It’s that time of year. There’s a nip in the air. Green trees are beginning to flame yellow, orange and red. And pumpkin spice is everywhere.
Ask anyone today what a ghost is and you’ll probably get a pretty general consensus – a ghost is the unsettled spirit of a deceased person. And folks will probably be able to describe one – even if they’ve never seen one or even believe in them. While nearly every culture holds stories and folklore of specters, the firm depiction we hold to today is relatively new, formed by aspects of religion, nature, ad hoc science, superstition and literary allowance.
In the 19th century, near-universal ideas about what ghosts look like, what they can do and what they are began to form. Aided by the innovation of the steam-powered printing press and a more literate society, oral stories and cautionary tales starring wispy wraiths and otherworldly visitations gained widespread distribution and a following. Authors like Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens were pros at bringing up gooseflesh.
The industrial revolution brought people out of the countryside and into cities, taking them a step away from the reality of harvest time and its cycle of death and rebirth and the seasonal influence of real survival. But such inherent paradigms are not easily shifted.
When the overland telegraph connected the east and west coasts of the United States in 1861, people’s ideas about the ability of disembodied communication went wild. If you could suddenly communicate with someone halfway around the world, could people actually communicate with someone beyond the known world? Some people, desperate to connect to a loved one on to the other side, attended table tapping sessions, sought out mediums and conducted séances.
The Civil War left its mark on supernatural belief as well. Lives and loves taken away tragically and without closure created restless spirits and a plethora of pining relatives left behind. An era of deep and intense mourning practices followed, bringing with it an intimacy of connectedness to death and the dead.
As camera technology advanced and developing processes improved, spirit photography became wildly popular. William Mumler famously photographed Mary Todd Lincoln with a shammed ghostly Abraham behind her, his near transparent hands on her shoulders. Such images helped to solidify our modern perceptions of specters and spooks and brought paranormal acceptance into the mainstream.
Is it any surprise, then, that at Conner Prairie, where we love to engage our visitors in the past and its influence on the present, thoughts turn this time of year to things that go bump in the night? Autumn after all holds the triduum observance of All Hallow’s Even, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, when people are reminded of life, death and what comes after and how the veil between what is and what will be thins like sunlight with the coming winter.
On Oct. 30, Conner Prairie will host its third annual Ghost Walk
. Once the sun goes down, you can take part in a guided walk around the Conner prairie grounds and hear storytellers recount creepy local legends, ghostly happenings and true history. I’ll be on hand to once again recount the gory – and true – tale of Wade Hampton “Hamp” West who in the 1880s was tried and convicted on charges of gruesome body snatching right here in Fishers, Ind. I’ll be telling this tale in the Prairietown graveyard. You’ll also hear the paranormal history of Heady Hollow, get inside details on some unexplained things that employees have encountered in a few of our historic buildings and much more of the macabre.
Do ghosts haunt Conner Prairie? Come and decide for yourself – if you dare.
For the first time in nearly 1,000 years, Conner Scairie is leaderless after its mayor, Lord Moldywart, accidentally turned himself into a rabbit with a transfiguration spell.
According to Lord Moldywart’s spokesgoblin, Henry Beetlebiter, the Mayor retired to his dungeon on Wednesday afternoon after a busy morning transforming his enemies into animals. The former Mayor sat down to enjoy his favorite snack of stale popcorn and stinky cheese when a kernel of popcorn became irretrievably lodged between his teeth. Mr. Beetlebiter reports that Lord Moldywart then made the fateful decision to use the pointy tip of his wand in an effort to extricate it. The wand, which still contained leftover magic from the dark wizard’s last spell, accidentally went off, rendering the once supreme ruler a helpless hare.
While reactions to Lord Moldywart’s unfortunate end have been mixed, there’s been no time wasted in mayoral candidates stepping up for your vote! Several of Conner Scairie’s most illustrious citizens announced their candidacy to replace him including the Headless Horseman, Holly Ween, Dr. Acula, Ed the mad scientist, Harry Howler and Beautisha. Meet them at Headless Horseman October 23-26 and then come back to the cauldron to place your vote.
Read all about it here:
Katie Arnold - Social Media and Interpreter
Conner Prairie guests probably recognize Dwight Gallian as being the blacksmith in Prairietown or the fur trader in Lenape. Others know him simply for the stories he shares with them. Gallian is best known for his storytelling abilities — he always has been. Since he was a child, he has been telling jokes and stories to his family.
“It’s just what I do,” he said. “It comes natural to me.”
From a very young age, Gallian has loved to read, specifically the stories by Mark Twain and O’Henry, the pen name of William Sydney Porter. He found inspiration for his method of storytelling in the style of both authors’ language. They never give too much away, he said. “Everyone sees a story differently in their mind. I want people to be able to paint the story in their mind, especially scary stories because the listener will create a scarier story in their minds.” Gallian also found inspiration in the stories of the authors themselves. He told me how Mark Twain’s life coincided with the appearance of Haley’s Comet. “He came in on the tail of a comet and got picked up on the tail of a comet.”
So I asked him, what is the secret to great storytelling? “People say they like my voice,” he said – interestingly, his voice is the thing he likes least about himself, he said. “I can see a story when I’m telling it. I’m telling pictures.”
Gallian said one of his favorite stories to tell has always been “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It is a favorite for many who have heard him tell it too. “There are so many things in Irving’s story that are factual at that time the unexplained became spiritual,” he said. Gallian extensively researches the stories he tells as he believes that understanding the context of stories in history helps him to convey them.
Today, Gallian is using his storytelling abilities as an interpreter at Conner Prairie and as an independently contracted storyteller. Although he will not be at Headless Horseman this year, you can still see him and hear his stories this fall. He will be one of the eight storytellers at this year’s Haunted Prairie
on Oct. 30. The event will explore a hidden history of Conner Prairie as guests take a night-time stroll through the historic grounds, with eerie local legends, unexplained personal accounts and more. Gallian will be telling Day of the Dead stories at Nickel Plate Arts in Noblesville on Nov. 1.
Conner Scairie is a monster world inhabited by comical, fun-loving ghouls. It’s been left leaderless after its former mayor, Lord Moldywart, accidentally turned himself into a bunny with an errant spell. Now it’s up to the humans who visit Conner Scairie to elect the new mayor. Six of Conner Scairie’s illustrious citizens are vying to take control of this haunted town. Who will you vote for?
Since Lord Moldywort’s bunnyfication, Conner Scairie has been without a true leader. I believe that we need a mayor who is educated, responsible, charming and confident. That monster is me. I promise to lead the creatures of Conner Scairie to a better future, not simply put lipstick and rouge on them.
After serving as a professor at the university for the past 1,000 years, I can say without hesitation that I know what it takes to make a society flourish. Lord Moldywort’s tenure as mayor has left the citizens of Conner Scairie in a chaotic state. I seek to bring order and honor back to our town.
Visit me at Conner Scairie so that I may better articulate in detail my plans for the future of our town. Vote for me at the next mayoral election.
I am your charming servant.