Ghost Walk celebrates Albion’s ancestors

Posted 4 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Kim Pritt – Kyle Thaine portrays his great-uncle, Eugene Barnum, who was killed during World War II after shooting down two German planes.

Alyce Miller served as one of the speaking tour guides who lead each group through the walk offering historic references.

Zach Shaffer portrays John G. Rice, the Orleans County sheriff in 1894 who organized a posse to find murderer William Lake.

Riley Seielstad portrays Emma Ingersoll, who upon her death bequeathed the monument pictured here, as well as the beautiful Ingersoll Fountain and bench located near the entrance of Mount Albion Cemetery.

Nate Trembley portrays Charles Howard as Santa with Valerie Rush as Mrs. Claus.

By Kim Pritt, Contributor

ALBION – Gray skies and a strong wind in the trees helped set the ghostly atmosphere for the seventh annual Mount Albion Ghost Walk on Saturday night. Rain threatened earlier in the day, but moved on just in time for approximately 425 people to enjoy the popular annual event.

The Ghost Walk is a Service Learning project of the Albion High School Drama and Music Departments. A total of 55 students work to put the program together by researching a variety of residents of Mt. Albion Cemetery, writing their own scripts, and performing roles as ghosts, tour guides, singers, and tech crew. This year, 13 ghosts were featured, including war heroes, prominent citizens, two nationally publicized murders, and even Santa Claus.

“I am very interested in all the people and what they’ve done for the community – all the great inventions, suggestions, and impact they have made,” said Miller during rehearsal earlier in the day.

Several war heroes were highlighted along the tour, including Eugene Barnum, 1917-1944. Barnum was killed in action during World War II after shooting down two German planes. He died just months after his brother, William, was also killed in action.

Kyle Thaine proudly portrayed Barnum and was understandably knowledgeable about his subject – Barnum is Kyle’s great uncle.

“It was an honor playing my Great Uncle Gene,” Thaine said. “I didn’t know him, but I’ve heard many stories about him from the time I was a little kid from my grandmother. I love history and I love my family and it was so cool to put them both together in one place.”

Other notable ghosts were James Sheret, war hero that Albion’s American Legion Sheret Post is named for; Orleans County District Attorney and County Judge, Isaac S. Signor; and Emma Ingersoll, daughter-in-law of Nehemiah Ingersoll, one of Albion’s founding fathers, among others.

The tour ended at the grave site of Charles W. Howard, 1896-1966. Howard was world renowned as Santa Claus. Howard opened his Santa Claus School in 1937 on Phipps Road in Albion, where he trained people from all over the world how to be a proper Santa. Howard also ran his Christmas Park and toy shop.

He was also the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa and a consultant on the movie Miracle on 34th Street. Howard’s legacy lives on with his Santa Claus School now located in Michigan.

On Oct. 1, an interpretive panel was placed near his grave site commemorating his life. The panel was designed by last year’s Ghost Walk students and paid for with proceeds from that event.