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February 2017: This installment in the "Places" series takes us to the Halloween Room, a whimsical yet vaguely creepy setting in the basement of the Biltmore House.
The opulent Vanderbilt mansion, located in the North Carolina mountains and still billed as “America’s Largest Home,” has more than its share of attractions, but nothing like this.
Giant murals of witches, goblins, wooden solders, and black cats adorn the walls, painted by Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil, her husband John, and friends over a three-week period leading up to a gypsy-themed ball on Dec. 30, 1925.
According to the Biltmore website, the Cecils were inspired by an avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe that toured America in the 1920s. Illustrations on the program for performances by La Chauve-Souris (aka The Bat) inspired the drawings on the yellow walls.
If you’re in the Asheville area, the Biltmore Estate is worth touring to see how the supremely wealthy of the late 19th and early 20th century lived. Be sure to seek out the Halloween Room, however. It’s something you won’t forget.