ESSEX — Don’t be scared…too much! Phantoms, Captain Kidd, and unexplainable phenomena are just a few of the things lurking in the shadows at the Connecticut River Museum (CRM) this October.
Haunted River is a theatrical production that will take place over two nights on Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Exploring the history and folklore of the Connecticut River Valley, the pilot production will incorporate nearly two years of folklore research. This research was conducted by Museum staff and resident folklorist Dr. Stephen Olbrys Gencarella of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst as part of the Connecticut River Myths and Legends Project.
As Dr. Gencarella wrote, the “Valley has been a location for storytelling and the source of myths and legends since the first people arrived.” These stories are often told to entertain, educate, and create a common identity for people. Sometimes they have involved the macabre, such as grisly murders or accidents like the 1833 explosion of the steamer New England which took place in Essex harbor. Other times, they help to explain the unexplainable such as the weird rumblings under Moodus, diseases like tuberculosis that were blamed on vampires, or mysterious objects in the River that became sea serpents.
The progressive five-scene, 50-minute tour will depart from the Museum’s Lay House property every 20 minutes between the hours of 6 and 8:40 p.m. on Oct. 28 and 29. A ‘River Spirit’ will be called upon to guide visitors safely from scene to scene while they share their own dark and mysterious tale.
A highlight of the tour will be a special shadow puppet show designed and performed by New London’s Flock Theatre. While the story is not being divulged, the Museum’s executive director Christopher Dobbs stated that “Flock Theatre are masters of puppetry. The mystery and ambiguity of many Valley legends lend themselves to this shadowy art form.”
The Connecticut River Myths and Legends Project has been made possible through the generous support of the Connecticut Humanities. It is the first time that the entire Valley’s folklore has been strategically collected and documented. Much of the research will appear in an exhibit due to open in 2018 at CRM before it moves to traveling locations that include the Hartford Public Library and the Vermont Historical Society. The original shadow puppet show has also been supported by the Connecticut Humanities and will be incorporated into the future exhibit and into a much larger production.
For more information on the Project or to contribute a story, visit www.ctrivermythsandlegends.org.
Tickets to Haunted River are extremely limited and should be booked in advance by going online to www.ctrivermuseum.org or calling the museum at 860-767-8269. Prices for the show are $13 for adults and $9 for youth (ages 7 to 12). The program is not recommended for children under 7. Museum members will be given a chance to buy tickets before they are available to the general public.
The Connecticut River Museum is dedicated to the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its Valley. The Connecticut River Museum is located at 67 Main Street, Essex and is from 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday through Sunday.