Is Hancock Shaker Village haunted?

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PITTSFIELD — Hancock Shaker Village wants to scare you.

In October, the living history museum will offer three more "Haunted Hancock" tours of its campus, educating visitors about the spirited religious group's relationship to the supernatural while guests traverse the grounds in the dark. Attendees will spend the most time in the 1830 Brick Dwelling, where the specter of the "woman in black" is rumored to loom.

"I hope that our guests feel like they see the ghost," said Jessy McMahon, Hancock Shaker Village special events/community engagement associate.

McMahon, one of the guides, can fathom a similar sensation. She and a co-worker were once locking up the 1878 Poultry House after a wedding when they perceived the presence of another being.

"It felt like someone was staring at you," she recalled.

They both quickly exited the premises, but when a technician installed an already-planned security system in the building shortly thereafter, another layer of intrigue was added: Video appeared to capture ghostly orbs.

McMahon isn't a total believer.

"I'm not 100 percent sure there is a ghost or not," she said.

But she doesn't hesitate to encourage those who are convinced of paranormal activity. She led similar tours while working for Plimoth Plantation and The Mark Twain House & Museum. When she came to Hancock Shaker Village more than four years ago, she realized the museum and its surroundings had qualities conducive to a haunting experience: nearly two decades of life and death at the site, a religious affiliation and even an underground aqueduct, which she said has clairvoyant connections, too.

"The Village just screamed at me that [it would be] the most perfect place to do a ghost tour," she said.

This year, after several summer editions that began later in the night, the Haunted Hancock tours on Oct. 6, 20 and 27 (a wedding took priority over the Friday the 13th event) will start at 6 p.m. McMahon or another guide will lead a maximum of 20 visitors at a time through the garden as it darkens outside. The guide will run through a quick history of the Shakers before moving into the Brick Dwelling and a more common form of October narrative.

"Mainly, we just tell ghost stories," she said, noting that the 90-minute tours are unscripted.

McMahon hopes people will take photographs and bring nondestructive ghost-hunting equipment, searching for specters. Even those who are skeptical about ghosts may surprise themselves, McMahon said.

"I've certainly had unexplained experiences that make you stop and pause," she reflected.

And for those who are true doubters?

"Then," she said, "it's just fun."

If you go ...

What: Haunted Hancock

When: Oct. 6, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

Where: Hancock Shaker Village, 1843 W. Housatonic St., Pittsfield

Tickets: $27 for members; $30 for nonmembers (includes admission to the museum that day)

Information: The tour is not recommended for guests aged 12 and under, and the museum encourages reservations in advance. hancockshakervillage.org; 413-443-0188; 800-817-1137.


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