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The Great Eldon House Ghost Hunt 2012

What do you get when you open the doors of London’s Eldon House to nearly 300 camera-toting ghost hunters?

Great pictures of fleeing ghosts of course! Or, at least a few shots of shadows or “orbs”.

Previously, we’ve held lectures at Eldon House about the Wenman Wynniatt ghost story; this year we wanted to do something a little more… interactive. Given the popularity of paranormal “research” television programmes, we thought it would be fun to try out an event with a ghost hunt theme.

The result: a lot of fun for all ages. Patrons who toured the house were greeted by a historical interpreter dressed in period costume. A “ghost map” showed all the paranormal hot-spots inside the house and described an eerie story that went along with each location. Visitors were encouraged to snap non-flash photos throughout the house and then share them via email or Facebook, particularly if they thought they caught something spectral on camera!

During the afternoon there were several reports of would-be Wenman Wynniatt sightings, provided by a sharply dressed volunteer, Mark Tovey! A few people even had the rare chance to catch him on film.

Dressed as Sarah Harris for the day, I received guests in Eldon House’s interpretive centre, where a short presentation about the ghost story could be watched; and, we also sported a display about our on-going research about Wenman Wynniatt and Sarah Harris. For some of the younger ghostbusters in attendance, we had some fun distractions for kids which included coloring and dressing up in the replica officer’s uniform.

Did you attend the event? Let me know what you thought by commenting below.

Did you take photos? Be sure to email them or share through Facebook and they’ll be featured here on this blog.

Do you want to know more about Eldon House’s oldest ghost story? Click here!

You can also visit MisstoricalFiction on YouTube.

Here are some more photos from the event. Thanks to everyone who came out and had a spooktackular time! (rolls-eyes) What a way to kick-off Hallowe’en!


Officers at Play

One could argue that early Londoners were very lucky to have the British military deploy several regiments in Canada during and after the 1837 rebellion. Lucky, because the town benefited from the security, commerce, and “high society” that well educated officers brought with them.

During its time in London, the British military was responsible for clearing trees and stumps to create better roadways, protecting the local population from the rebellion’s skirmishes, as well as aiding in civic emergencies such as fires and floods. At this time, the local militia was primarily volunteer, so the presence of the British military not only provided a very practical helping hand but also provided the militia with educational and organizational opportunities.

The British officers were a welcome customer to farmers and local business owners (read: tavern, wink wink).  We also know that they were a relief to London’s upper class who longed for the company of “refined” guests for discussions regarding literature, music, politics, and news of England; this is apparent from the stories about balls and soirées where British officers were hailed as honored guests. Young ladies also were enamored and fell victim to “Scarlet Fever” – the excitement of having an influx of available, well-dressed suitors who offered an opportunity to leave London.

Further to this, the arrival of the military enriched London’s artistic culture. British officers were responsible for significant works of Canadian artwork. They also brought the theater:  putting on plays and musical productions so regularly that a performance hall was eventually built for which tickets were sold and reviews were written in the London Gazette.

Mark Tovey’s presentation, made at a Jane Austen Society meeting in November 2011, provides an excellent background and detailed history on this subject, as well as some fun comparisons to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.

Watch the presentation here:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

During the summer of 2011 Mark Tovey produced a highly acclaimed (at least by me) re-creation of a play performed by British officers. You can read my review here.

Interested in more on the British military’s involvement in London, Upper Canada?

See these previous posts:

The 83rd regiment comes to town

Marriage and drama at Eldon House

Wreckless horseman

Holiday romance

Garrison Theatricals recreate 1842 play ‘The Miller and His Men’

When the British army were stationed in London, Upper Canada in 1837 their presence not only brought security but a new sense of society which benefited both the local upper class and the officers. By 1839 not only were they using their time and talent to create better roads in London, but they were also putting on theatrical performances.

Historian and producer Mark Tovey recently worked with Joe Lella and a their team called Garrison Theatricals to perform ‘The Miller and His Men’, last seen on the stage in London in 1842, put on by a group of British officers.

The highly popular Melo-Drama written by Sir Isaac Pocock was re-enacted on July 12-14 and 19-22, 2011 at Fanshawe Pioneer Village in the authentic Miller Barn.

The story focuses around an old miller and his beautiful daughter who is pursued by two suitors: one aging, but rich; another young but poor. To win her hand, the young man makes a secret pledge: to rid the land of the banditti, and restore the fortunes of the old miller.

But much drama unfolds when the wealthy but sketchy miller Grindoff has his own agenda.

The immediate introduction of a musical number set the pace for a fun-filled and captivating performance. The lyrics were adjusted creatively to fit the play…’Pour Oh Pour the Rebel Lager’ was a favorite rendition sung to the tune of ‘Pour Oh Pour the Pirate Sherry’ by Gilbert & Sullivan.

Traditional Canadian Melodies were also used to add authenticity such as ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’…which I don’t think I’ve ever heard but am glad I did because it was heartwarming. I thought it must have been a contender for the Canadian anthem and it looks like unofficially it was for a while, but was deemed too pro-British to stand the test of time and therefore unknown to newer generations of Canadians.

Also lending an authentic tone was the great job done on costumes by Brenda Fieldhouse. From the buttons on the officers uniforms to the bonnets on the ladies heads the actors were decked out in period garb which seems to have made them feel right at home in the Miller Barn.

The actors gave an excellent performance. The company had a good mix of experienced and fresh blood, and I would go back and see this group perform again. Hannah Drew stood out as the lovely and delicate Claudine, while Andrew House seemed to easily give the miller Grindoff his creepy charm…surprising to find out this was Andrew’s debut! Penny Jones, Mark Tovey and the rest of the cast made so many of the scenes feel real, specifically the tavern and robber’s lair. Benjamin Dyck and Alondra Vega-Zaldivar also stood out in the musical numbers, specifically their solo performances, which gave the characters an added depth.

The audience loved the encouraged involvement to boo the villains and cheer the heroes. We didn’t need the signs telling us to do so, but they added a kitschy feel that made the play feel truly authentic. The location of the barn was a great bonus. Despite the heat of the day, the barn fit the performance well and the stage managers did a great job in setting the scenes effortlessly.

Many thanks to Garrison Theatricals for an unforgettable experience that was entertaining and educational. It was a pleasure to sit in the audience and see this play reenacted by an enthusiastic group who worked hard to deliver such an authentic experience, and who did so with such flair. Job well done!

Videos from the performance

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