Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 17, 2013

SALISBURY — Salisbury played a starring role in the “Sleepy Hollow” premiere Monday night, and even though the TV series has moved to Wilmington, many residents say they will watch the show again.

“Oh my, I was impressed,” Debra Rookard said. “Although it was based on what appears to be such a hokey premise, I think it came off as quite laudable.”

The front yard of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church provided a dramatic location for Ichabod Crane’s re-awakening 250 years after the Revolutionary War. The Bell Tower hosted the unfortunate beheading of a priest, one of many characters who lost their heads in the supernatural thriller.

“Sleepy Hollow” will continue to air at 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.

The Confederate monument, East Innes Street and other downtown locations provided backdrops for car chases, gun battles, pyrotechnics and more in the ambitious pilot, which cost 20th Century Fox about $8 million to make.

Monday’s showdown between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman took place during a fiery battle on Council Street, and knowledgeable viewers could recognize several buildings, including the back of the Rowan Museum and Rowan County courthouse and jail. Most Salisbury scenes were shot at night, save for the scene of the sun rising over St. Luke’s iconic bell tower.

Leah Campion watched the show in her downtown home, just a few blocks from where film crews shot the pilot for a week in March.

“I was so excited to see so much of Salisbury featured in the pilot,” Campion said. “Too bad there won’t be any more filmed here. But I still plan to make this one of my weekly shows. Love the genre.”

Twentieth Century Fox moved the TV series to Wilmington to save time and money, a state film official said. It’s possible film crews could return to Salisbury to shoot scenes for the 12-episode series.

Some potential viewers in Salisbury decided to tune out after Wilmington won “Sleepy Hollow.”

“After the production company decided not to make Salisbury the site for shooting the season, I found that I no longer cared about this show,” Denny White said.

But John Cole said he will continue to watch in hopes of spotting more scenes shot in Salisbury. Despite moving the show, Cole said he expects to see Salisbury again in flashbacks.

“It was very exciting,” Cole said. “We followed it while they were filming, and it has been really interesting to see it come to fruition.”

He noted the chase scene on East Innes Street, where Ichabod, played by British actor Tom Mison, was arrested in front of the Salisbury Post, which was renamed the “Sleepy Hollow Register” during filming.

Brenda Forbis said she enjoyed it enough to tune in for the next episode. Scenes for next week’s show introduced a whole cast of villainous characters, in addition to Crane’s traditional foe.

“The Headless Horseman was OK, but the other ‘monster’ figures kind of creeped me out,” Forbis said. “I think St. Luke’s and Salisbury enhanced the show. All in all, I thought it was well done and I enjoyed it as something different.”

In the modern-day retelling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, the Headless Horseman is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. The pilot teased to conspiracies and plot twists that included everything from a secret war waged by Gen. George Washington to dueling covens of witches.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ichabod, who discovered that he’s bound to the Horseman by a blood spell cast on the battlefield of the American Revolution, realizes that the resurrected rider is only the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It was just a little too much for Vicki Hyman, TV critic for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, who suggested the show should “quit while you’re ahead” and called the sprawling, apocalyptic yarn a “preposterous, unsustainable mess.”

But the pilot received positive reviews for the most part, and Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times said the spooky show “could be a keeper.”

“It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s got some scares and some action and plenty of secrets to unveil,” wrote Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter.

Rookard, who lives on Fulton Street, said it was a thrill to see locations near her home on a TV pilot with lots of buzz.

“It’s sad that they moved it to Wilmington. That’s a great loss for Salisbury,” she said. “But I’m still going to tune in. I am hooked.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.