sleepy Hollow still stands out in my mind as one of the most intriguing places I have yet to visit. Yes, the town actually exists. Irving based most of the tale on fact. The characters were each real townspeople, though he changed the names in most cases.
And most importantly, The Headless Horseman wasn't a fabrication of his imagination.
A Hessian mercenary was killed near the town of Sleepy Hollow in the late 1700s. His body was buried deep in the woods of what is now Patriot's Park. For over 200 years, people have claimed to see his headless apparition riding through the woods... even in the local cemetery. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with hauntings in the small, quiet village.
Both Old Dutch Burying Ground and Sparta Cemetery have ghosts. Captain Kidd's bride is supposedly dragged through the streets at midnight. And then, or course, there's the haunting of Sunnyside... by none other than the ghost of Washington Irving himself. It is said that his apparition has a fondness for punching the posteriors of women visitors....
For more information, visit my page on Sleepy Hollow or the town's page concerning its haunted attractions.