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The Suburbanite
  • Victorian tradition come alive at fictitious funeral

  • The David YMCA SilverSneakers discovered a few spooky moments perfect for the season when they attended a fictitious Victorian Wake.

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  • It’s that time of year again. The time when things go bump in the night, and ghosts and goblins spend their time haunting the living.
    The David YMCA SilverSneakers discovered a few spooky moments perfect for the season when they attended a fictitious Victorian Wake.
    The SilverSneakers, which meets at the Y for exercise and camaraderie, also plans monthly outings at local museums and restaurants.
    This month, the group met at The Warehouse on the Canal in Canal Fulton to experience one of their more unique outings — participating in a theatrical Victorian Wake.
    “The event is a combination of history, dressing up, comedy, food, drink, grog, superstitions, ghosts, a psychic medium, a wake and a mortuary,” said Ken Roberts, who co-owns the Warehouse with his wife, Margarita. “The wake is 100 percent historical. It’s based on superstitions in Victorian times. Some are so outlandish that they become comedic.”
    The wake was part of the regular schedule of events held at The Warehouse. Others include Ghost Tours and the Edgar Allan Poe Theater.
    Members of the SilverSneakers came dressed in black with many of the women in the group wearing a black veil which was traditional for that era. Roberts said black clothing was necessary because it was believed that ghosts couldn’t see through black. The black veils kept the ghosts from looking the women in the eye.
    The group came ready to play a part in remembering Silas Adkinns at his wake. Some members played the role of Silas’s family. Others came ready to play the role of Silas’s mistresses.
    Silas was played by a plastic mannequin.
    “I was Silas’s most beloved mistresses,” said Pam Clevenger, a member of the SilverSneakers. “I’ve been told he had five mistresses in total. I’m going to give a eulogy today that will be a real eye opener.”
    The Victorian Wake includes meeting the grieving family, a boxed lunch, drinking traditional grog, viewing the deceased and sharing thoughts and words about Silas. The event also includes a tour of the dark and spooky basement.
    The Warehouse was built in 1906 and contains a mortuary in the basement which was used from 1916-36.  
    “I’ve never been to this type of event before, and it sounded like a good way to spend our fun day out. It’s a funeral, but we’re all planning to have a lot of fun with it,” said Marjorie Gregory, one of the SilverSneakers dressed in all black and wearing a veil.
    Roberts said that in Victorian days, it was a considered a tragedy if the deceased didn’t have a grand funeral. Coachmen were used to drive the buggy carrying the deceased. Many times, the coachmen were a bit drunk because the family would give them alcohol to keep them warm.
    Page 2 of 2 - One of the traditional alcoholic drinks offered was a mixture called grog. The Roberts have created their own special, secret recipe for the drink.
    “Our grog is like the traditional grog from the Victorian era. It’s apple-cider based and does have alcohol in it,” Roberts said.
    One of the final activities in the traditional Victorian Wake is to pass the tear bottle around so that tears from the loved ones can be stored in the bottle. Roberts said a few other traditions included stopping the clock at the moment the deceased died and shrouding all of the mirrors in black cloth so the spirit of the deceased wouldn’t get trapped in the glass.
    Pictures of family members were covered in black cloth or placed face down so that they would not become possessed by the spirit of the dead. All of the curtains were drawn, and family members, especially the wife, stayed in mourning for a full year and saw only a few people during that time.
    The deceased were laid out in the home for viewing. Lots of flowers and candles were used throughout the home to overpower the stench of the death and decay.
    The SilverSneakers may have been attending a Victorian Wake but the sounds of laughter and the fun everyone was having with the tear bottle, the eulogies and those playing a part of Silas’s family, friends and mistresses was enough to hold off any Halloween spirits at The Warehouse.
    “I’m always looking for really cool and unique events for the seniors group, and this was truly on the unique side,” said Sue McFarland, coordinator for the SilverSneakers group.
    “I was told by the president of the American Bus Association (ABA) when he was in Canton in July that he had never heard of such an event taking place in all of the places he has traveled across the country,” Roberts said. “It’s really a one-of-kind and unique event.”
    For more information about the SilverSneakers, contact Sue McFarland at the David YMCA in Jackson Township, 330-830-6275.
    For more information about The Warehouse on the Canal, visit the website, www.warehouseonthecanal.com.