Halloween at the Museum
October 31, 2014 - Zoe Dennington
Halloween has always been one of my favourite times of year, as I am partial to darkening evenings, autumnal walks and a good ghost story. You can imagine my delight, then, when I began programming events at the American Museum- the perfect chance to celebrate this all-American holiday in a setting that is reportedly home to its very own spooks.
Halloween at the Museum also means Heritage Open Week, when Discovery Card holders can access our gardens for free. It is one of the busiest weeks of our year, and a great chance to arrange events for family visitors. This year storyteller Richard Selby wove mysterious tales inspired by objects from our handling collection, including a 19th century lamp and a native american arrow. Over 100 children and their families attended our ‘Happy Halloween’ event, creating spooky bats, spiders and cloaks from recycled materials with Wiltshire Scrapstore.
We were also delighted to welcome back falconer Ray Prior, who brought his beautiful birds to soar above the grounds.
Events took a more sinister turn on Wednesday and Thursday evening, as tour guide Monica took a small group of guests on an after-hours Ghost Tour around the Museum. With the help of Roger, the House Steward, we were able to darken the house to a shadowy gloom, and at 6pm on Wednesday an appropriately eerie fog settled over the grounds.
The tour includes classic American ghost stories, but also touches upon strange goings-on at Claverton Manor itself. Guests heard about the mischievous antics of the ‘little ones’ in The Lodge at the Museum’s entrance, the appearance of ghostly children in the grounds, and might even have caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure melting away into the darkness…
This afternoon’s events promise to be much more cheerful, as we celebrate the Mexican festival of Day of the Dead. This holiday is celebrated on 1 and 2 November across Mexico, and in the many parts of the USA where there are large Latino communities. It is a time for families to gather together and remember loved ones who have died. Often people create a small altar (or ofrenda) in their homes and decorate it with photographs of the deceased, marigolds, candles, and sugar skulls. This is sometimes followed by a visit to the loved one’s grave, where the family sit and share memories about them.
This afternoon families will be invited to create masks and decorations, before joining the parade and helping to decorate our altar. Catering Manager Ines has even prepared some traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead) for everyone to try.
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