Halloween again?! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. Ever since July 4th, it has just accelerated again. I have never seen time fly so fast. Every year the same thing, once the July 4th weekend is over, you blink your eye and there is Christmas again.
I have never been a great fan of Halloween when growing up. I must have been the only kid who hated trick or treating (like begging) and dressing up for elementary school parades (I thought that they were stupid and a waste of time). It was not until I became an adult and got to celebrate in non-conventional terms that it became fun for me. I always liked the occult side of it and look at it from the way the early Celts did with a ceremonial celebration. This is why I participated in more unusual events.
In researching many of our historical sites and museums in Bergen County, New Jersey where I live, I came across many events that the museums were sponsoring leading up to Halloween. I was impressed by the uniqueness of the events and the response to them. I was lucky to get in because everything sold out so quickly. All of these events lead to the big one, the Halloween parade Halloween night.
Halloween starts for me in Hasbrouck Heights with the town’s Annual Halloween in the Park, an event that takes place each fall in Woodland Park in Hasbrouck Heights. First thing to note that since developers have built new condos on the parks edges, it has taken some of the allure from the park. You can see the lights and people moving around.
The DPW takes families around the park in hayride fashion with bales of hay in the trailers and everyone on the trailer is chased and harassed by various ghosts, ghouls and witches. You spend most of the evening being chased with someone with a knife or chainsaw. This popular event is always sold out and residents get such a kick out of it. I of course was working that night and got there in time for the last two rides and people were still screaming at 9:30pm.
I started the next part of the Halloween celebration at The Schoolhouse Museum (see VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com for more details and review on TripAdvisor) 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, New Jersey for the Annual Cemetery Walk on October 20th. Usually I am not keen on walking around cemeteries at night but this was a unique fundraiser for the museum. In fact, for a small museum there was a sold out attendance with more people wanting to go on the tour. The museum ran the walk around the cemetery for only one night and all the walks were packed with families with a surprising number of small children who seemed to love the idea of walking around tombstones.
My tour was the last one of the evening and it was already getting dark by 6:00pm and I was on the 7:00pm tour. The staff at The Schoolhouse Museum could not have been nicer and the volunteers both there and at the cemetery could have been more engaging with the crowds. We started our tour with a ghostly talk in front of the museum by Ridgewood Historian, Joseph Suplicki, who gave a quick tour on the well-known residents of Ridgewood who were buried in the cemetery.
We proceeded as a group (which had ballooned from 20 people to 36 people as more people showed up then there were places so they came on our tour) walked in the dark across the street to the Valleau Cemetery, which is between East Glen Avenue and Franklin Turnpike, one of the original Colonial roads in Ridgewood. We all thought we would be walking in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery next to the museum but they later told us that there were insurance problems with doing that.
Off our troop trekked across the street to a lantern flank paths through the cemetery to well-known residents of Ridgewood’s burial sites. It was interesting as many of the local residents who were business people that schools and buildings were named after were pointed out. What the interesting twist was to it was they had students and members portray the person buried there and did a bio on the person and their contribution to the town.
I have to say that I give many of the actors credit for playing the roles they did because that meant staying by the grave site until the event ended and that meant being along for about twenty to thirty minutes by a tombstone. I would have thought it was creepy. Our group followed the lanterns on the paths deeper into the cemetery to hear all sorts of stories.
We visited the graves of various movers and shakers in the town of Ridgewood over the last hundred or so years including many who had streets and schools named after them. The most interesting actor was the lady who portrayed Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz, who was the last owner of The Hermitage (The Hermitage Museum that is located up Franklin Turnpike from the cemetery), who was left penniless in the end while the house crumbled around her in the 1970’s. The actor told the story of her prominent family and the demise of the family fortune. Having visited The Hermitage in the past, it made it more interesting to see where she was buried.
The tour of the cemetery ended in front of The Schoolhouse Museum where we joined the staff for ghost stories and fresh apple cider and apple cider doughnuts that had been donated by Demarest Farms in Hillsdale (See TripAdvisor review). That was the best and people so happy for snack after the tour.
This interesting and engaging tour is offered by The Schoolhouse Museum in the middle of October and should not be missed. For the $10.00 donation for the tour, it is well worth the visit. On the weekends, check out their current exhibitors. The museum mounts wonderful shows. The museum is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm and Sundays from 2:00pm-4:00pm.
Another interesting Halloween event I attended was The Hermitage House Museum’s Annual Midnight Tour and Séance on October 30th. The Hermitage House Museum at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ is featured on my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum@wordpress.com’ and I have visited the museum several times during the year (See review on TripAdvisor). The house was the home of Theodosia Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr, when they married in 1782.
The evening featured a 10:00am ‘ghost tour’ of the house and a séance at midnight to start Halloween day. Frankly, I thought the thing was over-hyped. I have toured the house twice and have never seen or felt anything but hospitality in the house. I arrived at The Hermitage House Museum at 10:00pm on the dot after I gave my Midterm to my class (I am currently teaching business students at Bergen Community College), so I was already tired. Listening to someone including the tour guide, who was a medium, talk about a house being haunted made me a little skeptical since the price for the event was $50.00.
Taking a night tour in a creepy old house was interesting and the Hermitage is steeped in so much history that I seriously suggest taking the tour in daylight and enjoy the grounds. The families that have lived here bring so much to the story of the house. The original owner of the house had invited General George Washington to stay at the house in response to the fact that her husband was fighting on the side of the British and she did not want to loose her home. Marrying Aaron Burr helped as well.
The next family that owned the house expanded it and lived in it for almost a 100 years. It became the modern New Jersey version of ‘Grey Gardens’, when the last owner ran out of money to run the house and the whole place overgrew. She ended up sick and when she died she left the house to the State of New Jersey.
With a history like that, you would think that you really might see something. All I saw was an over-weight bullshit artist who worked everyone up. I admit I would not like to spend a night alone in an old house like this but he got everyone so worked up that I believe that people thought they were seeing things. It got to the point where he kept asking everyone if they felt a cold spot or did they see a shadow. The house was old and drafty, that’s it. I got a kick out of one women saying she saw a rocking chair moving by itself and then another women walk by it and the loose floor board moving it. She looked embarrassed.
The worst was when we entered the parlor where Mary Rosencrantz, the last owner of the house, along with her sister and aunt used to serve tea during the 20’s to raise money to keep the house up. We all sat around the room in a semi-circle trying to communicate with the dead. All he did was rattle off a bunch of names and types of people he felt might be in the room. He was called out when he said someone named “Rose” was trying to reach him and then asked us did anyone know a ‘Rose’. When one guy said he did and it was the name of his 93 year old grandmother, the medium practically swooned and asked when she died. He answered that she was alive and living down the street from him. That almost crushed the medium.
For the price of the event and the time of night it is at my suggestion to anyone wanting to visit The Hermitage Museum is to visit it during the day and take a formal tour with a docent for $7.00 and enjoy the house for its history and beauty.
The highlight of Halloween for me is volunteering for the Halloween Parade in NYC. That is a lot of fun and its a comradery builder working with all the other volunteers. This was fourth year working on the parade and I am assigned working the gate where all the volunteers and performers walk through to check in. I have never seen so many people try to bullshit their way into the parade. They just want to see the parade from our route. I have to turn angry people away every year and do they get nasty. Is it my fault there is a major parade going on and you can’t get to a party three blocks away?
The Halloween Parade took even a weirder twist when we had a terrorist attack just a few blocks from the parade route. Some guy took a truck and ran down joggers and bikers on the park path a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. I was shocked when one of the guys from the FDNY pulled me aside at 5:30pm to tell me. Even though it had happened a few blocks from the parade nothing beats down a New Yorker. They show resilience and the parade continued as if nothing happened. Like myself, if no one had said anything I would not have known.
The parade route was mobbed with people and I have to say that the costumes are getting more creative every year especially this year. There were a lot of ‘Dump Trump’ signs all over the parade route including many people dressed like the President doing all sorts of strange things. (I have to admit I may not agree with all the things he says but he is still our President and should be respected.)
There were all sorts of political undertones to the parade as there always are such as the Gun Lobbying Zombie’s, The ‘Dump Trump’ characters, all the LGBT groups fighting over the problems they are having in the military and comments over the immigration policies. I have not seen this much political rhetoric since the ‘I am peach Bush’ costumes that I saw about nine years ago. People were saying their piece this year.
I have also seen a bump in foreign tourists as they kept asking where things were located and did not know where Canal Street was located. Some said they came to New York City just to see the parade. I was floored by how many families brought their children all the way to the U.S. to see the parade. It was an exciting site to see all the bands, unusual costumes and towering puppets. There were skeletons and serpents on the parade route. The puppet makers go above and beyond when it comes time for the parade. The dancing Pumpkin people were new to the parade added that air of creativity to the event.
I usually end up watching the full parade on YouTube but I get to see the parade from the ground up. By working the gate, I get to see all the people in costume coming into the route. Ever since the 20th Anniversary of the ‘Thriller’ album, the ‘Thriller’ dance routine has gotten bigger and I swear they get so into it. We have dancing zombies all over the place. I see so many bands going through the gate and everyone comes in at once. I swear the three of us saw so much that night.
So here is my Halloween experience this year. Full of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. BOO!
(For those of you who are reading this and want to be in the parade next year, please go to Canal Street to line up. Don’t come to the gate and drive us crazy. We are busy enough.) Use the Number 6 subway to get to the parade route.
Halloween in the Park
Every second week of October in Hasbrouck Heights NJ
Check out the Hasbrouck Heights Recreation Department Website
Old Schoolhouse Museum
650 East Glen Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07650
The Hermitage Museum
335 North Franklin Turnpike
Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ 07423
(See VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com for more details)
The Halloween Parade is every October 31st in New York City lining Sixth Avenue
(The picture is of the three of us working the gate. Mark Schuyler and I are twelve cousins once removed by the marriage of Mark’s GGG Grandfather to my GGG Grandmother, who was a member of the Beekman family by my Step-Grandmother. We like to kid around a lot about it.)