Happy Halloween! If you’re like me, you love this time of year. Really, I love all of fall with its hayrides, corn mazes, pumpkin everything, and of course Halloween activities. This year, we attended the Halloween Phantasmagoria at Duke Homestead. This is actually the second time we’ve spent Halloween at the homestead; the first was during the Widows and Wakes event they held in 2013.
Phantasmagoria means ‘a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection or assemblage; a dreamlike state where real and imagined elements blur together.’ During the event, we explored historical concepts of Spiritualism and wonder from the 19th century at Duke Homestead, as costumed actors helped to set the stage and answer any questions we might have had about life during that time. With our flashlights, we wandered the historic property to witness several aspects that our ancestors in the 19th century would have participated in during this time of year. It was fun! I apologize for the quality of my photos; we were running late and I forgot my good camera so I had to rely on my phone. A lot of the photos were taken in the dark with candlelight being the only light available. But hopefully you’ll get a good idea of what the event was like.
First, we stopped to take some photos in historic costumes. Hopefully the photos of us will be available this week and I can share. I wore a straw hat with an old-timey dress. Nick wore an old vest with gold bottons and an old bolo-type hat. We looked pretty dapper. The next stop was to listen to a costumed actor read an excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. It was way too dark there for photos, so you can just use your imagination.
Then we attended a magic lantern light show. A magic lantern was an early type of image projector employing painted pictures or photographs of sheets of glass, a lens and a bright light source. The actors showed us primitive photos of geography like Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal, photos of the moon’s surface, and then told us two little stories. In the photo below, you can see where the actor was telling us the story of Old Mother Hubbard.
We moved to the back of the main house and watched these three adorable little girls play games that helped them predict who they would marry when they were older. In this particular game, one girl is blindfolded and has to reach out and touch one of three bowls; if her hand touched the bow filled with water, it meant she would marry someone very handsome but poor, the bowl with water and soap meant she would marry someone rich but ugly, and the empty bowl meant she would not marry at all. They offered to let a volunteer try, and she ended up reaching into the empty bowl. Whomp, whomp. She was a good sport about it 🙂
Finally, we attended a seance. This was the final and most entertaining part of the entire event. The costumed actors gathered around and attempted to convince the skeptic actor that the medium was real. The medium said the dead would communicate with them through a series of knocking — three knocks meant yes — and then she asked the spirit several questions to which it would either knock of not. They also asked for a volunteer in the audience to join them, which was really amusing until we found out at the end that he had been planted there for the show.
All of the events I’ve attended that the Duke Homestead have been a lot of fun, and would be really captivating for those who enjoy seeing a little bit of our history brought to life. The next event they have planned is Christmas by Candlelight where guests can enjoy traditional story telling, hot cider, and cookies, as well as join costumed interpreters in live music and historic dancing, and help decorate a Christmas tree in true Victorian style. Who wouldn’t want to join their carolers for songs around a fire? I can’t wait for this event.