Darkening Doors: Macabre Pittsfield Walking Tours

The October offerings in the Berkshires have gained a formidable addition with Macabre Pittsfield Walking Tours, created and lead by writer and historian (and friend of the blog) Joe Durwin.

Because I couldn’t write it better myself, here’s the Durwinian description of the experience: “Embark on a journey through a downtown Pittsfield far removed from what we know today. A place of desecrated graves and skeletons in church basements, of rumsellers shacks, opium dens, and murders most foul…”

Indeed, the tour in its October 18 form (no two tours are the same) began on the Pittsfield Common, which was once a cemetery with a serious grave-robbing problem, and crept its way through the heart of the city.

Stops along the route included the site of the former courthouse, alleys that once led to houses of ill-repute, and the spot where the old rail-station delivered some of Pittsfield’s most colorful visitors — all brought back to life through impeccably researched stories of both fact and folklore. For one, medical students were apparently ruthless in the 1800s, particularly when it came to cadavers.

An added bonus of the tour is multiple stops also showcase the Berkshire Lightscapes project, which aims to illuminate downtown buildings and spaces in downtown Pittsfield through animated LED light systems. It’s a nice touch, especially when the topic turns to UFO sightings and alien encounters.

Word on the street is some kid-friendly tours are in the works for next season… though I’m also personally hopeful that these tours will continue in the warmer months. There’s nothing quite like scaring groups of tourists by the dozen.

The Finer Points of the 413 with Photog Chris Marion

I suppose I’ve reached a certain age when my talented friends start hosting retrospectives of their work. The trade-off is good when it’s youthful uncertainty for art-show openings with beer gardens, though, and here we are.

Marion Reception

I’m really proud of my friend Chris Marion, as I tell him frequently on Instagram. There was a time when I knew him as an IT Guy with a good eye, toiling along with the rest of us in Western Massachusetts. Now, after mapping out a dream and honing in on a specific set of skills while doing so, he’s a full-time photographer with client names like NBA, WNBA, UConn, and MGM.

With a portfolio like that, no one would begrudge him a gallery show limited to celebrities, sports stars, and once-in-a-lifetime events. But Chris never forgets where he comes from, literally or figuratively, and his recent show From the 413 to the NBA was proof.

Held in the Benzine Gallery at Gasoline Alley in a once-industrial section of Springfield, Mass., Chris whittled his collection down to 100 bright spots — some captured locally, others from the sidelines of national championships or rock-legend concerts — and joined forces with more than 16 local small businesses who served as partners or vendors.

“It still feels like a dream that I grew up in the birthplace of basketball and now I get to help document the game at such a high level,” he says.

Back in the day, Chris and I shared the same friend and mentor: street photog, reporter, and one of the original members of the American paparazzi (back when velvet ropes meant something) Keith Sikes. He founded the Valley Photographic Center and helped me, Chris, and countless others navigate the business of art and the art of business when we were still young enough to want to set the world on fire.

Keith, who was always young enough to set the world on fire, passed away last year and I miss him very much. Chris’ exhibit opened with a photo and thank you to Keith, and that alone would’ve been enough to warrant the trip — my first overnight foray since a pandemic/medical crisis combo took me out of the game for a year and a half. But it was followed by capture-after-capture of some other very-important-humans… Current Olympian Flag-bearer and WNBA star Sue Bird. The Dropkick Murphys. LeBron James. Victoria, a little girl from Springfield, who’s portrait was hung at her eye-level in the show.

And for me, it was also a trip back to a city I called home for a decade; one that is overflowing with culture, diversity, talent, and strong connections… a combination I sometimes miss where I live now.

People say you can’t go home again … that may be true, but we can always go back and look at the pictures.

Read, watch, or listen to more about 413 to the NBA from some Western Mass. Media Greats:

Report by Alanna Flood, Mass Appeal/WWLP

Report by Paul Tuthill, WAMC

Report by the great, cantankerous G. Michael Dobbs, Reminder Publications