A pre-Halloween event in Falmouth called ‘A Night with the Watchman’ presents local history with a lighthearted twist. It’s held at the Dr. Francis Wicks House, built in 1790 and acquired by the Falmouth Historical Society in 1930.
“It’s a sneaky way of getting historic education about the town out,” said Tamsen George, President of the Falmouth Historical Society. “In the parlor we will have the poisoner who was from Cataumet who poisoned 32 people and was captured in 1941. And she’ll talk about it.”
Prior to the event, which attracts a few hundred people each year, local volunteer actors rehearse scripted scenes they’ll act out in different rooms of the house. The scenes are fictional, but they’re derived from real people and events in Falmouth history. Each is presented with tongue-in-cheek humor, like a scene in the doctor’s office dealing with smallpox inoculation.
“And we will say ‘Well, the modern innovation is to use an inoculation with cow pox.’ And the patient is very alarmed, because she thinks if she’s inoculated with cow pox, she might grow horns and have an udder. So she doesn’t want to have anything to do with that,” said George.
In fact, Dr. Donaldson, who worked with Dr. Wicks, did bring the concept of inoculating with cow pox, which was safer and still offered patients immunity from smallpox.
The scenes and stories aim to portray the realities and quirkiness of life in early Falmouth.
“One of our other scenes this year has to do with Davis Furniture Store, that was on the site of Barbo’s,” George said. “They sold furniture, but they also ran an undertaking service. And they would sell you a coffin, and they would rent you a hearse if you needed that, too.”
Another reenactment tells the tale of Falmouth’s shortest honeymoon on record, involving one of the town’s whaling captains.
“The sea captain had made arrangements to marry a young woman in town. The captain came ashore in Quissett, gets in a carriage, hustles up here and marries his bride, takes her in the carriage and drives her halfway around the green, and says ‘Goodbye, sweetie, I gotta make the tide.’ And he runs back to Quissett, gets rowed out to his ship and continues his voyage to Europe,” said George.
Every year, George and her fellow organizers try to come up with new touches to enhance the experience for visitors.
“We put a widow up on the widow’s walk, and we have a fan so she blows, you know, scarves blowing in the wind,” said George, pointing to the roof of the house.
'Night with a Watchman' offers a variation on the standard ghosts-and-goblins Halloween haunted house theme. The Wicks house may or may not be haunted, but the experience is still mildly frightening, entertaining and enlightening.