West Hartford Hauntings Combines Scares With Local History

The spookiest parts of West Hartford's history will come to life again this month, as the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society's West Hartford Hauntings returns to the Old North Cemetery, starting Oct. 20.

Sophie Huget, the nonprofit's public programs manager, said the event has lasted 13 years now because of a commitment by its actors and a great interest from the public to learn.

"We have actors who love coming back and portraying different people," Huget said. "We try to mix up the stories as much as possible, and find new spins on those dearly departed West Hartford residents. People naturally love Halloween things. That's a built in audience. The feedback we get is that people love coming to see our show because it's fun, spooky, and because it's rooted in history. That's made it last."

Each year, thanks to a team of researchers, actors are able to portray actual West Hartford residents, in stories directed by Suzanne Sayers.

"Luckily, we have at least 15 years of people looking into these more morose storylines," Huget said. "We've had researchers come in, interns and volunteers, looking for these stories that whole time. We mix and match, based on the overall story we want for the year. There are five different scenes, and they become their own units."

This year, the story centers around a woman named Mary Bissell. Huget explained that Bissell was a woman who was surrounded by men who kept dying. And she was always blamed. During West Hartford Hauntings, the character of Bissell will be the guide.

"She had a difficult life," Huget said. "It seemed that everyone around her kept perishing, particularly if you were male. She was accused of taking care of these gentlemen. That colored her life in West Hartford. She's kind of walking around, and as you're going with Mrs. Bissell, the others are throwing it back in her face."

They've had Bissell as a featured character in the past, but this year are focusing more on the murder accusations that were thrown her way.

There are other characters, too, that Bissell will be interacting with. Such as a man who was murdered on North Main Street, had his body dragged, and was the talk of the town because his murderer was never found.

Huget said West Hartford Hauntings is a fascinating way for people to learn about a time in West Hartford that is long gone, and have fun doing so.

This year's cast also includes volunteer actors from Conard High School, Hall High School, King Philip Middle School, and Sedgwick Middle School. Huget has loved seeing them interact with the adult actors.

"These actors are young, old, and everything in between and from completely different backgrounds - but they are working towards this kooky goal," Huget said. "The young actors start interacting with the adults, the adults take to them."

West Hartford Hauntings is suggested for those 10 years old and up because of some of the content.

Tours will take place on Oct. 20, 21, 27, and 28, from 6 to 8:45 p.m. Tours leave every 15 minutes and take 45 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets are available online at noahwebster.yapsody.com.

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