Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spirits at Stowe: An Otherworldly Tour of Harriet Beecher Stowe's House


Last night Laura and I attended Spirits at Stowe: An Otherworldly Tour. I've toured Harriet Beecher Stowe's house before, but Laura had not. She is not a fan of spooky things, but does admire Stowe and went along with me since this wasn't going to be a haunted house experience where people jump out and grab you. The focus on this tour is on Stowe's experience with seances, mediums, and the five people who died in the house, including Stowe. We were intrigued and wanted to learn more.

Do I believe in ghosts and spirits? Kind of. I think there's more about this world that we don't know than we do know, so who knows? Know what I mean?

It was neat to be in Stowe's house after dark. When I did the tour back in February in broad daylight, made even brighter by a snow storm the night before, I was surprised by how open and airy the rooms were for a Victorian home.

On this tour the main light was battery operated candles, the kind that shimmer, which created a spooky ambiance. The tour started in the front parlor which was set up for a seance. It is also the room where Stowe had been laid out for viewing after her death. The tour continued from room to room where we heard stories about the family and the strange sounds, sightings, and feelings guides and guests have experienced.

Stowe's adult twin daughters shared a bedroom on the second floor. I thought the twins' room was creepy the first time I was there in daylight and being there after dark certainly didn't help matters. I'm not sure if it's the dark, red rose patterned wallpaper or the two twin beds with ornate and pointy head and foot boards that made me feel a sense of anger in the room. But the room has made me feel unsettled both times I've been there and other people on last night's tour, including Laura, also felt something in that room.

We had a K-2 Meter along with us, a tool used by ghost hunters to track energy levels when investigating paranormal activity. Although it didn't light up in the twins' room, it did light up a few times throughout the tour. The strongest reading came from near the coat rack in the front hall where some calling cards, original to Stowe and the house, lay on a silver tray. It also reacted in the guest room where a young visitor from England died unexpectedly in his sleep.

Spirits at Stowe was an interesting experience and I recommend this tour and the regular daytime tour as well. Our tour guide last night could've been a bit more commanding and presentational. Perhaps conducting this tour is a new experience for her or perhaps the Stowe Center isn't exactly sure what they want this tour to be. I can imagine they're trying to walk a line between respecting Stowe and going too commercial with Halloween.

What was weird is that after we left the house I turned back to take a picture of it as the dim lights were still on inside. I snapped the picture, looked at it, and it was too dark. I walked a bit further away from the house (toward Mark Twain's house, which is across the yard) and raised my iPhone to take another picture only to discover my phone was off. Fully off and it wouldn't turn back on. My battery had been half charged when we started the tour 45 minutes earlier. The guide had asked us to turn our phones off or put them on airplane mode so as not to interfere with the K-2 Meter. I had put mine on airplane mode. It worked fine for that first picture.

My phone didn't turn on for the remainder of the night. I connected it to a charger when we got home and it did turn on this morning. After being plugged in for almost eight hours it was only 28% charged. And that first picture I snapped of Stowe's house? It's gone.

Next Friday is Halloween and the last night for this tour. If you're in the area check it out. Here's the info about the tour from the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center:
Only in October:  Halloween and Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 PM  
Moon Over Stowe HouseDid you know that Harriet Beecher Stowe attended séances and visited mediums to communicate with departed family members?  Like many 19th-century Americans, she had an open mind about connecting with those who were no longer living. 
Explore Stowe’s involvement with the paranormal and learn about investigations by the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters at “Spirits at Stowe: An Otherworldly Tour” Halloween night and every Friday and Saturday in October at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 pm. and 8:30 p.m. 
Stowe’s interest in spiritualism helped to ease the pain of losing four of seven children during her lifetime. The paranormal occasionally showed up in her writing as well; she included a ghost story in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, her most famous work written in 1852.
During the “Spirits at Stowe” tour, an interpreter will share stories about the famous author and describe unexplained events from past and present, all conducted in the dark by flashlight.
Visitors will learn about the five reported deaths in the 1871 Gothic Revival home where she lived for 23 years. Stowe herself died in an upstairs bedroom in 1897 at age 86.  
In one small room off the main hall, battery-operated candles will illuminate photos of Stowe family members, as if a séance was about to begin. 
A “planchette,” which pre-dates the ouija board, will be set up to show what Stowe and her fellow spiritualists used to receive what they believed were messages from the dead.
The tour uses a K-2 Meter to measure electromagnetic fields as well as a digital voice recorder to capture any paranormal activity.
“Spirits at Stowe” is a 45-minute tour and is recommended for ages 12 and up. Cost is $15 per person and reservations are required.  Find out more by visiting Info@StoweCenter.org or calling 860.522.9258 x317.

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