The Ghosts of Searles Castle and the Whiting House

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Thumps behind walls. Voices from the ceiling. Sudden breezes and dancing lights. Ghosts evidence themselves in many ways.

Three Great Barrington residents, Judith Stavisky, David Rutstein and Francis X. Mackoul, will relate their personal ghostly encounters in two historic buildings -- The Whiting House and Searles Castle -- in a talk at the Great Barrington Historical Society’s May annual meeting Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at the Claire Teague Senior Center at 7 p.m. The public is invited. Refreshments will be served.

The Whiting House originally stood on Main Street where the Sumner Block is today. It was moved in 1839 to the corner of School and Bridge Streets and in 1963 to its present site on Maple Avenue. The ghost came along. Stavisky’s late husband, Arthur, had his law office in the building for many years. Today it is home to Shopper’s Guide.

Searles Castle, built of blue dolomite mined nearby -- never moved. Completed in 1887, it was home to Mary Hopkins, widow of railroad magnate Mark Hopkins. She called it Kellogg Terrace. She left the property to her second husband, interior decorator Edward F. Searles, and when he died in 1920, the estate went into other hands. Frank Mackoul was a caretaker at Searles Castle for a number of years, when it was owned by Home Insurance. Mr. Rutstein gave tours in the building when it was owned by a private developer in the 1980s. Since 1984, it has been home to John Dewey Academy.

Also on the agenda is election of officers and directors for the coming year. To learn more about the society, visit
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