Tag Archives: education

Death and Mourning in the 19th Century and the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion

This past weekend, friend and past guest of the Big Séance Podcast, Victoria Cosner Love, invited me (ahem… strongly encouraged me to leave my crypt) to a fascinating event, which appropriately fit the season, in my opinion anyway. It was my first visit to the absolutely beautiful Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion in St. Louis. “A Death in the Family: Death and Mourning in the 19th Century” is an annual mourning event there. 

An interesting fact is that the Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is right next door to the famous Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery Complex, and so the neighborhood is always an interesting place to find yourself this time of year. (Incidentally, the boys from Ghost Adventures just featured the Lemp Mansion and Brewery in their most recent episode, and the Ghost Hunters spent some time there a few years ago as well.) 

The Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is reported to be haunted as well, and I did talk to a few people in the know, but this event didn’t focus on the paranormal aspects of the place.

 

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As you may know, I’m obsessed with staircases, especially grand ones in a historical location like this mansion. So I had to lead with the photo above, with one of the volunteers appropriately mourning in character at the front entrance. 

I was very surprised to also run into several friends, some of whom I’ve never met in person, like my new friend Ginger of Missouri History and Hauntings. I got to meet a few other fascinating and knowledgable people, as well. I’m so very glad I went!

So back to the event itself. Here’s a description of the event, taken directly from their site:

This is an open house style event, during which guests are free to visit exhibits throughout the Mansion and learn not only about mourning customs of the 19th century but illness, medical treatments, wakes, funerary practices and more from costumed volunteers and museum staff.

As well as visiting with our informative volunteers, guests get a chance to see a amazing collection of original objects related to death, mourning and medical practices, from private collections, that are on display just this one day every year.

 

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I loved the event, but I look forward to going back again soon, perhaps to get a general tour of the place, plus they have plenty of activities. I encourage anyone in the area to visit if you haven’t been. 

I would have loved to have been able to get more shots of the home, but this event was well-attended, which is a good thing, but it made it difficult to get really good photos. But I hope you enjoy the shots that I did capture.

 

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I loved the feel and the color of this beautiful, yet oddly shaped corner. I need to find more information about this room. 

 

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Well I Asked For It: A Special Visitor At School

 

Me at work in the classroom... about a decade ago.

Me at work in the classroom… about a decade ago.

My sixth grade choir students were in their performance spots on the risers. With me on the floor in front of them, they were focused and listening to my instructions. With our concert coming up next week, we’ve recently been doing our best to be in a serious and focused place during rehearsals. In plain English… we’re seriously cramming! 

Now push pause and briefly travel back in time with me. Let’s travel back three blog posts ago, as I shared both my frustration with the lack of paranormal experiences lately, and my thankfulness for the “completely normal” things in my life. I suppose that was a little whiny request thrown out into the ether. Again in plain English… I asked for it. 

Now back to my kiddos on the risers. They really were focused… and so was I. Midway through one of my sentences, I felt someone right behind me waiting to get my attention. I heard something (I don’t remember exactly what it was) very close to my left ear, as if someone was interrupting me (rudely) or needed something. It’s middle school. Rude interruptions and chaos happens all the time. I didn’t think anything of it and turned around, probably a little frustrated, and said “Yes?” I ended up doing a double take and made a complete turn, checking to make sure a choir nerd wasn’t hiding behind me or playing a prank. Absolutely no one was there. I was a bit embarrassed and turned back around to find my choir staring at me in silence. Old Mr. Keller is just losing his mind. I wish I could have captured the looks on their faces for eternity. We all had quite a giggle. I said something like “Well, I guess we have a ghost today.” Many of my students know I’m also a paranormal nerd, and so they giggled and we moved on. 

As soon as that class left and I was eating lunch, it all hit me. The evening before this event was when I blogged about my research on Miss Verna Owen in my previous post. She was a teacher in my hometown who taught for 50 years and died in 1986 at the age of 90. The connection started when I realized I own two of her high school yearbooks from the 1920s. She had been on my mind a lot in the last few days. Just that morning at school, I kept relating all of the days activities to how it would have been for her in the 1920s… or the 30s… or the 40s (and gosh, she taught all the way into the 60s). During my morning drive I thought, Miss Owen would have walked to school in those early days. While helping students with typical middle school “issues”, I thought, I wonder how similar these issues are to those in Miss Owens’ class? And what would she have done? 

So after that goose bumpy moment, and after some thought, I’ve decided that I just may have had a visit from Miss Owen. Who knows? The very next day, I told the story to my kids. They were fascinated, and now, of course, we’ve had several Miss Owen moments. Not really, but it sure lightens the mood when Mr. Keller is more likely to be cranky and stressed before concert time. Thanks, Miss Owen! Stop by any time… 

 

 

 


Béla Bartók, Wet Goblins, and the Post Halloween Blues

Me doing to nerdy Halloween thing with my kids at school. That's me in front of the crackling and almost warming digital fire for spooky stories.

Me doing the nerdy Halloween thing with my kids at school. That’s me in front of the crackling and almost warming digital fire for spooky stories.

I doubt I’m the only one, but I get so worked up and excited about Autumn and the Halloween season that it’s already on my mind in August (no doubt you’ve noticed). By the time Halloween actually arrives, it is similar to the feeling that many people get every Sunday. You try to relax and enjoy the only day left of your weekend, but you end up wasting the day dreading the miserable Monday blues. Sound familiar? But on Halloween Eve, I found myself shoving those annoying “it’s almost over” feelings aside, as I did my best to plan this year’s schtick for my kids at school. A teacher nerdy teacher never knows how middle school students will react to something we think is cool. Some things have backfired on me. I often get the eye roll. (Gosh I HATE the eye roll.) But I took a risk and decided to try something very different this year. I think it worked. Why in the world would I allow my kids to have fun at school on Halloween when there are lessons to learn and endless assessments to take? Because it’s FUN, it’s already on their minds all day, and it only happens once a year! Traditional learning can peace out for a day. But here’s my little secret. On Halloween, it’s probably more about me than it is them. But hopefully it’ll be one of the memorable days they remember before forgetting about me forever…. until two or three years from now when I pull up to the drive thru for my morning egg and cheese biscuit while they try to figure out why I look so familiar. Sigh.

Our school’s amazing and friendly librarian allowed me to peruse a few spooky books for a great story to read aloud. I chose the familiar-to-most (but not the students, apparently) urban legend “Knock…Knock…Knock” from More Short & Shivery by Robert D. San Souci.  You know this one, I promise. Two teens stranded in a broken down car (under a tree) on a night when a convicted murderer, “the Hangman”, escapes the local asylum. One teen decides to leave to go get help while the remaining frightened teen hides in the back seat waiting to hear a sign (three knocks) on the roof of the car, signaling that help has arrived. I don’t need to go on, do I?

I lit a crackling digital fire on the screen behind me (it really seemed to warm the room), and with a flashlight, did my best to pull out my third-place-in-Storytelling-at-the-state-speech-and-debate-tournament-circa.-1995-skills. First period was just practice. By second period, I had it down! The kids loved it, and I think they were surprised that they were hearing a story so scary from a teacher at school. Then they thought it was cool that it was from their library.  I was lucky… and it was fun (but very tiring by the end of the day).

Then I had them get out a piece of paper and a writing utensil. A few groans. I put a spooky haunted mansion picture on the screen for inspiration, and I played Béla Bartók’s third movement of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, written in 1936. Years later, this piece was used in the now classic Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. They were to listen and creatively write a short spooky story over the eight-minute duration of the piece, with a couple of minutes at the end to wrap it up. I suggested a few paragraphs, but was surprised to see so many students writing an entire page or more. And they were excited about it! We turned the fire back on and read as many of the stories as we could. There just HAS to be some future authors from my school. So many of them left their stories for me to read that I now have a rather large stack to make my way through at some point. Many of them were excited to take them home to either finish or share with others. I was very tempted to seek permission to share a few of them here. 

Here’s a great recording of the Bartók piece. Why not try the same writing activity? Let me know how it goes!

 

 

So, you see? We were nerdy. AND we had fun! AND we were educational… and all because I wouldn’t have had the focus for much of anything else on All Hallows Eve.

 

The rest of the evening started out a little strangely. It rained off and on all day. By 6:00 I still hadn’t set up in the front yard for the trick-or-treat schtick. I was about to make alternative plans in front of the television when I heard goblins walking the sidewalks outside. I should have known that sprinkles wouldn’t keep kids away from candy. So I missed a few, and the “schtick” was modified and I rushed around moving it to the front porch. My awesome neighbors were already participating as I was almost caught bah humbugging on Halloween. There weren’t nearly as many kids out as usual, but we saw some cool costumes and had lots of fun, as always. It was sure cold and windy though. 

I hope everyone enjoyed the run up to Halloween! The good news is there’s still plenty of Autumn left, and my eye is already on that big Turkey Dinner in a few weeks! 

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By the way! Before I sign off, I’m not sure who has written the absolutely lovely reviews of my blog on TopParanormalSites.com, but I really appreciate it! Thank you for reading!

 

Peace Out!

Patrick

 

You might also like: 

An Evening With The Uninvited (Big Séance) 

Skin and Bones (Big Séance) 

Angel Moments: Music as Mediation… Or is it? (Big Séance)

 

 


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