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Ghost Walk shows how 19th century was killer

Clint Elston, left, and CJ Jenyk play mid-1900s socialites Frank and Mimsy in the Ghost Walk. (Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic)

Barb Root doesn’t hesitate to give the Sutliff Museum credit for inspiring this year’s Ghost Walk.

“I lovingly stole their idea ‘A Million Ways to Die in the 19th Century,'” said Root, who wrote and directed this year’s event, which is presented by the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County and the Trumbull County Historical Society. “They have a whole series of videos on their website, and I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of these things … I thought it was interesting because we’re dealing with the pandemic.”

It wasn’t COVID-19 but diphtheria that was killing people in the 19th century, and children were among the most vulnerable to the deadly bacterial infection. That disease has been eradicated, thanks to a vaccine.

“Take from that what you will,” Root said.

Cholera also was a scourge 200 years ago due to the lack of sanitary drinking water, so Root created a story with local business leaders trying to squelch talk of a cholera outbreak because of the potential economic impact it could have.

And while there’s no shortage of current stories about people going to extremes to meet the beauty and fashion expectations of the day, that behavior didn’t start in the 20th and 21st centuries. One of this year’s tales deals with women who would eat arsenic wafers to get a pale complexion and tinier, corseted waistline.

This year’s Ghost Walk also reveals the origins of the expression, “Mad as a hatter.”

The eight stories will be told by actors at a variety of downtown Warren locations with tours leaving from First Presbyterian Church. The cast includes Don Novorsky, Allie Vugrincic, Richard Wilcox, Courtney Wilcox, Stephanie Young, Karyna DeCarlo, Carol Stowe, Richard Smiley, Chrystal Star, Clint Elston, CJ Jenyk and Ron Schoch.

There will be less walking for the Ghost Walk. Pioneer Cemetery is inaccessible and expansion work has sidewalks closed around the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. But organizers gained a new site with the opening of the Trumbull County Historical Society’s Morgan History Center on Mahoning Avenue NW.

Ghost Walk will bring back some of the old favorites in the future, Root said, “But we want to mix it up a little … There’s so much out there. People are always giving me ideas (for new stories). And people seem to like the theme idea.”

An in-person Ghost Walk was impossible last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so organizers created an online presentation. Root said they would be filming a rehearsal of this year’s production with plans to post it online at a later date.

If you go …

WHAT: Ghost Walk

WHEN: Friday, Saturday and Oct. 22 and 23. Tours leave every 15 minutes starting at 6:30 p.m. with the last tour at 9 p.m. each night.

WHERE: First Presbyterian Church, 256 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren

HOW MUCH: $9 adults and $5 children and can be purchased in advance at trumbullarts.org.

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