Last Wednesday, April 21st, was the Centennial of Mark Twain's death. Around the country and in the major Twain sites there were celebrations to be had and a man to be remembered. In Elmira they re-created his funeral procession; and in Redding, Connecticut they held a wake. Here in Hartford we didn't have anything to re-create since he wasn't here at the time or after his death, so we decided to see if we could bring him back. We had a seance with famous illusionist Todd Robbins. We had some cake, and ate it too. We had a ghost tour with famed medium Lorraine Warren. But alas, no Sam.
The seance with Todd Robbins started off with our Mark Twain reading from the letter Sam sent to Harper's Weekly about obituaries and how people should write down ahead of time what they want their last words to be because at the actual time that one is dying you can't possibly think of the perfect last words. And "An obituary is a thing which cannot be so judiciously edited by any hand as by that of the subject of it. In such a work it is not the Facts that are of chief importance, but the light which the obituarist shall throw upon them, the meanings which he shall dress them in, the conclusions which he shall draw from them, and the judgements which he shall deliver upon them." (Twain, "$30k Bequest") Mr. Robbins then took the audience through some psychic tricks - creating a pendulum and moving it with their minds. Then he invited spirits into the room and speaking with the spirits called upon audience members who would know who "James" was or who had a dog named "Bandit". He then invited Twain to come into the room. The lights went out, and whispers surrounded them, whispering "The Impartial Friend: Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all--the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved" (from Albert Bigelow Paine). Twain was speaking about death and life, and the audience was covered in rose petals and when the lights came back on they found themselves surrounded by pages from Tom Sawyer.
When the seance concluded the attendees came out into the Great Hall for the unveiling of the Centennial cake which was in the shape of the Mark Twain House and made by Charm City Cakes, of the Food Network show Ace of Cakes! The cake was beautiful, complete with details of the slate on the roof and flower pots by the porch. Students from the Lincoln Culinary Institute graciously came and cut the cake for us.
Once the cake was consumed the VIPs were led over to the house for a private ghost tour with Lorraine Warren (most famously known for The Amityville Horror). With Rebecca Floyd leading the way (she was on Ghost Hunters while they were here) on the ghost tour Mrs. Warren would tell stories about her own experiences inside the house. Here's a video of her inside the master bedroom talking about a time when she had entered the room and saw Sam's daughter Susy lying on the bed. Susy passed away inside the house at the age of 24 in 1896.
All in all it was a wonderful evening. Those who came had fun, remembered Twain and celebrated his live and his home here in Hartford. If you attended, feel free to leave a comment on how the program went!
"Death, the refuge, the solace, the best and kindliest and most prized friend and benefactor of the erring, the forsaken, the old and weary and broken of heart." -Mark Twain, Adam & Eve