Written by Anne Fairchild, eastern region program manager for the State Historic Sites
This year, history was dead and crawling at the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site.
It is always fascinating to ponder the mysteries and beauty of architectural elements. But it turns out that it is way more fun to “spook up” your own architecture. And that’s just what we did on Oct. 24 at the “Spooky Mansion” program here in Madison, Indiana.
Over 350 monsters, princesses and heroes descended upon us with their chaperones to be spooked, eat candy, listen to hauntingly fun stories and, in general, have a great time.
In one activity, we provided a drawing of Lanier Mansion, in all its Greek Revival glory, and challenged our visiting mini-goblins to make it as spooky as possible. To help with this, we provided glow in the dark home accessories like skeletons, crows and creepy trees to make it all the more frightening. The picture shown here was made by a 42-year-old mansion employee to decorate her refrigerator.
However, everyone had the opportunity to see the real mansion as well. The rooms were decorated to be just spooky enough so that our small visitors would not have nightmares when they returned home. It also gave people a chance to view our basement, which is usually off-limits to visitors. I’m not sure that ,with skeletons and creepy gangs of dolls, visitors had much of a chance to appreciate all the architectural elements of this home. Oh well.
For those who don’t think that history is alive, we also had our “Night Spirits” program for adult and general audiences on Oct. 23. This isn’t really designed to be spooky, but to use the mansion as a backdrop for hair-raising theater performances that included grave-robbers, dead soldiers, grisly murders, hangings and other infamous but true stories from Madison’s past. We also celebrated the 200th birthday of the most depressed (and depressing) man in America: Edgar Allen Poe. Poe was the West Point classmate of Thomas Morris, superintendent of the Madison-Indianapolis Railroad.