Fires burned and cauldrons bubbled at Genesee Country Village & Museum’s Spirits of the Past theatrical tour my daughter and I attended on Friday, October 13. Spirits of the Past was a 75-minute walking tour that wove the legends and lore of witches and witchcraft into the fabric of the Village.
Stories of witches’ dated back for centuries, and their forerunners even appeared in the Bible. Of course, in the new world, the Salem witch trials resulted in the execution of 20 people accused of witchcraft in the late 1600’s. Therefore, the concept of witchcraft and sorcery was certainly familiar to these residents of the Genesee Country Village in the mid-1800’s.
We started our Spirits of the Past tour in the Campbell House, where a young girl met a mysterious woman – Frau Trude. It turned out the girls’ parents forbade her from visiting the house, and on the way she saw a “devil with a head of fire.” To which Frau Trude proclaimed, “you saw the witch properly outfitted.” The scene was based on the Grimm Brothers’ tale Frau Trude (1819), and set the stage for the remainder of our evening.
Throughout the various houses we found gatherings of women looking to recruit newcomers to their coven, worried citizens wary of losing their eternal souls to witches and warlocks, fortune-tellers, and three witches casting an incantation over a potion in a cauldron reciting, “double, double, toil and trouble” (from Shakespeare’s Macbeth).
Literature and folklore punctuated the evening as we learned the depths of concern about witchcraft and was often the subject of Sunday sermons. At the Hosmer Inn, a woman read from the Malleus Maleficarum (the Witch’s Hammer), a medieval text on witchcraft that dated back to the 1480’s. This book, second in sales only to the Bible for over 200 years, explained the evils of sorcery and equated witchcraft to Satan. The text calls for the brutal extermination of witches, and influenced lawyers and courts throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
Speaking of lawyers, our 8th and final stop along the Spirits of the Past tour brought us to the law office of Mr. Abbott who was obsessed with hunting and punishing witches (similar to Malleus Maleficarum), and he noted a sharp increase in satanic activities since the arrival of Frau Trude six years, six months, and six days ago. Enter Mr. Abbott’s assistant who mentioned he saw Abbott’s daughter enter Frau Trude’s cabin in the woods. At which point Mr. Abbott ran out to rescue his daughter from the alleged witch.
The Spirits of the Past theatrical tours have concluded for the season, but families can still trick-or-treat in the Village October 28 and 29 from noon to 4pm. If you are interested in Spirits of the Past in future years, book as soon as you can because the event will sell out. Don’t worry about any spoilers in the tale, as the Genesee Country Village writes a new story for Spirits of the Past each year.
The Genesee Country Village & Museum is a living history museum 30 minutes southwest of Rochester, NY that replicates the lives and times of America in the 1800’s. The Village is the largest living history museum in New York State and consists of 68 historic buildings completely furnished with over 15,000 artifacts and staffed with historic interpreters in 19th-century garb.
DISCLOSURE: The author was provided with complimentary admission to Genesee Country Village & Museum in order to experience Spirits of the Past. However, all opinions expressed are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.