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Last updated: November 09, 2018

'The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow'
Stage-play script, music and sound effects

An imaginative 60-minute stage-play adaptation of Washington Irving's famous short-story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow--perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving or any Early-America course of study.  Here is detailed information about the play, the cast, sound effects, and music.

The performance royalty fee is based upon the venue (theater, school, festival) and the number of performances. You order by sending me an e-mail detailing the venue and number of performances. I will e-mail you complete information about the royalty fee and how to pay. If you make an online payment via PayPal (using debit card or credit card), you can have the script, music and sound effects in your hands within hours. I e-mail you a PDF of the full script. The music and sound effects tracks can be downloaded as MP3s.

My script dramatizes Irving?s classic short-story, bringing to life scenes and characters that were merely described in the original, including the one-room schoolhouse, the Van Tassel household, the country damsels, the townsfolk?s ghost stories, singing-master Ichabod?s terrible church choir, the quilting frolic, and the climatic chase by the Headless Horseman. The treatment is both spooky and funny, with a poetry duel, a rained-out pie-contest and several are-they-or-aren?t-they dream sequences with the Horseman. As with my adaptations of Dickens? Christmas Carol and Frank Capra?s It?s A Wonderful Life!, the show is suitable for all audiences, yet performable by students. However, it is not dumbed-down for kiddies. I remain true to Washington Irving?s short story, bringing plenty of authentic 1789 elements?from Major Andre, to Isaac Watts to Jonathan Edwards to Hudson Valley folktales.

I offer a professional adaptation of Washington Irving's short-story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow--as a traditional stage play. The script is delivered as a PDF file via e-mail. There is no fee per-script-copy, like other play publishers. I send you a PDF of the full script and you can make as many copies as needed for cast and crew?at no additional charge

I also offer pre-recorded sound effects backgrounds and pre-recorded music tracks featuring orchestral backing for the narrator's scene transitions and underscoring some portions of the dialogue. These work the way movie music enhances spookiness or other emotional states. Additional music tracks feature a pump organ for Ichabod Crane's terrible church choir and a 1789-style folk band for the raucous dancing/singing at the quilting frolic.

Along with the script, you get a 15-page appendix including casting monologues, a sound effects cookbook, pre-recorded track listings and audio-gear requirements. The live sound effects (galloping horses, door knocks, footsteps, etc.) are up to you to assemble, but my script has a "cookbook" section explaining how to make each sound using items you can find in your town. Additionally, since I am a professional sound effects artist, I offer pre-recorded tracks of the more unusual sounds--(crickets, rain, thunder, meadow ambience, lapping waves, plunging into the Tappan Zee, a cloudburst, etc.) for a one-time fee. 

I accept institutional checks (theater, school, church) and credit/debit cards via the free and secure service. If you pay on-line, you can have the script, music and sound effects in your hands within hours.

The performance royalty is based upon the venue (theater, school, festival) and the number of performances. First, contact me at  and tell me about your intended production (venue size, seating capacity, ticket prices, how many performances, etc.) I will reply with a detailed quote on fees and how to pay. After I receive payment, I deliver the full script via e-mail as a PDF file, and the pre-recorded music cues and pre-recorded sound effects tracks can be downloaded as MP3 files.

If you want to produce The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow as a stage play, you couldn't find a more authentic, entertaining and resource-laden version than this.


About the play:
The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow is Tony "Sparx" Palermo's faithful, yet imaginative reworking of Washington Irving's classic tale of Americana. While Irving's original short-story is long on description and bereft of dialogue, this adaptation takes each scene from Irving and dramatizes it. We inhabit Ichabod Crane's classroom, Katrina Van Tassel's rich home, Tarrytown's riverside gossips, the Quilting Bee, the haunted Old Mill--as well as new scenes of Ichabod's ill-fated pie-eating contest, a poetry-duel with a country bumpkin, lodging with the Van Brunt family, awful singing lessons and an out-of-tune choir at the Old Dutch Church. What's more, Ichabod has two nightmares featuring the Headless Horseman, before their final, terrifying chase at the crossroads.

This adaptation has been performed and recorded by community theatre troupes and students all across America and Canada. The radio-drama adaptation of this play won WJCU-FM an award for best radio production several years ago, in Cleveland, Ohio. 

This script is true to Washington Irving's 1789 language and theme--without a string of characters merely reciting Irving's descriptions of settings and action--something you'll find in several other adaptations of this story. What's more, this production boasts authentic, orchestral music tracks of early American folk and thrillingly spooky ghost music. The instrumentation varies from woodwinds and strings to dulcimer, guitar, drums and harmonica, to pump organ, chimes, cymbals, and timpani.

Additionally, pre-recorded sound effects are available for the more unusual sounds: creepy crickets, tree frogs, thunderstorms, the waves of the Tappan Zee, pastoral meadows, eerie winds. Please note that sounds generated by the characters, such as doors, the Horseman's devilish steed, noisy party crowds, plates & forks and ritual drums are not part of the pre-recorded collection. They are intended to be done live as "noises offstage" by a sound effects crew in coordination with the actors as they perform.

Changes of gender for characters is permitted, as is trimming lines and even whole scenes.

Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow stage-play sample script--with scene excerpts and a truncated version of the 15-page "How To" appendix:

        SCRIPT SAMPLE - STAGE-PLAY - Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow - TRUNCATED.pdf (296 KB)

You can view/print the script, which is in the PDF format, via the free Adobe Acrobat reader program, which works for PCs and Macs.

Below is a link to an audio clip of pages 2-3 of the stage-play script, demonstrating how live actors' voices work together with my pre-recorded music and pre-recorded sound effects to tell the story vividly. (Note: In the demo clip, only the galloping hoof-beats, the horseman's evil laugh and the townspeople's screams are to be done as live, off-stage sound effects. All others sound effects are on a pre-recorded track. The narrator would be your live actor, on-stage, accompanied by the music and sound effects.)

            MP3 DEMO CLIP - The Headless Horseman's Origin - from pages 2-3 of the stage-play (2.4MB)

Cast size

Throughout the play, there are never more than 6 characters in a scene, so a small cast can easily perform the entire show. However, you can employ anywhere from 7 to 30 actors.

Maximum: 16 men, 13 women, and 1 man-OR-woman. With the doubling of roles, this show has been done with only 12 actors (6 male, 6 female?but you are permitted to change the genders of characters to suit the makeup of your troupe.)

Without doubling, the cast list is as follows:

KNICKERBOCKER The narrator (Male/Female)
ICHABOD CRANE Yankee school-master (M)
KATRINA VAN TASSEL Rich 18 yr-old girl (F)
BROM VAN BRUNT Arrogant suitor (M)
PARSON HILLEBRAND Fiery preacher (M)
LITTLE ULF VAN BRUNT Mischievous boy (M)
MOGEN VAN BRUNT Tough blacksmith (M)
KOREN VAN BRUNT Wife of blacksmith (F)
LORIS Cheeky country lad (M)
VOORLEZER Church leader (M)
MYNHEER 1 Superstitious man (M)
MYNHEER 2 Skeptical man (M)
MYNHEER 3 Gullible man (M)
VROUW 1 Superstitious woman (F)
VROUW 2 Skeptical woman (F)
VROUW 3 Gullible woman (F)
LITTLE GERT Young girl (F)
BALTUS VAN TASSEL Wealthy farmer (M)
SOFIE VAN TASSEL Regal farm wife (F)
VARKENVISSER Storyteller (M)
ASTRID Country damsel (F)
BRIELLE Country damsel (F)
ROOS Country damsel (F)
ALVA Girl student (F)
FAMKE Girl student (F)
CECILIUS Boy student (M)
DOL Boy student (M)
HEADLESS HORSEMAN Vengeful ghost (M)

Pre-Recorded Music Tracks for 'Headless Horseman'

I offer pre-recorded orchestral music tracks?20+ minutes worth. These 22 tracks cover scene transitions and underscore the drama. They are NOT Broadway-style musical songs. Mostly, the music tracks function the way movie music does--supporting the drama. The instrumentation consists of a small orchestra, supplemented--for the quilting frolic band--with hammered dulcimer, guitar, jaw-harp, harmonica, and snare drum.

The music cues are available as downloadable MP3 files.

01) Sleepy Hollow Intro [1:08]
02) Horseman's Origin [1:44]
03) School-master [0:37]
04) Van Brunt Dinner [0:34]
05) Moonlight Walk [0:41]
06) Eerie Ritual [2:41]
07) Only a Nightmare [0:39]
08) Country Damsels [0:41]
09) Van Tassel's Parlor [0:47]
10) Sabbath Bells [0:49]
11) Boating Excursion [0:49]
12) Hush-A-Bye [0:31]
13) Heavenly Courting [0:19]
14) Rude Awakening [0:19]
15) Twilight Journey [0:41]
16) (SOURCE) Frolic [0:44]
17) (SOURCE) Yankee Doodle Dancing [2:31]
18) Firesiders [0:31]
19) Ichabod's Sigh [1:07]
20) Vengeful Coup [0:46]
21) Aftermath [0:59]
22) Twisted Fanfare Outro [0:21]

Pre-Recorded Sound Effects Tracks for 'Headless Horseman'

I also offer 23 pre-recorded sound effects tracks--6 minutes worth of the more unusual sounds: spooky winds, crickets, tree frogs, storms, water splashes, lake ambience, thunder, creek water rushing into a mill vat, etc.

01) Wind & Battle sounds (soldiers, muskets, sword fights, horses) [0:46]
02) Cannon blast, battle sounds fade into crickets [1:43]
03) Crickets & wind #1
04) Wind, then Crickets & wind #2 [5:10]
05) Mill ambience of dripping water
06) Sluice gate opens/Water fills vat [1:16]
07) Riverside ambience - a bit windy [4:42]
08) Thunder rumble with riverside ambience [2:41]
09) Thundercrack/Cloudburst [0:24]
10) Thunderclap heard from inside church [0:21]
11) Tappan Zee ambience [5:10]
12) Brom falls into river, splashes about--with ambience [5:10]
13) Sofie falls into river, swims--with ambience [1:46]
14) Twilight meadow ambience [4:08]
15) Midnight Crickets & Wind, Rolling Thunder [1:45]
16) Thunder, rain starts, then downpour [2:05]
17) Thunder amid downpour [1:52]
18) Thunder, intense rain 1 [1:43]
19) Thunder, intense rain 2 [1:38]
20) Ichabod plunges into brook, Thunder [1:38]
21) Sunday ambience [1:27]
22) Crickets & wind #3 [0:43]
23) Thunder, Crickets & Wind [0:35]

TONY PALERMO is a radio playwright, professional sound effects artist, radio director, composer, and educator based in Los Angeles, California.

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