There's a Guided Lantern Tour at Indian Hill Cemetery tomorrow, Saturday, August 21, 2010. Let me be clear--”Guided Lantern Tour” is a euphemism for “a serious night of ghost hunting in local cemeteries.” I just want to make that clear right from the start.
But it’s also a fundraiser. Yup, you heard that right, too.
I’m sharing this event information with the Middletown Eye community not as a ghost hunter myself but as a member of the board of directors of one of the two nonprofit organizations that will benefit from this fundraiser--the Godfrey Memorial Library and the Indian Hill Cemetery Association. I also share this event info as a lover of Middletown history and with a deep respect for the people who made Middletown the community that it is today. All the Mighty Titans of Middletown are buried at Indian Hill Cemetery--the Hubbards, Russells, Southmayds Baldwins, Alsops, and Mansfields are just a few of the names that shaped Middletown. Many common heros are buried there, too, including those who gave their lives for the sake of the Union; the great and unsung hero soldiers of the Civil War should not be forgotten, either. Indian Hill Cemetery is a jewel in the crown of this community and the Association is proud to show it off in whatever way folks wish to experience it--including its paranormal possibilities.
I’m also sharing this event information with acknowledgement and respect for the varied interests and beliefs of a contemporary society--people are now, more than ever, interested in all things paranormal. The nonprofit organizations involved neither endorse nor condemn that interest; we just recognize that it’s something that some people wish to experience, and if that interest creates an opportunity to help us fundraise, then why not.
So (and this is the last of the disclaimers), this fundraiser is an experiment. A possible win-win for the nonprofits involved and an opportunity to advance the mission of a volunteer-based organization called the Paranormal Association of Central Connecticut. If it works, then we all might make this an annual fundraising event. If it flops, well, we tried. Simple as that.
Anyway, the Guided Lantern Tour is a marathon night of ghost hunting. It’s an event uniquely designed for people who have an interest in “things that go bump in the night.” It will have a little bit of Middletown history thrown in, and it costs $60 a person to participate. But please, don’t let neither a history lesson or the cost dissuade you. Read on.
The event begins at 5:00 p.m. with a welcome and overview of the history of the cemetery provided by Augie Defrance, President of the Board of Directors of the Indian Hill Cemetery Association. Some historical objects from the collection of a private individual will be shared including an original copy of the Addresses Delivered at the Dedication of the Indian Hill Cemetery, photographs of members of the Hubbard family from the 1850 era, and an original Autograph Book owned by J. W. Bailey with the signatures of many of Middletown’s well-known names from the 1860-1880 era (including Sawyer, Roberts, Vance, Neale, Southmayd, Hubbard, Atkins, Petras and Burke.) Several of these folks are buried at Indian Hill Cemetery because, after all, in the mid- to late-1800s and into the 20th century, Indian Hill was “the” cemetery to be buried in. Anyone of any status in Middletown wanted to be buried there. In fact, many families even disinterred their relatives from other cemeteries in town just to put them into the higher-status Indian Hill. Mortimer Cemetery, for example, on the corner of Main and Liberty, “lost” about 20% of its population once Indian Hill opened.
Participants in the Guided Lantern Tour will learn that Indian Hill Cemetery opened on September 30, 1850 with great pride and day-long fanfare including an elaborate program of speeches, a processional and music and “singing on the way to, and around, the Cemetery Grounds.” We will share some of the words spoken and music sung on that proud day as we open the program. For those interested, we will host a graveside storytelling about one of the many Civil War soldiers who are buried at Indian Hill, including a reading from some of the detailed letters he wrote while serving as a member of the mighty 14th regiment of the Connecticut Volunteers--an unsung, but unforgotten, hero.
The remainder of the event will be hosted by Stephanie Borrelli of the Paranormal Association of Central Connecticut (PACC). Stephanie is co-founder of the PACC and a Middletown resident (you may know her husband Ron from Planning & Zoning Commission). She and her team promise an evening of ghost-hunting with “respectful consideration to the hallowed grounds that we will be touring and with consideration to the varying beliefs of all participants.” Stephanie describes herself as a “spiritual Christian” but recognizes that people of many beliefs and faiths will be participating in the event; she promises to host the event in a non-denominational way, respecting the diversity of the participants and respecting those buried there.
The PACC will provide instruction in the tools and equipment they use to investigate paranormal activity; participants are invited to bring their own equipment including digital cameras and digital tape recorders. Sturdy walking shoes and flashlights are also a “must”. The event will include a pizza social at the Indian Hill garage at approximately 9:00 p.m., shuttle transportation to and from the locations, and experienced guides to lead small teams of participants. The ghost hunters will be touring several cemeteries in Middletown including Indian Hill, Vine Street, and the Farm Hill Cemetery on Ridge Road throughout the night. The PACC has also secured permission to access the grounds of the Wadsworth Mansion after midnight. The event is scheduled to end by 3:00 a.m. but attendees are welcome to exit the event anytime they wish.
The directors of Indian Hill Association have one request; please do not disturb the headstones while on the tour. The engravings of some of the cemetery markers are very fragile. Even rubbing some of the old brownstone headstones may cause permanent damage. This is why cemetery documentation projects now use only photography methods, not rubbings, to document the history recorded there. Think of old cemeteries as genuine historic ruins.
If you have an interest in participating in the Guided Lantern Tour and becoming a ghost hunter, then this is the event for you! The cost of the fundraiser is $60 a person and proceeds will be split 50/50 between Indian Hill Association and Godfrey Library after expenses. To register for the event or for more information, contact Stephanie Borrelli at 860-301-0204.
Happy ghost-hunting and thank you for supporting the event, if you are so inclined, and if you dare!