Since 2008 I have been The Dead Colonial, the official mascot of The Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour. I schmoozed with the Norwegian press, entertained the Brits at the Guardian, and shared a beer with Eddie Munster all with fake blood gushing from my head. Most recently, an indie-pop band in Brooklyn saw my get-up and asked me to create a new character for their music video. I’ve always thought of myself as a clown, and the Dead Colonial has been the perfect springboard for me to entertain and get my face out there.
I’ve had success as an actor on the Philadelphia stage, but the Dead Colonial holds a special place in my heart. It’s live theater and the audience is everywhere. They’re on the SEPTA bus screaming, “George Washington, we gotta take you to HUP. You bleeding!” or they’re a businessman, stopping his brisk walk to snap a photo of me on his Blackberry, or they’re a bunch of giggling school kids telling me, “You’re like soo Lady Gaga right now.” If only there were a Barrymore for Best Street Performance!
But I’m not just a bloody face. I give the ghost tours in my ghoulish garb and act out the scary tales in front of tourists and curious locals. When I’m invariably asked during the tour, “So who exactly are you supposed to be?” I reply that I’m “one of the unknown soldiers, buried during the Revolutionary War in Washington Square Park.” Some simply smile, but others prod me further, “Yes I understand that, but who exactly are you?” Ah, the history buff. That rare breed of American tourist that’s read the latest David G. McCullough biography, and knows darn well that the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th and not signed until August 2nd. ”Well sir,” I’ll reply, “I was a theater major in college, I’m just doing this for fun.” When faced with a true history buff, one must either offer up an obscure historical fact or retreat. General Washington would surely agree.
There’s plenty of straight history in the Independence National Historical Park and I don’t pretend to know it all. There’s a place for the solemn reflection of our nation’s founding, but there’s also a place for the quirky and fun side of America too. Of course, Philadelphia is home to that beer drinking, lightning (and, err… skirt) chasing, eccentric Benjamin Franklin. I hope that the Dead Colonial has been a source of entertainment for those visiting Philly. I like to think of the mascot as zombie meets history, Liberace meets Marquis de Lafayette. So catch me on a ghost tour with the Spirits of ’76 why don’t you? In the meantime, maybe I should start work on the youtube video for my single, “Dead This Way.” Happy hauntings.