Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Epistle of the Hudson Family Halloween Haunted House Jam

It started with a Westchester parks reconnaissance mission on an August Sunday when the Riverside Park jam was rained out. I scoured Google maps and photo data then set out by car to visit five candidate parks, one of which was Ward Acres Park, which I'd been enticed to by a single photo of an abandoned-looking house with a covered porch on its border seemingly in the middle of the woods. Upon returning from my research, I reported the following to the group.

8/16/20 -- To: Riverside Park Jam Friends
Hello, friends. Since it rained on our Riverside Park musical plans today, I undertook a research and reconnaissance mission to several Westchester parks that could provide socially distanced outdoor jam venues with overhead shelter protecting us from the elements, hopefully through the fall and even into some of winter if we're lucky.
Based on the wide variety of options I found just on the first try, I imagine that there are tons of covered park structures throughout the NY metro area that we could musically exploit under pandemic circumstances. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
I've posted descriptions and photos of five interesting venues on my blog. For my Westchester pals and the Westchester-friendly, and hopefully to be expanded to more regions upon more recon:

I've created a Google Map to store possible jam venue data and will go about empowering others to add to the map as well:

It was a fun adventure and perhaps will empower us to get some outdoor jamming going in Westchester and beyond. Let's see!!

Best regards,

As the fall progressed and we took advantage of Hudson Park and Lief Eirikson Park, the Ward Acres Park haunted house played on my mind as a golden opportunity. I wondered if Conchi and Uncle John would humor me.

9/10/20 -- To: Madame Kani and Uncle John 
The Ward Acres Haunted House just seems like such a great opportunity for an outlaw bluegrass Halloween jam, including capturing photos and video of our shenanigans. The walk from the front entrance of the park, at its southwest corner, to the house, on the far east side of the park, is a good 5 minutes on mostly flat but sometimes muddy terrain. The house is accessible, however, from a 200-foot paved road running from a back entrance along Pinebrook Road. The back entrance is closed to cars but accessible to pedestrains, so we could stop alongside the road (as I did to get some photos) and drop off people and instruments to take the shorter walk in.
We could do a recon trip there as well if we choose, or maybe even just choose a weekday evening (Monday, 10/26?) date in October as our presumed outlaw Halloween jam date.

A little research revealed only bare bones details about the park's history but suggested I wasn't the only one who thought the Ward Acres Park house was haunted.

10/3/20 -- To: Madame Kani & Uncle John
I found a 2019 article on Ward Acres Park that refers to the crumbling buildings at the front entrance, on the opposite side of the park from our potential destination.
But the article quotes a New Rochelle native (who wants to turn the southern buildings into a line dancing emporium) describing fond memories of "going through the haunted house, an annual event until the early 2000s, when the city deemed the buildings were unsafe" - could this be our haunted house?
Let's continue planning our Mission Impossible Haunted House Halloween jam.

Getting closer to Halloween, I put to Uncle John and Conchi the question of what day and time we could have our Halloween haunted house jam. They both almost immediately replied in favor of midnight on Halloween proper; John said we wasn't even available any other time. Purists - only up for the genuine article.

10/14/20 -- To: Madame Kani & Uncle John
Hello! Looking forward to seeing both of you this evening at Brust Park.
Halloween's coming up, and I wonder what your thoughts are on our haunted house adventure in Ward Acres Park. Here are some options we can consider:
  1. Midnight on 10/31 - The most romantic and arguably authentic option, also the most logistically challenging and possibly most risky. If we choose this option, important questions are how many people we'd like involved and exactly how we will come and go, plus what if any fallback we'll arrange if we're stopped by authorities (fewer options late at night, but there must be some).
  2. Dusk on 10/31 - Still romantic and authentic since it's Halloween proper. This will be logistically easier since our load-in of people and instruments can take place during daylight (sunset is at 5:51pm, and twilight lasts until around 6:30pm on 10/31) if we choose to arrive around 5 or 5:30pm. Possibly, though, being visible as we enter and congregate could end up being riskier than doing the whole thing under cover of night.
  3. Dusk on 10/24 - This is the Saturday before Halloween and therefore, while maybe less romantic, probably less risky. This option also has the possible advantage of permitting 10/26 (Monday) as a rain date in case we don't want to tromp through the mud if it rains Saturday. Probably less scrutiny by authorities on this date, so possibly a good option if we want to include participants who are not already down with the Mission Impossible plan.
  4. Your Option Here - Other options abound - have anything in mind that could be yet better than the above?

More to discuss re. indoor jam dates in November and more, but maybe this is a good item to check in on right now.

Hope you're having a great day! Let's chat about the above one way or another when we can.


"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley." Our detailed Halloween plan in a note to Conchi & John.

10/18/20, 10:55AM -- To: Madame Kani & Uncle John
Hello! How is this for a Halloween plan:
22:55: We drive by the east side of the park on Pinebrook Blvd. to scope out the entrance (confirming its location) and see if any activity is afoot.
23:00: We arrive at the front (southwest side on Broadfield Road) of Ward Acres Park, assess the situation, and assemble the red wagon.
23:05: We dispatch me into the park with the wagon lightly loaded. Uncle John & Mme. Kani drive to the east side when I text/call or at 23:10, whichever comes first.
23:10: Kani & John drive around to the east side entrance on Pinebrook Blvd.
23:15: The HFJmobile pulls over at the Pinebrook Blvd. entrance to make the drop. I'll be lurking in the woods with the wagon and will emerge to load it up with instruments and gear.
23:20: John & Kani pull the wagon into the woods to the house, meanwhile I drive the car back around to the front entrance.
23:25: I arrive at the front entrance; Kani & John prep the site.
23:30: I meet our musical conspirators at the front entrance and escort them into the park.
23:35: We arrive at the house to unite with Kani & John.
23:40: I make my way back (with Kani?) if necessary (hopefully not) to the front of the park on foot to pick up any stragglers.
23:45: We pick up the late arrivals and return into the park on foot.
23:50: We arrive and are ready to begin.
Things we'll need include a car, lanterns (& candles?), food & drink, black cloaks and/or costumes, charged & in-hand phones, cameras, tripod(s), tiki torches, anything else?
The schedule above is intended to give us a sense of what's required in what order and ample time to accomplish each task. Please let me know your thoughts!
Getting excited to think we're actually doing this.

Our Halloween jam invitation.

10/24/20 -- To: Hudson Family Jam Cadre
Bluegrass spirits and rootsy rhythms will waft ethereally through the misty wilds of New Rochelle's Ward Acres Park beneath the full blue moon if we don't get arrested and hauled away first at the Hudson Family Jam's first annual Halloween outlaw jam, midnight October 31.
A PG-rated version on an earlier day or time was vetoed by the elders, so we are going the whole nine yards.
We will meet at 11:30pm at the Broadfield Road entrance to Ward Acres Park (on the park's southwest perimeter), whence a sentry will lead us into the park and to the Haunted House, where our musical encampment will be set up and waiting. There amid some of the most authentic Halloween decor we shall celebrate All Hallow's Eve and the turning of the great wheel with music and libation.
Hope you are intrigued and interested in this high-stakes musical holiday adventure. If so, please RSVP (just to me) for more information...
M. von Hochman

Our Halloween day coordination invitation.

10/31/20 -- To: Hudson Family Jam Cadre
Happy Halloween! Our haunted house jam is on for tonight!
Michael, Jon, we'll meet at 11:30pm at the Broadfield Road entrance to Ward Acres Park, and Conchi and I will escort you into the park to where Uncle John will await us unless he's unexpectedly possessed. Please text me at 917.501.2761 when you arrive, and if it's not too much trouble, when you're underway headed for the park, so we can coordinate.
It's a full moon (a blue moon!), rising at 10:30pm; hopefully we'll have moonlight. The forecast says 41° and partly cloudy throughout the night, including "the party that never was" from 2am to 2am. Whether or not you costume, dress warmly, including hat, heavy jacket/coat, and thermal underwear. Boots are a good choice if possible as well since the past week's rain likely generated mud. If you have a flashlight or electric lantern, that also could be helpful. We'll provide beverages (hopefully some warm), snacks, a few lanterns and light sources, chairs, and alibis.
Emily, Brian, you've expressed intrigue-from-a-distance about our haunted house jam. It's shaping up to be fun, so you should join us if you can! Please feel free to text me at 917.501.2761 any time today to let me know so we'll expect you at 11:30pm at the park entrance. Careful not to arrive past 11:30, though - we'll be deep in the park from that point onward.
Looking forward to some Halloween fun. See you soon!!