With Halloween just around the corner, the staff at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago is taking a look at the ghostly side of history.
Visitors to the farm, a living-history museum that re-creates the agricultural life of the 1890s, can learn what people of the period thought of spirits and the afterlife during the "Spooks and Spectres" tour of the farmhouse.
"Spiritualism became prominent at the time because so many people had lost loved ones in the Civil War," Kline Creek volunteer Ruth Anne Mielke said during one of the hourly tours Sunday. "These people were looking for ways to talk to their dead friends and family."
During the tour, Mielke explained the nuts and bolts of daily life as lived in the farmhouse more than 120 years ago. She spoke, for instance, of the routine of the housewife, who would light the wood-burning stove in the kitchen at about 5 a.m. and wouldn't let it go out until 6 p.m. that evening.
"There were five meals produced in the kitchen every day," Mielke said. "It was quite a job."
In keeping with the season, Mielke also talked about how the home's residents might have enjoyed fortunetelling parlor games, including one that involved placing molten lead inside bowls of water. The shapes assumed by the lead were thought to indicate what kind of spouses the players would marry.
Mielke said people of the day started to consult "mediums," who would often trick people by taking photographs of a house or family and then double-exposing them to suggest the presence of spirits.
"It was a hoax, naturally," she said. "We think that many of these mediums were actually very good actresses."
The Spooks and Spectres tour will be offered through Monday, Oct. 29. For more information, go to dupageforest.com.