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Party like it’s 1899: The Mount’s first masquerade ball!

Victorian BoudoirHave you ever partied like its 1899? Whether you have or haven’t, you won’t want to miss The Mount’s first ever masquerade ball on November 1st!

Berkshire Shenanigans and The Mount will give guests an immersive experience by turning The Mount into a haunted Victorian mansion for a night of dancing and partying with DJ BFG. Eat, drink, and be spooky!

Grace Leathrum, The Mount’s Special Events Coordinator, says the goal is for guests to experience a glamorous Gilded Age party from the past.

“I think The Mount represents Gilded Age hospitality so well, when you read about all the effort that Edith Wharton went through to make sure her guests were comfortable and having a good time through their whole stay,” Grace explains. “It’s a great place to entertain a party of this magnitude just because it really fits in with the idea of the luxury of the Gilded Age party. Plus The Mount has such a great history with its ghost stories and [Wharton’s] interest in the macabre.”

Wharton specialized in small dinner parties and although a Halloween ball with 250 guests may have been out of her comfort zone, Grace believes Mrs. Wharton would have enjoyed a party like this: “Dare I say, she might have gotten dressed up, too!”

Speaking of which, there will also be a costume contest! To present a fair and unbiased outcome, Berkshire Shenanigans will randomly pick a guest to be a judge and the winner, who will be announced at the end of the night, will receive a prize.

The Mount will be dressed up with jack o’ lanterns and red lighting, but what costume will Grace be donning for this party? We won’t spoil the surprise, but it may be a Wharton character.

This event will sell out. Be sure to get your tickets early!

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Visitor Spotlight: The Woman in White

The following blog post was contributed by Laura Eden.

Throughout the mid to late 80’s my family periodically vacationed during their spring break at our timeshare at The Ponds at Fox Hollow.  My children were in elementary school so we spent a lot of time outside – often in the mud and muck along the horse trails.

One afternoon I was walking with my three daughters along the bridle path at the base of the lawn at The Mount.  Shakespeare and Company had just begun to use the house for performances in the summer but the house looked closed up.  No one was around so, to escape the mud, which was becoming too onerous for my youngest child, we walked along the edge of the lawn. It was getting rather dark so I decided it might be best to skirt around the house and nip down the drive to the road.

The Terrace.  Photo by David Dashiell.

The Terrace. Photo by David Dashiell.

As we began to do just that, a woman abruptly opened the French doors onto the Terrace overlooking the rear lawn and charged over to the railing. She had very dark hair pulled up on her head and was wearing a white dress which I took to be a maid’s or housekeeper’s uniform. She was furiously shaking a tea towel or dust cloth over the railing and, from her manner, I gathered she was very annoyed by our presence.

Embarrassed at being caught trespassing, I hustled the girls along mentally rehearsing an apology as we rounded the corner of the house and headed down the drive.  A battered old station wagon was approaching and stopped alongside us. As I suspected, it was the caretaker checking on the house and I explained why we were on the property.  Having had a good look at the bedraggled state my girls were in, he was very gracious about the whole situation.  I asked him to please give my apologies to the housekeeper who had seen us from the Terrace and had seemed so annoyed by our presence.

He seemed puzzled by that and told me that no one was in the house and he was the only one with the key.  I insisted we had seen a woman and he said that he didn’t doubt that. From our description of her, he said it was probably the ghost of Mrs. Wharton!  He kindly added that she had been seen by others so, not to worry, we weren’t necessarily crazy….true story with four witnesses with no prior knowledge of ghostly goings on at The Mount.

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The Mount’s pet cemetery

Edith Wharton with Miza and Mimi.

Edith Wharton with Miza and Mimi.

Visitors who pull back the curtain of Edith Wharton’s third story bedroom window, or step out onto the Terrace from Teddy Wharton’s den, might spot a little mound at the edge of the woods with six tiny gravestones. This is the pet cemetery at The Mount.

The Whartons loved their dogs dearly; they were, in many ways, children in Teddy and Edith’s otherwise childless marriage. The Mount’s pet cemetery is the final resting place of Mimi (d. January 1902), Toto (d. November 18, 1904), Miza (d. January 12, 1906), and Jules (d. 1907), a Skye terrier who lived to be 16. Two dogs from the Shattuck era (1912-1938) are buried alongside the Wharton dogs.

Ghost tours always include a stop at the pet cemetery, where guides briefly retell “Kerfol,” Wharton’s story about a pack of ghost dogs who haunt a house where they were murdered, and in turn avenged their murder and the cruel treatment of their beloved mistress.

Although there are few reports of ghostly animal activity reported at The Mount, visitors have caught two interesting photos, which can be seen on the right.

Edith Wharton was surrounded by her dogs as she wrote in bed every morning, and from that same room, she could look out the window at the cemetery and continue to watch over them. And when the trees are bare in the fall, there is a perfect view of Mrs. Wharton’s bedroom window from the pet cemetery, where perhaps they could see her, too.

The Mount's pet cemetery.

 

A possible dog tail?  Photo by Beth Grossfeld.

A possible dog tail, floating across the lawn. Photo by Beth Grossfeld.

Is that an animal on the sofa, next to the ghostly figure?  By Nancy L. Pastor

Is that a ghost dog on the sofa, next to the ghostly figure? Photo by Nancy L. Pastor.

 

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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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