As Halloween approaches, you might be looking for something different to do that will keep the evil spirits at bay, yet still give a spooky feel to the air around you.

If that’s the case, make a visit to Historic Rugby, only a couple of hours away from Maryville on the Cumberland Plateau.

The Victorian village, founded in 1880 by British author and social reformer Thomas Hughes, is steeped in history, and it’s only fitting that the history of customs surrounding death rituals is explored during October in a special exhibit, “Rugby Edged in Black.” I would say that history comes alive, but that would be an odd way to describe death rituals, wouldn’t it?

Seriously, it’s macabre enough to be a good Halloween getaway, yet still not one of those things that will open doors that need to stay shut. According to a press release, “’Rugby Edged in Black’ will examine the death and mourning customs of the Victorian era through the death of Margaret Hughes on October 5, 1887. Hear funeral hymns and Appalachian dirges while residents mourn her passing. Learn how death affected the Victorians and how their customs still move us today by walking through Kingstone Lisle as it would have looked at her death 130 years ago.” The release goes on to say that questions will be answered, such as “Why was black-edged stationery required? How did this start? How were funerals handled?” One of the displays will have a casket — but no explanation on whether it’s inhabited or not!

In explanation, Margaret Hughes is the mother of founder Thomas Hughes, and Kingstone Lisle was his home in Rugby — one of the buildings that has been restored as it would have been when Rugby was in its heyday.

“Rugby Edged in Black” is open to the public each Thursday through Monday throughout October. There is no extra charge beyond standard tour fees, which are $7 for adults, $6 for seniors (60 or above), $4 for students K-12 and preschoolers free. The guided walking tour, according to the website begins at the Rugby Visitor Centre & Theatre, where visitors can view a 22-minute showing of the award-winning Rugby history film, “The Power of a Dream,” before touring the 1882 Thomas Hughes Free Public Library, 1884 Kingstone Lisle, 1887 Christ Church Episcopal and 1907 Schoolhouse Exhibits.

In conjunction with the observance, the custom of after-death photography will be explored Oct. 12 at 1 and 3 p.m., when Historic Rugby hosts a talk about the history and identification of post mortem and funeral photography. Megan Atkinson, special collections archivist for Tennessee Tech University, will present examples of funeral photographs that she has encountered. She encourages guests to bring their own examples. Because of the nature of this lecture, mature audience members age 12 and older will be admitted. Tickets are $10 and available online at or by calling 423-628-2441.

In addition, Historic Rugby’s “Ghostly Gathering” will be held on Oct. 19 and 26. The annual Halloween-season event features a chili supper, tours of historic buildings featuring the new Rugby Draped in Black exhibits, plus storytellers sharing more spooky stories around a bonfire with hot cider. Admission is $25 for adults and $15 for students. For more information, call Loretta Davis at 423-628-2441 or email For online tickets, you can go to

Historic Rugby has several choices for lodging if you’d like to spend a night or two and get the full flavor of the village. Visit the website for information and availability. Another option for lodging is Grey Gables Bed and Breakfast just outside the village. Learn more about it at

Historic Rugby is nationally recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is operated by Historic Rugby, a nonprofit membership organization working since 1966 to preserve and interpret the village for the public. For more information, visit the website.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at

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