Spirits were high, in more ways than one.
The Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) held its most successful social of the year last Friday, as nearly one thousand people—including a few paranormal investigators—turned out for its “Museum of the Dead: Alive Again” event.
“It’s a fantastic way to get people into the museum that wouldn’t normally come,” Meg Colombo, a MAG spokesperson, said. “It’s about getting people to engage with the art, feeling comfortable here, and wanting to come back […] We want people to love it here.”
“Alive Again” offered its guests a walking tour with selected art, a crafts table, gin and vodka tasting from Buffalo distillery Tommy Rotter, food from local venues, and a dance floor manned by DJ Alykhan ’13.
“We didn’t know there were going to be that many people at the party,” Indulgence dance group co-captain and junior Kavon Wallace said.
Indulgence had been requested by Alive Again organizers to dance in a flash mob in the center of the dance floor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“The MAG is one of the great gateways for the UR to the city of Rochester,” MAG Director Jonathan Binstock said in a phone interview. “UR owns the MAG—all of it, the building, the land, its art, all the assets. [But] the museum is primarily a community art museum. What you saw last night was just the public.”
Binstock was thrilled with how many people came out to the MAG event.
“I loved all the great art costumes, I just loved the spirit,” he said.
In addition to guests, who dressed in an array of costumes from minimal effort ears and party clothing to a full out replication of iconic pieces from the museum, “Alive Again” was attended by members the Monroe County Paranormal Investigators (MCPI).
Due to growing rumors of hauntings at the 103 year-old building, MCPI will be doing an investigation of the MAG on Nov. 5.
“It’s been a theory of mine for a long time that artists, performers, actors, that kind of thing, when they do whatever it is they do, they put so much of themselves into whatever it is they’re doing,” MCPI founder Rob Pistilli said. “When an artist sculpts something or paints something, a lot of them gets transferred into that. I want to find out if there’s any kind of truth to that, if there’s any kind of residual that comes off of that.”
The investigation will mostly focus on the building that was formerly a woman’s college. But activity inside the case covering the coffins of Pa-debehu-Aset in the Helen H. Berkeley Gallery of Ancient Art has also drawn the MCPI’s attention.
“The glass somehow moved, which is impossible,” Membership Manager and “Alive Again” organizer Jessica Gasbarre said. “You can’t get to it. Even the light bulbs are changed from the top. You can’t get air around a mummy because it’ll start to disintegrate.”
A security guard noted one day that rings had appeared on the glass, as if the beam supporting the coffin had been moved.
“I brought it to the attention of one of our curators [thinking] this is something that maybe someone didn’t notice like years ago when this was placed here,” Gasbarre said. “And she said, ‘Absolutely not. That’s not something that we would let fly.’”
According to ancient Egyptian culture, the anthropoid coffin will serve as Pa-debeh-Aset’s body in the afterlife if the actual mummy is destroyed.
Though the coffin is on display, the body of Pa-debeh-Aset himself was lost long ago.
Pistilli adds that though rumored noises and strange occurrences have been noted most often in the woman’s college, he is mostly intrigued by the physical evidence of movement inside the Pa-debeh-Aset’s case. They hope to find an explanation for whatever is happening inside the MAG.
“Lights go on and off, footsteps are heard, doors open and close,” Pistilli said. “We’re hearing a lot more reports of things happening here.”
To prevent any damage to the art, MAG staff will be present with each team MCPI sends.
As far as Pa-debeh-Aset’s case, it should technically protect anything inside (or outside) from harm.
“It’s in this hermetically sealed case,” Gasbarre said. “Nothing can come in, nothing can come out.”
Correction (11/13/2016): A previous version of this story stated the event’s musical guest as “DJ Ally Khan.” Actually, the guest was DJ Alykhan, a UR alum (’13).