I had a sixth sense about it. There was just something in the air. Negativity didn’t stand a ghost of a chance. At this time, Halloween was just over a week away and I think everyone was secretly hoping nothing would jump out and grab them during their overnight stay at the Hotel Jeffery in Coulterville, California. They had gathered together for an event that we called "Digital (Ghost) Storytelling at the Haunted Hotel."
The weather was perfect. Over twenty educators from northern California met at the Hotel Jeffery late on Saturday afternoon. After finding their assigned hotel rooms, we had a Meet-and-Greet in the large, beamed conference room where many of us would be working late into the night. We were fortunate to have a special guest with us for the weekend. Mark Jeffery, one of our most active northern California STAR Discovery Educators is also a "Jeffery" of the original "Hotel Jeffery" family! He spoke to our group briefly about the family history of the hotel and the family’s time in the town of Coulterville.
Our educators continued their conversations with each other. They were a chatty group… maybe it was nervous talking. When Cherylann Schimmelfennig arrived though, a silence fell over the crowd. As she took us on a tour of the three story hotel, she began to share stories of the many eerie incidents that had occured over the past three years that she and husband Peter have been the owners. Could it be possible that there really were 17 ghosts haunting this hotel? Would they make themselves known to us during the night? Cherylann assured us that these 17 documented entities were of the friendly type. Still, eyes seemed wide and we made sure to stick close together!
After our tour of the hotel, I instructed our educators to gather their jackets and flashlights and head across the street to the Northern Mariposa County Historical Center. I was surprised that no one asked why they would need flashlights to visit a well-lit museum! If they were curious, it all became clear as the museum docent took us out into the, now dark, town of Coulterville. There aren’t many street lights along Main Street. We walked up the street, stopping occasionally to hear the history of some of the buildings. As we headed further and further from the main part of town, the whispering began, "Where are we going?" "Are we going to the cemetery?" Oh, you bet we were! This was the end of the road!
Evidently, fear makes you hungry. After a quiet and cautious walk around the cemetery grounds, we high-tailed it back to the hotel for a multi-course gourmet meal. Yet again, it was all about the food.
By the time that we had finished dinner (and dessert!) it was way past my bedtime. But, it was also time to get serious about why we had gathered together… digital storytelling. We reconvened in our conference room and after a couple of brief tutorials, each educator set to work on creating a digital story about a famous figure from history. All assignments needed to be completed by 9AM on Sunday morning when everyone would share their new resource.
My last DEN member finally went to bed at 3AM. (I guess that is what I get for having fabulous, dedicated and talented educators!) Sunday morning came all too soon. We had a hearty breakfast and then shared our projects. While no one reported any ghostly encounters that night, I got to see the spirit of the Discovery Educator Network live and in action.
Thanks everyone for a wonderful weekend!