Ghost stories come to life at Warner Mansion

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Farmington Press | Published October 9, 2012

For a second year, the historic Gov. Warner Mansion is inviting families to enjoy a chillingly good time at the annual Victorian Ghost Walk event Oct. 12.

Mansion volunteer Sharon Bernath said the event is a fun way for folks to celebrate the spooky Halloween season and sneak in a bit of local history at the same time.

“We’re showing the house in a different light — it’s being shown  as a house where someone has died,” said Bernath. “In the Victorian era, they had certain rules about dressing, especially for women who had to wear garments under dresses, and corsets and hats were all the rage. When someone died in the family, there were rules to govern this.”

Bernath explained that when visitors come to the mansion Oct. 12 they’ll be walking into a house in mourning, complete with black cloths drawn over mirrors and photos, dramatic black Victorian clothing and burial biscuits at tea time.

“The women involved would be in this heavy mourning, all black from head to toe, with a veil for a year,” she said. “The year after that she would be able to add some white to her clothing and could remove the veil, but still had the black bonnet. And in the third year she could begin to wear dark blues and grays.”

Throughout the home, 35 volunteers will be gussied up in their finest funeral fashions. They will tell visitors about the history of the home and the dark traditions of the late 1800s, when Gov. Fred Warner resided in the mansion. Bernath said the volunteer actors include mansion regulars, as well as special guests, some as young as 5 years old.

There will be a coffin in the front parlor and a hearse on the front lawn for guests to see, courtesy of Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Home. On the sprawling front porch, guests can glimpse into their future with a tarot card reading, or they head around back to the carriage house to sip cider and munch doughnuts. As the sky grows darker, the Farmington Steam Punkers will tell spooky stories around a cozy fire pit behind the home.

“By doing this Ghost Walk we’re kind of having fun with history,” said Brian Golden, president of the Farmington Historical Society, who said he’ll be playing the role of the late governor that evening. “That’s why we’re attempting to do this — not to poke fun at history, but to view history in kind of a whimsical way. This is a great way to introduce what I call Farmington’s first family.”

The second annual Victorian Ghost Walk will be held 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 12. Admission is $10 per person. For more information, call (248) 474-5500, ext. 2225. The Governor Warner Mansion is located at 33805 Grand River Ave., just west of Farmington Road.