Donderberg Mountain overlooks the Hudson River just a bit above Sleepy Hollow and is in the thick of the Hudson Highlands. The legend of the Imp of Donder-Berg comes to us from the early Dutch settlers of the region, and was made somewhat famous by Washington Irving. According to the story, if the skipper of a sailing ships would fail to tip his hat to the Heer of Donder-Berg, the imp will call up a storm on the river with devastating consequences.
It’s thought, according to Jonathan Kruk in his Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley, that the imp was once one of Hendrick Hudson’s sailors by the name of John Colman, who “took an arrow through the neck” and became a ghost, calling up storms and leading a troop of imps which will happily sink any ship that fails to show the proper respect with the tip of the hat.
This swarm of imps isn’t ever seen clearly in the storm, but begins with hands of mist rising from the water, until you can just make our faces and forms in the storm. The native Americans knew them as river spirits. The Dutch saw them as sailors who drowned on the Hudson. And according to Kruk, there are those who believe they’re still there and have fought the river and seen them.
So it’s no wonder that sailors on the Hudson River still tip the hat as they pass Donder-Berg mountain.