Stephanie Carsten gets into the Halloween spirit in a more literal sense than most.
For more than a decade, Carsten has been among the dozen or so actors to outfit herself in 1800s attire from Antique Costumes and Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson to portray area figures for the Three Village Society’s Spirits Tour.
The historical haunt leads guests on a guided tour of the Caroline and Setauket Presbyterian Church cemeteries with a different script and theme each year. The 22nd annual tour takes place Saturday, Oct. 22, with a focus on the Setauket portrait painter William Sidney Mount.
“I try to pick a theme we haven’t done before and then figure out who the actors are going to be and how many are buried there,” says Frank Turano, co-chair of the tour and society trustee, who wrote the script for the 14-member cast.
A PAINTERLY PAST
Mount was born and died in Setauket and is best known for his genre paintings. The William Sidney Mount House, where he spent most of his life, includes a third-floor studio. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
“I hope that people take away an understanding of the bucolic nature of Long Island during Mount’s lifetime,” says Turano, a Setauket resident. “Also, to have some idea of the complexity of his world, because he had one foot in New York and one foot in Setauket and Stony Brook.”
ALONG THE TOUR
The Caroline and Setauket Presbyterian Church cemeteries serve as the stages in the tour as it generally includes stops at the grave sites of each of the period actors.
“What I love about it is that you learn so much about history, and it’s useful because it’s history from Long Island,” says Carsten, 45, of Huntington. “When you experience it, it stays with you longer and you learn the little intricacies about the people and about their lives.”
Over the years, Carsten has portrayed a spirit whose grave was lost, one who traveled on her ship captain’s boat and died of consumption, and a woman who walked around with a shotgun to keep everyone in line.
“What I like is that other people, when they come and see you performing, it makes it real for you and the audience,” Carsten says. “Some of them are funny and some of them are sad. But you really learn the range of these people. It’s really special.”
This year, she is reprising her role as Maria Smith Williamson, whose son Jedediah was run over by a horse-drawn cart. Williamson lived from 1800 to 1872.
The tour is meant to be informative and entertaining.
Carsten says she hopes visitors get the same thing out of the tour that she does.
“You’re not just learning about some person from the distant past, you learn from them about what it was like to live then and why they did what they did,” Carsten says. “It ties us to our past.”