Minnesota seems like such a nice, mild mannered place. Nothing weird would happen here. People wouldn’t be into odd and curious things. Well, to a degree this is true. People tend to be very practical here. But not everyone. Not all the time.
Back in May I went to/participated in three things hosted by the MN Historical Society.
The Summit Avenue Walking Tour, A Victorian Superstitions Tour at the Ramsey House on Friday the 13th and A Victorian Magic Happy Hour at the Ramsey House.
Let’s start with the walking tour.
You meet at the James J. Hill house. I have not toured this house yet but plan to do it soon. It’s a tour of some of the historical area of St. Paul. Truth be told, I get a little bored listening to how much money so and so had and the house they built with it. I tend to be more impressed by people doing things than having things. But that’s just me. There was a lot of information on who was the wealthiest person on the street and how they kept building bigger spaces to outdo one another. However, it was a nice day and there were flowers and some pretty details and at the end of the street you see a house that an Italian horror movie was filmed in. As well as the apartment and bar F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in and drank in. There is also a sculpture by an artist I love by the name of Paul Manship. My photo is not great so I won’t post it. He is probably most famous for his sculpture outside of Rockefeller Center. I first encountered his work in Chicago and then again Boston. I think I will write about him in the future.
Now to the Friday the 13th tour. This ONE was FASCINATING! I couldn’t take pictures that night but I could the night of the happy hour so I do have a few snaps of the Alexander Ramsey House.
So, the tour takes you through the house and I was on the later one so when we ended up on top floor in the nursery the creepy factor was about as high as it could go. Complete with murderous looking dolls and creaking floors. If you can ever tour the house at night I highly recommend it.
Some of the highlights of the enormous pile of information they gave us include:
-Alexander Ramsey attended a seance at the White House hosted by Mary Todd Lincoln. When this was first discovered researchers became quite excited to learn what happened. Harry Houdini was also said to be in attendance. Governor Ramsey was a meticulous journal keeper. All that it said on this night: Went to party and dinner at White House, nothing of note happened. So, I guess he was a skeptic. And when you also ask why there is so little art in the Ramsey House, you find out that the Ramsey family wasn’t “into art” and thus we have your practical Minnesotan trait.
However, they did have their daughters participate in Victorian magic tricks popular at the time, such as peeling apples to uncover the initials of future mates and tea leaf readings.
If you wrapped a ring in a cloth and put it under your pillow, it was said you would dream about your future husband. They read us a letter where the daughter sarcastically mentioned she would end up a polygamist as she dreamt about three brothers in one night.
There are so many parlor tricks and games filled with mating, impending disasters and death that this would be about ten thousand words long if I continued on.
The last thing I will mention that sort of blew my mind was this: TB was ravaging parts of the world at the time. Especially rural, uneducated areas. The natural conclusion was that there were vampires(The word vampire became in use because of the British Press) as the idea that TB was “sucking the life out of you” was where this came from. People were dug up, heads chopped off, bodies burnt and in one very hysterical and odd case, a heart was ground up and consumed to protect a family(it did not work, they died). In fact, the part of this that was completely nuts to me as this went on as recently as the last exhumation of the Great American Vampire Panic took place in Winona, MN in 1922! Minnesota, crazier than you think.
The Victorian Happy Hour was great. Seriously I loved it and I want to go to the ones in the Fall. It featured magician Michael Callahan. Boy, did he know his stuff. He was so filled with facts and stories that I could probably listen to him for 24 hours straight. He is so passionate about his craft that I really hope I get to see him again. The Happy Hour included treats and wine as well as wandering on the main floor. He focused on the 19th century and spoke about tricks I’d not heard of before. He spoke about “mind reading” and coercing attendees to participate in ways that they would not expect.
Below are my photos from the walking tour and then my snap shots of the Ramsey House. There’s lots of strange and compelling things to learn in Minnesota. And you really never know where you can find out something that might seem more than a bit mad.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Grandmother's apartment, where he lived for a time.
I believe this is where Dario Argento filmed a movie.