Night of the Local Historians

In Lifestyle by Reporter News

Even a small town such as Friendswood has its fair share of ghosts. Oh yes, it does, and last week I had the rare opportunity to interview a few of them.

Last Thursday and Saturday, the Friendswood Historical Society hosted the fourth annual Historween. The name and concept of Historween is, as far as I can tell, completely unique to the Friendswood Historical society. The night promised to be filled with all sorts of spooky fun I couldn’t miss. So at 6:30 before the sky went from bright blue to pitch black, I jumped into the car and headed over to the old Junior High (which most kids had always known as a scary place).

At the front gate one of the lead organizers in Historween, Councilman Steve Rockey, gave me a warm greeting. He later kept vigilant watch over the festivities from his motorcycle, zooming from venue to venue. It takes over 60 volunteers to run Historween, including many students from the high school.

“Friendswood has a very unique history, especially when compared to the surrounding area,” Rockey told me. “It’s the only town in Texas founded by Quakers. People seem to really care about the history here. Historween is all about giving them some history in a fun and entertaining way.”

In the course of two days, with over a hundred visitors a night, Historween raised over $3,000 dollars. All proceeds are donated directly to the High School. This year 22 local businesses also helped make the it the Historical Society’s biggest event of the year.

My first stop was the Haunted House in the 70-year-old former Junior High, where I encountered all manner of lunatics. So not much had changed since I had graduated. Between the smoke, masks and flares, the high school kids did a good job scaring the living daylights out of visitors. Right outside the exit of the house the drumline, led by Jason Vorhees of Friday the 13th fame, entranced guests with a macabre performance.

The second stop was the library, where a campfire and benches were set up. This was my favorite part of the experience because, call me old school, there is something so primitive, but also right about sitting around an open flame listening to ghost stories. The storyteller was reading a passage from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a book I can hear anytime. The story was mimed by an actor, whose subtle performance and creepy costume only enhanced the chilling tale.

We made our way to the front of the Perry History Museum where members of the High School and the Friendswood Purple Box Theater reenacted Friendswood’s first recorded murder. I don’t want to give too much away, all I can say is: Range Wars. It was over a hundred years later that Friendswood would have another murder.

Finally, we made our way to the main event; a guided tour through the Friends Church Cemetery. Here, standing at the foot of certain tombstones, actors would tell tales as their deceased person. As described by Rockey, many of the stories are not dark, but mostly strange human-interest stories. For example, a knife-wielding butcher turned out to be Friendswood’s first grocer, Jim Baker. Three husbands with their graves set right next to each other, squabbled over which one the wife would choose to be buried nearest to. All the stories are factual and were researched meticulously by official Friendswood historian, Joycina Baker, who also wrote all of the scripts. Before the event, the historical society placed flowers at all the reenacted men and women’s graves to pay their respects to the dead.

When we finished the tour, we were handed a bag of candy and a hayride wagon brought us around the Junior High and back to the entrance. It seemed that everyone involved, no matter what age, had a lot of fun. Historween was a celebration of creativity, community and yes, learning. If you’re looking for a safe way to celebrate your favorite town haunts flavored with a little local history and mingle with some pretty remarkable ghosts, I honestly can’t think of a better experience than Friendswood’s Historween.

For more information of Historween please contact the Friendswood Historical Society at 281-482-7930

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