When Old World Wisconsin was trying to figure out what to do for its first Halloween-themed family event, the staff knew they didn’t want to build just another haunted house.
Instead, the idea was to create an event that also spoke to what the living history museum is all about – celebrating the immigrant experience in Wisconsin.
So the living history museum's “Halloween Legends and Lore” experience features the folktales and spooky stories that immigrants brought with them to the Badger state.
Assistant director Bob Parker says while we frighten each other with ghost stories, the immigrants had a different reason for telling these tales
"Telling these stories, it kind of placed them together," he says. "It reminded them of who they were or where they had come from while they were still kind of negotiating the strangeness of being in a completely new land and a new experience," he says.
Parker says there were also legends that on Halloween night, devils and evil spirits came back to earth, so dressing up and telling stories was a way to protect themselves.
Old World's interpreters and actors will spook (but not scare, Parker assures) visitors with old European folklore, from the Banshee to the Eastern European witch Baba Yaga, and some Grimm's fairytales - what Parker calls "the non-comforting versions."
One story Parker enjoys is that of Jack O'Lantern. Jack tricks the Devil, who then agrees not to take Jack into hell. With such a dispensation, Jack feels he can do whatever he wants with no consequences, but when he dies, St. Peter refuses to take him into heaven.
"So he's cursed to walk the earth as a spirit with only a coal and a pumpkin head to light his way," Parker says.
The Eagle, Wis., museum will host “Halloween Legends and Lore” on Friday and Saturday. Check out a video on the event, below.