The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society’s annual haunted cemetery tour returns for two weekends in October.
By Ronni Newton
Mrs. Mary Bissell was born in 1830, and for two weekends this October, she will guide visitors on a lantern-lit tour of the Old North Cemetery in West Hartford, during which they will “meet” other town residents who have long-since departed the earth.
The annual West Hartford Hauntings cemetery tour, hosted by the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society combines history, storytelling, and spooky fun in an outdoor theater event that coincides with the Halloween season.
West Hartford resident Suzanne Sayers returns as artistic director for Hauntings, with 29 actors participating in the theatrical cemetery tour. Sayers said in a news release that she “feels honored that we are able to give voice to those who most have never heard of before. I believe every person has a story worth telling.”
Old North Cemetery opened in 1790, and event. organizers create the annual tour and unique script based on details that can be gleaned from available information about the lives and deaths of the past residents. They create storylines based on the gravestones as well as old newspaper articles, death notices, wills, and more.
“Tour guide” Mary Bissell was an infamous West Hartford resident surrounded by tragedy, event organizers said. “Rumors spread about poison, affairs, and murder. Was she ruthless or was she just a lightning rod for speculation from jealous neighbors who bristled at the thought of a wealthy widow managing her own affairs?”
Other ghostly residents who are included on the tour include members of the Wells family – forced to leave Glastonbury because of their religious convictions – and Jacob Merrill, “who suffered a freak farming accident.”
West Hartford Hauntings will be held on Oct. 20, 21, 22, 28, and 29 at Old North Cemetery, 80 North Main Street, West Hartford, with tours, which are 45 minutes, departing every 15 minutes between the hours of 6-8:45 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 20 is preview night, and tickets are discounted. ASL interpretation will be available for the 6 p.m. tour on Oct. 22. The event is family friendly, but due to the frightening nature of some of the content is recommended for those ages 10 and up.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children, with discounts for museum members and groups of 10 or more, and are available online here. The tours will take place in any weather, including rain or snow, and participants should arrive dressed for the weather. Tickets are non-refundable and the event traditionally sells out.
Refreshments will be sold, and a limited offering of items from the West Hartford Gift Shop, including Hauntings merchandise, will be available for purchase on site for those who arrive prior to their scheduled tour.
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