Arts & Entertainment

Marc Berger photo by Jill McCracken

By Stacy Santini

Mocha buttes rising upward from the soil, vistas framing breathtaking views of distant snow-capped mountains, Indian-traveled sandstone underfoot, rock formations resembling Donatello sculptures, rushing rivers and sienna sunsets; visually, there is no place comparable to the American West.

It is hard to imagine that beauty such as this can be as relevant cinematically in song and just song alone, but lyric-ace Marc Berger has managed to capture this imagery with his album RIDE and will be sharing it with the community at a free concert at North Shore Public Library in Shoreham on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Berger’s relationship with the West began while studying law at Rutgers University. When he was 21, he embarked on a cross country journey that would alter his life and career path for ever. Berger describes this catharsis, “Probably because I grew up in the Northeast, I had a strong desire to go out West when I travelled, and the effect it had on me was staggering. I explored the Mojave Desert, Yosemite, all of it, and I came home transformed. Every year for 5 years, making this journey was an integral part of my existence. On each drive I went further inward. At that time, there were no distractions, no cell phones and such. It was a beautiful thing.”

As a result of his travels, he began to write songs about his experiences. Success welcomed Berger early on. His first attempt at his to music publishing firms found him signing a contract. Along the way, icons like Richie Havens befriended him and were very interested in his work. Havens recorded Berger’s song “The Last One” in 1982 and it received much attention.

It was not long before Berger realized that if he wanted to truly make a contribution to the culture he was living in, he needed to sing. “After Richie did my song, I got to thinking about how singing my own lyrics would be the only true expression of myself, and so I willed myself to sing and perfect my voice,” says Berger.

Berger’s roots run deep within the music industry. He has opened for Bob Dylan and other equally impressive bands and musicians. Collaborating with him on his next album, starting in December, will be world class instrumentalists such as Tony Garnier, bass player for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon; Joe Flood, mandolin and fiddler for Levon Helm; and Eric Ambel, guitarist for Joan Jett. Garnier can also be heard on several tracks on RIDE.

Joe Wawrzyniak from Jersey Beat calls the new album “Supremely tuneful and colorful … One can almost taste the dust and feel the desolation of the wide- open prairies while listening to this exquisitely harmonic gem.”

With RIDE, Berger’s passion for the West and his music are palpable, “I don’t think of it as music, but as art, and the art form is secondary to the artist. It is a vehicle to communicate a personality that is only the artist. The most challenging part of this was getting the recording equipment to be pictorial; meaning that I did not want you to just hear a song and picture a band, I wanted you to actually see the great American West, be there present in it,” he said.

With songs such as “Montana,” “Nobody Gonna Ride on the Railroad” and “Heavenly Ancients,” Berger accomplishes just that.

Accompanying Marc next weekend on bass is Rich DePaolo, an extraordinary talent himself. “It is Marc’s vision for sure. I have been working with him for over fifteen years. He is very focused as an artist and clear as to how he wants his vision realized. It is a jot to be a part of this,” he said in describing the collaboration.

North Shore Public Library is a venue that never disappoints when it comes to its concert series. “I am a fan of the American West. Marc’s song, ‘Heavenly Ancients’ on RIDE brought me back to being on the desert floor and glaring up at the sky. His music really captured the awe of the landscape,” said librarian Lorena Doherty.

“I have been doing adult programs here for some time now, bringing in multicultural programs and classical music. Having Marc Berger come here is unique and different. It is very exciting as I am finding that independent musicians have great appeal. We had an amazing turnout for ‘Miles to Dayton’ and I expect the same for Marc,” she added.

North Shore Public Library is located at 250 Route 25A in Shoreham. For more information, please call 631-929-4488.

Tour guide Dan Sheehan on one of his tours with the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Northport Historical Society

The Northport Historical Society is hosting a Jack Kerouac-guided walking tour through Northport Village on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The Kerouac Crawl event will include stops at various drinking establishments including Gunther’s Tap Room, where the famous literary figure frequented, as well as Rockin’ Fish, Skipper’s Pub and more.

Northport resident Dan Sheehan will lead the tour and he will include a thorough history of Main Street’s dynamic during Kerouac’s time in Northport.

The fee is $25 for members and $30 for nonmembers, and includes the tour, refreshments at the museum and a souvenir.

Mark your calendars for upcoming classic movies at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts Center. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Rita J. Egan

The year 2015 marked Smithtown’s 350th anniversary and the return of movies to the town. In addition to commemorative events, locals were able to stop by the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts and take in a feature film to enhance their trip down memory lane.

The movie theater that once operated in the building where SCPA stands today opened in 1933 and offered motion pictures until November of 2001. Toward the end of November 2014, the building, which has not been significantly altered aesthetically in over 80 years, once again became home to beloved movies to commemorate the town’s milestone. While the original lineup of films planned for the theater will wrap up on Oct. 30 with “The Sixth Sense” and “The Exorcist,” management has planned to offer more movies in the upcoming months. Tickets for this double feature are $10.00.

Nov. 27 — ‘The Wizard Of Oz’
Dec. 4 — ‘A Christmas Story’
Jan. 8 — ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956)
Jan. 9 — ‘Rocky’
Jan. 15 — ‘The Addams Family’
Jan. 16 — ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’
Jan. 22 — ‘Carrie’ (1976)
Jan. 23 — ‘The Silence of the Lambs’
Feb. 5 — ‘Network’
Feb. 6 — ‘Dirty Harry’
June 16 — ‘Hook’
June 24 — ‘Thelma & Louise’
*All movies start at 7 p.m. and are $8 per ticket.

Ian Washington, house manager, hosted numerous movie nights at the theater this year. Washington said while attendance varied, overall the movie nights were well received by local residents. During the year he heard comments such as “we’re so happy you’re doing this again” and “please keep doing it.”

Washington said in addition to theatergoers being pleased to see the films, they also requested that the performing arts center show others. “It was a great experience and a great test run of what we know we can do,” he said.

The house manager said among the over 60 films that the theater offered in 2015, he was excited to see movies such as “Rain Man,” the original “Batman,” “Spaceballs” and “Blazing Saddles.” He said the more popular movies with audiences were “Casablanca,” “Gone with the Wind,” “King Kong” and the most attended of all of them, “A Christmas Story.” Washington said “Jaws” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy also did well.

Like last season, the motion pictures will alternate with the performing arts center’s live stage presentations. After the double feature of thrillers on Oct. 30, the theater has a dozen movies scheduled until the end of June with the possibility of more being added for the last few months of 2016.    

“People love that we’re doing it again,” said Washington.

The new lineup of movies will kick off with “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m., and once again, back by popular demand, there will be a holiday showing of “A Christmas Story” on Friday, Dec. 4.

Last year management chose many of the movies based on local residents’ memories of their visits to the theater throughout the decades. This time around, films were selected based on whether they are hitting a milestone anniversary in 2016. Due to this selection process, theatergoers can once again enjoy classics such as “Rocky,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “Carrie,” “Dirty Harry” and “Thelma & Louise” on the big screen in the upcoming year.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2 E. Main Street in Smithtown. For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

‘Metamorphosis,’ Best in Show Senior Division by Jeanette Wells

Just in time for Halloween, the Huntington Arts Council’s annual Nightmare on Main Street — Student Art Exhibit is currently on view at the Main Street Gallery in Huntington through Saturday, Oct. 31.

‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ by Cameron Matassa, Grade 11, Massapequa Park
‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ by Cameron Matassa, Grade 11, Massapequa Park

Now in its 4th year, “the inspiration for Nightmare on Main Street came from the dramatic holiday Windows at Macy’s in New York City. We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful windows that frame the gallery at the Huntington Arts Council and turn the actual windows into a work of dramatic art,” said Andrea Maire, immediate past president of the Huntington Arts Council.

“Once inside the gallery, visitors would find that even the gallery floors and walls had been treated with similar flair. We chose Halloween because the many possible interpretations of the season would give our young participating artists the most choices in creating their works,” she said.

Thirty-four student artists in grades K through 12 were selected as finalists including Sarah Ansman, Eleana Canas, Kianna Criscuola, Andrew Davis, Katie Elkowitz, Katie Eng, Jessica Garcia, Allie Giordano, Claire Hannon, Jackie Hawkins, Ashley Herkommer, Julie Jankowski, Aisha Khan, Tateana Khokhar, Sarah Kimmel, Tyler Kiser, Lauren Landolfi,  Cameron Matassa, Jean Miller, Ruth Mistretta, Eli Mollineaux, Theresa Moreno, Erin O’Kelly, Martin Perez, Kenya Pinos, Maheen Rahman, Claudia Reese, Nicole Ruiz, Jack Ruthkowski, Jordan Shaked, Dipti Sharma, Michelle Shin, Aidan Spencer and Jeanette Wells.

The exhibit was juried by Michelle Carollo, an installation artist, administrator, teacher and community organizer whose work has been shown across the United States. The recipient of many awards, she was recently a select finalist for the NYC Public Art in Public Schools.

‘VooDoo Doll,’ Best in Show Junior Division, by Jack Ruthkowski. Image from Huntington Arts Council
‘VooDoo Doll,’ Best in Show Junior Division, by Jack Ruthkowski. Image from Huntington Arts Council

On exhibit is artwork that has been inspired by Halloween whether it be ghoulish, gross or somewhat gruesome. “The works in this show capture the true spirit of Halloween, whether it be playful, psychological or physical, the spectator soon realizes the power of the imagination is the scariest of all,” said Carollo in describing the students work.

Two winners were ultimately chosen for Best in Show in the Junior Division (Grades K to 8) and Senior Division (Grades 9 to 12) category. Congratulations to 9-year-old Jack Ruthkowski  of Huntington for Best in Show in the Junior Division for “VooDoo Doll” and Jeanette Wells, an 11th-grader from Northport for Best in Show in the Senior Division  for “Metamorphosis.” Both artists will receive a check for $50.

“The Nightmare on Main Street exhibit continues to draw talented student artists. It is wonderful to see how young people interpret the Halloween theme. The creativity, skill, technique and enthusiasm for the show are all part of what makes this program so rewarding for us,” said Marc Courtade, executive director of the Huntington Arts Council. “It is our pleasure to provide this opportunity to student artists throughout the community,” he added.

A costume party will be held at the gallery on Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. where the two winners will be presented with awards. All are welcome to attend this free event and costumes are encouraged. Refreshments will be served.

The Main Street Gallery, 213 Main St., Huntington, is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-271-8423 or visit www.huntingtonarts.org.

From left, Olivia Publisi, Paul Graf, Christine Sullivan and Michael Puglisi in a scene from ‘Reset.’ Photo by Michael Leinoff

By Charles J. Morgan

The Minstrel Players of Northport, now “under new management,” opened last Saturday, Oct. 24, with its 4th annual original play festival, “Back to the Zone.”

A panorama of seven short, one-act plays in the style of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” it showed the sure hand of Evan Donnellon, the Minstrel’s new executive producer.

In “Death Here” by Steven Gianturco, the figure of Death, played by John Leone, black hood and plastic scythe, gets a phone call announcing the arrival of another deceased, Gil Joe Lesko, who arrives “early.” A madcap dialog ensues between the two. Three parts of standard eschatology’s four divisions rapidly envelopes their trigger-tongued discourse: Heaven, Hell, Death … missing was Punishment. In fact Lesko manages to in the “argument” about the afterlife. Total resolution … to be seen.

Leone is overpowering in his role; the overworked office worker, constantly pushed to get more paperwork done, handle files and phone calls. His projection was excellent. Lesko discharged his part with integrity. He is possessed of a truly theatrical face, reminiscent of the elder Paul Guilfoyle with a touch of Harry Langdon.

“Isabelle” by Ceara Lee Taylor is a two-character effort featuring Tricia Ieronimo in the title role and Brian Hartwig as boyfriend Michael. The two are on a park bench reminiscing about old times like old lovers until it is realized that one of them is long dead. This is a vignette literarily influenced by James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Ieronimo is competent and Hartwig is consistent in characterization.

“Baby Monitor” by Ray Palen is a three-character play with Mark Swinson and Stephanie Leinoff as husband and wife Rick and Amy. They have purchased an electronic “baby monitor,” presumably to “baby sit” their newborn. Later Amy is convinced extra-terrestrials are being introduced through the monitor. They call in a psychic. Here enters Roseanne Baldanza as Thaniel. Baldanza is outstanding with deadpan pseudo-mystical gestures, a haunting voice and extra precise timing … a serio-comic role played to the hilt.

“Reset” by Jerry Eitel features Paul Graf as Man, Christine Sullivan as Woman and Michael and Olivia Puglisi as Boy and Girl. John Wolf crashes on as Gangster. The thesis of the play is that Man and Woman have no idea of their identity; they do not know even their names or whereabouts. Only later the two children provide a rationale for their existence. Graf projects well and is almost Hamlet-like in his groping for reality. Sullivan is all charm, but neither of them can break the closeted psyches until the children come on stage. They help the two become real. The kids’ delivery was a tad recitative, but they were obviously at home on the bards. Wolf, in a loud pin-striped suit and armed is the oppressive, arrogant hood demanding to know his identity. He too is “realized” by the kids.

A late-hours, closing time barroom is the setting for “Deathless” by Evan Donnellan, the heaviest of the seven. A character billed only as Stranger enters looking for just one more drink. The actor is Carl Nehring, and his tour de force about being deathless, unable to die, is a monument to skilled acting, articulate in form and consistent in delivery. The tired, bored bartender is Lou Lentino. He is the perfect foil for Nehring’s diatribe. Lentino understates the role with precision. The interfacing of the two is the armature of the show, and it is no less than riveting. Even the one word “God!” spoken during the blackout unravels the thesis penetratingly. It was a truly captivating theatrical experience.

“The Waiting Room” by Dave Buscema features two characters here in neat business suits — Paul Graf as Mr. Lanes and Bob Oliver as Man but who acts as Lanes’ conscience. Lanes is waiting to be called into the boss’s office to hear of his much sought after promotion up the corporate ladder. Oliver delivers a scathing, but soft rundown of Lanes’ past peccadilloes as well as his cheating and hubris. Graf does the rendition drill quite well. He displays disbelief, insult, anger and eventually self-righteousness with plasticity. Oliver handles the role of unerring conscience with icy persistence. Lanes is called in as his wife Amy, played by Christine Sullivan, enters. In his arms they both face a prosperous future as Oliver simply glowers.

In “The Cook Book or the Cupcake Recipe” by Jordan Hue, four characters arrive at an unexplainably messy old house intent on a weekend of fun. They are Jes Almeida as Carly, Emily Dowdell as Devon, Christina Corsaro as Hope and Brian Hartwig as Walter. Later Carl Nehring will appear as Bill. As they are unpacking, Devon finds what looks like an ancient cookbook but is really a grimoire, a textbook of magic. Its effect on all of them is to repack and get out of there. A blackout is used here to express passage of time. With lights up, one of them is close to newly arrived Bill as they pore over the dusty grimoire. All acting in this performance was first rate. Special kudos go to Emily Dowdell who developed Devon as real, individuated and dominant with a controlled approach that made her outstanding.

Undoubtedly, the persistent theme of death was notably seen in practically all of the seven. One asks was this a reflection of the secular humanist culture in which we find ourselves, or was it just the deliberate objective of the new, young playwrights?

The Minstrel Players will present “Back to the Zone” at Trinity Episcopal Church’s Houghton Hall, 130 Main St., Northport, on Nov. 1 at 3 p.m., Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors and children under 12. For more information, call 516-557-1207 or visit www.minstrelplayers.org.

Sal and Gina Mingoia perform at the Sound Beach civic’s Pet Adopt-A-Thon on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the outside of the Hartlin Inn. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Sal Mingoia grew up in a musical family, and now, so does his 17-year-old daughter and performer in crime, Gina.

The daddy-daughter duo began performing together five years ago after Sal Mingoia invited his daughter to one of his gigs. Gina Mingoia showed an interest in music at a very young age, according to her father, and her interest sparked his idea to invite his then 12-year-old daughter to the bar where he was scheduled to perform.

“I’m nobody’s warm-up act,” Sal Mingoia said.

Since then, the Shoreham pair took the stage together — Sal Mingoia on the guitar and vocals and Gina Mingoia as the lead singer — performing country and original songs the daughter writes. While Sal Mingoia is no stranger to the music scene, as he started performing in bands at 14 years old, he and his wife Denise never thought their daughter would perform.

“She was the shyest kid,” her mother said. “She would be hiding here behind me.”

The first time their daughter sang for an audience was during a family event. Her mother remembered her sitting on a chair in front of the refrigerator looking at a sheet of music as she played the guitar and sang for her family. This was before a teacher made her a lead character in a school play, which helped Gina Mingoia combat her shy demeanor.

Last year, her voice and determination took her as far as “The Voice.” After auditioning for the show last July, the judges told her to come back and they would automatically put her through to the second round. She has yet to go back and try out.

For Sal Mingoia, entering the music scene was not as nerve-wracking. His father was a jazz guitar player before he passed away, and although Sal Mingoia never received formal lessons, his father tapped into his musical abilities when he was a child. The father’s three brothers and sisters are also musically inclined. Family functions like birthdays and holidays such as Christmas are never a dull moment for the Mingoia family as each event allows the family to perform together.

While singing is fun for the family and the daddy-daughter duo alike, practicing and performing is a balancing act for Sal Mingoia and his daughter. The summer months are busier for the pair as they regularly perform at the Baiting Hollow Golf Club. However, during the academic year Gina Mingoia, a Shoreham-Wading River student, balances school and other activities while her father’s availability is more limited, as he also serves as a Suffolk County policeman and a performer for a folk rock band.

“It’s not easy — I have to schedule myself a few days in advance,” Mingoia said regarding scheduling practice with his daughter.

The two admitted that practices can be stressful.

“Singing is easy, you just have to hear the song once and then you can sing,” Gina Mingoia said. “But to learn the guitar part, you have to play around with [the song] and find the notes you’re looking for. It stresses me out when he doesn’t know what he’s going to do ahead of time.”

Finding appropriate songs to perform is another issue. When it comes to performing cover songs, the pair needs to find a song that works for them, both musically and lyrically. The song must be appropriate for the two to sing, but they also need to transform the piece. On the radio, the music incorporates several instruments, background singers and other levels, but for the daughter and her father, it’s just them and a guitar.

Performing at sensitive events like fundraisers for Gina Mingoia’s former friend, Tom Cutinella, a Shoreham-Wading River High School football player who died last year after suffering a fatal injury from a collision during a game, are also difficult. The two usually “feel out the crowd” to see what songs might work best.

While the duo figures out their plan as they practice for gigs, Sal Mingoia said he doesn’t mind if his daughter goes solo.

“For me, I’m just kind of her back-up band,” he said. “I think it’s a unique thing that it’s a father-daughter thing. Not too much of that is happening, but if someone wanted to sign her and throw me aside, that’s perfectly fine.”

The Un-Living History cast, front row, from left, Jim Ryan, Carmen Collins, Rick Outcault and Ellen Mason. Back row, from left, Florence Lucker, Peter Reganato, Vincent Ilardi and Mary McKell. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

A terrifying, hooded figure sits in Mr. Vanderbilt’s bathtub. A skeleton stands behind an armchair in one of the elegant bedrooms. An eerie woman in a black robe with pasty-white skin and a frightful stare sits on a divan in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom. Near the fireplace in the grand, paneled library stands a tall mummy.

These are just a few of the ghostly, life-size props that will welcome you to Halloween at the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 24 and 25 and Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, are Haunted Weekends at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. Festivities will include hourly Un-Living History Tours of the mansion beginning at noon, with the last tour starting at 4 p.m.   

Tours are interwoven with Vanderbilt family history and include ghost stories told by mansion guides dressed for the occasion. Visitors may meet Delia O’Rourke, the Irish cook, dressed in her bloody apron and carrying a meat cleaver, or one of the Vanderbilt family guests, aviator-industrialist Howard Hughes, dressed in the dirty, bloody clothing from his plane crash. Visitors also might run into the Phantom of the Opera or the occasional witch.

The Vanderbilt Mansion has a few ghost stories of its own — experienced by staff members from years ago. Those tales include hearing the laughter of young girls in the nursery wing of the mansion, in the evening after hours, and the nighttime sighting of the ghostly figure of a young boy in knickers and a cap running across the mansion lawn.

Recommended for children ages 8 and up. Tickets, sold at the gate, are $7 adults, $6 students and seniors, and $3 children ages 12 and under general admission plus $5 per person for a guided mansion tour. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

‘The Beach is the Place to Be’ by Iacopo Pasquinelli

A perennial favorite on the North Shore, the Setauket Artists’ Exhibition returns to the Setauket Neighborhood House, from Oct. 25 to Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Now in its 35th year, the art show will feature the works of 43 local artists in a variety of media.

“I am surprised and very pleased with the longevity and the success of the show,” said artist Flo Kemp, who organized the group of local artists that  became known as the Setauket Artists back in 1980. Ten years ago, she turned the helm over to Irene Ruddock, an exhibiting artist who has continued to uphold all the traditions of the beginning exhibit as well as adding new traditions of her own.

When asked about her ten year tenure, Ruddock said, “It has been an exciting and rewarding experience for me, because I have had the privilege of working with these exceptional artists who have become my friends. I’m also on the board of the Setauket Neighborhood House, whose members are sincerely dedicated to the preservation and welfare of this historic house.” The Setauket Artists will contribute a portion of their profits to the preservation effort.

“When I began, I set goals that I wanted to achieve for the show. The most important was to always seek out the highest quality of art work; paintings that people want to hang in their homes, giving them pleasure each day. ‘Art for a Lifetime’ — that is the Setauket Artists’ motto. We never take our collectors for granted, because we sincerely are grateful when we find the perfect match for a piece of art,” said Ruddock, adding that the group is privileged to have a Joseph Reboli giclee print available for purchase this year, titled “Pumpkin Light.”

‘Pleasant Contemplation’ by Terry McManus
‘Pleasant Contemplation’ by Terry McManus

One of the exhibiting artists, Mary Jane van Zeijts, who will be opening her own teaching studio and gallery at 268 Main Street in Setauket in November, said “I love this group of artists, not only for their work, but as human beings. The Setauket Artists are a beautiful art community.”

The exhibit will be sponsored by Fred Bryant, of Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket, who has believed in and supported the artists for ten years.

This year’s honored judge, Steve Forster, director of Long Island Academy of Fine Art in Glen Cove, will choose winners from the categories of Best in Show, Award of Excellence, Award of Merit, Award of Distinction and Honorable Mention.

Jim Molloy will be the Setauket Artists’ Honored Artist this year, chosen by the artists themselves for his stunning artwork and his contributions to the organization. “[The Setauket Artists’ Exhibition] is the perfect venue for displaying my work and seeing the creative process of the other artists,” he said.

Stop by any time during the exhibit to take a chance on this year’s raffle paintings. Molloy will contribute a giclee of one of his most popular pieces, titled “Vestiges,” along with a soft-ground etching by Flo Kemp titled “Beach Cottages.”

All artwork will be for sale at affordable prices, so consider doing your holiday shopping with the Setauket Artists. The exhibit will open with an artist reception at the Setauket Neighborhood House, 95 Main St., Setauket, on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-6208 or visit www.setauketneighborhoodhouse.com.

This version corrects the location of Mary Jane van Zeijts’ future gallery and studio.

A creepy graveyard will be on the tour during the Haunted Hayrides at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

By Rita J. Egan

Scaring up some Halloween fun isn’t tricky when you live on or near the North Shore of Suffolk County. However, beware; some activities are not for scaredy cats.

Those taking a hayride at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, E. Setauket, will find that things will get a little spookier on Oct. 30 and 31. While visitors will find an array of static figures, including ogres, witches and ghosts, in the fields on any given day this month, the creatures will come alive on Halloween eve and day from 6 to 9 p.m. when the farm offers Haunted Hayrides.

Owner Bob Benner said the event is open to all ages, but he warns that the later the ride is, the scarier it gets. “We have had some people who have been really scared and other people who simply just enjoyed the ride a lot,” he said.

Mr. Benner said the farm staff, along with volunteers, play the creatures that can come out of nowhere and jump toward the hayride or unexpectedly scream. In addition, there are different tableaus, including the farm’s spooky cemetery, where visitors may witness a ghoulish figure up to something evil.

Mr. Benner said the creativity of those in the field always amazes him. “I never quite know what they are going to come up with in terms of scaring folks.” Rides, which cost $6 per person,  leave every 20 minutes. Visit with the animals and have a Halloween treat while you wait. For more information, visit www.bennersfarm.com or call 631-689-8172.

Over at F&W Schmitt’s Family Farm in Melville, 26 Pinelawn Road, a mad doctor who encountered a book of ancient texts has taken over. Visitors to The Haunted Mansion of Melville will encounter otherworldly creatures as well as various oddities during their spine-chilling visit.

Outside, those who dare can explore The Haunted Corn Maze where the physician dumps his patients who may or may not be dead. There’s also a high-intensity live stage show, “The Experiment,” that gives spectators the opportunity to witness some of the doctor’s experiments on his patients.

The show, which is enhanced with special effects, isn’t recommended for those with heart conditions or those who cannot handle intense situations. Tickets are $19 for the mansion, $11 for the corn maze, $5 for “The Experiment” and $30 for a combo ticket. Open Thursdays and Sundays 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 7 p.m. to midnight through the end of October. Visit www.schmittshaunt.com or call 631-271-3276 for information, including hours for their less scary, daytime show for children.

For more hair-raising Halloween moments, head over to The Darkside Haunted House at 5184 Rt. 25A, Wading River. The indoor and outdoor attraction, which spans over 14,000 square feet, features movie-quality sets and bone-chilling special effects. While The Darkside Haunted House is not recommended for children under 12 years old, an early matinee from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekend days, with the lights on and no live actors, is available for the little ones as well as the weak of heart. The Darkside Haunted House is open weekdays and weekends until Nov. 1. Tickets start at $18. For more information and hours, visit www.darksideproductions.com or call 631-369-SCARE.

For a tamer treat, join the animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center, 62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown, during their annual Halloween Spook-tacular. Children are encouraged to wear costumes as they spend the day walking through the ghostly garden, and participating in the scavenger hunt, story time, crafts and sensory activities. New this year, visitors can travel the Jack O’ Lantern trail decorated with hand-carved and glowing pumpkins. The Spook-tacular is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and costs $7 per person. The center will also offer a Not-So-Spooky Spook-tacular on Oct. 24 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For more information, or to contribute a carved or uncarved pumpkin, call Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

Spooky stories will fill the halls of the museum of the Hallock Homestead Farm, 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead, during its Haunted Museum Tours on Friday, Oct. 30, at 4:30 p.m. More than 250 years of Hallockville Homestead dark secrets will be exposed, including the death of the Phantom British Officer.

During the tour, one may hear the hair-raising sobs of the broken-hearted Spectral Bride searching for her lost love, and guests may even encounter the ghost of the dishonest Regretful Rumrunner, doomed by his own poisoned drink. Based on historical fact, local folklore and urban legend, the tour was created by professional actress, costume designer and museum educator Colette Gilbert.

Beth Motschenbacher, assistant director, said this is the first year the museum is offering the tour. “I hope people enjoy seeing the historic homestead in a different light and learning a little bit more about the darker side of folklore,” she said.

Tours, which depart from the Hudson-Sydlowski house, last 50 to 60 minutes and run every 15 minutes until 7:45 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended. Geared for all ages, admission is $7 for adults and children age 10 and under are free. For more information, call 631-298-5292 or visit www.hallockville.com.

Gen. George Washington (John Galla) with his headquarter’s flag. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Gen. Benedict Arnold (Brian Cea). Photo by Heidi Sutton
Gen. Benedict Arnold (Brian Cea). Photo by Heidi Sutton

The chilly 45-degree weather did not deter almost 300 brave souls who came out for a special walk through local history last Saturday night as the Three Village Historical Society held its 21st annual Spirits Tour, “The Culper Spy Ring: From Secrecy to Victory.”

“The Culper Spy Ring has really been making news lately,” Carolyn Benson, one of the tour guides, said. This tour shows “how many people from this area were involved.”

The host of the tour, Emma S. Clark, whose name graces the library in Setauket and was portrayed by Karin Lynch, set the scene for what was to come.

“The Culper Spy Ring was a group of men known as the Secret Six who helped George Washington win the war. … Their identity was so secretive that Gen. Washington never knew their true identity. Their messages were written in code and their letters were in invisible ink,” she said. “Tonight you will meet with these patriots and some loyalists who will share their stories with you about what it was like during and after the war.”

Helen ‘Morningstar’ Sells and Nellie Edwards of the Setalcott Nation. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Helen ‘Morningstar’ Sells and Nellie Edwards of the Setalcott Nation. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The 1.5-hour tours ran throughout the evening, beginning with the Young Historian tours. Each group, carrying flashlights and lanterns, was led through the cemeteries of the Setauket Presbyterian Church [established in the late 17th century] and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven [established in 1729].

All the key players were present, from the ring’s most active operatives — Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Smith Strong, James Rivington and Robert Townsend — to Gen. George Washington and Abraham Woodhull, the leader of the Culper Spy Ring, to Gen. Benedict Arnold, the infamous traitor. Woodhull, portrayed by Dennis O’Connor, appeared at the foot of his own grave in the Presbyterian cemetery during the tour.

Lesser-known community spirits made appearances as well, including Bette Harmon, born into slavery to the Strong family; Maj. John Andre, a British spy whose capture exposed Benedict Arnold as a traitor; loyalist Col. Benjamin Floyd; patriot Rev. Zachariah Greene; and a special appearance by  Setalcott Nation members Helen “Morning Star” Sells and Nellie Edwards. In total, 20 spirits were conjured to provide an insight into their lives during the Revolutionary War. The period costumes, provided by Nan Guzzetta, gave the entire event an eerily authentic feel.

Private David Williams (George Monez), Major John Andre (Pat DiVisconti), Private Isaac Van Wart (Sage Hardy). Photo by Heidi Sutton
Private David Williams (George Monez), Major John Andre (Pat DiVisconti), Private Isaac Van Wart (Sage Hardy). Photo by Heidi Sutton

At each stop, the spirits gave out secret codes that, when compiled and decoded, formed a secret letter for Gen. Washington, who was the last stop of the night.

Nine-year-old Alex Perrone, of Stony Brook, was experiencing the tour for the first time with his mother, Lauren, but came well prepared.

“My mom and I read a book called ‘Redcoats and Petticoats,’” he said.

Alex enjoyed the tour, especially meeting Washington and learning about the Setalcott tribe and their longhouses, and said he would definitely do it again. His mom agreed, adding, “I just thought it was really informative and I thought the actors were wonderful and I think it was a great way to learn about local history and this special place.”

In all, the 21st annual Spirits Tour was a rare historical treat. For more information, visit the historical society at www.tvhs.org.

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