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Chatting with the Dead, A Steampunk Haunted House, the Village Halloween Parade and Other Events For Halloween Week in New York


From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century many prominent scholars and writers professed a faith in spiritualism, the idea that one could communicate with departed spirits through a gifted "medium." Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was an early believer. So, too, were evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, New York physician John Franklin Gray and American psychologist William James. Many followers came from the middle and upper-middle classes, holding seances in their living rooms, while many popular mediums lectured in concert halls to sell-out audiences. While spiritualism had its heyday in the Guilded Age, clairvoyants are still popular, showing up for appearances on Larry King and such. Even one fictional medium, a typical suburban mom, is assigned to an Assistant District Attorney's office in a popular TV drama. For those seeking answers for questions about life after death, the appeal of spiritualism is understandable, albeit a little disconcerting.

In perusing the many events for this autumnal Halloween week in New York City, I spotted a listing for Concetta Bertoldi, a woman who claims to communicate with other people's deceased friends and relatives. The picture of her on her website does not meet conventions about the overall general appearance of such a spiritually gifted individual. In fact, she looks more like an opera diva, but watching her videos she talks like a nice regular middle-aged lady from Newark, New Jersey. She'll be appearing at the Gramercy Theatre on E. 23rd St. on October 31 at noon. 

The full list for special events for Halloween in New York would take up a hundred pages, but here's a handful of events to get started: 


Wednesday, October 28, 2009
At 7 p.m. House of Usher (1960). Vincent Price stars in the Poe classic directed by Roger Corman. 70 min. At 9 p.m. Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum, also based on the Poe story. 80 min. Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave at 2nd St.).

For New York Yankees fans, I don't have to remind you of tonight's opening game of the World Series. If the Phillies take an early lead, this event, too, could become scary.

Steampunk Haunted House
I'm rather fascinated with steampunk culture, not really sure where it came from or why. Yet, I find the aesthetics of steampunk, with its emphasis on mechanical parts, hauntingly lovely. I'm thrilled, then, to learn of a haunted house made of clock pieces and such stuff. From Third Rail Projects at the Abrons Art Center/Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand St at Pitt St.; Oct 28, 29 6 pm–9:30 pm; Oct 30, 31 8 pm–11:30 pm; $25

Thursday, October 29, 2009
The exhibit “Death & Mourning in the Mid-19th Century Home”
 at the Merchant’s House Museum, considered one of the city's most haunted places, explores the death rituals of the 19th-century New Yorkers. Scenes include a bedroom death watch and a funeral in the parlor. Special candlelight ghost tours at 6 and 10 p.m. on October 29 and 30. Family friendly events for children on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and ghost story readings in the evening. See more at website. 29 E 4th St between Bowery and Lafayette St

Friday, October 30, 2009
Another unusual house museum in the city is The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden on E. 61st St.  Built in 1799 and converted to a hotel in 1826 Mount Vernon, the house once served as a pastoral retreat for city-dwellers (when New York pretty much stopped at 14th Street).  Halloween tours on Oct 30 at 6 pm (family tour for children) and another at 7:15 p.m. for adults only. $15, children under 12 $5. between First and York Avenues. For more info, visit museum website.

Trinity Wall Street's Halloween Special Events include family fun in the churchyard from 4-6 p.m., a toast to permanent resident Alexander Hamilton during Haunted Hamilton Happy Hour from 6 to 8 p.m., and a screening of Phantom of the Opera (1925) in the candlelit church.

Saturday, October 31, 2009
Talk to the Dead with Concetta Bertoldi
. At 12 noon at the Gramercy Theatre, Bertoldi will demonstrate her ability to communicate with other people's deceased friends and relatives. 127 E 23rd St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-777-6800); Oct 31 at noon, $47.20

Halloween Wonder Cabinet
Curated by Lawrence Weschler, an all-day event of oddities and wonders presented by the New York Institute for the Humanities. Presenters include Laurie Anderson, Walter Murch, David Wilson, and Peter Hutton. 10:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Cantor Film Center, 36 E. 8th St. More at website.

The Village Halloween Parade
The culminating event of Halloween week in New York is the Village Halloween Parade. Open to all, the event celebrates the creative spirits of New Yorkers. Part performance art, part puppet theatre, part radical street event, the parade is one of the city's signature events. Expect something like a quarter of a million people in costume on the streets. Official website.

Sunday, November 1, 2009
All Soul's Day



Images: Spirit Photography- "The Flaneuse of Death Visits the Merchant’s House Museum" and image of St. Paul's Chapel, New York, between Church Street and lower Broadway, by Walking Off the Big Apple.

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