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The Daily Tar Heel

Halloween brings back ‘Voices from the Grave’

Christine Rogers performs as Alma Holland Beers in front of Beers' grave in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Thursday night. She performed as part of "Voices from the Grave: Haunted Cemetery Tours."

Christine Rogers performs as Alma Holland Beers in front of Beers' grave in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Thursday night. She performed as part of "Voices from the Grave: Haunted Cemetery Tours."

For the sixth year in a row, Preservation Chapel Hill is hosting Voices from the Grave, a tour through Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, where actors from Deep Dish Theater Company portray famous figures of Chapel Hill history.

A ghost tour in a cemetery gives many people the chills, but during the event, the cemetery comes alive. It is lit up by lanterns, the flashlights of groups moving between skits and the enthusiastic monologues of the “ghosts” on the tour.

October is known for horror movies, trick-or-treating and dressing up in costume, but Preservation Chapel Hill uses the haunted time of year to draw attention to more important issues.

Cheri Szcodronski, executive director of Preservation Chapel Hill, said the mission of the nonprofit is to preserve, educate and advocate.

“If there is a historic building that people want to tear down, we step in and speak for the community,” Szcodronski said.

Attendees met the ghost of E. Carrington Smith, played by David Klionsky, at the second stop in the tour. During his life, Carrington was the manager of a theater program at Chapel Hill during the era of racial integration.

The complexity of Carrington’s life was conveyed by his monologue.

“I was a businessman! Was I supposed to lose my business just because of a principle?” Klionsky said, playing Smith.

The tour included the ghosts of Alma Holland Beers, Charles Kuralt and Louis Round Wilson among others. The speeches from each ghost taught the attendees about their life story and brought up topics that still affect the community today, such as equal pay for women, race relations and funding for the liberal arts.

Lalanda Floyd, who also took the haunted tour, said the inclusion of the topics was thought-provoking.

“Whenever I see something about racism, I think about the time period that it was in — the context,” she said.

Preserving the memory of the people of Chapel Hill, the legacy they leave behind at the University and the community, is no easy task. It takes volunteers, like tour guide Jessica Rayman, who are willing to do the not-so-glamorous work of hosting a late-night ghost tour in the rain.

“People do not always think of a cemetery when they think of Chapel Hill history,” said Rayman, a UNC graduate student.

Voices from the Grave is an event dedicated to the history of Chapel Hill. And Charles Kuralt, who was brought to life by actor John Paul Middlesworth, spoke about the love people have for Chapel Hill.

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other?” said Middlesworth, reciting a Kuralt quote.

“It is not the well, or the bell, or the stone walls or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming. No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is as it was meant to be, the University of the people.”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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