Arts & Entertainment

A Frightening Affair

Conrad Mansion Museum to host Ghost Tours and first adults-only Halloween party fundraiser

Dracula prowls the grounds of the Conrad Mansion Museum, making room for his darkness among all the ghosts.

He sets his sights on unsuspecting visitors with his fangs bared, and sneaks up behind them on silent feet.

Then he stretches on the sidewalk, flopping his body onto the cement, and purrs as the visitor rubs his black-cat belly.

Dracula, or Drac as the mansion staff calls him, is named for his protruding teeth that look like bared fangs, but as far as feline friends go, he’s one of the friendliest around. It’s the same with the ghosts in this historic place, where the Conrad family spent its happiest years and enjoyed themselves and one another. The specters they left behind are the subject of the mansion’s upcoming and popular Ghost Tours, taking place Oct. 19 and 20.

The tours were already about 75 percent full as of last week, Brit Clark, assistant director at the museum, said; people began reserving their tickets in August. The tours sell out every year. There are 16 people per tour, and the mansion asks that no children under 10 come on the tours. The tours start at 7 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 9:15 p.m. and take about an hour. Tickets are $20.

Unlike the normal tours of the mansion, which end on Oct. 14, the Ghost Tours occur in full darkness in the mansion, with only the electric candles held by the tourists and the guide to light the way.

Guides speak about the building’s history, and it’s an easy place to let your imagination loose and wonder about the supernatural; surely, if there were ghosts hanging about, a 123-year-old mansion seems like the place they’d be.

A black cat named ‘Drac’, short for Dracula, surveys the grounds at the Conrad Mansion on Oct. 4, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The Conrad Mansion was completed in 1895, and the 13,000-square-foot home has held court on Kalispell’s Woodland Avenue ever since. Charles E. Conrad — considered one of Kalispell’s founding fathers — and his family were known for their epic holiday parties, especially during Halloween.

“The Conrads loved Halloween,” Clark said.

One of the most famous parties was rumored to have three themed sections: the basement was Hell, the ground floor was Earth, and the upper floor was Heaven.

The home took on a spookier reputation as the Conrads passed on and time took its toll. By the 1970s, the mansion had fallen into disrepair, with boarded up windows and an air of mystery that the youths couldn’t resist.

Now back in prime condition thanks to decades of work with the mansion staff, the Conrad family, and the city of Kalispell, the mansion is ready to host Halloween once more.

This year, the Conrad Mansion Museum will host its first Halloween fundraiser with “A Frightening Affair,” an adults-only costume party on Oct. 27.

It’s a traditional Halloween party, Clark said, not necessarily a boozy barnburner. Attendees can wear any kind of costume they want, there isn’t a set theme. But there will be prizes for costumes in six categories, music, dancing, appetizers from Vista Linda Catering, beer from Bias Brewing, and photo shoots available through Tiffany Crystal Photography.

The party won’t reach original Conrad standards and will only encompass the first floor, Clark said, but that should be plenty of space, given that there is a limited number of tickets. Each ticket costs $60.

The Conrad Mansion will also be accepting trick-or-treaters this year, starting at about 5 p.m. Bring your littlest ghouls and goblins to the front porch door and ring the bell, and enjoy the ambiance of the mansion grounds.

Clark said that once Halloween passes, the museum staff begins transitioning the mansion for the Christmas season. There are plans to have a New Year’s Eve party this year, too.

Though guests aren’t required to wear costumes from the Conrad’s era, Clark said hosting a Halloween party in the home brings the museum closer to its goal of representing the true history of this place.

“We are trying to do more era-appropriate events,” she said.

For more information on the Ghost Tours, visit www.conradmansion.com or call 406-755-2166.

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