It’s About Time column: Hoping to resurrect the Ghost Walk
November 7, 2018
Some people call us actors or ghosts, but I like the term portrayalists.
We dress up in period piece costumes or outfits, and our portrayal represents a character who brings history alive, telling experiences and stories of their lives in the past.
Sound easy? It's not.
Earlier this year, the leadership of the Glenwood Historical Society canceled the venerable Linwood Cemetery Ghost Walk.
We dress up in period piece costumes or outfits, and our portrayal represents a character who brings history alive, telling experiences and stories of their lives in the past. Sound easy? It’s not.
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If the wishes of the community, including the Glenwood Springs City Council, are to come true by reviving the annual event in October 2019, then we need many new portrayalists.
Yes, I heard your voices loud and clear and appreciate the overwhelming support for the continuation of the 18-year tradition. The unanimous vote by the Glenwood City Council for a one-time $10,000 increase in museum funding, to make up for the budgetary shortfall due to the event's cessation, is commendable. Thank you.
You can't have a ghost walk without ghosts. That was the main reason for throwing in the towel, for what I thought was permanent. I'm not entirely convinced our town can pull off a reincarnation.
Being a portrayalist requires commitment, dedication and discipline.
The commitment means sacrificing a good deal of time. Participants pick a character from the past, learn a script and then must be willing to stand and deliver. Portrayalists are not acting out a part in a play, you are the play when you become a ghost walk character. What you know about the individual you represent is revealed in pages from the past from our museum archives.
There may or may not be a photograph of the person, but that doesn't matter. By knowing the time period, a representative dresses accordingly. Therein lies the first hurdle.
To be authentic means either making a costume, or buying one along with the accessories. Because most people don't have the time or talent to sew, it usually becomes necessary to purchase an outfit.
That's expensive. Eighteen years ago, the coat, pants, shirt and hat that I needed to transform into character Marshall Jasper Ward cost me $500.
One solution may be to have local service clubs sponsor a portrayalist. This coming spring, I will visit every organization I can, asking for sponsors to adopt a character by funding their outfit.
Dedication usually means you have to be passionate about our local history. It also means being true to the man or woman you represent.
Stick to what is known about the character. There's no need to make things up; truth is much stranger than fiction.
Discipline requires that when you are in character, you must stay in character. Sometimes people I know call me by my real name, and I have to respond with, "Excuse me, I'm Jasper Ward."
It takes commitment, dedication and discipline to stand next to a grave, weekend evenings in unpredictable fall weather, and tell about "your" life with conviction and grit.
Still want to be a portrayalist? Here are a few characters. We'll do the script for each and help coach through the process.
There's Hervey Lyle, friend of Walter Devereux, who requires a patch over one eye because he lost his sight in a polo match in 1910.
Jacob Schwarz was the undertaker and owner of Linwood Cemetery.
Though Doc Holliday's lady Big Nose Kate is not buried in Linwood we would like to develop her as a walk-on who is looking for Doc. There are several women buried in Linwood for whom we have enough material to do justice to their interesting lives.
Such is teacher Mary Sharp Beesley, who died in 1927 crossing a raging Yule Creek when a bridge plank gave way and she plunged to her death.
Last, we need "grave diggers" to do a vignette as people walk to Kid Curry's grave in Potter's Field.
Both of the longstanding Kid Curry and Doc Holliday portrayalists retired this year. Any takers for these major roles?
If enough people are willing to portray one of the many interesting characters buried in Linwood, then the annual Ghost Walk may yet be resurrected.
Bill Kight is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and writes a monthly column about history. He can be reached at 970-945-4448 for those who wish to become portrayalists.