The dead will rise
Annual ghost walk will proceed as unusual with online presence Friday
Ghost Walk returns Friday in a new format and with a new slate of stories exploring Trumbull County in the Roaring Twenties.
Ghost Walk writer-director Barbara Root decided nearly a year ago that she wanted Prohibition to be the focus of the 2020 edition. She imagined the walking tour starting with a meeting of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and participants would be able to carry anti-alcohol signs as they stopped at the different sites along Mahoning Avenue NW.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out those plans and nearly forced the cancellation of the annual event.
“We didn’t know what would happen,” Root said. “As it got closer to October, (Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County Director) James Shuttic and I had many discussions.”
Root thought filming the production would be too expensive and complicated until seeing the work of Allie Vugrincic, a Warren native, who studied videography in college and had appeared as an actor with Ghost Walk in the past.
“This looks really good,” Root said. “If she doesn’t mind doing it, let’s try it.”
Instead of having the actors outside some of the city’s historic landmarks, this year’s production was filmed at the Warren Heritage Center in the Kinsman House and at the Speakeasy Lounge in downtown Warren.
“Jim Valesky (of the heritage center) was wonderful about letting us move things and use whatever we wanted,” Root said. “And Tony and Pam Schofer (of the Speakeasy) allowed us to come in there and do some filming.”
They considered shooting the footage in black and white but opted for color because, Root said, “We wanted to highlight the Kinsman House and how beautiful it is.”
Connecting the different stories are Mike and Pam, two reporters representing rival newspapers the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.
Root adapted a previously used story about a speakeasy called the White Kitchen that existed in Kinsman during Prohibition, but all of the other stories in this year’s Ghost Walk are being told for the first time.
In some cases, Root found a way to localize national research about the Prohibition era, but the national story also had strong local ties. One of the leaders in the effort to ban alcohol and the passage of the 18th Amendment was Wayne Wheeler, a Brookfield native who led the Anti-Saloon League.
“He was the main force in getting the Volstead Act enacted,” Root said. “It was his idea to have an income tax (to offset the lost revenue from alcohol taxes if it was banned).”
There are stories about Jimmy Munsene, who was known as the bootleg king of Warren during Prohibition, and the tale of a bootlegger who ends up making hooch with poisoned alcohol and killing his customers.
Non-alcohol-related topics include the efforts by the Ku Klux Klan to rally in Niles in the 1920s and the stock-market crash that ended the decade.
“It reflects what was going on in the country but also what was going on in this area,” Root said.
The cast features Don Novorsky, Georgia Smith, Connie Jones, Darlene Lammars, Carol Stowe, Courtney Wilcox, Ron Schoch, Clint Elston, Stephanie Bear, Stephanie Young, Adam Jenyk, Earl Godney, Chrystal Star, Chelsea Jenyk, Rich Wilcox, Richard Smiley, Root and Vugrincic.
The video will debut 6 p.m. on the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County’s Facebook page and the Trumbull County Historical Society’s website — trumbullcountyhistory.com.
The cost of recording the production was covered by several sponsors, Shuttic said, including the Warren Soccer League, Terry and Kim Armstrong, Trumbull Art Gallery Gift Shop, Perplexity, Shuttic Arts, 2 Ticks & the Dog Productions, Cassandra Clevinger and Matthew Ujczo.
“We wanted to make sure it would be available for free to a wide audience,” Shuttic said.