Warner Mansion ghost walk to feature Victorian mourning

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 16, 2013

 People line up out the door of the Governor Warner Mansion to be frightfully educated about the history of the mansion during a past ghost walk.

People line up out the door of the Governor Warner Mansion to be frightfully educated about the history of the mansion during a past ghost walk.

Photo by Nicholas Barry

FARMINGTON — The ghosts of Michigan’s 26th governor, Fred Warner, and his family will soon descend upon a sprawling mansion that was once their home.

The family will share tales of their lives, and hopefully, bring a tremor or two to those plucky enough to lend an ear.

During the annual Victorian Ghost Walk event 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Governor Warner Mansion, attendees will meet mansion volunteers dressed in black Victorian garb who will portray different Warner family members, listen to ghost stories around a campfire and learn what their future holds during psychic readings.

The mansion, 33805 Grand River Ave., is also dressed to kill.

It was customary in Victorian times to cover up pictures, reflections and mirrors to keep deceased spirits from coming through.

“Also, you didn’t want to see yourself in the mirror in your deep mourning, and how wretched you looked,” Warner Mansion Volunteer Coordinator Jean Schornick said.

Schornick will dress up in Victorian mourning clothes, discuss infant mortality and talk about Gov. Fred Warner and Martha Warner’s child, who died 17 days after his birth.

Gov. Fred Warner left office more than 100 years ago, and he passed away 90 years ago, but he didn’t take his story to his grave.

“What we’re trying to do is give them some fun but also educate a little bit,” Schornick said. “We want to give them an idea of what the mourning period would have been like during Victorian times.”

In Victorian times, people regularly had funerals in their homes. The practice ended when funeral homes became prevalent during the 20th century.

The event, Schornick said, is to get people in the holiday spirit.

“I think just people will have a more enjoyable experience coming through,” she said. “We don’t want to make it too morbid.”

Schornick added that a local ghost watcher’s group will speak about their findings at the mansion after investigating for paranormal activity several months ago.

“They did say they did sense a presence or two,” she said. “I have not ever seen any spirits, and I have not had that experience myself, but I guess some people are more sensitive than others.”

City Clerk Sue Halberstadt said the ghost walk is a “cool concept.”

Halberstadt added that the mansion grounds will be decorated more extensively than before.

“We try to make it as eerie as possible outside,” she said. “Hopefully, the weather will hold.”

She said that when eerie meets educational, nothing can go wrong.

“It is not like a haunted house, where people jump out at you,” she said. “It is eerie because these are ghosts from the past talking about their lives, but it is as much educational as it is fun. I don’t want people to think they are going to get ghosts and lots of blood. That is not the case.”

What is the case is the appearance of a full-sized coffin that may be empty.

“You never know,” Halberstadt said with a chuckle.

Tickets cost $10 in advance and may be purchased at Farmington City Hall, 23600 Liberty St. Tickets are $12 at the door.

For more information, go to http://www.ci.farmington.mi.us.