Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A Halloween to Remember
Alicia “Lettie” Conrad never let adversity get the better of her. Kalispell’s beautiful Conrad Mansion is now a museum, but back in October 1910, Lettie nearly lost her home to a disastrous fire. The entire town turned out to fight the blaze. Despite scorched walls and water damage, the house and its contents survived. Lettie devised a way to thank those who helped fight the fire. She planned a spectacular Halloween party and invited the entire town. Soggy fallen plaster, piled furniture, and a gaping hole in roof became the setting for Dante’s Inferno. Five hundred guests made their way to “hell” in the basement by way of a circular stairway built in the elevator shaft. Clammy wet canvas hung over the doorways, strings hung down along the dark path like cobwebs. On the first floor, Spanish moss dripped over the balcony and on the chandeliers. Dozens of lifelike cardboard and silk bats hung on invisible silken thread; fans kept the bats flying. The second story was purgatory, where a mass of wet, slick plaster covered the floors and mounds of it shaped like volcanoes covered the soggy beds. Special lighting simulating flames shot out of the craters. The third floor was paradise. Piled-up furniture covered in fresh flowers served as pathways; their sweet scent covered the acrid smell of smoke. After the tour, the guests gathered in the great hall. Just before the orchestra tuned up for the dancing, Lettie thanked all those who helped save her home. The dancing commenced and there was food and music until dawn. There will never be another Halloween party like it.