Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Gibson House Museum's Halloween Open House

The Gibson House, Back Bay's historic house museum, was open during the neighborhood's trick-or-treat event last night, decorated to play up its everyday Victorian spookiness. Visitors were invited in to see the grand entry hall and dining room on the first floor, learn a little about the house and the Gibson family, and take home some candy. 

Since the museum is not open most of the time — it's open five afternoons a week but only for three tours, on the hour — folks rarely just wander in. Many visitors are tourists rather than locals, although lots of college classes schedule private tours. It seems that most people in the neighborhood walk past the museum for years, wondering what it's like inside. Last night was a chance for them to find out, and 130 adults and kids did just that. Along with the trick-or-treat crowd decked out in costumes, there were many polite and curious locals, coming home from work or heading out to dinner.

The house is at 137 Beacon Street, as you can see from its cobwebby sign: 


The front yard was decorated with webs and spiders, jack-o-lanterns, tiny witches flying in the tree, and a ghoul.


The urns on each side of the door held seasonal plants and body parts: a severed hand, some bloody extra fingers under the ornamental cabbage, and an amputated ear or two: 


Inside, guests were greeted by enthusiastic, costumed volunteers, including these two:


The entry hall is an ideal setting for a haunted house. Look for Miss Havisham standing behind the ghouls and under the ghost:


Our animated zombie head was a big hit with most of the kids, although some of the little ones were scared. His one eye lights up, and there here's a wriggling, squealing rat in his mouth. He moves as he talks about how delicious it is. At the end of his long, disgusting monologue, he swallows the rat and says, "Well, that was tasty. And now that cat has company." (Although he was nauseating, those white-chocolate Kit Kats in his candy bowl were lovely.)


Some parts of the hall needed very little decoration. For example, there are family portraits with eyes that seem to follow you around. This somber bronze clock and candelabra only needed a few flickering electric votives to add to the mood (no open flames are allowed in the house, of course).


The dining room table was already carefully set with the Gibson family's cheerful magenta-banded china and crystal. So we just added a few body parts on the plates... and fingers in the finger bowls. Next year, I want to collect some bugs for the table, too.


More scenes from the hallway: a shrouded sculpture:


A ghoul blocking the doorway to the other staircase:


And some old witch taking a selfie:

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