Ghosts were telling all kinds of tales in the darkened nooks and crannies of the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum Friday night. Some of the tales were sad, some were gruesome and some were inspirational. But the best one involved Abe Lincoln and a ghoul.
The occasion was a program called "Ghosts of the Museum Come to Life."
Museum executive director Joseph Garrera estimated more than 200 people saw "Ghosts" between 5:30 and 7 p.m. -- "That's the most we can do," he said with a smile -- and that more than 400 people would see the program by the time "Ghosts" disappeared at 9 p.m.
Music ranging from "The Twilight Zone" theme to Gregorian chants filled the air as people were guided from room to room to hear the ghosts' stories.
Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart's vignette was the most poignant.
Surrounded by wreckage, she spoke about her life and acquaintances, including Dorothea Leh of Bethlehem, with whom Earhart founded a social and professional organization for female pilots called the 99's. Her unflagging hope that she would be rescued was touching.
Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth was a combination of villainy and egomania when he took center stage, bragging about his murderous deed while seated at a table with a lantern, a crutch he called a "traveling cane" and a bottle of whiskey he described as a "medical libation."
Dr. John Kohler, an assistant surgeon in the Civil War from Whitehall Township, recounted his grisly service at Antietam and Gettysburg.
Five somewhat dispirited members of New Jersey Frontier Guard from the 1750s huddled hard around a campfire while they related the carnage of the French and Indian War and groused about having to protect the colonial western frontier outpost known as Allentown (all the while dissing Moravians and Quakers). A Lenape woman lamented the disruption and extermination of her tribe's way of life that came when Europeans arrived.
Colonel Tilghman Good, who led a contingent from the Lehigh Valley during the Civil War, spoke with pride about defying an order to send the residents of Key West, Fla., to an internment camp and returning home to be elected three times as mayor of Allentown.
Lincoln's presentation ended the program on a light note. He drew laughs by remarking that he was the most written about president, then
adding: "It's a fact I'm going to let George Washington know the next time I see him. The man has quite an ego."
As a capper, Lincoln derided the premise of the novel and movie "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" by saying, "What nonsense!" Suddenly the room was filled with the howling of a wolf and a vampire appeared to Lincoln's left, challenging Lincoln like an unruly reporter at a presidential press conference.
The crowd burst into applause. What better way to bring history alive than with an appearance by the undead.