Originally Published: October 23, 2012 12:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - If you want to meet the infamous Arizona Train Trunk Murderess or be terrorized by the Iron King Mine Monster, the Prescott Center for the Arts is the place for you this weekend.
The 5th annual Ghost Talk has four showings this year, at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Each year Ghost Talk produces a new mixture of local folklore that's often based on real-life tragedy.
New characters this year include Winnie Ruth Judd, who murdered and dismembered two friends in Phoenix in 1931, stuffed their body parts into trunks and then carried them to LA on a train.
Judd's name was legendary throughout Arizona for decades after her conviction, and some say her ghost still rides the rails and visits train stations, dragging her luggage along the streets while she searches for a place to dump the body parts. Legend has it that Judd (played by Laura Prosseda) even visits Prescott's old train station in the Depot Marketplace shopping center, though trains stopped coming here decades ago.
"So don't be surprised if you hear her dragging her trunks along the ground in the dark shadows over there, haunting patrons of those businesses," said Karen Murphy, Ghost Talk playwright and assistant director.
Other new ghost stories this year include the tragic death of little Gussie Palmer, another true story in which his mother accidentally shot him at their home near the PCA theater in 1891. Gussie (played by Amber Bosworth) was so grief-stricken that she committed suicide a few years later.
And in the skit called the Poisonous Brew Deaths of 1911, Tin Can Johnny (John Bryan) and his drinking pal Willie (Cason Murphy) die after consuming a tainted batch of homemade beer at their cabin on the west side of Prescott. The audience gets to decide whether it was murder, suicide or accident.
This year will even include a special production number featuring the choreography of Carie Hughes.
It's a popular blend of traditional storytelling, historic enactment, cowboy poetry and modern performance art that draws sold-out crowds each year, Karen Murphy said.
The location in the PCA's 1880s downtown church is perfect.
"The historic building is considered by many to be one of the best examples of 19th Century religious architecture designed in the Sober-Gothic style," Ghost Talk director Cason Murphy noted. "Not to mention that it's reported to house four ghosts of its own that you get to meet during one of the enactments."
Visitors gather in the spooky courtyard for some spectral entertainment before entering the theater.
Inside, stage features such as a foggy cemetery and a mine cave-in enhance the eerie enactments.
Sometimes the audience's favorite characters return after a hiatus of several years, such as Abby and her cat Noble in the well-known legend of Prescott's Hotel Vendome apparition.
Tickets are $12 at the PCA ticket office in the art gallery below the Center for the Arts, or by calling 445-3286. Tickets ordered online at www.pca-az.net will include an extra processing fee.
Proceeds from Ghost Talk benefit PCA youth programs and the Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation.