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The ghostly tales of Mrs. Wharton

Ghost StoriesEdith Newbold Jones, a girl who was terrified of ghost stories, grew up to be Edith Wharton, a woman who wrote them.

As a child, Wharton was haunted by dreams of ghosts and wolves, as well as a sense of a menacing presence at her mother’s front door. A near death experience from typhoid fever resulted in intense nightmares with “formless horrors” and she was unable to sleep in the same room as a book of ghost stories until she was 28 years old.

So what, according to Wharton, makes a good ghost story? “If it sends a cold shiver down one’s spine, it has done its job and done it well,” she said in the preface of The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. Mount staff have a few special Wharton favorites of their own.

“My favorite Edith Wharton ghost story is ‘The Eyes,’” Grace Leathrum, Special Events Coordinator, says. “I love it because instead of using a classic idea of what a ghost should look like, she zeroes in on one terrifying image and uses it to its best effect.”

Johanna Batman, Development Associate, cites “Duchess at Prayer” as not only her favorite Wharton ghost story, but one of her favorite Wharton stories in general. “It’s so wicked!” she says of the gothic tale published in 1900.

House Manager Anne Schuyler’s favorite is “Kerfol,” a chilling tale that is retold on ghost tours in the pet cemetery (stay tuned for more information about The Mount’s pet cemetery in our next post!).

Wharton didn’t think that just readers should be frightened by her ghost stories; she once said, “The teller of supernatural tales should be well frightened in the telling.”   Perhaps it was her own childhood experiences which made Wharton into such an effective teller of ghost stories.

 

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Berkshire Eagle/Berkshires Week 9-10-14

 

Berkshire Eagle/Berkshires Week

September 10, 2014

“Poet Sharon Olds Will Read at The Mount”

 

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Berkshire HomeStyle Sept 2014

 

Berkshire HomeStyle

September 2014

“This Month: Ten Really Special Occasions”

 

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Berkshire Eagle/Berkshires Week 8-28-14

 

Berkshire Eagle/Berkshires Week

August 28, 2014

“Where Nature and Art Intertwine”

 

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Boston Globe 8-10-14

 

bostonglobeBoston Globe

August 10, 2014

“9 Top House Museums to Visit”

 

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It’s Halloween season at The Mount!

It’s almost Halloween here at The Mount and that means it’s time to decorate The Mount’s blog, so to speak, with ghostly information and haunted tidbits, now until All Hallows’ Eve.

The Mount has seen seven different occupants come and go in its 112-year history. With countless numbers of personalities, triumphs, disappointments, and perhaps a few secrets, it’s no surprise that owners, staff members, and visitors have reported strange sights, freaky feelings, and everything from footsteps to full bodied apparitions.

Body in Stable window, by Tarryn Gaherty.

Body in Stable window, by Tarryn Gaherty.

Often, it’s assumed that death results in hauntings. There is only one death that is known to certainly have occurred at The Mount, that of Albert R. Shattuck, who purchased The Mount with his wife in 1912. He died of a heart attack on November 4, 1925, in what is now known as The Henry James Suite.

There are two other deaths that are rumored to have occurred at The Mount, but which cannot be confirmed. Supposedly, a little boy drowned in the well and a female servant hung herself on the property.

Life can also result in hauntings. Perhaps spirits linger at The Mount because they have unfinished business or because they adored their time there. As Edith Wharton said in her 1934 memoir, “The Mount was my first real home…its blessed influence still lives in me.”

Take a look at the ghostly photos above and to the right, taken by visitors on ghost tours in 2013, and be sure to join us on a ghost tour this fall – you never know what you may find!

Orbs in the Stable, by Jennifer Curtis.

Orbs in the Stable, by Jennifer Curtis.

Mysterious lights, by Janae Cook.

Mysterious lights, by Janae Cook.

Face in Stable window, by Paul and Sandy Hamilakis.

Face in Stable window, by Paul and Sandy Hamilakis.

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Spinning yarn and weaving magic: Storytelling comes to the Berkshires!

Who doesn’t love a good story? There’s something about a taut, tempting yarn. It twists your perspective, and, when done well, can magically transport you to a different time and place.

Sure, a captivating story can burst from the pages of a book or be broadcast from a recording. But perhaps the best story-sharing experience is one between live humans, where words are accompanied by expressions and gestures and nuances of voice that imbue the narrative with broader, deeper dimensions.

We’re not the only ones who think so. In recent years, storytelling as entertainment has exploded in popularity. There’s a science behind it, after all. And who doesn’t agree with Ira Glass’s way of thinking?

Catapulted to the public sphere by The Moth, storytelling events now headline weekend arts and cultural listings in major cities across the US.

Massmouth executive director, and host and performer Norah Dooley

Massmouth executive director, and host/performer Norah Dooley

And in certain rural parts, too: We’re delighted this fall to introduce several storytelling events to western Massachusetts! The first one—this Friday evening, September 5—features polished performers from Boston-based massmouth, inc., who will come to The Mount to share their sparkling, true-life tales of traveling, temptation, and tribes. The show will be hosted by massmouth executive director Norah Dooley, who will also perform one of the eight-minute monologues. It promises to be a great evening. We’ll have drinks and nosh for sale; the doors will open at 7:30 for the 8 pm show. Tickets are $15, but here’s the thing: We’re rewarding our blog readers with a special discount price! Click here and use the promotional code “storytelling” for $10 tickets instead. Sound good?

While you’re at it, get tickets too for the next storytelling event on October 18, this one in partnership with Speak Up, a storytelling group based in Hartford, CT. That Saturday night, five skilled storytellers will regale the audience with love-and-marriage-themed tales. Bring a romantic partner, a friend, or simply yourself to hear stories of love lost, love found, and love finally understood. Tickets are $15.

If you can imagine yourself onstage, sign up now for the storytelling workshop at The Mount that will be hosted by 12-time Moth StorySLAM champion Matthew Dicks on Sunday, October 19 from 9 am to 1 pm. It’ll be inspiring, educational, and exceptionally fun, and—believe us—you won’t want to miss the chance to take part!

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Why Ethan Frome is Actually Great Beach Reading

The following blog post was contributed by Miranda Cooper, a student at Williams College and seasonal tour guide at The Mount. Picture1

Sometimes our visitors put hard-hitting questions to the staff here, questions like, “Is Wharton readable?” or “Is she any fun?” Many of us happen to think so, but the question is a good one worth a careful answer. While hardly bodice-rippers, Wharton’s titles aren’t squarely academic either and most are surprisingly readable. If you’re not afraid of an SAT word here or there, most find the themes she wrote about 100 years ago hold up pretty well.

But this leads us to a more complex question: must a book be fun to be considered pleasure reading? Rebecca Mead (who spoke at The Mount on July 21!), who wrote an excellent piece in The New Yorker, addresses just this.

Mead shares the experience of perusing an old journal in which she recorded her reading list between ages 17 and 21, and her list skews decidedly… heavy. Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, James, Rushdie, and Calvino. Mead readily admits that her literature survey as a young woman led her primarily to the classics rather than guilty pleasures, but then points to something delicious: it is very possible to derive pleasure not just from reading something fun but from reading “to become well read.”

So, maybe you can bring Ethan Frome to the beach? Toss it in next to the sunscreen because as Mead maintains, “…there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.”

Picture2Ethan Frome certainly fits these criteria. So perhaps we can conclude that Edith Wharton’s oeuvre sits comfortably in both the popular and literary camps, if we accept Mead’s insightful definition of pleasure reading. And if you do need something a little more lighthearted than Ethan Frome, there are plenty of great works of literature and Wharton titles that fit the bill.

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Friends Find a Seat at the Table

The following blog post was contributed by Miranda Cooper, a student at Williams College and seasonal tour guide at The Mount. 

People from all walks of life come to The Mount during the summer to immerse themselves in a bit of Edith Wharton’s legacy. We see people of all ages and Picture1from all kinds of places. There are a few trends, though, and one of them is that we often see groups of friends who have come together to visit our beautiful treasure in our lovely corner of Lenox. Often, these are groups of women who have been taking trips together for years.

My first memorable encounter like this occurred on an ordinary June day when I met four ladies who engaged me in conversation. I learned that they had all attended Wellesley College together and graduated in 1951, and that for decades they have been getting together during the summers to visit different places.

A few weeks later, I found myself having lunch with a lovely group of women (who told me to remember them as the “ie’s,” because their names all ended in “-ie”) who treated me to lunch, so that we could continue the conversation that had begun on my tour. These ladies had attended Mount Saint Scholastica, a small women’s college in Kansas where they were all roommates, and they too take an annual trip. I was deeply touched by their undeniably strong friendship with one another, a friendship that had endured for decades and which still clearly brings them so much joy.

Picture2So what is it about The Mount that attracts lifelong friends? And why is it that many of these groups of friends are all female, and even attended women’s colleges together? It could be pure coincidence… but I doubt it. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense: of course the beautiful home of the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer for fiction would be a logical choice of destination for groups of women who have obvious appreciation for the power of women’s education and the literary and cultural legacies of groundbreaking female intellectuals. But more than that, The Mount is a place deeply rooted in friendship. All of our guests leave The Mount knowing that Edith Wharton treasured her close friends; one of the first comments guests usually make in the dining room concerns the surprisingly small round table, which Wharton liked because it allowed her to have intimate gatherings.

Miranda Cooper

Miranda Cooper

The Mount is not only a place of literary greatness and stunning beauty; it is a place of friendship. It was built in 1902 as a place where Edith Wharton’s dearest friends could gather and enjoy lounging in the drawing room or sipping tea on the terrace. And in 2014, groups of lifelong friends can enjoy those same experiences. The Mount is still a place where people who care about one another can enjoy one another’s company, a place where groups of friends like the Wellesley ladies and the “ie’s” can come together to reminisce about their college years and pick up where they left off one, two, or twenty years ago. And I think that’s exactly how Edith Wharton would have liked it.

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The Mount Welcomes Award-Winning Storytellers for Special Events in September and October

Immensely popular in major urban centers, storytelling events delight audiences by channeling truth, poignancy, and humor

(Lenox, MA) The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton in Lenox, Mass., will host three storytelling events this fall, ushering in to the Berkshires an enormously popular source of entertainment found primarily in metropolitan areas.

On September 5 and October 18 at 8 pm, award-winning storytellers will step onstage in The Mount’s historic Stable to share captivating real-life stories, and on October 19, Moth StorySLAM champion Matthew Dicks will lead a workshop for beginning storytellers. All events will be held at The Mount, located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, MA. Tickets and information for all events can be found online at EdithWharton.org.

“The Mount is the perfect venue for storytelling, which beautifully blends entertainment, performance art, and literature,” says Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount. “It’s no wonder storytelling has cultivated legions of fans in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and other major cities, and has exploded in podcast popularity. We are looking forward to welcoming these skilled performers as well an enthusiastic audience.”

Storytelling event details are as follows:

Travel, Temptations, and Tribes: Storytelling at The Mount

Friday, September 5 at 8 pm (doors open at 7:30)

Seven award-winning performers–H.R. Britton, Jannelle Codianni, Norah Dooley, Liz Martin, Theresa Okokon, Brendyn Schneider, and Darlene White—present riveting real-life stories about family, travel, and first times. Hosted by Norah Dooley, the program will be presented in partnership with Boston-based massmouth, Inc. All tickets $15.

Love and Marriage: Storytelling at The Mount

Saturday, October 18 at 8 pm (doors open at 7:30)

Twelve-time Moth StorySLAM champion Matthew Dicks brings his Hartford-based Speak Up to The Mount for an evening of storytelling. Dicks, along withBarbara Klau, Alan MacKenzie, Diana Spechler, and Tom Reed-Swale, will share tales of love lost, love found, and love finally understood. All tickets $15.

Speaking Your Mind: An Introduction to Storytelling

Sunday, October 19 from 9 am to 1 pm

Professional storyteller and Moth StorySLAM champion Matthew Dicks will lead a storytelling workshop designed for anyone who wishes to improve storytelling and public speaking techniques. The workshop will cover idea generation, structure and arc, critical elements, revision, humor, suspense, and performance. Workshop fee $25.

In recent years, The Mount has become the literary hub of the Berkshires. The cultural non-profit regularly hosts esteemed writers—including novelists, poets, biographers, scholars, and journalists—for readings and discussions. Writers who have appeared at The Mount include Tom Reiss, Megan Marshall, Stacy Schiff, Simon Winchester, Mary Jo Salter, Adam Gopnik, Claire Messud, Mark Strand, Andre Dubus III, Matthew Pearl, Susan Orlean, John Berendt, Kati Marton, and many others.

In September, the Mount will also host a series of free poetry events, including the Amy Clampitt Memorial Reading featuring Sharon Olds on September 12; readings on September 11 by esteemed poets with ties to the Berkshires; and a poetry workshop for high school students led by Adam Stone on September 13.

The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, Mass. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit EdithWharton.org or call 413-551-5100.

Literary programming at The Mount is supported by The Amy Clampitt Fund, a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Fund, and the Xeric Foundation, Inc.

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

For more information, visit EdithWharton.org.

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