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A frightful night at a haunted museum

South Boston News / October 27, 2016
In the mood for a fright this Friday night?

The South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History will be hosting its first annual Halloween bash Friday, Oct. 28, from 6-9 p.m., aptly named “A Haunting Night at the Museum.”

“We’re trying to do it both as a promotion for the arts and to remember our history with the cemeteries and funeral homes in the area,” museum curator Jennifer Bryant said. “We have a couple of different corners that help remember the influence in Halifax County with different exhibits.”

According to Bryant, the staff began decorating the first week of October, and the museum’s spooky transformation will surely evoke a sense of haunting dread to get anyone in the Halloween spirit.

Several museum members have created hand-painted pieces for the evening’s event. One exhibit showcases Edgar Allen Poe, the gothic poet and writer who was raised in Richmond and briefly attended the University of Virginia.

“We want to show how he impacted the county with his dreary and depressing poetry, because it was poetry that was highly read through this region,” Bryant noted.

“We have a couple of authentic artifacts from the history of Halifax County’s cemeteries,” Bryant continued. “There are some coffins from the 1880s. And we hope to borrow an 1888 horse-drawn hearse from Powell Funeral Home, made by the same company that built the hearse that carried Abraham Lincoln’s casket.”

The funeral exhibit decor is on loan from Brooks Lyon Funeral Home in South Boston and Dunn and Sons Funeral Services in Halifax. Museum goers will find photographs of the Oak Ridge Cemetery, real miniature coffins fit for a child, as well as a child’s vault.

Those who dare to enter the museum and make the walk of horror will find a torture chamber, a spider web-ridden dining room set for skeletons and other chilling scenes fit for a Halloween celebration.

“We have a lot of eerie exhibits and sort of a contrast between what we consider a traditional Halloween and how the horrors of real life can catch up to you,” Bryant explained.

Along those lines, one display features the average cost of a funeral.

“The most horrifying thing about this whole exhibit is not the embalming jars — but the price.”

Massive skulls, severed arms and many more of the spooky items featured at the Haunting Night at the Museum were dug out of people’s attics and homes. Some of the décor pieces are from the museum itself, such as the early 1800s antique furniture and other authentic artifacts.

“Most of the decorations throughout the exhibits,” Bryant noted, “are on loan from Linda Daniel. She collects a little bit of everything, from over 10,000 pieces of china, to the elaborate dresses of Downton Abby. She has been very instrumental in putting together most of our influential and most inspiring events.”

Along with a variety of Halloween-themed food and beverage choices, the Haunting Night at the Museum will features wines from local vineyards, available for purchase.

Guests also can take part in a raffle drawing and a costume contest, so be sure to dress in your best Halloween garb, and enter to win one of their various prizes.

Prizes will be given for the scariest and the most creative. Although encouraged, costumes are not necessary to join in the fun.

Tickets are $25 ($20 for members) and can be purchased at the museum. You must be 18 or older to attend.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the ticket cost. Tickets can be obtained during regular museum hours.

“The Halloween exhibits will be open to the public for a week after the Halloween party,” Bryant explained. “As for whether we’ll continue this next year, we’ll see how the reception goes with Friday night’s event. Hopefully we can continue to do something like this every year.”

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