The latst in our series of guest posts comes from Natalie Wallace, Education Officer at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, who explains the secrets behind the success of their Museums at Night event last year.
14th May 2010 was the first time that the public could make an evening visit to Knebworth House, home of the Lytton family for over 500 years and one of Hertfordshire’s most famous haunted historic houses. We decided to embrace the night-time setting!
Our evening drew on a ghost tour we already offered, which gives our visitors the chance to hear the stories of unexplained events that are found throughout Knebworth’s history while visiting the scene. Grisly tales, such as that of Jenny Spinner, who is said to have been incarcerated behind a wall in a wing of the house, are always popular. But this time, we were able to add to the atmosphere by dimming the lights for an extra spooky effect!
We highlighted how this affected the literary offerings of Knebworth, with our Victorian novelist Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton’s supernatural story ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’ offered at a special discounted price in our gift shop.
We also used the context of night as an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the species of bats found around our estate. This part of our evening was supported by the Herts & Middlesex Bat Society, who led our bat walk and demonstrated some of the furry creatures.
Our Ghost Tour and Bat Walk evening also included a tasty supper and was a sell-out, with 75 adults attending. Part of our success, we believe, was adapting an event we already felt confident about, and using experts (our friends at the Bat Society) for an area that was more specialised. Although the late hour and scary content meant that our event wouldn’t have suited everyone, the chance to see the spooky side of a historic house appealed to lots of people. We’ve been able to increase our marketing this year with a listing in our Special Events brochure – so we’re hoping for another great turn-out!