Let me take you back in time to an autumn evening in 1910 shortly before Halloween.
Lettie Conrad and her daughter Alicia have returned from a dinner party and are still in their evening gowns as they sit in the mansion’s library discussing plans for their upcoming Halloween party. Little do they realize what fate has in store for them.
They would be hosting a Halloween party that Kalispell would not soon forget.
Lettie goes upstairs at about 10:30 p.m. Eighteen year old Alicia stays downstairs and is extinguishing the lights when she hears a banging at the door and a man’s voice yelling that the house is on fire.
Alicia opens the door and the man points to the north end of the house which is in flames.
Alicia calls to her mother to notify the fire department. She then says that she will get a hose from the second floor, go out onto the roof, and try to fight the fire.
Unbeknownst to her mother Lettie, Alicia has been exploring the roof for years.
She manages to get the hose onto the roof and begins to fight the fire.
Alone and having no help with the unwieldy hose, she becomes soaked to the skin in her delicate evening dress. People say that she looks like a naked fairy atop the roof that night.
For what seems like an eternity, Alicia fights the fire. Finally the bells of the Kalispell fire department are heard.
The damage to the house is extensive and Alicia is despondent. She is aware of her mother‘s concerns over current business matters.
Lettie consoles her daughter with these words.
“Alicia we have lost nothing that cannot be repaired or replaced. Life brings adversity and we must be prepared for it. Anyone can crumple and despair when trouble strikes, and that is what certain people expect and hope that we will do. Alicia, you and I have always loved Halloween more than any other season, partly, I suspect, because there is a good bit of the devil in both of us. Each year as Halloween approaches, I long to be able to get on a broom and give vent to all the mischievousness that collects during the year. This year we’ll do it. We’ll give the greatest Halloween party that ever was. Fate has prepared the house. We will take advantage of our fate and what a party it will be. For some it will give entertainment, and for others it will be a demonstration that we know how to deal with adversity.”
Party plans fill their minds as Lettie and Alicia walk to Kate’s home a short distance away.
They live there until their home is restored. As Lettie tries to sleep she has an idea for the Halloween party.
The Inferno of Alighieri Dante’s Divine Comedy is the perfect theme for the party.
There will be the “Hell” of the fire, the “Purgatory” of the struggle to rebuild, and the “Paradise” at the end of the journey.
Lettie hires carpenters, electricians, and other workers to help prepare the house for the party.
However, no repairs are done to the roof. The rooms remain open to the sky and are still littered with fallen plaster.
Elaborate decorations take shape and the basement becomes Hell, the second floor Purgatory, and the third floor Paradise.
Lettie invites all of Kalispell to the party to show her appreciation for their help during these trying times.
The Halloween party begins at midnight.
All that is required to attend is a mask, which once inside can be removed. An orchestra plays the night away and refreshments are served until dawn.
It’s a gala like no other and a Kalispell memory that will live on forever.
One evening near dusk, while David and I walked around the neighborhood, we saw what appeared to be smoke coming from the north end of Conrad Mansion. Upon reporting it, I was told that no one was in the house, no fireplaces were burning, and that everything was in order.
It is also said of Conrad Mansion that ghosts of party goers can be seen in the upstairs windows at night.
Wouldn’t it be spooktacular to see that?