The Canterbury Shaker Village will lead tours on Oct. 22 recounting ghostly encounters that residents recorded in their journals.(Photo courtesy of Canterbury Shaker Village)
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
In an old house in autumn, especially as the evening light fails and the wind blows leaves against the window panes, every unexplained creak or thump conjures thoughts of the many prior inhabitants of the space – they were once here, are they truly gone? And, at the Canterbury Shaker Village, where, at its height, as many as 300 Shakers lived, and the two dozen preserved buildings are as much as 220 years old, the membrane between the material world and the beyond seems especially porous. Those Shakers believed that they would have the ability in their afterlife to return to the grounds where they once worked and lived, and to appear in their mortal form to the living.
“They believed that your spirit stayed right here, in what they called the “Summerland,” said Funi Burdick, executive director of Canterbury Shaker Village. That belief was more than just academic. In fact, diaries of residents, who lived in the village from 1792 to 1992, recount such encounters. Starting in 2013, those experiences, as described in the hand-written journals, have formed the basis for “Ghost Encounters,” a special Halloween-themed program, which will take place this year on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 3 to 8 p.m.
“We started reading diaries, and we realized that they had been passing down these stories of seeing people in the afterlife,” said Burdick. The Shaker Village, which now operates as a museum, decided a few years ago to take advantage of these Shaker-style ghost stories to provide a Halloween event that would provide the kind of hair-raising thrill that the season is known for, while also enlightening visitors to the Shaker way of life.
“Ghost Encounters,” which will be held for the fourth time this year, has proven to be a smashing success – 800 people came last year, including people from all age groups, and many in costume.
As the event has evolved, organizers such as Burdick and Beth Pappas have sought to make it more fun and family-friendly. The event on Oct. 22 will include trick-or-treating, crafts and a costume contest. The centerpiece of the event remains the tour, where professional actors describe the ghostly experiences as transcribed in the diaries, and they do so in the spaces where the encounters originally occurred. As Burdick said, the surroundings lend themselves perfectly to the performances.
“We find that this kind of story telling is quite compelling. The village has a very other-worldly feel to it, especially at night,” she said. “The feeling of the Shakers who have lived before us, and you can almost feel them presenting themselves, even without a Halloween event.”
Curious about other Halloween-friendly activities in the area? Read on:
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center celebrates Halloween season with its “Hoot ‘N Howl” on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event features entertaining 40-minute guided tours around the Science Center grounds. Guests are encouraged to come in costume, will be treated to live skits with a seasonal theme along the trail. See www.nhnature.org for more information.
If your favorite part of Halloween is the jack-o’-lanterns, then you won’t want to miss the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival. Held in downtown Laconia on Oct. 22, the day begins with the Runaway Pumpkin road race at 9 a.m., a pancake breakfast at Holy Trinity School from 9 a.m. until noon, and activities, entertainment, food and train rides all day. Many who attend, though, will simply stroll up and down Main Street, where tens of thousands of jack-o’-lanterns, carved by local school children and members of the community, will be on display. Visit www.nhpumpkinfestival.com for more information.
Mayhem at the Mill first came to Laconia last year, and is returning to the Belknap Mill for two weekends this year. The haunted tour of the mill’s third floor will be held on Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29, and proceeds will benefit preservation and programming at the mill.
The Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith will be hosting “Carrie, The Musical,” a production by teenaged actors in the playhouse’s education department, Oct. 21 through 23. The musical is a recently reworked version of the Stephen King novel about Carrie White, a teenager who is an outcast at school and has a difficult relationship with her mother, and discovers that she has a special power. For ticket information, visit www.winnipe saukeeplayhouse.org.
The Moultonborough Public Library has three Halloween events planned. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, from 6 to 7 p.m., the library will host a Halloween diorama craft event, where people are encouraged to start their diorama at home and finish it at the library. On Friday, Oct 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., magician Andrew Pinard will offer a Halloween-themed show, and audience members are invited to come in costume. Costumes will also be needed for the story time “Trick or Treat” on Friday, Oct. 28, from 11 to 11:30 a.m., when the young group will trick or treat through the village.
The Meredith Public Library has many Halloween-themed things on its calendar. A “Ghostly Saturday Make and Take” is planned for Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., when guests can create a Halloween-ey creature to bring home with them. The library’s annual pumpkin carving party will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20, when the library will supply the pumpkins and the tools, as well as the snacks and cider - but advance sign-up is required. The classic Halloween movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas” will be screened on Tuesday, Oct. 25, beginning at 5 p.m. And, on Friday, Oct. 28, young library patrons can come to the “Spooky Tot Time Halloween Party” form 10 to 11 a.m., and the teenaged revelers can attend the after-hours party that begins when the library officially locks its doors for the day at 5 p.m. – don’t forget the costumes.
The Laconia Public Library will be hosting a couple of Halloween-friendly movies, with the teen movie “Ghostbusters” at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and the children’s movie “Scooby Doo - 13 Spooky Tales” at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14.
Moulton Farm, in Meredith, will be celebrating Pumpkin Weekend on Oct. 22 and 23. There will be family-friendly activities all weekend, culminating with the farm’s ninth annual “Great Pumpkin Drop” at 4 p.m. on Oct. 23, when hundreds of pumpkins, suspended via crane eight stories high, will fall and smash on the ground. Visit moultonfarm.com for more information.
The Gilford Public Library will hold a pumpkin carving event and a zombie make-up workshop this month. The pumpkin carving will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 3 to 6 p.m. – in time to have add the pumpkins to the many thousands that will be displayed in the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia on Oct. 22. Those attending this event should feel free to bring their own pumpkin and carving implements. A week later, on Oct. 26, teenagers are invited to the library from 3 to 4 p.m. for an un-dead makeover, when they will be able to use makeup and other implements to make themselves look like brain-eating zombies.
Middle and high school students are invited to Hall Memorial Library in Northfield for a Halloween treasure hunt. Those with horror story expertise will have an advantage in the hunt, which will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27.
Pitman’s Freight Room in Laconia is planning a Halloween party, featuring the Jodie Cunningham Band, on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. The rock-edged country band features a mix of covers and originals. Costumes are welcomed, and there will be prizes for the two best costumes. For more information, visit www.pitmansfreightroom.com.
Patrick’s Pub and Eatery, in Gilford, is also hosting a Halloween party on Saturday, Oct. 29. This fest starts at 9 p.m. and will include live music by the Crunchy Western Boys. Bring a nonperishable food item to be donated to a local food pantry, and get entered into a raffle. And, wear a costume to be considered for the contest – costume contest winners will be announced at 11 p.m. Visit www.patrickspub.com for more information.
Many places in the Canterbury Shaker Village, such as the dentist’s office, have an eerie feel, even in broad daylight. In the evening hours, such as when the village will be leading its “Ghost Encounters” tours, the place is downright spooky. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)