I have always loved Halloween. It is the one night out of the year we all embrace the strange and mysterious. Yet, I never imagined I would get the chance to help create a Halloween event right here in our colonial capital!
Last fall, before being hired as Director of Entertainment, I was invited to visit with key leaders in the Foundation. I was lucky enough to be here during Colonial Williamsburg’s inaugural Halloween event.
I was incredibly impressed with how they temporarily transformed the Historic Area into a creepy, Halloween-themed experience. Between the cresset-lined streets, the pumpkin-headed ghost horse rider, the eerie sounds at the Capitol, and all the amazing actor interpreters, it was clear: CW was striving to present a uniquely world-class Halloween event for its thousands of enthusiastic guests.
It was so much fun to see tons of young families with their kids smiling and trick-or-treating on DoG St. early in the evening. They were creating memories, together. I knew that night that I wanted to accept the job offer.
One of the first things I set out to do when I arrived here in Williamsburg from New York was to expand upon the great success of last year’s Haunting on DoG Street. I really wanted to take things to the next level. Rather than just repeat the Blackbeard’s Revenge story line, I was encouraged by my team leader, Skip Ferebee to develop a new story. Curse of the Sea Witch picks up where Blackbeard’s Revenge left off.
With a small creative team that includes our Historic Event Planner Val Deichsel and Manager of Interpretive Programming & Development Abigail Schumann, we set out to design a completely immersive and interactive Halloween experience drawing our inspiration from research on the history of Blackbeard, Colonial Williamsburg’s ghost stories, and mythological sea monsters.
While our group is leading the charge in the creative development—pulling off an event like this is truly a collaborative operation that has involved nearly every facet of the Foundation. Another highlight has been working with the Costume Design Center and makeup artists to get the “look” of Sea Witches just right. Here are just a few of the sketches from Tom Hammond.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Our goal this year is to create a free-flowing event that highlights two of Colonial Williamsburg’s greatest assets: our incredibly talented actor interpreters and our historic buildings.
Our story begins like this: Someone has stolen Blackbeard’s severed head. And in the hands of a Sea Witch, the head is a source of unimaginable power. The Sea Witches have now cursed the town, summoning from the dead Blackbeard’s ghostly crew. Until it is found, the curse will not be lifted!
The streets will feature terrified townspeople and a slew of ghost pirates who unwittingly have been brought back to life by the Sea Witches. Unlike the zombies of last year, these poor unfortunate souls will seem to have a sense of humor about their unfortunate predicament and will be just as fearful of the Sea Witches as you surely will be! (Remember, if you purchase tickets for a group of 10 or more—you get a discount!)
RALEIGH TAVERN: INSIDE A PIRATE’S NIGHTMARE
This year, the Raleigh Tavern will be transformed into the Tavern of Terror. For this experience, I pulled from an old story I read about John Custis. He was an 18th-century local butcher who, after suffering heavy gambling losses at the Raleigh, was found dead… with his throat cut. As you walk into the haunted tavern, you will experience first-hand the nightmares and torments of the undead souls and come face-to-face with those who lurk inside.
CHARLTON STAGE: CREEPY SILENT FILM
At the Charlton Stage, we will be screening the 1926 Douglas Fairbanks Technicolor classic “The Black Pirate”. Don’t expect to get too involved in the film, though. There will be some in the audience who will take great exception to the film’s authenticity!
GAOL: CURSED & IMPRISONED SOULS
Over at the Gaol, driven to madness under the town’s curse, the Gaol keep has locked away innocent people in his cells at the bidding of the Sea Witches. Endure their cries and lamentations as you learn what YOU must do to set them free!
CAPITOL: DANCE WITH THE DEAD
At the Capitol, you are invited into a virtual belly of the beast for a Dance of the Dead where you can celebrate the night’s festivities in an interactive 18th-century dance party with live music, ghost pirates, and other cursed souls. This will be the highlight of the evening—and an epic transformation.
To help create the effect of being within the belly of the beast, we’re installing giant inflatable monster tentacles (like these) that will creep up over the walls of the Capitol. They will be designed by the world-renowned London-based “Designs in Air.”
Currently, our team is working hard on the grand finale. Will the Sea Witches finally find the Captain’s elusive head? All will be revealed in the Capitol Circle by night’s end…
MY FIRST MEMORY OF CW
I can remember visiting Colonial Williamsburg as a kid with my family. While some of the memories of that visit are a little hazy, there is one story that I will never forget. My family and I were in one of the colonial houses, on a tour with a guide who was discussing a painting on the wall of George Washington on his horse. It must have been summer and I can remember the room was crowded and hot. My younger brother, who couldn’t have been more than four or five years old at the time, was listening to the tour guide’s story intently. While I cannot remember what the guide was saying about that particular painting, I do remember that, when she finished speaking, she asked if anyone had any questions. My brother asked “What happened to George Washington’s horse?” – his voice full of innocent curiosity. The tour guide answered flatly, “His horse, oh his horse died.” My little brother, in complete shock and disbelief cried out loud, “The president’s horse is dead?!!” Everyone in that room burst out laughing, including the tour guide!
Reflecting back on my childhood visit, it really is amazing to think now that I am here working, I have the opportunity to help create magical memories for other little kids and families that they will hopefully laugh about and cherish for years to come. That’s what it’s all about!
GUEST BLOGGER: ROBERT EDWIN CURRIE
Robert is an artist and BFA graduate of The School of Visual Arts in New York. He is a former co-creator of FRESH, an art collective dedicated to underground and emerging artists on Long Island. He is the curator of modern entertainment for Colonial Williamsburg, including live concerts and special events in Merchants Square and the Kimball Theatre. Robert is an avid collector of old books and vinyl records. He enjoys playing chess with his girlfriend, hanging out with his dog Basalone, and making loud noises with electric guitars at home.