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11 Hair-Raising Facts About Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Fifty years before Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci tackled Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999), Bing Crosby narrated the Gothic horror story for Walt Disney in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. For many, it's become a Halloween staple on par with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie BrownHere are a few things you may not have known about the creepy classic.

1. IT WAS INTENDED TO BE A FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

In 1946, Disney animators at work on an animated version of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow realized they didn’t have enough material for the full-length feature they had planned. Rather than stretch the storyline thin, they decided to couple the short with another movie that was originally slated to be a full-length film: The Wind in the Willows. Work on the adaptation of the Kenneth Grahame book had been halted when World War II broke out, allocating Disney’s resources and budgets elsewhere.

2. BROM BONES INSPIRED ANOTHER CLASSIC DISNEY CHARACTER.

Animator Andreas Deja has said that Gaston, the macho villain from Beauty and the Beast, was influenced by Katrina Van Tassel’s burly suitor. “[Brom] is a rich character, full of confidence and full of himself. Milt's animation shows just the right amount of dash and bounce. Although the style of the film is pretty cartoony, Brom Bones's physique required careful and somewhat realistic draftsmanship in terms of anatomy ... This was great inspiration for myself, when I started work on Gaston in Beauty and the Beast.”

3. THE MOVIE MARKS BING CROSBY'S ONLY COLLABORATION WITH DISNEY.

Despite the wholesome, family entertainment reputations upheld by both parties, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the only time Bing Crosby and Disney worked together.

4. THE "HEADLESS HORSEMAN" SONG WAS FIRST PERFORMED BY TONY THE TIGER.

Before Crosby signed on, voiceover artist and longtime Disney collaborator Thurl Ravenscroft was tapped to sing the “Headless Horseman” song, even recording a version that's decidedly creepier than Bing's. The Ravenscroft rendition was later released on Walt Disney Records Archive Collection, Vol. 1. Ravenscroft, of course, also went on to sing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

5. THE SHORT ONCE INCLUDED AN ANIMATED HOMAGE TO WASHINGTON IRVING.

When The Legend of Sleepy Hollow made its television debut on the Disneyland TV show in 1955, it included a new 14-minute animated segment about the life and times of author Washington Irving. It hasn’t been made available to the public since, but you can see a bit of the intro above.

6. THE ENDING IS LESS AMBIGUOUS IN THE ORIGINAL NOVEL.

Though the cartoon (and most of the other Sleepy Hollow adaptations) leaves Ichabod’s fate rather murky, Washington Irving’s novel is more blunt: Ichabod survives the encounter, goes on to become a lawyer, and becomes a justice of the Ten Pound Court.

7. BROM BONES'S INVOLVEMENT IS ALSO A BIT MORE OBVIOUS.

Though the cartoon hints that Brom Bones was masquerading as the Headless Horseman in order to scare Ichabod away from Katrina, Irving spells it out a little more in his original work: "Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival's disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell."

8. ALL OF DISNEY'S NINE OLD MEN WERE INVOLVED IN THE FILM.

Walt Disney's nine legendary animators all helped bring Ichabod and the Headless Horseman to life. Most of them served as directing animators, with Les Clark serving as an animator.

9. THE CARTOON'S COMPOSER MADE A UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO THE SHORT.

Composer Oliver Wallace worked for Disney for 27 years, contributing work to more than 100 projects. As he wrote the score for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Wallace recorded himself whistling to show how Ichabod was trying to keep his composure even as the spooky sounds of the forest make him more and more hysterical.

10. ONE DISNEY EMPLOYEE RELEASED A VERSION 15 YEARS EARLIER.

Ub Iwerks, co-creator of Mickey Mouse, split with longtime friend and collaborator Walt Disney and opened his own studio in 1930. Among Iwerks's long list of shorts was The Headless Horseman (1934), a 10-minute film made with his own creation, the multiplane camera. By 1940, he and Disney had resolved their differences, and Iwerks found himself back on the payroll, eventually working on the visual effects crew for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. You can check out his 1934 efforts below to see which one you prefer:

11. THERE’S A NOD TO WASHINGTON IRVING AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM.

Though Disney shorts don’t get as much representation at the theme parks as the blockbusters do, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow makes the cut. Sleepy Hollow Refreshments at the Magic Kingdom serves waffle sandwiches, funnel cakes, and ice cream sandwiches—but what the hungry people standing in line probably don't realize is that the building is an homage to author Washington Irving. It was designed to look like Sunnyside, his former residence in Tarrytown, New York (also known as Sleepy Hollow).

Additional source: The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

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That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

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This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

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Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

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18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

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