FALMOUTH – They are looking for volunteers, they said, and then they laughed. Oh, it was a frightful laugh. One man, who called himself Doctor Sawbones, wore a t-shirt emblazened with the words, “Come to the Dark Side.”
Actually, the unedited version of the t-shirt said, “Come to the Dark Side – We have cookies”.
“That part is true,” said Tamsen George as she looked at Doctor Sawbones, also known as Falmouth attorney B. Grant Willis. “The question is what do you do with it.”
She was not talking about the veracity of cookies in the dark side, but rather about a true Falmouth historical incident and how to make it part of the Falmouth Historical Society’s “Visit with the Night Watchman,” a Halloween season haunting tour, now in its fifth year. The haunting will be at the Museums on the Green on Palmer Avenue. The haunted house needs a cast of about 25.
This week, they held the first planning meeting at the Education Center for the Historical Society. Eight people sat around a table and schemed how best to frighten and educate visitors to their haunted tour. They talked of blood, and severed limbs, and documents they’ve read.
“We’re not a typical haunted house,” said Sandy Trainor. “We really are teaching history.”
The key, as George said, is how to use that history in a haunted setting.
For instance, in the 1870s, there was an ongoing debate about cranberry bogs versus herring runs. Some young men decided to stage a protest using a cannon that was on the town green. The cannon was packed with herring and then shot off. But the protest backfired and the cannon exploded because of all the moisture in the fish. One young man was killed.
From that, comes a skit involving Doctor Sawbones surgically removing fish from the belly of a young man. Still to be cast: the fish-filled young man.
“You can find things that are historic incidents and then you can expand on them” said George, who writes the script for the haunting, which includes five different scenes. The basis of the haunted house is that there are night watchmen taking care of the historical site, and, “on the week before Halloween, the veils between worlds is very thin,” said George.
For a $5 admission charge, visitors will be taken on an educationally frightening tour, with actors working from George’s script. At this initial meeting, George sat with seven other volunteers to discuss how that script can take its shape from various parts of Falmouth history.
Volunteer Kay Morse said she had been researching the Davis Furniture and Funeral Home, which was where Barbos Furniture is now located.. “It was a combined operation,” said Morse. “There ought to be a way to develop that. Maybe a woman comes in wanting to buy a chair and the store owner thinks she is there for a funeral. We ought to be able to have a mistaken communication.”
Morse had a few of other historical scenarios in mind to possibly develop, including an argument over babies, and a discussion over men’s hair length. “I found a couple of references to having to have a license for a beard or a goatee,” she said.
There will be stockades, to punish someone, perhaps, as Willis said, “for stealing a chicken.”
In the haunted house by the historical society, there is one way to set up a scene that George uses every year. “You can get three old ladies together and you can get them to talk about whatever you want them to talk about,” she said. “Last year we worked gossipy widows into a funeral.”
There are, of course, props. Willis said, “I think I can locate my bloody butcher’s apron. That’s my only prop.”
Some props are donated by the community. For instance, you can’t have a funeral without a casket, George noted. That problem was solved a few years ago when, she said, “A guy drove up in a pickup truck and said, ‘I hear you’re looking for a casket.”
— Brian Tarcy