A tip of the cape must be given to Scranton’s Everhart Museum, which has assembled an exhibition that will get people of all curiosities back to a place they really should visit.
As a child, I went to the Everhart many times with my grandfather. Since my parents both worked, I spent countless hours with this man, a diminutive and lively guy with a twinkle in his eye and a series of powder blue cars with a tissue box always available near the back windshield. Although he only made it to the eighth grade, his thirst for knowledge and boundless spirit may be the genetic reasons that I enjoy reporting.
He took my brother and me on many fine adventures that are probably not understandable to today’s society. By his modest house in North Scranton, we would walk across a sewer pipe that ran over a creek and bound up the coal heap, our destination in our grasp.
My grandfather loved to go to the dump, which was then located within city limits. It may have been an area where people simply discarded their belongings and not a sanctioned dump, but we loved it and often found stuff there to take home, like 78 recordings and books.
The other crown jewel of our travels was Nay Aug Park and The Everhart Museum. The park was a fascinating place, with its tiny zoo and little amusement rides. The museum’s lure was three-fold: The bees, the mummy and the shrunken head.
The bees have apparently been gone for some time due to a collapse in the colony.
The mummy is in storage, and there is a chance it will be “repatriated” to the museum in the future, which would certainly bring me back, dragging my brother. So, there’s two tickets sold.
The shrunken head, the cause of endless childhood fascination, is no longer on public view. Whether this is based on sensitivity or some questions about its authenticity, I am disappointed. I remember the grimace of the petite woman with dark hair displayed in the center of a small room at the museum and I never turned down a chance to see it. If anyone has a photo, please send it as the museum no longer displays it, mainly because they are tormenting me. Believe me, I’ve asked.
Despite these setbacks, the Everhart has something for everyone in your life, from the creep to the scientist, with their exhibition “The Blood is the Life.” This is a look at vampirism in society, from the creatures with blood lust to the lunatic fringe element of society that did some pretty crazy things, like digging up their loved ones and burning their hearts. There are some exquisite vampire killing kits on display with fancy daggers and little grains in bottles that would stop a vampire in his tracks because they are apparently obsessed with counting. That’s how The Count on Sesame Street was devised. Clever, no?
There is also a photo about the moving story of Dick Smith of Honesdale, a man who came down with a disease that separated him from society called tuberculosis. In those days, tuberculosis removed a man from society, and, in Smith’s case, sent him to the West Side Sanitarium in the godforsaken upper hinterlands of Scranton. Despite the grimness of his surroundings, his sickness and its fatal outcome, he somehow penned the Christmas classic, “Winter Wonderland.” If that’s not making the best of a bad situation, I don’t know what is. Smith was long dead when the song became a perennial hit.
There are paintings done with cow blood, repulsive and fascinating. There are bats of all sorts. There’s the goblet from the goth 1960s soap opera, “Dark Shadows.” There’s a cutout of the guy from “Twilight.”
As part of this exhibition, the Everhart hosted Father Sebastiaan van Houten on Friday, fangsmith and bon vivant of the vampire lifestyle. Since this deserves its own assessment, I’ll save that for next time. If you want to return to the Everhart, “The Blood is the Life” will be there through July with some special guests lecturing about a variety of topics, including vampire folklore. Get out of the house and get your blood flowing. You won’t be sorry.