The Salem Museum will host its annual Ghost Walk from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (tours every 15 minutes) on Saturday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 25.
It’s a living history tour through Salem’s historic East Hill Cemeteries in which costumed re-enactors portray people buried there, talking about their lives and the history of the town.
Reservations strongly recommended. $6 donation requested. The Ghost Walk involves a walk of some distance, part of it uphill. It may not be suitable for those who have trouble walking, and all should wear comfortable shoes. While not a scary event, it may not be suitable for very young children. In case of rain, the event will be held inside the Museum.
To control the size of the groups, it is strongly encouraged that guests call and schedule a tour time. For more information, contact The Salem Museum at 389-6760, firstname.lastname@example.org
The museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem.
Submitted by John Long, Salem Museum
For more on the how the museum’s ghost walk began and the historical figures portrayed in this year’s event, see below for an extended release from the Salem Museum:
Nearly a century ago, Edgar Lee Masters’ classic Spoon River Anthology introduced America to the denizens of a fictional Illinois cemetery. Masters gave voice to the folks buried there, allowing them to tell their typical American stories in free verse.
Thirteen years ago, the Salem Museum staff began to wonder what those buried in Salem’s historic East Hill Cemeteries would tell us if given the chance to speak for an evening. “We had already scheduled a Halloween event without knowing what it was we wanted to do,” recalled Museum Director John Long. “We decided that it would be fun and educational to raise the dead and let real people tell real stories about Salem’s past.”
“Of course, raising the dead proved beyond the capabilities of the Museum,” Long laughed. “But we were able to recruit some wonderful volunteer actors.”
Thus was born the increasingly popular Salem Museum Ghost Walk. More a living history lesson than a haunted house, the Ghost Walk brings to life actual people buried in the East Hill Cemeteries. Each tells about his or her life, and taken together the ghosts uncover the history of Salem itself. This year, to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the stories of that epic conflict will be highlighted.
“There was little fighting in our area, but local boys fought in almost all of the major battles of the War,” noted Long. “There is a lot of history buried at your feet when you stroll through these cemeteries.”
One ghost will certainly be unexpected by some–a man who wore the blue, not the gray. Miles Herrington was a New York infantryman who marched to the sea with Sherman, and who later moved to Salem, where he died. He’ll be enjoying a little reunion with local soldier George Brown, who was on the opposite side of the lines in several early battles.
In East Hill North, Salem’s traditional burying ground for African Americans, Anna Burwell will tell of her husband Larkin, who enlisted in the 127th Colored Infantry out of Pennsylvania and was wounded in action. “We don’t know how Larkin, a Botetourt County native, ended up in a Pennsylvania regiment.” said Long. “But we presume he was a runaway slave who made his way north and enlisted.” Lying since 1923 in an unmarked grave in East Hill North, he is the only known black Union veteran buried in Salem.
Other Civil War ghosts scheduled to haunt this year include Elvira Moorman, who endured the trauma of war on the home front in Salem, and James Huff, the town jailer who unwillingly found himself running a POW camp during the war. Farther up the hill, Judge W. W. Moffett will discuss the great Elson History Controversy of 1911, in which he was a key player. This debate over the memory of Civil War history and the nature of academic freedom thrust Salem and Roanoke College into the national spotlight a century ago.
Revolutionary War hero General Andrew Lewis will also make his annual appearance, and a group of young ladies can be found sharing the gossip of their day: a scandalous elopement of a Salem girl.
“All the stories we tell are true.” noted Long. We have to occasionally make educated guesses about things, but the best part of the Ghost Walk is that it’s actual history brought back from the dead.”
Before and after their tour, guests are invited to learn more about Salem’s Civil War history by touring the museum’s featured exhibit “The Fiery Ordeal Through They Passed.” Other museum galleries will open during the Ghost Walk as well, exploring Salem’s development through two centuries, Salem’s Native American pre-history, and Lakeside Amusement Park.
The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from noon to 5 pm. Admission to the museum is free.