During the September 3rd Thursday in Pittsfield, I meandered up the staircase at the Berkshire Museum to the second floor with intense trepidation. I was there to meet my friend for the opening of the museum’s “Something Scary” exhibit. Since I’m a self-proclaimed scaredy cat — I don’t watch horror movies; I don’t walk around familiar or unfamiliar places in the dark; and I have managed to stay away from seasonal Haunted Houses, mazes, and hay rides this year — I was a little cautious about what fears I would encounter within. But for the sake of journalism and a Berkshire Family Focus Parent’s Eye Review, I entered the gallery, eerily bathed in shades of haunting red and pink-ish light. (There were also a number of children that looked to be around the ages of 4 and older wandering around, so I thought if they could do it, so could I.)
Upon entering, I saw before me the Ouija board display, where one could sit down and try it out, or simply browse the museum’s collection along the walls. I avoided this exhibit at all costs due to a few all-too-real Ouija encounters in my teens, and headed into the adjacent gallery.
There I found a painting whose eyes creepily followed me around the room, or on occasion, had tiny little fingers poking out of its eye sockets. There was an area dedicated to snakes, with a ball pit for young children to play in, complete with plastic snakes and all. Not to mention there was taxidermy snakes, and a snake video playing nearby. The mere idea of snakes (real or imagined) in the museum made my heart begin to race (I told you … scaredy cat).
My friend and I then tested our knowledge of common and not-so-common phobias — nyctophobia, pediophobia, phasmophobia, phobophobia. What???? Then we came across one I was very familiar with, ornithophobia — the abnormal and irrational fear of birds. No, I didn’t know what this meant because of myself (this is one fear I do not have), but put my tough 17-year-old football playing son, in a parking lot with a flock of seagulls … the squeals and squeaks from that boy are more haunting that the Ouija. He is definitely ornithophobic!
Finally, before exiting the gallery, my friend and I were drawn to the Eyeballs of Fear. Yes, I said eyeballs. Kids of all ages were surrounding a table holding three giant glass jars and a pail full of eyeballs, set beneath a sign that read “What scares you the most?” Kids were choosing between clowns, snakes, and spiders, and dropping their eyeball vote into the container. I chose not to vote lest the kids mock me for grabbing three eyeballs and placing them into all three jars.
As we began to leave I realized we would need to pass through the Ouija room once more. Taking a deep breath I entered, and suddenly stopped in my tracks, my feet frozen to the floor. A young boy was admiring the Ouija board. Gathering my journalistic wits about me, I approached the boy and board slowly for a photo. He smiled at me and continued to play with the planchette (or Ouija eye). While my friend and I looked on one of the women with the child began talking to us, and soon we realized we were being given an impromptu lesson in Quija etiquette and proper use. Never play alone. Make sure you place two hands on the planchette. Always say goodbye or you invite evil spirits into your home.
That was our cue to leave.
We headed out of the museum and on to Eat on North for a non-fear-inducing birthday celebration for a friend. Halfway through my Angry Orchard cider and Mediterranean flatbread I went numb, my blood ran cold.
Oh God. I never said goodbye!
“Something Scary,” a family friendly, somewhat wacky exploration of fears and phobias runs until Monday, Oct. 31, at the Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield. I’d recommend it for children ages 5 and up, but as I said there were younger children there, so use your judgement. The museum will be hosting its final after hours Flashlight Scavenger Hunt to go along with the exhibit, Friday, Oct. 29, from 6-7 p.m. The cost is $5; $3 for museum members. For more information go online to berkshiremuseum.org and …. enter if you dare!