Quite a crowd turned up for the American Ghost Society Fall Festival at the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce office yesterday. Organizer Len Adams indicated he wasn’t certain of the reaction it would get so I’m sure he was encouraged by the turn-out for the free event.
Andrea Prindable of Robinson, discussed the hauntings of Salem, Massachusetts, most of which were related to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in which 19 people were hanged. Not all. The Turner Ingersoll Mansion, for example, the model for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, is not related to the witch trials. For those not very familiar with those 1692 events, three girls were caught by the father of one, a Puritan minister at a time when religious discipline was rather brutal, discovered the girls trying to divine who they would marry. Their response was to throw a fit and start blaming others for affecting them, starting with one of the three girls, a slave girl from Jamaica, if I recall correctly. But the daughter and her cousin also named others. At trial, the girls threw fits during attempts by the accused to argue their innocence and their claims of being influenced by spirits under direction of the accused was accepted as evidence. Eventually, they accused the wife of the governor of Massachusetts and that was too much. The trials were halted and everyone then in custody for witchcraft was instantly released.
Lemp Mansion, The Exorcist
Len Adams filled in for a missing presented and talked about the house in St Louis where an exorcism occured, directly inspiring the movie The Exorcist. Len accompanied Troy Taylor to the house upon invitation of a radio station doing a Halloween broadcast.
Troy has said that he went because one of his 50-60 books is on the exorcism and he thought it would be cool to see the house. The broadcasters were disappointed when he wasn’t rabidly enthusiastic when they asked him how he felt about visiting the house. (Inescapable logic: whatever happened, it was decades ago.) For the record, something seems to remain lingering at the house because of the unusual experiences they had that night. Len said he and Troy still debate whether the original case (involving a boy, not a girl) qualified for exorcism…as a Catholic, Len believes it did Troy says it didn’t quite fit the qualifications for an exorcism which was nevertheless helf anyway (remember where Father Karras is trying to determine if possession is the issue by making note of various elements such as speaking in tongues and the like?).
Bell Witch and More
The last presenter was psychiatrist Tim Harte, who helped create a computerized tracking system that analyzes ghost stories. He broke down the types of manifestations experienced by people, and discussed how people should be looking beyond audio and video means to detect and record manifestations. According to his examination of 20,000 reports, 75% of experiences are made as people are going to sleep or waking up. He says it appears men see ghosts while women experience audio manifestations. He discussed a few haunted sites he’d visited himself like the Bell Witch Cave (the movie An American Haunting is based on the Bell Witch story) and Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery in suburban Chicago and the Waverly Sanitarium in Louisville, KY.
Lebanon Fall Festival
The background to the event at the chamber office was the Lebanon Fall Festival. I got a fish dinner before the event started and kept hitting the library’s book sale out in the middle of the street every break time. There were numerous craft booths up and down the main drag in the middle of the street and, of course, all the businesses were open. There was also an entertainment area where musicians performed and audiences sat on hay bales sets in a circle before them. It seemed like a nice event and I certainly hope Len does it again next year. With the turn-out he got, I suspect he will.
Witches Night Out
Just for the record, I should mention Lebanon has some upcoming events that fit this theme. There is the Haunted Happenings Ghost Story Tour October 22 and 23 which is spread around downtown with costumed presenters each providing a ghost story to groups of people led from one to another by a costumed guide. The stories are tales picked up from various places. These are not to be taken as true stories. More as creepy thrillers. When Pat and I took the tour a couple years ago, I recognized a couple short tales at our last stop.
Another event that looks amusing and I’ve been wanting to go is the Witch’s Night Out Sunday, October 4th from 5-9pm. It’s the ninth annual event with shopping, a fortune teller, and more. Shoppers are encouraged to show up in witch costumes. Prizes are Awarded for best witch costume and best decorated hat. Looks like fun.