By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Joe Lumaya/Ventura County Star

Simi Valley spirits come to life at Strathearn Park


October 10, 2014

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - "Ghosts" will tell tales from the Chumash, Spanish and homestead periods during the 16th annual Ghost Tour at Strathearn Park in Simi Valley.

"Our ghosts are not scary and welcome laughter from the guests," said Karla Hubbell, of Simi Valley, event co-chair.

The spirits of Simi Valley favorites are portrayed by actors on the tours through 13 areas at the park. The tours, a joint venture between the Simi Valley Cultural Association/Actors' Repertory Theatre and the Simi Valley Historical Society, will be offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from now through Oct. 26.

Each walking and standing tour runs about an hour and 15 minutes, and groups depart about every 15 minutes.

"This is a great family event to enjoy a professional show that entertains with local history with lots of humor," said Hubbell, who serves on the society's board.

"I have chaired this event for several years and love the people involved and the dedication all bring to the event. Our goal is for visitors to have a great evening and give them an idea of what Strathearn Park has to offer."

Designed for ages 5 and up, the tours will feature scripts professionally written and performed by seasoned actors.

Kathleen Silverman, of Agoura, will play a role she's performed in previous years of the ghost tour: Grandma Prisbrey, the bottle lady.

"Grandma Prisbrey, like most people, experienced hardships throughout her lifetime," Silverman said of the character based on former resident Tressa Prisbrey.

Prisbrey's Bottle Village in Simi Valley, a Ventura County Cultural Landmark that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built from recycled items and discards from the local landfill.

"She had a deep need to express her creative side and, unable to afford supplies, found ample at the city dump," Silverman said. "Grandma Prisbrey has been described as crazy, quirky, one beer short of a six pack, but I believe she was a spitfire with tenacity who stubbornly hung on through great pain and suffering."

Prisbrey built Bottle Village in an effort to express a part of herself words could not convey, Silverman said.

"What I enjoy most about playing the bottle lady ... is the freedom it allows me to shed my problems and life struggles and take on another identity and express myself through them," Silverman said. "Grandma Prisbrey is angry, scary, quirky, humorous, confused and belligerent with dreams and disappointments. She's the liveliest deceased person I've ever known."

Cost for the tour is $10 for adults and $8 for children 10 and younger, with proceeds split between the Simi Valley Historical Society, Simi Valley Cultural Association and Actors' Repertory Theatre of Simi.

"These funds help continue to restore and maintain Strathearn Park for the community and next generation and ... introduce the arts to young people," Hubbell said.

The tour is an inexpensive, safe way to celebrate heritage and Halloween, Silverman said.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for a family and friends to spend an evening together in a beautiful historical setting, under the trees, beneath the stars and the moon," Silverman said. "It's Simi Valley history and history in the making. Our history is our story, it's who we are and we don't want to lose that."

If you go: Strathearn Park is at 137 Strathearn Place in Simi Valley. The tours will be offered 7-9 p.m. Fridays, 6-9 p.m. Saturdays and 6-8:30 p.m. Sundays. Visit www.simihistory.com or call 526-6453 for more information.




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