History buffs breathe new life into ghosts | ParkRecord.com

History buffs breathe new life into ghosts

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Ghosts will return to their old stomping grounds in the Park City Museum Dungeon this Friday to explain their storied pasts.

Sam Billings, former Summit County Deputy Sheriff of the 1930s, will explain how he charged $10 for speeding and $2 for running a stop sign, and paired up with The Park Record newspaper to publish reports on traffic violators.

Rachel "Mother" Urban will proudly recall her times as the manager of a bordello, and the fines she paid for running "a house of ill repute."

City Judge and Cook Clara Shea will share the moment she shared tea with a traveler who received a speeding ticket.

Like the annual Halloween event at Glenwood Cemetery, the Park City Historical Society and Museum has cast actors to play in for "Meet the Ghosts of Park City’s Past." Gail Climer will play Mother Urban, Lannie Scopes will play Sheriff Sam Billings and Barbara Martz will play Clara Shea.

According to Johanna Fassbender, the museum’s curator of education, museums across the country have been adding more live theater to engage the public with history. It was a point emphasized at the American Association of Museum’s Museum Expo in Chicago this year, she says. The museum’s staff attended the convention mid-May.

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Re-enacting historical characters and events is a more interactive way to learn, and allows people to relate to the characters as human beings, she explains.

Much of the quirky information incorporated into scripts has come from newspaper archives.

In fact, Martz says she’s looking forward to doing additional researching more through the Utah Digital Newspapers Web site to get into the character of Park City Judge Clara Shea.

Over the last five years, Martz has portrayed several characters at Glenwood for Halloween, including Harriet Truscott, a Park City Woman who lit herself on fire.

History is her passion, she says, and within a year she hopes to finish a screenplay based on the true story of a Park City resident who was killed by police officers for stealing strawberries from a cart. Martz’s script, "Stealing Strawberries," was accepted into a year-long workshop with the Salt Lake Film Society.

"Dramatizing history, really breathes life into it," she says. "There really was a past in Park City and people that lived here and died here, had good times and suffered. They were just people like us, but they were here long ago and had different challenges."

All of the characters were chosen because of their involvement with the museum’s building, which at the turn of the century and through the 1930s served as Park City’s city hall. The building housed a fire station, a courtroom and a prison female prisoners on the second floor, and male prisoners on the first floor.

Several prisoners escaped, including three accomplices Frank Carroll, Jerry Murphy and Pat Conway.

For the event, sixth-grader Cozy Huggins, and a self-described history buff, will portray Murphy.

"I’m playing Jerry Murphy who escaped from jail by himself and kept getting caught," she explains. "I play a drunken person, so I stumble a lot."

Huggins says she’s never seen a real ghost. The closest she’s come was last year when she was acting in a play at the Egyptian Theatre.

"The lights turned off in the girls’ bathroom and it was pretty creepy," she remembers. "We all thought it was Edwina, the ghost that haunts the theatre."

As far as real ghosts lurking in the museum goes, Courtney Chochley, project coordinator for the museum says as recently a year ago, people have spotted spirits. The weekend before the fourth of July, three people called in to report that they had developed photographs with orbs indicating that they had captured the ghosts on film, she says.

"Meet the Ghosts of Park City’s Past" will begin at 6 p.m. and conclude at 8 p.m. at the Park City History Museum located at 528 Main Street. Refreshments will be included. The event is free and open to the public.