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Living History Cemetery Tour
10/2/2018 3:55:35 PM
Cemetery Tours


It’s no secret that the Lake Area loves to get their Halloween on. This year, there’s something new and exciting that is sure to attract the crowds!

On October 26, from 5 - 8:30 p.m., you can take guided walking tours through five Lake Charles cemeteries featured in a "Living History” Cemetery Tour. Here, you will hear stories of local historical figures while visiting their gravesites. 

"Event goers will be able to ‘meet’ 17 legendary figures on this tour,” says Matt Young, Public Information Officer for the City of Lake Charles. "Larger-than-life characters such as historian Maude Reid, Professor J.E.L. Hoskins, Hollywood actor Juan Pla, and infamous murderess Toni Jo Henry will tell their life stories and their famed feats from their own perspectives.”

This event was conceived in a unique way. "Like many good ideas, this one took flight at a happy hour after work one day,” Young explains. "Erica McCreedy and I wanted to spotlight some of our historic cemeteries in Lake Charles. Sites like Bilbo Cemetery on the lakefront have such a unique and rich history, but are in many ways neglected because those buried there were laid to rest so many years ago and have no close living relatives left to maintain them.”

Young said they wanted to showcase the properties to get people interested in cleaning them up. "We also thought it’d be a fun way to learn about what Lake Charles was like 150 years ago,” he continues. "Most of us drive down Ryan Street every day with no knowledge of the man whom the street was named for. We want to tell John Jacob Ryan, Jr.’s story from his final resting place in Bilbo.” 

The event is entirely volunteer-driven. "Twenty-five people showed up for the first interest meeting,” Young says. "A few months later, nearly 75 people are helping. Local historian Trent Gremillion helped assemble most of the research. Seven people are writing the scripts, including Robert Barfield, Sally Brockman, Laura Heller, Michelle Jordan, Erica McCreedy, Lauren Morris, Cornell Thomas, and myself. They’re having a lot of fun with it, too! Dr. Janet Allured, a professor at McNeese, is helping proof all of the scripts and ensuring they’re historically accurate. As far as actors go, you can expect to see quite a few familiar faces. Mayor Nic Hunter has also agreed to play a part.” 

Featured cemeteries include Bilbo Cemetery, located on Lakeshore Drive; Goos Cemetery and Huff and Thomas Cemetery, located on N. Shattuck Street near Goos Boulevard; Orange Grove and Graceland Cemeteries, located on Broad Street; and Catholic Cemetery, located on Common and Iris Streets.

"This is going to be an entertaining and educational event – not spooky,” Young explains. "After arriving at each cemetery, attendees will be guided by "caretakers” from one reenactor’s headstone to the next. Between three and four individuals are spotlighted at each cemetery. And, you have the freedom to drive from cemetery to cemetery and enjoy the event at your own pace.

Young isn’t certain if this will become an annual event. "Let’s see how ticket sales go the first year,” he says.  "I think we’d all love to see it come back for a second edition. I couldn’t ask for a better group of volunteers, writers, actors, planners, tour guides, and costume makers. Many of them are already talking about which characters and cemeteries they’d like to see added next year.” 

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at www.cemeterytourlc.eventbrite.com or at the Arts Council office at Central School. Proceeds benefit the Arts Council of SWLA.

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