History haunts at upcoming Ghost Night at the Mansion

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 11, 2017

 Tombstones represent the Warner family during a past Victorian Ghost Walk event at the Governor Warner Mansion.

Tombstones represent the Warner family during a past Victorian Ghost Walk event at the Governor Warner Mansion.

File photo by Samantha Sergi

FARMINGTON — When you come to the annual Ghost Night at the Mansion, mind the casket and gravestones, would you? 

The annual event, to be held 7-9:30 p.m. Oct. 14 inside and outside the mansion, 33805 Grand River Ave., will feature “members” of the Warner family, including the “ghosts” of Fred Warner, Michigan’s 26th governor, and his father, P. Dean Warner, as they tell attendees about their lives and deaths.  

Participants can take a stroll through the candlelit, cobweb-filled mansion; listen to stories about Victorian mourning customs; and speak to the “ghosts” of the Warner family.

Costumed mourners will describe the many traditions associated with death in the Victorian era, including rules about behavior, clothing, house decorations, foods and more.  

Attendees may also find out what happened to the first Warner baby, identified on his tombstone at Oakwood Cemetery only as “Baby.” A re-creation of his tombstone, along with those of other relatives, will be on the mansion’s front lawn.

While outside, visitors can take a look at a “Haunted Model T,” which might have carried Fred Warner around the state during his gubernatorial campaign, mansion docent Sharon Bernath said during a recent phone interview.

The event is certainly to die for.

People can also watch a spooky silent movie outside on the mansion grounds or learn what the future holds during psychic readings, for a small fee. Tiki torch trails will lead the way to warming fire pits for the movie. Cider and doughnuts will be served.

Guest performers include Kevin Christiansen, city economic and community development director,  who will play the ghost of Fred Warner.

Christiansen said at Farmington City Hall Oct. 5 that it is his “honor and pleasure” to be able to participate in the upcoming event for a second time in a row.

Christiansen, some might have noticed, has been looking scruffy about the face lately. He has been growing out his beard to fully embrace his character.

“The Governor Warner Mansion, and all of its events and activities … (is) a unique part of the city of Farmington and Farmington’s history,” Christiansen said. “Being able to play the former Gov. Fred Warner on Ghost Night ... is exciting and something I really enjoy.”

He added that playing “dead Fred” for the first time last year was fun. Christiansen said that he also participates and volunteers in different activities at the mansion.

Bernath said that Christiansen adds a lot of “enthusiasm” to the show. When Fred Warner died, schools let out and political dignitaries from throughout the country came to Farmington to pay their respects.

“Everybody loved Fred Warner,” she said.

The Michigan Ghost Watchers will return with a new presentation in the Carriage House regarding paranormal activities — they visited the mansion this past spring to test for spirits.

Bernath said that she is looking forward to the crowds exploring a new side of the mansion.

“They’ll be walking through eight rooms (plus the kitchen),” she said of the ghoulish Victorian decorations awaiting those who dare to enter into the historic home.

Bernath said that each room is thematically different, focusing on Victorian superstitions, death practices and more.

“The Victorians were superstitious,” Bernath said, adding that seances became popular during that era.

Tickets can be purchased at the door for $12 or in advance for $10 at Farmington City Hall, 23600 Liberty St. 

For more information, go to ci.farmington.mi.us or call the Farmington City Clerk’s Office at (248) 474-5500, ext. 2225.

According to the press release, the event is suitable for people ages 8 and older.