When I decided to take my newest sleuth, undercover art detective, Sophie Fisher, on her latest adventure, I knew where I’d set the book. Sleepy Hollow, of course.
I wanted to take a river cruise on the Hudson; I wanted to tour Sleepy Hollow and its neighboring village of Tarrytown; and I wanted to enjoy the gorgeous fall colors.
I wondered how Sophie, a French Catholic, would react to spending All Hallows’ Eve in America. How would she respond to the ghosts and the legend of the headless horseman?
Researching the subject—both from Sophie’s perspective for the book as well as for my own edification as a new Catholic—I realized that Sophie would view ghosts in two ways.
They were either poor souls from Purgatory, allowed to visit the living on earth to request a mass or some type of offering—in the form of prayer or virtues such as humility, patience, and kindness—that their time in purification might be shortened.
Or they were demons masquerading as the souls of those who’d passed on.
What is the difference?
Well, souls cannot be called up at will. They only appear to the living when allowed by the Will of God to do so. Souls who’ve chosen to condemn themselves to hell—I use the word chosen advisedly since a complete rejection of God and an aversion to Him results in the soul being so unable to stand God’s presence that it prefers the darkness of hell—can also appear to the living.
In some cases, this might be to warn the living that hell exists; in others to let the living know their prayers on the behalf of such soul are of no avail.
But spirits called up by the living almost always turn out to be demons masquerading as the dead spirits we’re trying to contact. This is why the Church strongly recommends against dabbling in the occult; it can open a doorway to the demonic.
Why do some spirits haunt the places where they lived and worked or where they died? It turns out that for some poor souls—or holy souls, as they’re also called—their time of purification must be lived out on earth.
I couldn’t resist giving the headless horseman a cameo role in the plot. He makes his appearance just when the other characters—attendees at a workshop given by the suspected art thief Sophie is tracking down—are dressed as characters from Washington Irving’s famous story.
Sophie herself is supposed to be Katrina Van Tassel. One of the other characters is Brom Van Brunt. The thief, believe it or not, chooses to go as Ichabod Crane.
I’ll let you find out why when you read the story. As to how Sophie reacts to the unexpected appearance of the headless horseman—I’ll let that be a surprise as well.
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