Lantern tours light up Hampton Museum
Tales of “The Deacon,” a shadowy figure, annually unfold during the Halloween-season strolls slated to wind through the Depreciation Lands Museum in Hampton.
No one knows if the ghostly man — sighted in 19th century-style clothes — once led worshippers inside the museum's oldest structure, the former Pine Creek Covenanter Church.
It's a red-brick structure, built in 1837, with soaring windows and creaky floors.
Mystery lovers and ghost hunters can visit the 175-year-old landmark during the Lantern Tours set for Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 at the museum.
Participants also will explore the museum's historic cemetery, one-room schoolhouse, centuries-old log cabin and working blacksmith's shop — all by candlelight.
Along the way, costumed guides will demonstrate Colonial customs and share stories of early American superstitions and funeral rites.
“You had to sit with the deceased, and people took shifts ... One of reasons was to make sure they were really dead,” said Karen Parsons, volunteer coordinator for the Depreciation Lands Museum. “One of people's great fears in the 19th century was being buried alive.”
Parsons will be among volunteers leading the Lantern Tours. Servings of cookies and cider will close the outings.
Each year, Parsons' husband, Kevin, lurks the museum grounds, dressed as “The Deacon,” during the Lantern Tours.
“Most people don't notice,” he said. “Some people get freaked out.”
Museum volunteers first reported seeing “The Deacon” in 1973, after Hampton Township purchased the museum grounds and renovations began in the former Pine Creek Covenanter Church.
“There were people who thought they caught a glimpse of an old man wearing a long black coat and old-fashioned boots, and that he helped them with the renovations in various ways,” Parsons said. “He has always been credited with being benevolent.”
“The Deacon” reportedly rescued one boy as he was painting a door frame next to a stairwell.
“His ladder tipped, and everyone was sure that he was going to fall into the stairwell, but somehow, the ladder was pushed upright again,” Parsons said.
Another tale recalls a woman working alone repairing one of the church's window frames.
“She thought she caught a glimpse of a tall man wearing old-fashioned boots and trousers,” Parsons said.
“She claimed she said, ‘Well, don't just stand there. You could at least help me.' All of the sudden, the window went into place.”
No one knows the glimpsed figure's name, according to Parsons.
“A couple years ago, I had a visitor come to me on a Sunday afternoon,” Parsons said. “He said, ‘I was a member of this church ... Do you know about the deacon?'
“He said, 'My mother was cleaning in this church. She was up on a ladder,'” Parsons said.
“He pointed to one corner of the room and said, ‘She fell, and somehow, she was gently lowered to the ground. She did not get hurt.'”
More recently, a spooked electrician reportedly fled the structure — while performing repairs — when he repeatedly found a light switch turned off, after he repeatedly turned on the switch.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.