BY JOE DURWIN
THE BERKSHIRES — Move over, Salem. Berkshire County is replete with authentically spooky venues, where historic sightseeing will blend with plenty of opportunities for thrills and chills throughout the Halloween holiday season.
The intrepid may tour the historic manor in Lenox where some say the beloved author Edith Wharton and some of her social circle still reside. The Mount has been featured on SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” and a variety of books and articles for the past two decades for its spectral history, a summary of which can be found here. Tickets (tours usually sell out, so book ahead) are $20 for adults, and teenagers 13-18 get in for $15, though The Mount discourages participants 12 and under. Tours are held through Oct. 26, and on Oct. 31, and there will be a special reading of spooky stories followed by the Oct. 27 tour, for which advance reservations are required. The Mount is located at 2 Pleasant St. in Lenox.
If authentic haunts with a historical flavor are your thing, the area offers several more sites which have been singled out as having a certain spooky heritage. The informative Visitors Center at the Western Heritage Gateway State Park is a year-round family-friendly attraction that takes on extra intrigue in viewing the exhibits on the foreboding Hoosac Tunnel, industrial marvel and a popular pick for the area’s most mysterious haunt. The Visitors Center is located off of Union St. (Route 2) in North Adams.
Ventfort Hall (104 Walker St., Lenox), another Berkshire Cottage to make the Ghost Hunters’ hit list, will feature Tea & Talks with author E. Ashley Rooney (Oct 20.) and Chicopee Paranormal Investigators (Oct .30) along with an actual investigation with the latter on Oct. 20 following Rooney’s talk on myths and legends of the Berkshires. Price for the Tea & Talks are $16, or $14 for members, with tickets for the ghost hunt priced at $50.
And the Houghton Mansion on Church St. in North Adams, perhaps the most thoroughly studied haunted house of the Berkshires, is hosting a fall special of $5 tours each Sunday evening at 8 p.m. Participants can revel in the lofty hallways and creepy bowels of the tragic home of the city’s first mayor, with expert accompaniment by the Berkshire Paranormal Group.
“There is no age limit, but we ask that anyone under 18 be accompanied an adult,” said BPG’s John Mantello. “We also ask parents to keep in mind that during the tour we do shut off the lights and actually take time to hunt and look for ghosts, so if they feel their child can not handle that to not bring them.
In Hancock, Jiminy Peak has taken a bit of license with the local lore to create a new mythology of sinister happenings, in a hypothetical history of the town once known as the Plantation of Jericho. Resort staff consulted with those who brought Cranmore Mountain’s hauntingly fun Halloween events to the public in New Hampshire in order to learn the ropes of creating a uniquely spooky experience for the residents of and visitors to Berkshire County. The resort’s 13 Nights at Jiminy is geared for ages 10 and up, with tours leaving every 15 minutes between 6:30 and 10:30 p.m. Jiminy is located at 37 Corey Road.
Jo’s article/mention of Jiminy is inaccurate. We did not have any employees go to special training to learn how to do spooky things. We have had consulting from the people who run Cranmore Mtns program, but we have not had any special training and I do not think that we should say that we did. I feel it may be misleading.
Initial reactions received by These Mysterious Hills have been extremely positive, with fans saying the elaborate tour is worth the $25 cost of admission. The tour is open Oct. 19-20 and Oct 26-31.
In Dalton, where tales say native shamans once communed with the spirits at Wizards Glen, over the fate of fair Wahconah and other such matters, you can catch haunted hayrides starting Oct. 19. Two Dalton moms, Betsy Nichols and Joanne Farrell, put together these fun rides beginning at 190 Cleveland Road in Dalton Oct. 19, 20, 26 and 27 from 7-10 p.m. The tours, that last approximately a half-hour (first-come first-served), are $10; with a less spooky daytime version Oct. 21 and 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. for $5. Proceeds go to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, earmarked for Berkshire County.
Finally, for a less group-oriented experience, the Historic Quarry of the Becket Land Trust (Quarry Road, Becket) is open dawn to dusk every day of the year. Take yourself and the kids for a self-guided tour of dormant rail beds, old tools and machinery from a time when marble was quarried there to be sent down to the town of Chester for processing. The outdoor historic site is free, educational … and if years of legends are to be believed, you just might have an eerie experience.
Joe Durwin is a local writer, folklorist and historian; his column These Mysterious Hills has run on a semi-regular basis in The Advocate and iBerkshires.com since 2004, and his work on lore and mysteries of the region has been featured in Fate Magazine, Haunted Times, William Shatner’s “Weird or What” for History Canada, MSG Films’ “Bennington Triangle,” and the PBS documentary “Things That Go Bump in the Night.”