What do murder, a séance and Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart have in common? Heritage Square. On Oct. 27, 29 and 30, the Woman’s Club of Fayetteville invites the public to Historic Hauntings for a peek into the macabre past of the Oval Ballroom on Dick Street followed by a basement performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. Led by Dr. Gail Morfesis, Historic Hauntings is nothing like other local Halloween haunts and trails.
In 1849, Ann Simpson and her husband, Alexander, lived in Fayetteville. They dined in what is now the Oval Ballroom at Heritage Square. By 1850, Alexander was dead and Ann stood accused of poisoning her husband. She was the first Fayetteville woman accused of murder. It’s said she was encouraged, maybe even coached by her friend and soothsayer Polly Rising. Historic Haunting at Heritage Square delves into the case of Ann Simpson with Morfesis’ production of Arsenic and Old Fayetteville. The piece includes local thespians Staci Graybill, Claudia Warga, Gary Clayton and Stanley Seay.
“The property lends itself very well to that time period and to the time of this murder,” said Morfesis. “The murder took place in the ballroom, so we do a scene there. We go upstairs and have a story time and talk about the Harvard transcripts that document the case, then we have a séance. Polly Rising was a fortuneteller in this story and many say she encouraged Ann to kill her husband, so we call her forth and hear more about the details of the murder.”
After the séance, the production moves to the basement for a performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart. It’s a one-man show and Stanley Seay is the sole performer.
“I’m a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe. My English teacher in eighth grade requested I do a dramatic reading of one of Poe’s works and that is where I got into it. He did some fantastic writing. I thought it would be a fun cool show to do,” he said.
While Seay doesn’t change the words in Poe’s work, he says this performance is “interesting and a little different.” The setting itself makes it the perfect place for a performance like this.
“The house is phenomenal. Anybody that likes Edgar Allen Poe, Halloween, tales of the macabre, this is something they will enjoy. Even Steven King fans can easily relate to this as well as — Goosebumps fans.”
While Historic Hauntings at Heritage Square is family-friendly, Seay noted that younger children may find it overwhelming.
Proceeds from this event benefit Heritage Square.
“Over the years, the Woman’s Club has worked very hard to raise funds to support these three buildings that make up Heritage Square,” said Morfesis. “The buildings are more than 200 years old. It takes a lot of money to maintain the properties and they do it mainly by fundraising. We did A Christmas Carol Revisited last year during the holiday season and will have it again on Nov. 18-20 this year.”
Historic Haunting at Heritage Square is on Oct. 27, 29 and 30 at Heritage Square. Admission is $10. Tickets are available at the door or at the Pilgrim in Westwood Shopping Center. For more information, call 483-6009.