With all of its spooky historic mansions, if Germantown isn’t down in the record books as the most haunted neighborhood in America, maybe it ought to be. For Halloween, Historic Germantown is hosting five scary special events that offer something for everyone in the family, from the Civil War buff to the pumpkin-painting pre-schooler.
Last weekend we tagged along on the Ghosts of the Great Road tour, a collaboration between Historic Germantown and the Museum of the Macabre. We opted for the 6 p.m. tour, because we simply could not resist the chance to wander around Cliveden in the dark. We were not alone: The tour sold out.
Armed with dousing rods to detect paranormal activity, and led by the “ghost” of Benjamin Kirk (co-owner of the first funeral home in the country), the tour guests took in a number of local scary sights including the 1000-grave Upper Burying Ground, which has some grim modern day reports of ghost sightings, the original Kirk and Nice Funeral Home, and finally an investigation of Cliveden, site of the bloody 1777 Battle of Germantown.
Sitting on the steps of Cliveden in the dark, a full moon hovering above the trees, listening to Mr. Kirk’s ghostly retelling of the tragic and violent deaths that occured during the battle, the traffic noise of Germantown Avenue seemed to recede, and the group fell into a collective hush. Creaking up the narrow, dimly lit stairs to the attic to view a drawing on the wall—done by a dying soldier in his own blood—was enough to send a shiver up the staunchest of spines.
• Ghosts of the Great Road
The 90-minute tour takes place on Saturdays, Oct. 15, 22, and 29. Tours leave promptly at 3 p.m. from Market Square, 5501 Germantown Avenue, or at 6 p.m. from the front of Upsala, 6430 Germantown Avenue. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance. For more information or ticket sales, visit www.ghostsofthegreatroad.com.
• A House Divided – Murder Mystery at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, 200 West Tulpehocken Street
The fifth annual event borrows from the game of Clue with a focus on the Civil War in Germantown. It takes place on Saturday, Oct. 22 or 29, at 6 p.m. or Sunday, Oct. 23 or 30, at 2:30 p.m. Tours begin every 20 minutes, and tickets are $16 per person. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 215-438-1861 or visit www.ebenezermaxwellmansion.org.
• Grumblethorpe Halloween Party, 5267 Germantown Avenue
On Saturday, Oct. 22, tour the colonial home of the Wister family from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., listen to spooky tales, and participate in costume and dance contests. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children, and $12 for a family of four. For more information, call 215-880-8620.
• Spirits of the Wissahickon at Historic RittenhouseTown, 206 Lincoln Drive
On Sunday, Oct. 23, interact with experienced interpreters and crafters as they serve as “spirits” of the Rittenhouse family from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children. For tickets and information, call 215-438-5711 or visit www.rittenhousetown.org.
• Tours of the Haunted Mansion at Stenton, 4601 North 18th Street
On Saturday, Oct. 29, get your family-friendly fright on with a tour of James Logan’s Stenton from noon to 4 p.m. Enjoy fun for all ages with pumpkin painting, apple cider, and spice cookies. The event is free, and costumes are encouraged! For tickets or more information, call 215-329-7312, or visit www.stenton.org.
To learn more about the 15 cultural and historic sites that make up Historic Germantown and more special events, visit www.freedomsbackyard.com.