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Spirits CemeteryTour

Photo from TVHS

It’s a sign of the times. The Three Village Historical Society’s 26th annual Spirits Cemetery Tour has gone virtual with a spooky stroll through yesteryear.

From Oct. 23 to Nov. 1, visitors to the Society’s website (www.tvhs.org) will be able to “Meander Through Memories” and enjoy a past Spirits Tour from 2008. Carolyn Hendrickson Strong (actor Holly Brainard), local resident and member of the first graduating class of female Army nurses, who valiantly served during both World War I and the flu pandemic of 1918-1920, has graciously agreed to guide viewers into the past. 

The Spirits Cemetery Tour is an annual event that functions as the introduction to the Society’s traditional fundraising season. Guides take groups of visitors through the Setauket Presbyterian and Caroline church cemeteries, where they interact with “spirits” who lived and died in the Three Village area. Dressed in a manner befitting the time and place from which they hail, these travelers regale audiences with tales of what their lives were like decades, even centuries, ago.

Due to COVID-19, the tour cannot proceed as it has in previous years. So, the virtual tour is a way for individuals to enjoy a remote walk through history and support the Society. Strong will introduce viewers to  citizens of the past — John Willse (John Broven); Celia Swezey Hawkins (Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan); Rachel Tobias Holland Hart (Nellie Edwards); Maria Smith Williamson (Stephanie Carsten); Reverend Zachariah Greene (Eric Waxman); and Captain Eleazer Hawkins (Chuck Glaser). Filmed on location in the cemeteries, these costumed interpreters of history reminisce about stories of triumph and tragedy, wonder and woe.

During the pandemic, the Society has moved its activities online, providing digital educational content, including interactive videos and a blog covering a variety of topics pertaining to the history of Long Island and New Yorkers of note. The Society has had to reimagine its fundraising efforts while striving to continue its mission for the public.

As a 501c3 nonprofit, the Society exists to educate people about this area’s rich cultural heritage as well as foster and preserve local history. It relies on donations and money raised through events and programs to support its educational initiatives throughout the year. Upon its launch on Oct. 23, the tour video will be available to the general public.

Although digital, the experience will still be immersive, as the audience gets to witness and listen to dearly departed residents speak through the actors portraying them. So, come meander through memories. Donations are suggested and appreciated. For more information about the upcoming Spirits Cemetery Tour and other outreach endeavors, please visit www. tvhs.org.