Silent Halloween at the Indiana Landmarks Center (2016)

I continued the Halloween tradition of celebrating the festivities at the Indiana Landmarks Center. For the past several years, the center has shown silent films accompanied by an organist in their renovated 19th century Methodist church.

The night consisted of organ music, audience-participation activities, a costume contest, a raffle, and films—a silent film short and the feature presentation.

Mark Herman returned again this year from Pasadena to provide the organ music for the films as well as music for other evening activities. He clearly enjoys his role at Silent Halloween and the audience loves him, reciprocating with standing ovations.

Sammy Terry, the iconic horror film host in Central Indiana, also returned this year to emcee the event. Sammy Terry is also beloved by many in the audience who grew up with him—Sammy Terry is the longest running TV horror film host. Robert Carter started introducing horror films on TV as Sammy Terry in 1962; his son Mark took over the role in 2010.

Before showing the night’s silent films, Sammy Terry entertained the crowd with typical Sammy Terry activities. He picked volunteers from the audience to come on stage and answer trivia questions about Indiana. Which was the first city in the world to be completely electrified? (Wabash) Where was baseball invented? (Fort Wayne) (I realized that some of the answers I knew, I knew from watching the state bicentennial documentary Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana!)

As another activity, Sammy Terry picked volunteers from the audience to attempt to provide the most blood-curdling scream. Several of those screamers were quite impressive.

The short silent film of the evening was Laurel and Hardy’s Habeas Corpus (1928). A rich doctor, who is slightly off of his rocker, hires the goofball pair. Their task? Steal a body from a gravesite for the doctor to use in his experiments. (Not an uncommon thing in the late 1800s. I thought back to a recent story I heard about Benjamin Harrison’s father unexpectedly being discovered in the Ohio Medical College when the authorities were looking for a different body that was snatched from an adjoining grave.)

The feature film of the evening was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), starring John Barrymore. Barrymore gained praise for his performance as the two main characters. And I could see why. The story is a well-known tale by Robert Louis Stevenson that explores man’s dark side. Dr. Jekyll, an upstanding young doctor who selflessly devotes himself to helping the poor, is corrupted by his father-in-law to-be who cannot fathom how a man could be as good as Dr. Jekyll. Once unleashed, Dr. Jekyll’s dark side cannot be contained but takes over and destroys not only himself but in a twist of justice, the father-in-law to-be who caused Dr. Jekyll’s downfall.

The night was a great way to kick off the long Halloween weekend. In a delightful twist of fate, I found myself sitting next to the same couple that I did last year (!) and making the acquaintance of the fabled daughter I heard about the previous year.

I was surprised this year that the event did not sell out—there appeared to be seats still available. I was then surprised a second time when people started leaving in the middle of the feature film. Perhaps these were no movie buffs or silent film aficionados? Perhaps they only attended to see (and get pictures with) Sammy Terry? Perhaps they are early birds rather than night owls. It was perplexing?

In any event, I’ll be back next year. I am curious which silent films they will show in 2017…


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