Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Victorian House Party at The Tanner House

My Last Event (Participating at Least)

at The Tanner House

Tanner House Front
1857 Aurora, IL
Death Comes to the Tanner House is the event of every year, for the last three years, at the Tanner House Museum. Many houses had house parties that reflected dressing up and ghosts. It also included games that were played for many social events.
I played the part of Vera Thornton, who was the grand-daughter of William and Mary Tanner, the daughter of Martha (one of the twins). Vera's lived in Naperville (the next town east towards Chicago) with her parents, Reverand and Mrs. Thornton. The year played here was about a year after William died, and ironically about a year before Vera died, 1893. So, it was a little earie for me. These games were technically for young ladies, but everyone that came in played. And, Vera was supposed to be 17. Well, I am well above that age!
Each room in the Tanner House was given a player. Here I am dressing myself in my mask for the party in "my grandfather's library". In real life, this is my favorite room of the house. In the Tanner times, I would never have been allowed in this room because it was a man's room. In fact, it was William's room. I liked to tell visitors that it was his "man cave" and that the children knocked on the door "at their doom." Of course that is an extreme statement. However, these words do convey the importance of the room to the man of the house. The wallpaper there is original, and you can see the secretary behind me, which was owned by the Tanner's as well.
This picture was blurry for theatrical reasons, but you can see me there with Bradley Green, who played an imagined character by the name of Professor Green. He was the man who was given up by my cousin, Fanny, in the drama. Here, Professor Green is receiving directions from me on how we would be divining his future for the next year.
Here are the bowls for both games that we played in "my grandfather's library". The four bowls grouped together in the center is the divination game mentioned above. The white ribbon that I am holding in my hands was tied around the participants eyes. I then turned them around four times, then moved the four bowls around, telling them that I did this because it was their fate, and not the person that was read prior. They then were turned around four more times. This was really fun for me because they would all laugh at this time, not just the person being "read" but the party goers that were there watching and waiting for their turn, and even those that were just told.
Strangely, I then had to move the people over slightly because they all moved left of center while they were turning. I did this by tapping their arm. Then I put their hands together, one over the other, palms down and tapped their palms telling them to walk forward until they felt the table (A beautiful 1800's Gothic Revival library table!). I would put their hands over each bowl and tell them the number of each. After this, I held their hands over the center of the four telling them that they would choose one of these four bowls that had different contents inside. These contents foretold their upcoming year. These contents and meanings are as follows:

                                                            *Worms: Death

                                                            *Beans: Poverty

                                                            *Flowers: Success

                                                            *Coins: Wealth

If someone got the worms, I would tell them that the reading didn't necessarily have to be the person themselves, but that it could be someone they knew, or even someone that they had met "tonight". And then telling them that there were quite a few people during the party that received this, and then would start coughing, trying to indicate that my character's demise was forthcoming. To take a slight detour to my part in the party, there was also a party guest upstairs that was reading through a spirit board (the same thing as a Ouija Board, however that is a name brand that was mas marketed in the later century). She would also give out information that someone would be dieing in the house later that year that began with a "V". So, hopefully people got the hint
The two bowls of ribbons in the foreground were for the next game. Most people understood this one right away because this was also played with pealing an apple, or an orange. Each person would take a ribbon and hold it in their right hand. I would ask everyone if they knew their right from their left. Most people thought that I was being silly, but there really are people that cannot tell, and I did not want them to feel imbarresed in front of the others. I then said, "just to make sure this is your right", and would tap everyone's right shoulder. I will tell you that there were actually a couple of people that did not know. So, then I would tell them to hold it in their right hand, and throw it over their left shoulder (again walking along the line and tapping everyone's left shoulder) until it hit the ground.
The letter that the ribbon fell into would indicate their true love's name. It would either be the first initial of the first name, middle name, last name, or nick name of the person that they would "grow up to marry" (no matter what the guests' ages were I said this). This ribbon was what Professor Green threw. In the story, he does not get the girl, so it was fantastic that he got a heart, because he would be in love, but would not marry! Bradley Green really did throw this, it was not faked.

There was something interesting about this for me, actually quite a bit. This became one of the most popular parts of the event! People came into my room and said, oh here are the games that everyone is talking about! That was exciting for me to know that guests were anticipating my roll with happy anticipation. Also, many times their fortunes were accurate for them. In other words, people would tell me that they had recently been laid off (if they had chosen beans), or lost a loved one (if they had chosen worms), they had gotten a promotion (flowers), or a raise (coins).  Also, the ribbons often times would fall into a letter that was their spouse's first or last name's first initial.
The Tanner House is rumored to be haunted (although I have never seen or heard anything). So, we all took pictures in "the" room. This is the bedroom at the top of the stairs, also known as either the "girls room" or the "twins room". After these pictures were developed, we noticed some visitors.
I got to play the ghost in the last night. I hope that everyone got the reference!
Here's to all of my friends at the Aurora Historical Society! What a great party!
All pictures, save the last, were taken by Mary Clark Ormond, President of the Aurora Historical Society, Aurora, IL.
The last photo was taken by Jennifer Putzier, Curator of the Aurora Historical Society, Aurora, IL.
Follow The Aurora Historical Society on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/#!/AuroraHistory?fref=ts

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