“Spiritual Weekend” Featuring Three Historic Properties in October

If you have been following Villa Finale’s events and programs, then you are probably aware that we will be hosting our second seance in 2018. But this year it’s more than just one night, it’s an entire weekend for those who are interested in spiritualism and the mystery behind historic homes. Our “spiritual weekend” – Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13 – will feature two seances and a pendulum workshop at three different historic homes in the King William neighborhood, each with its own stories of loss and sadness.

22405858_1641740359223399_4973106493707454393_n

“Hello From the Other Side” seance at Villa Finale, 2017.

The weekend begins on Friday, October 12th at Villa Finale with night one of “Hello From the Other Side: 75 Years of Spiritualism and a Live Seance.” Seance-goers will be treated to light refreshments and bar drinks themed to the evening’s occasion before being led into the house for the main event being presented by the duo of Austin Seance. Built in 1876 and remodeled at least four different times, Villa Finale has seen its share of people come and go throughout its 142-year history. Those of us who were in the house during last year’s seance “heard” footsteps in the rooms directly above us and on the main staircase. Could these sounds have been figments of our imagination? Or maybe it was the Polk family who lost the house through foreclosure in 1895 and have never really left? Could it have been Billy Keilman who owned the home and ran a brothel and speakeasy here in the mid 1920s, and was murdered off-site during his tenure? Perhaps it was one of Keilman’s disgruntled customers? We may never find out!

Otto

Otto Meusebach, ca. 1890s.

On Saturday, October 13 at 2:00pm, the weekend’s activities continue with “Pendulums: A Workshop for the Mind and Spirit” being held at Villa Finale’s Meusebach House, located across the street at 414 King William Street. Participants will learn about the history of pendulums and how to make and use them. Pendulums are simple devices that have long been used to communicate with spirits, and folks will get a chance to do just that at this historic house. Built in 1886 by Smith and Josie Ellis, the couple sold the house to Otto Carl and Martha Meusebach in 1889. Otto and his brother, Max who lived in the house briefly in the 1890s, were sons of German pioneer John O. Meusebach, founder of Fredericksburg. Both Otto and Max were known for participating in raucous saloon brawls throughout town. On November 4, 1900, the Meusebach’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Anita, died in the house after days of being ill with peritonitis. As was the custom at the time, Anita’s funeral was held in the Meusebach home. Does the spirit of Anita remain in her family’s home? Or do the rough and tough souls of Otto and Max refuse to rest? Participants at the pendulum workshop may find out!

Johanna Steves undated

Johanna Steves, undated. Courtesy of the San Antonio Conservation Society.

The last of the weekend’s activities happens later on Saturday evening with seance number two being held at the Edward Steves Homestead located one block from Villa Finale and the Meusebach house. Edward and Johanna Steves built their home in 1876 following the success of their lumber company. Just like Villa Finale and the Meusebach house, the Steves home has also seen its share of sorrow. Following Edward’s death in 1890, family members talk about Johanna sleeping in the hallway outside of the master bedroom during her period of mourning. But Johanna was a tough German woman who, despite being under 5-feet tall, was master of her home and lived there for forty years following her husband’s death. Although she baked cookies for the neighborhood kids and allowed them to swim in her pool, Johanna expected her pool cleared for her own private swim as soon as she rang a bell from her back porch.

 

Johanna died in 1930 within two weeks of her beloved son Ernest’s death. Ernest, who was the youngest, had been admitted to the hospital to get his appendix removed but, as was not too uncommon at the time, didn’t survive the procedure. Newspapers speculated Johanna died of a “broken heart” but, certainly, being 90 years old also didn’t make coping with the sorrow any easier. Like Anita Meusebach, Johanna’s casket lay in state in her home, right in front of the formal parlor’s bay window. During night two of the seance, will Johanna announce her private swim by ringing her bell? Will laughter from neighborhood children of bygone days be heard again? Join us and find out!

You can purchase each of the three events of Villa Finale’s “spiritual weekend” separately: “Hello From the Other Side” seance night one at Villa Finale ($55.00 per person), “Pendulums: A Workshop for the Mind and Spirit” at the Meusebach House ($10.00 per person), or the “Hello From the Other Side” seance night two at the Steves Homestead ($55.00 per person). If choosing just one is difficult, you can participate in all three with the “spiritual weekend bundle”: $100.00 for a chance to see “who” says “hello” from the spirit world in each of these fascinating historic homes! Come experience it for yourself.

Seance nights include light refreshments and alcoholic beverages. Seances are for audiences 18 and older only. Space is limited for all three. Click on the links below to purchase admissions or call (210) 223-9800 during business hours for tickets or more information.

Seance nights one and two and “spiritual bundle”

Workshop only – “Pendulums:  A Workshop for the Mind and Spirit”

Advertisements

Christmas with Mr. Mathis

Last year, while cleaning  objects in Villa Finale, I occasionally ran into a problem that occurred mainly with the vases and vase-like vessels: there were remnants of Christmas greenery in the very bottom-most tips of these objects, evidence of USE.  This was pretty exciting, because a lot of collectors don’t actually use their things.  Mr. Mathis did.  Even though it was very difficult to remove the stuff, despite the creation of several different forms of poking devices, I enjoyed knowing he had live greenery and flowers around at the holiday time. bullet-wreath

Now that the holidays are here, I can only imagine the grand display Mr. Mathis must’ve had.   I never saw it first hand, but I know that he purchased dozens of red poinsettia plants that he would pile in the kitchen to give away to his party guests and other friends and family.  Also, hanging in the kitchen was this wreath made of hunting gear, including bullets and the prey, happy together!

Naturally, in proper Mr. Mathis form, sideboards and and other surfaces would have decorations in bowls and urns along with live greens and flowers set atop ribbon-festooned tables.   One of the most amazing Christmas related things I meissen-musiccatalogued was a group of Meissen figurines Mr. Mathis had artfully arranged in faux greenery.  The little guys were all attached to the greens so all you have to do is take it out of its box and put it on a table.  To the left is one of the fat little musicians.  For his holiday parties, there was always plenty of food set up in the kitchen and on the dining room sideboards. 

sideboard-food-xmas

 The piece de resistance was his tree, which was his own creation.  It was comprised of a metal frame in which Mr. Mathis would stick Noble Fir branches to create a very long lean tree suitable for his center hall.  Here is a picture of it circa 1975.

tree-hall

Later, when the large tree became too much trouble, he would place tabletop trees throughout the house.

happy-santaOn display on his dining table was his International Santa  collection, which, along with 276 ornaments, we have already numbered and packed away carefully for the future when we attempt to replicate Mr. Mathis’s Christmas extravaganza.  To the right is one of Mr. Mathis’s Santas, of no particular nationality, but looking very pleased with himself.  In order to accurately recreate the Mathis holiday house, we will rely on photographs from parties, oral histories and some written documentation.

Luckily, the exterior was more austere and we’ve heard he had only a simple green fir wreath on the door, with ribbons, and would also plant poinsettia in his formal garden for a splash of color.

Now, does anyone out there have any other stories or pictures of a Mathis Christmas?  We have a sprinkling here and there, but would like to get our Christmas just right when we eventually go completely crazy all out and decorate.  Please let me know.