Halloween Links to Local History Learning Opportunities

7 Halloween-Themed Events that Spotlight Western MA History

As the hills and valleys of western Massachusetts brighten with the changing of seasons, the evenings become just a bit darker and a bit spookier. While we enjoy the harvest and enjoy our fair share (at least) of apples, squash, and all things pumpkin, the days shorten and darken around us – serving as a reminder that Halloween is creeping up on us. In addition to Halloween’s costume frenzy and the potential for candy accumulation that the holiday presents, the spooking season brings with it a myriad of ways to learn about local history!

This area of New England is rich with history, and much of it spooky and surrounded by mystery. Towns across western Massachusetts are home to potentially haunted historic buildings, controversial centuries-old community history, and cemeteries that are the final resting place of folks who may have met questionable ends. All of these eerie tales amount to more than a good, healthy scare – they offer entry points for learning about the history of many small communities, as well as the western portion of the state as a whole.

Additionally, an examination of the history of a single community can help children to understand the history of the region and country better, as it provides context for understanding the specifics of a large, broad look at the events and aesthetic of a particular era. Learning about Civil War-era community members, for example, can help students imagine life during that time period, as they’ll be able to imagine the surroundings in which such people existed. Trying to understand life in the past without context, on the other hand, may lead to more guesswork on the child’s part – something that exercises their imagination but may not lead to as thorough an understanding (and definitely will not lead to developing deeper ties to their local landscape!).

To begin exploring local history through the lens of spooky history, take advantage of one (or all!) of the many upcoming Halloween-themed events that spotlight local history:

MYSTERIOUS HISTORY
Monday, October 19, 7pm
Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe will present “Mysterious Massachusetts” at the Agawam Public Library on October 19th. Hear some of our state’s most famous weird stories, including the Dover Demon, the Salem Witch Trials, ghosts on the coast, Berkshire UFO sightings, and more. Older students can have fun learning about the state’s most famous paranormal incidents. 413-789-1550. 750 Cooper Street. Agawam, MA. (FREE)

HAUNTED HISTORY
Wednesday, October 21, 6:30pm-8pm
Learn about New England’s haunted history at the Westfield Athenaeum. Barry Dietz will present this program about New England’s past. Best for older students interested in history and who enjoy ghost stories. 413-568-7833. 6 Elm Street. Westfield, MA. (FREE)

GHOST TOUR
Friday, October 23, 5:45pm-7:15pm & 7pm-8:30pm
Saturday, October 24, 5:45pm-7:15pm & 7pm-8:30pm
Friday, October 30, 7pm-8:30pm & 10:30pm-12midnight
You may know about Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, but did you know that it’s rumored to be haunted? Come see for yourself on one of The Mount’s ghost tours. The tour will take you through the stables and the main house, where you will learn about and even witness the property’s haunted creaks and footsteps. Not recommended for children under 12. Tickets must be purchased in advance. 413-551-5100. 2 Plunkett Street. Lenox, MA. ($$)

CEMETERY TOUR
Friday, October 23, 6:30pm-8pm
The Longmeadow Historical Society is hosting “Ghosts in the Graveyard,” a cemetery tour with a focus on Longmeadow’s history. Bring a flashlight and the kids and learn about local history as you tour the Longmeadow Cemetery while members of the LHS share stories of historical figures who have lived in the area and have been laid to rest. 413-567-3600. Williams Street. Longmeadow, MA.

CEMETERY TOUR
Saturday, October 24, 2pm-4pm
“Walk with Southwick Spirits” to learn about local history and Southwick’s residents of the past. Head to Southwick Cemetery to learn about Southwick’s history with the Southwick Historical Society on a tour of the cemetery. Best for older students interested in local history. College Highway. Southwick, MA. (DONATIONS ACCEPTED)

HOUSE TOUR
Wednesday, October 28, 6:30pm & 8pm
Thursday, October 29, 6:30pm & 8pm
Friday, October 30, 6:30pm & 8pm
Saturday, October 31, 6:30pm & 8pm
Sunday, November 1, 6:30pm & 8pm
The Emily Dickinson Museum and the TheatreTruck have come together to present The Aspect of the Place: A Halloween Happening at the Evergreens this Halloween weekend. Tour The Evergreens, the home of Emily’s brother Austin, which acts as a time capsule of 19th-century life and contains the Dickinson family’s furniture. While walking through the house, you can hear Victorian ghost stories and learn about the history of the home. Older students interested in storytelling and local history would enjoy this exciting and unique Halloween event. Tickets available in advance. 413-542-8161. 280 Main Street. Amherst, MA. ($$)

GHOST TOURS
Every Wednesday-Sunday through November 1, 7:30pm
Ghost Tour: Learn some spooky local history with Valley Ghost Tour, which run every Wednesday-Sunday night through November 1 at 7:30pm and start behind Thornes Marketplace in Northampton and in Sweetser Park in Amherst. Explore the town and learn fascinating ghost stories from the past. The tour is family friendly, but keep in mind the stories can be spooky! Dogs are welcome. Please book tickets in advance. Downtown. Amherst & Northampton, MA. ($$)

[Photo credit: (cc) Rob Shenk]

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