The large full moon loomed over us and there was a slight chill in the air as we followed a group of strangers into a cemetery at night, what could go wrong?
That’s usually the start of a scary movie, but luckily for us, our experience was not as spooky.
We were on a ghost walk hosted by the Salem Museum. The museum has been doing this walk for 18 years now, so we thought, there must be something to it.
When we first arrived, we easily bought our tickets ($10 for adults, $5 for students) at the front of the museum and were told we could check out the museum while we waited. We had about 15 minutes to meander through the exhibits and learned some intriguing stuff about Roanoke College. You’ll have to go check out the museum to see what we’re talking about.
At promptly 8 p.m., our guide holding a lantern led us out of the museum and into the cemetery across the street.
Each actor portrayed a ghost that was buried in the graveyard. They all told us stories of their lives and deaths, with one exception. The ghost of Katherine “Katie” Dillard Robertson told us another person’s story buried in the graveyard. She detailed a moment in time when crews digging on Chestnut Street discovered an ornate casket with a girl inside. The street crew ended up shattering the casket and the girl inside was never identified and has since been buried in the cemetery with her headstone labeled as “the Chestnut Street lady”.
Walking from person to person was exciting and each story was a great one. Our group couldn’t help but break out into applause after some of the performances. One of our favorites was the story of Andrew Lewis, a revolutionary war hero and friend of George Washington, who had many claims to fame.
I would have to say the award for best acting and most in character would have to go to the actors playing the ghosts of the Deyerle Brothers, who talked about their time in the Mexican War and Civil War. The banter between the three was really funny and they interacted with the crowd fully in character. They wouldn’t even break character when I stopped to take a picture.
We loved all of the ghosts, but one that does stick out was the performance of Susan Price, who described what African-American life was like after the civil war. She explained why we had to walk over from East Hill Cemetery to East Hill North Cemetery to see her. It’s because back in the day, white and black people were not buried in the same areas. She spoke of the areas of Salem that were segregated and was a great representation of the history of the people that weren’t able to be buried with great monuments across the street at the highest point of land like some of the other characters we had heard from that night.
Overall, it was a great Halloween type activity that didn’t require us to scream at things jumping out at us. Instead, it was an educational and thought-provoking lesson on the people who made an impact not just in Salem, but in all of Virginia and beyond.
Check out our slideshow of the night: