Ever stroll through a moonlit cemetery in October? Imagine autumn leaves crunching beneath your feet as you advance warily down the path, shadows of weathered tombstones on either side. Suddenly you become aware of an ethereal figure in an old grey uniform…what do you do? Scream and run away? Close your eyes and hope he fades away?
The Salem Museum suggests you stop and listen to him, because he probably has a story to tell.
On October 20 and again on the 23rd, Salem will be alive with spirits and stories of her past. The 15th annual Salem Museum Ghost Walk through the historic East Hill Cemeteries features actual Salemites of the past buried in the two graveyards, portrayed by costumed re-enactors and eager to share tales of the town in days gone by.
“We have found no more effective way to teach folks about local history than the Ghost Walk,” said Museum Director John Long. “Think about it– if the people in a cemetery could rise up and tell us about their lives, how much could we learn? Our Ghost Walk gives us the chance to talk to the dead, in a sense.”
Among the characters who will be portrayed in the 2012 Ghost Walk are Jacob Frier, the town sergeant (policeman) in the 19th century; Eliza Fox, an African American leader of her day and James Bryant, one of Salem’s first firemen. Revolutionary War general Andrew Lewis will make his annual appearance, and back by popular demand the Deyerle brothers, who haven’t risen from their eternal resting places for several years.
“What makes the Ghost Walk enjoyable is the quality of the acting,” Long said. “All of our actors are volunteers, but they really bring the characters to life.”
“Several of the actors are teachers by profession,” added Assistant Museum Director Helen Johnson. “I think that testifies to the educational value of the Ghost Walk. Folks learn history and have fun doing it.”
Ghost walkers will gather at the appointed hour inside the Salem Museum, where they will be welcomed by Mary Jane Brown, a one-time resident of the house that now serves as the Museum. From there the groups will proceed into the night to meet other characters from Salem’s past. All the tales are based on fact, and taken together, they combine into a history of Salem itself.
The tours run approximately every fifteen minutes from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and take about an hour. To keep the size of the groups to a reasonable level, reservations are strongly suggested. A suggested donation of $6 per person is requested for the event. In the event of rain, the Ghost Walk will be held inside the Museum. Call the Museum at 540-389-6760 for more information and reservations.
The Ghost Walk involves a trek of some distance, much 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.
The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.
Submitted by John Long, Salem Museum.