Just a follow up to the Dana Thomas House's Ghost Stories. The second night was just as much fun as the first
I was back in Cousin Flora's room, which for me was still very comfortable. I guess she approved of the stories, which rotated between, "Tam Lin," "The Hitchhiker," and "The Organ Master." I will admit that with the flow of the crowds it was more workable to settle to short tales that would fit in after I told a little about Flora Lawrence, and the lay out of the rooms. And once the crowds began it was steady till about 8:10, when the attendees were gently herded out.
(With a hint of Story Musing.)
Tonight was the first night of "Ghost Stories at the Dana Thomas House" (http://www.dana-thomas.org/), and it was a grand night.
I'm hoping I can get a walk through and hear some of the stories in the other rooms, since the docents, and Mike Anderson, are telling stories that have actually occurred at the house. I have heard snippets, and those are indeed intriguing as it seems to be a very active house.
Nor is this surprising since Susan Lawrence was a serious student of Spiritualism, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritualism), and hosted seances at her home. She also a student of other faiths, such as: Theophists (spiritualists), Bahais, and adherents of the Unity church. And to reflect this she called her home, "The Lawrence Center for Constructive Thought."
I was allowed to perform my storytelling in Cousin Flora Lawrence's room, which is very rarely opened to the public. Flora Lawrence was dependent of Susan's father, since he was Flora's only male relative. When Susan had Frank Lloyd Wright redesign her home into what became one of his masterpieces she made sure that both Flora, and Susan's mother, had comfortable rooms. Flora had sitting room, a private balcony, a private bath, and her own room. And from what I heard this evening from the docents they have learned that she was not only a lovely woman, but a well-read one, and one whose opinion was much sought.
She predeceased Susan, who had cared for her during her long illness, and some of the docents think that Flora has remained at the house.
As for myself, I (so far!) passed a pleasant evening up in her room. The visitors came up to the room, and not only asked after its history, but stayed for a tale. The only "odd" moment was when two ladies entered, and suddenly the temperature in a very warm room dropped. But only while they were there.
So that was the first eve, and I would heartily recommend that folks take advantage of the tour tomorrow eve!
Some of the folks I met, and conversations I had, at Old Settlers' Day deserve their own blog post.
As I mentioned in "Story Musings" I had the pleasure of hearing Richard Hart discussing his pamphlet about the Underground Railroad in Springfield. This is available through the Sangamon County Historical Society (http://www.sancohis.org/). In the course of the short lecture Mr Hart talked about William K Donnegan's activities as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and as a friend of Abraham Lincoln. He also was brutally murdered during the 1908 Race Riot. His death was one of the major catalysts for the NAACP.
As I listened to Mr Hart explained where various individuals lived I began to realize that my grandparents had lived near a lot of history. And with my grandfather, Walter A. Townsend, being a newspaper editor that he would have known much of the pulse of the city. And I remembered that for a vital moment he entered history - he was one of the few that was a witness for the prosecution against the men who murdered Mr. Donnegan.
I also had pleasure of meeting one of the founders of the African American History Foundation (http://www.spiaahf.org/). He told me a little bit about the oral history program they are working on, and about the efforts for a dedicated museum.
Another historical group represented was the 114th Infantry Illinois Volunteers (http://www.114thillinois.com/). They had set up a display of a Civil War Field hospital, but due to the earlier threat of storm they had been established on the second floor the Strawbridge-Shepherd House. And really it looked rather realistic; the room was stark, and probably very similar to the many rooms, in the many houses, where such hospitals had been established after a battle.
The combination of historical interests offered a very enriching overview of what is offered in Springfield, and in Illinois.
This entry could also be entitled, "Marathon Storytelling."
I knew that the pacing would be picking up as I neared Halloween, and had rather braced myself. A couple of weeks earlier I had done Lincoln Memorial Gardens' Indian Summer Festival, which leaned very heavily towards "summer" with a mini-heat wave. I was so used to it being cold that I hadn't even thought to bring out my sun hat, but fortunately the Gardens' well-stocked gift shop had one. The show was soon followed by Riverton Elementary School's Fall Fling and Book Fair. This too was a lot of fun, though I will again say, "I need a GPS unit!"
After a brief bit of breathing room I launched into this weekend.
Saturday began with the Elijah Iles Foundations' "Old Settler's Day," which is a fundraiser for the Strawbridge-Shepherd House; this is one of the oldest farmhouses in the area.
The day started off with some threatening clouds, which, after I had just gotten into my civil war era gown, let loose. We all took to what cover we could find.
But once that was done the festival settled into a pleasant rhythm.
Since the rain had delayed any attendees all of the volunteers came in to hear Richard Hart give a talk on the Underground Railroad in Springfield. He kiddingly asked one young lady, who he knew, if she had learned anything at the end of it. And she said, "No. I have a short attention span."
Which didn't reassure me when her mother suggested that both that young lady, and her younger sister, come over and hear stories.
I decided to try "Tam Lin," since it has often caught a young lady's attention.
And it did again. At the end of the story the self-proclaimed restless one said, "I've never heard anything like that. All you find are werewolves, and vampires and stuff."
She then settled to hear "Jack and the Gower," which is a "dragon-slaying" story from Missouri, though the dragon is an enormous alligator in the tale.
All of this led into a pleasant hour of discussing books and pets.
I was only scheduled for a short performance run; this had been at my own request, since I thought I would rest up before Clayville's Haunted House. However, with the day having turned fine, and there being other dogs at the festival, I went back home to get Winston (my 2 year old Coonhound). He too had a grand time greeting many friendly people.
Much later I drove out to Clayville for their "Raising the Dead" Haunted House (http://clayville.org/home).
The moon was full, with a veil over her, and her light was eerie on the ancient stagecoach stop. I had a new Halloween performing costume - a black velveteen "opera coat" with a hood. So I would have been eerie myself - except that I had to keep hold of my coffee mug so it wouldn't get knocked over by the straw bails. I had been stationed by the bonfire so I could entertain those waiting for the tractor to bring the wagon over.
Though adults and children were excited (and scared) with anticipation of the hay rack ride and the house they were all a good audience.
I complimented one young lady (a return member of the audience) on being a good listener. To which she replied, "It takes good stories to make a good listener." (Wise words from a twelve year old, and very appreciated.)
I was also pleased to hear the rave reviews of the haunted tour - the Clayville planners had outdone themselves!
it was a late drive home, and an somewhat early morning on Sunday.
The Rock the Playhouse at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center was a lively scene. I had two half hour, almost back-to-back, performances on their main stage. And despite everything being offered around there were several families that stayed to listen.
This morning I heard that they ran out of tickets twice over, which was very good news for the American Foreclosure and Mortgage Relief Foundation http://www.afamr.org/.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.