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The ghosts of history

Immersive walking tours showcase some old and some new characters

Special to The Sun
New walking tour characters include Laura Dishong (above) as Elizabeth Coles, a Quaker abolitionist and classical harpist.

This year’s Moorestown Ghosts and History Immersive walking tours hosted by the township’s historical society will be held every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through the end of the month.

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Attendees should dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes and bring a flashlight for their group. The historical society advises residents to arrive 30 minutes early to purchase tickets to hear colonial music and enjoy refreshments on the back patio.

The walking tours begin and end at Smith-Cadbury Mansion.

“When I started three years ago, I participated in the tours as a group leader, and I was thinking, ‘We’re selling ourselves short, because we’re telling great ghost stories but we’re failing to share the history of Moorestown, and the history of the west Jersey colony,’” said Gary Ell, trustee of the historical society.

“A lot of the history is unknown and it’s a vibrant history and it’s something that we have an opportunity and a duty to do as historians and a historical society, to offer some sort of outreach program to the community that can help tell the stories of the vibrant lives that these souls had lived.”

Tour participants will learn about the township’s history through character sketches, with a few spooky stories mixed in. According to the historical society’s website, this year’s tour is an interactive living history program with local history figures such as Alice Paul and the Women’s Rights Activists; John Woolman and the abolitionists; Edna Woolman Chase, a feminist who would become editor of Vogue magazine; Edward Harris; the Marquis de Lafayette; Thomas and Benjamin Moore, two brothers who will tell a brief story about themselves and discuss the naming of Moorestown; Elizabeth Coles, the quick-witted girl who outran British Dragoons during the American Revolution; and Walter French, a famous Moorestown baseball player who would go to the big leagues in the 1930s with the Philadelphia Athletics.

“Instead of just sitting there and telling the stories, we thought it would be better to do little character skits from the actual people who lived from that period of time,” Ell explained. “ … I know that I cannot just lecture for 45 minutes about John Woolman, because it’s going to glaze over all the participants’ eyes, and you can’t read a book because you’re not going to retain that knowledge.

“I think that the best way for the folks to enjoy the experience and leave the experience learning something is through skits and performances by the actual subject matter.”

Actors include Laura Dishong as Coles, who was also a classical harpist; Mark Dishong as the Quaker operatic baritone David Bispham; and Mike Robinson as French, who returns to prepare for the World Series.

Tickets must be purchased at the door and are $15 for adults, $12 for historical society members and senior citizens and $10 for students. Children 6 and under are free. Remaining dates are Saturday, Oct. 14; Friday, Oct. 20; Saturday, Oct. 21; Friday, 27; and Saturday, Oct. 28.

“We try to make it historically centric and fun for all families,” Ell noted. “ … You’re going to experience music, you’re going to experience culture by performance and you’re going to get a history lesson. You’re going to learn a little bit about science, architecture, art – there’s so many different things …

“You dig music, come out. You dig history, come out. You dig scary stuff, come out.”

For more information on the Historical Society of Moorestown, visit https://moorestownhistory.org.


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