MONMOUTH — Organizers of the inaugural History and Mystery in Monmouth event hope to shed some new light on the city’s history, and maybe send shivers down your spine.
“We wanted to capture some of the historical events that have happened in Monmouth and what Monmouth was like in the early 1900s, late 1800s,” said Suzanne Dufner, community development director. “It was just a small town, but we’re also highlighting a few spooky ghost stories that people may or may not have heard about.”
The free event is family-friendly, but parental guidance is suggested because of some violent references in some of the stories. It will be at Main Street Park amphitheater on Friday, Oct. 4. If it rains, the event will move to Volunteer Hall on South Warren Street.
“We have such a rich history with our pioneer heritage that set up the university, and I think when people think of Monmouth and our history, they think, ‘But there’s no mystery in your history,’” Dufner laughed. “When we dug a little deeper, there were some interesting stories that will be fun to bring to life and share.”
Some of the information, Dufner learned from local historian Scott McArthur and his 2004 book, “Monmouth, Oregon: The Saga of a Small American Town.”
Marilyn Morton, Independence city councilor, started that city’s ghost walk 17 years ago and helped get the Monmouth event off the ground.
“Marilyn has been very instrumental in helping us,” said Emily McNulty, owner of MaMere’s Guest House. “She did some research on the old census information. She created this treasure trove (of information), and helped us design the poster.”
MaMere’s Guest house is in the historic Howell House on Knox Street.
“(It’s) an old building, built in 1891, it’s on the national registry,” McNulty said. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how can we highlight history in Monmouth and build on that.”
McNulty knew about the ghost walk in Independence and knows Morton, who also attends Monmouth Business Association meetings.
McNulty had a conversation with Morton about whether she thought anyone else in Monmouth would be interested in doing a similar event.
“Out of that came the History and Mystery in Monmouth event,” McNulty said. “Really we’re just looking to highlight some different historical events that have happened in Monmouth and stories, just to get some excitement in Monmouth and build on the ghost walk, so having something that can be a kick-off event in Monmouth and then leading in to the ghost walk on Saturday (in Independence).”
At least one of the History and Mystery stories is set on the Western Oregon University campus at Todd Hall.
WOU student Natalie Dean helped write the stories, which will be read by volunteers, including Mayor Cec Koontz and city councilors Roxanne Beltz and Christopher Lopez. It was a natural fit for Dean, an English major who has a love of the paranormal.
“Some of my favorite discoveries in this project had to have been learning more about Todd Hall and Jessica Todd herself,” Dean said. “I was able to read about how she was often an anchor for these young women, and for her to be such a strong leader of women’s education really inspired me. She would help students in their time of need, emotionally and even financially, and seeing the passion she poured into WOU makes me believe she still protects Todd Hall.”
One of Dean’s writing professors recommended her to Dufner.
“It was an exiting opportunity to strengthen my writing skills on a more professional level, and get involved with the community and absorb a ton of interesting history,” Dean said. “Plus, all things paranormal are totally up my alley, so taking historic stories mashed with local hauntings made it a really fun experience.”
Dean said she has always loved ghost stories, haunted places and horror movies.
“I absolutely believe in ghosts/the paranormal and that those who have passed can influence reality for the living — through hauntings/experiences, guardian angels, all that jazz,” Dean said. “I also grew up hearing of my father’s supernatural experiences and have had weird experiences myself.”
While there are plenty of stories the organizers want to share with attendees, they also want to know what stories community members have to share.
“We are planning to take down people’s stories at the event,” Dufner said. “We know there’s more stories out there.”
What: History and Mystery
When: 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 4
Where; Main Street Park amphitheater
Cost: Free. Bring a chair and a flashlight.