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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gilded Age Ghoulishness at The Mount for "Victorian Boudoir" Party

The fine folks at Berkshire Shenanigans have, over the past several years,  earned themselves a reputation as cats who know how to throw a hell of a party.  Each year for the past half decade or so, they have incrementally outdone themselves with their elaborate and well attended themed Halloween bashes.  From the Spice ballroom to Bosquet to monstering about in the presence of mummies at the Berkshire Museum, they have combined venues with thematic extravaganzas to create decadently dark soirees attended by hundreds.

This year, though, the Shenanigans crew has taken it a bit more next-level, celebrating the All Hallow's season in perhaps the most well known haunted house in the region, The Mount.

The curious history of Edith Wharton's Lenox "cottage" has been explored before in these pages, and in many other articles, books, and the popular television show "Ghost Hunters."  Based on extensive testimonies from Mount visitors, staff, and their past tenants at Shakespeare & Company, who first launched the legend into public awareness, the turn of the century mansion is said to be acutely active with paranormal occurrences.

Indeed, it is thought by some to be haunted by any number of spectres, including Edith, her husband, writer Henry James, and even Wharton's pets (though interestingly, no one ever seems to associate any of the strange sounds and alleged apparitions seen there with, say, less famous people who have actually died on the property, of which there have been a couple).  At present, the museum has over the years collected enough witness reports and ghostly lore to run its own two hour ghost tour at the estate to large crowds each October.  From these, one gets the impression that virtually every part of the mansion has been associated with such surreal encounters.

Tour guide leads visitors in a night time recon of The Mount's pet cemetery, Oct 2012
Now, this Saturday, The Mount will host Berkshire Shenanigans "Victorian Boudoir," a risque homage to the period that built so many of the Berkshires' fine estates (and scandals, and legends), complete with all the holiday trimmings: candy, carved pumpkins, costume contest and their usual outstanding decorative flair.  Oh and the truly inestimable DJ BFG, who even manages to get me on the dance floor at times, as unlikely a prospect as that is.

I would extend an imploratory "get your tickets now!" but sadly for you, dear reader, due to the established reputation of the Berkshire Shenanigans gang, tickets were completely sold out long, long before I could pen this preview.  If you can, by some means, beg, bribe, blackmail or otherwise obtain such a ticket from someone who has one I strongly suggest it... and you may wish to check back with the Facebook event page, as there may be one or two more last minute scalpers who aren't able to use their ticket.

For those of you going, keep your eyes and ears peeled as you are wandering to and from the main hall, as perhaps these unusually racy shenanigans will pique the curiosity of one or two of the house's longest residents...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ghosts & Legends of Upstreet Pittsfield

Based on the longtime local folklore project These Mysterious Hills, a new downtown walking tour will explore a lesser known, mysterious, and somewhat darker side of Pittsfield's historic and cultural center. Beginning in front of the Pittsfield Common, an early city graveyard, this approximately 1.5 hour walk will delve into ghost stories, legends, lore, and strange-but-true tales attached to many Upstreet locations, including several of the city's premiere cultural venues.

A suggested donation of $5 per person will go to defray expenses involved in ongoing research into the rich folklore of the Berkshires.

Local author and tour host Joe Durwin's These Mysterious Hills has run on a semi-regular basis in the former Advocate Weekly (2004-2009) and (2010-2014), and his work on lore and mysteries of the region has also been featured in Fate Magazine, Haunted Times, the North Adams Transcript, as well as William Shatner’s “Weird or What” on the SyFy Channel, MSG Films’ “Bennington Triangle,” and numerous documentary specials for PBS.

Non-matinee tours will take place primarily after dark, trick-or-treat rules apply, light clothing recommended. Crosswalks and traffic rules will be observed throughout the tour. The tour will cover some mature themes, and parental caution is advised, this event may not be suitable for persons under 12.

Tour dates & times (rain will cancel) :
Oct 23 5:30PM
Oct 24 7:00PM
Oct 25 1:00 & 3:30PM
Oct 29: 5:30PM
Oct 30: 5:30PM

Disclaimer: Neither These Mysterious Hills or any party associated with it assumes any responsibility for injury, aggravation, nightmares, unsettling thoughts, demonic possession, occult obsessions, temporary or permanent haunting, poltergeist, or any other type of preternatural harassment or paranormal experience that may result from participation in this tour.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Deceased Bernard Baran 2nd Top Vote Getter in Berkshire DA Election

 Controversial Berkshire County District Capeless received an unexpected, but telling, challenge in last week's statewide primary election in Massachusetts.

While running unopposed, nearly 3% of the votes cast for District Attorney in Pittsfield, the county's largest municipality, were for write in candidates, and more than half of those were for a former Pittsfield resident who passed away the week before.

32 votes were cast in the city for former resident Bernard Baran, who passed away earlier this month at his Fitchburg home.

Capeless, who has been widely criticized by area residents in recent years for everything from aggressive prosecution of marijuana offenses to a perceived failure to protect witnesses, resulting in 2011's horrific triple homicide in Pittsfield, has also had his past handling of the Baran case called into question once again in the wake of his death.

In 1984 Baran became the first to be convicted in the 1980s "day care abuse scandals, " now generally regarded as a form of witchhunt mass hysteria that swept a number of American communities in the 1980s.  Through a shadowy, dubious investigation filled with discredited tactics and information, Baran was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation.

Despite the fact that most legal experts who've reviewed the case concur with a Boston court finding describing the trial as a farce, Baran spent more than half of his adult life in jail, essentially for the crime of being a gay man working in a day care facility.  His long languishment in prison, during which he sustained horrifying injuries that some say helped shorten his life considerably, is in large part due to the conduct of the Berkshire County District Attorney's office, first under former DA Daniel Ford and then under Capeless, who fiercely defended the handling of the trial by Ford, now a superior court judge up until Baran's eventual release in 2007.

The wave of write in votes in support of Baran may have been largely the result of a suggestion to this effect in a recent editorial in the Berkshire Eagle penned by local attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo.

According to City Clerk Linda Tyer, because the "candidate" is deceased, the write in votes will not be officially recorded by the state.

In a low turnout showing like that seen in the 2014 primary, with a total of only 2070 votes cast for that position, the write in response against Capeless was plainly significant.  The percentage of write-ins for the District Attorney's position was three times that of any other official on the ballot.

When reached for a response, the District Attorney's office declined to comment on the write in votes, or on the case of Bernard Baran.


For more on the tragic persecution of an innocent man by the Berkshire County justice system, watch the film "Freeing Bernie Baran."