February 27, 2024

As the Halloween season quickly approaches, lovers of the American Gothic writing genre enjoyed the Dickens Festival: Tales from the Victorian Crypt event.

From Oct. 14-15, audience members gathered at Riverside’s Evergreen Memorial Historic Cemetery to enjoy live readings of classic Gothic writings from authors such as Edgar Allan Poe. On the festival’s website, the night was described as frightening, yet romantic.

“Featuring the tortured souls of several unrequited lovers, come to the graveyard for an evening of romance, love and death — but not necessarily in that order,” the website said.

Those who performed took up the persona of the authors from whom they are reading and provided a night of enjoyment for those in attendance.

Paul Jacques, adjunct theater professor at California Baptist University, has attended and performed as Charles Dickens for 13 years. Not only does this event take place in the month of October, but it also has monthly events until the end of February.

Although Jacques is not participating at the Victorian Crypt festivities this year, through his performances in previous events, he said it is a fitting festival for the Halloween season and it can be enjoyed by families. He even described it as a “literary Disneyland.”

“The crypt is fun because everyone loves a good scare,” Jacques said. “It is a good Halloween event (being) family-friendly and different from the usual haunted

With 13 years under his belt, when it comes to performing in this annual event, Jacques has enjoyed the educational aspect of it.

“I keep going back because it is fun, and I enjoy getting people interested in history,” Jacques said.

Richard Reed, creator, is not only a graduate of the 1972 class at CBU, but also the mastermind behind this  unique event.

“The Victorian Crypt was my concept,” Reed said. “About four years ago we scouted out this cemetery and decided we could tell ghost stories.”

This sold-out show happens every year under the light of the full moon and begins with a tour around the cemetery.

Not only was this event created for entertainment, but also for audiences to expand their knowledge on Victorian writings and possibly  be introduced to unknown authors.

“We do mostly 19th century classics … and I want to introduce people to the classics,” Reed said.

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