Nightmare on Main: Hauntings…Unexplained Tales from Connecticut’s Past will entertain and educate the public again this fall in Willimantic, CT. For two weekends the exhibition of haunted places will come to life in the evening with performances of the chilling stories. Then for seven weeks an exhibition will illustrate the tales from the abandoned Dudley Town, Micah Rood’s orchard and many more.
One feature story will be of the 1909 Ledge Lighthouse that sits prominently in the mouth of the Thames River between the shores of New London and Groton. It was manned by men until 1987 when the light became automated. Who haunts the lighthouse? Could it be one of the light house keepers that became distraught when he discovered that his wife had run off with the captain of the Block Island Ferry. Ernie, which is what everyone called him, met his death as he jumped from the roof of the lighthouse. He still lives there , though. Numerous reports detail unexplained knocking on the wooden walls, doors opening and closing repeatedly, and the sheets flying off the bed.
The evening events will be Sept 29, 30 (Sat and Sun) and Oct 5, 6 (Fri and Sat) Visitors should arrive between 7:00 and 9:30. Admission $10 pp The event is held rain or shine. Refreshments are available. The daytime exhibition runs from Oct. 5 through Nov. 18 during regular museum hours Fri. Sat. Sun. 10 to 4 p.m. The location is The Mill Museum, 411 Main Street, Willimantic, CT MillMuseum.org 860-456-2178
This year’s theme will take on the subject of the unexplained or paranormal. Many places in the state are known to be or rather claim to be “haunted.” And scores of people swear to have seen, heard, and felt unusual occurrences that cannot be explained. Other people or sceptics think it is bunk. There is an ongoing debate about the validity of these claims. The subject matter is very widespread in popular culture from movies and television. The topics of ghosts, UFOs, psychic abilities, ESP, cryptids and the like have become a money maker in the field of entertainment. According to a 2005 Gallup Poll: 37% of Americans polled believe in haunted houses and 16% are not sure, and 32% believe in ghosts and 19 % are undecided. So, about one third of the people will believe these haunted accounts to be true and others will dismiss them as interesting but fictional tales passed down for generations. Visitors to the Nightmare on Main: Hauntings will have to decide for themselves.
The idea of Nightmare on Main is to provide both education and entertainment of chilling topics based on true history and real life experiences. Many of the historical topics are based in the 19th century which is the time period of the museum. Past themes have included Witches in History and Fable; Confinement: Asylums, Prisons and Sanitariums; and Death and Diseases in the 19th century. The events have been attracting participants and visitors from ages 20 through 40 which is a welcome and needed demographic for museums. The amount of research and work that went into creating the sets, props and costumes have led to the exhibition concept. The main exhibit hall of the Mill Museum becomes a stand alone presentation of the topic with dioramas, displays and interpretation for seven weeks. During the evening performances small groups are guided through the exhibit hall as an introduction and then through the rest of the museum where actors perform stories related to the theme.
Bev York, Museum Educator, explains “When we did the Witch exhibit the dioramas gave a brief history of witchcraft from the ancient Greeks to the present day Wiccans. But the evening shows were dramatic performances about the Connecticut witch trials from accusation, jail confinement, trials and execution of about a dozen people in the 17th c. Hartford area. Almost everything we present is based on accurate research of stories from the past when people’s beliefs, knowledge and superstitions on death, medicine, punishment, society and other topics were drastically different from today.”
The Mill Museum, or officially the Windham Textile & History Museum, interprets the 19th century industrial history of Connecticut. More specifically tells the stories of thousands of immigrant workers who produced textiles to clothe the world. The museum is located in two distinctive buildings of the former thread company. The Museum and Library are open year round (except January) for self- guided tours, (guided tours available,) events and programs. For more information www.millmuseum.org