Talking Spirits Cemetery Tour Mixes History and Entertainment

Posted by Laura Kocum on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 at 9:16pm.

As stores pull out their fall merchandise, Halloween costumes and decorations, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum is offering its own twist on the season. This week, the museum is hosting tours of historic Forest Hill Cemetery, complete with actors portraying the dead buried there. During the week, the tours are limited to school groups, accommodating more than 2,000 students with reserved spots. The rest of us can visit Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon.

Called "Talking Spirits," guests are sure to enjoy the professional actors they meet at selected grave sites. In between these visits, tour guides will point out cemetery art, prominent people buried in the cemetery and share the story of Madison's deep connection to Civil War history. The museum has offered this tour each fall for the last 18 years. And don't let the cemetery theme fool you- this is not a scary event. Instead, it celebrates the idea that cemeteries are public parks designed to be enjoyed. Forest Hill is featured because of its historic significance to Madison. Soldiers and civilians from the Civil War era are buried there, as are veterans from nearly every conflict since.

This year's walking tour will last 90 minutes, and offer glimpses into the lives of four Civil War Era citizens. Visitors will meet a wartime surgeon, a member of the Civil War band, a former slave that fought with the 29th United States Colored Infantry, and a woman who participated in aid societies and Sanitary Commission. 

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the public is invited to the first ever candlelight tour, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Then, the tour opens during daylight on Sunday, Oct. 9, with tours leaving every 20 minutes beginning at noon and ending at 4 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased in advance, to guarantee your tour time. The museum's website requests early tickets be purchased by Monday, October 3. They are also available the same day as the event, but the time of the tour will be determined on site, and hour long wait times are not unusual. The cost is $5/person. More than 600 guests are estimated to attend the public tours.

Parking is on the street, along Speedway Boulevard and Regent Street. West High School is a short walk away. Don't miss this unique opportunity to explore Madison's rich history, and gain new appreciation for the historic cemeteries in town.

*Photo Courtesy Wisconsin Veterans Museum

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