Handcrafted costumes for haunted house add magic

Barbara Hootman

The Terry Estate manor house comes alive soon when it hosts another 1920s party from Halloween’s past.

The annual Historic Haunted House Tour of In-the-Oaks is a party event with some 60 costumed characters, all volunteers. The event, part of Montreat College’s 100th birthday celebration, is Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23 and 24.

The two-hour tours leave on the half hour, starting at 5:30 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 8 p.m. Guests are invited to dress in period costumes.

Peggy Lynn Rozzell orchestrates the costuming, turning community residents into Roaring 20s flappers, tour guides and party-goers galore. She has outfitted a seance madame, a few ghosts from the past and many more characters, male and female, in period costumes.

“Pegg does a fabulous job of costuming more than 60 volunteers for the ghost tour,” Carol Tyson, coordinator of the Historic Haunted House Tour, said. “She makes many trips to Goodwill and other thrift stores throughout the year, looking for hats, scarves, jewelry, costumes and anything that she can alter and make into what she wants. She makes all her hats and headpieces. She has also spent hours studying the 1920s look, for men and women.”

Rozzell said she has as much fun as the characters.

“It is a year-long treasure hunt through Goodwill, Care Partners Thrift Store, Kiwanis Thrift Store, and any place I find something,” she said. “Anything bought becomes a donation to the tour. I piece together tops, collars and skirts to become 1920s formal attire.

“My 91-year-old mother, Betty Rozzell, has been an inspiration to me. She advises me on what people wore and didn’t wear, and how they wore it. She also attends the tour in costume, and enjoys seeing how the characters are dressed.”

Costume jewelry receives the same treatment as hats and dresses. It is taken apart and reassembled into accent pieces for the costumes. An impressive collection of costume jewelry has been amassed to add “bling” to the dresses. Volunteer characters get to choose which costumes they want to wear, as well as the jewelry to accent the costume.

“I always go to the big Dillard’s sale in Asheville and find a lot of treasures there,” Rozzell said. “Our female volunteers love this event because they get to wear beautiful costumes and jewelry. I have a lot of fun all year shopping and assembling dresses and jewelry.

“We’ve had a lot of fur coats and collars donated to us that are decades old. One of my favorite clothing pieces that I found this year was a lamb collar on a bright red jacket. I paid a total of $5 for it. I have been sewing since I was 5 years old, so taking out sleeves, removing a top from one dress and putting it on another one is fun. Carol (Tyson) sews well and helps a lot with the costumes. Many of them were hers, so we started the project with a lot of dresses.”

Tyson writes the script for the theatrical 1920s-themed tour production.

With its colorful history of entertainment, In-the-Oaks, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991, is a natural setting for the annual Historic Haunted House Tour. The house has 67 rooms and has been described as a house meant for good times. Included in the tour are the secret wine cellar and dumbwaiter hidden by a trick panel. Late night card games were often held in the Dutch Room, concealed from the outside world by opaque leaded glass windows. For the tour, the Dutch Room will be in party mode, with costumed characters.

Costumed historic guides will usher guests through the house, making stops in the library to meet characters playing its former owners, Franklin and Lillian Terry. The pool is the setting for a scene of the Terry guests holding a séance. In the dining room, guests will hear stories of the estate’s costumed staff.

There will be a stop for guests in the master bedroom to learn about Martin Luther King’s stay at In-the-Oaks during a Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the Great Hall, guests will enjoy the infamous Camp Henry ghost story.

The tour will end in the chapel, where guests will enjoy hearing the history of Montreat College told through period song and dance. The last tour stop is in the beautiful indoor gymnasium with hors d’oeuvres, live music and Swannanoa Valley Museum exhibits.

The manor house rooms on tour will be lavishly decorated with Halloween decorations under the guidance of Micki Cowan. The tour is coordinated by Cowan and Tyson and Joellen Maurer, the wife of Montreat College’s president. The tour is a major fundraiser for the Swannanoa Valley Museum.

Flappers, dappers, ghosts!

What: Historic Haunted House Tour

When: Oct. 23-24

Where: In-the-Oaks, 510 Vance Ave., Black Mountain

Cost: $45 ($25 for SVM members), 669-9566