Spurlock Museum to host Ghost Stories event Saturday

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Spurlock Museum will host its dual Ghost Stories annual event on Saturday, featuring the all-ages “Gruesome, Gory, and Ghastly Ghosts and Ghouls" performance at 2 p.m. and the adult "Stories from the Other Side" performance at 7:30 p.m. 

By Amanda Gecewicz

A night filled with candy and spooky stories will kick off the week leading up to Halloween at Spurlock Museum. The annual Ghost Stories dual event will return on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 pm.

Since 2001, Spurlock Museum has hosted Ghost Stories, an afternoon and evening event dedicated to sharing spooky stories. Illinois faculty, students and members of the local community are invited to perform as storytellers to get audience members into the spirit of Halloween. The afternoon event, “Gruesome, Gory, and Ghastly Ghosts and Ghouls,” is geared towards children. Once night falls, adults are immersed in more frightening tales for the “Stories from the Other Side.” The afternoon event has a suggested $5-donation admission, while the evening event has $6 student tickets and $8 general public tickets.

A number of veteran storytellers have been participating in the event since its inception and have come from regional and national festivals.

Kim Sheahan, assistant director of education at Spurlock, said the goal of the event is to appeal to audience members of all ages.

“We have open hours in our learning center, so there will be crafts going on. If you want to get up and go make something in the learning center and come back, we will still be here,” she said.

Dan Keding, Champaign-Urbana storyteller, will serve as the host of the event. One week before the show, all performers send their stories to Keding, who then arranges the order of performances to establish the right flow. Keding is a veteran storyteller who knows how to structure his stories to keep audiences of all ages engaged.

“A few years ago, we had preschoolers who sat through the whole 90 minutes of a show. That’s a real testament to how Dan put it together,” Sheahan said.

Sue Searing, associate University librarian for user services and associate dean of libraries, said storytelling is a unique craft.

“There’s something very special about storytelling. It’s a live performer, but it’s not acting. There’s a different kind of connection between the teller and the audience than there is between an actor and an audience,” Searing said.

Storytellers draw their content from a variety of sources. Last year, Searing found inspiration after reading one paragraph of a story.

“It was about a supposed werewolf in Germany,” Searing said. “I elaborated that into a ten-minute story.”

Ghost Stories can appeal to a wide audience, so storytellers need to plan accordingly. Kath Brinkmann, a Champaign-Urbana storyteller, received valuable advice from a teacher early on in her career that made her realize that storytelling is a unique craft.

“Never get in front of your story. Don’t be over theatrical. The story should stand on its own legs,” she said. “If it’s a good enough story, that means you don’t have to do a whole lot other than tell it the best you can.”

Tellers for this event find it beneficial to rehearse their stories so that no key points are missing and that it appeals to the audience.

“I always tell the stories out loud as I’m working the story up and then I test it on family members or friends who will give me feedback,” Brinkmann said.

Searing said one reason she is a storyteller is because she likes listening to stories. She said events like Ghost Stories allow her to learn, perform a new story and feel apart of the audience.

“I look forward to hearing other people’s ghost stories so that I can have that same spine-tingling experience,” Searing said.

Spurlock Museum proudly showcases a variety of events each year. There are two types of events: ones that are sponsored by the Museum and ones where people rent out the venue. Winter Tales, an American Indian storytelling event is held each February. Spurlock also hosts World Fest, an ensemble of performances inspired by different cultures around the world.

Ghost Stories is a distinguished event at Spurlock because it appeals to a broad audience and serves as a fundraiser to support the Museum’s educational programs. All attendees will receive free candy and hear festive stories from talented voices.

Amanda can be reached at [email protected]