Before the seance

Twain House staffer Steve Courtney, left, John Pogson (as Mark Twain), center, and guest illusionist Todd Robbins ham it up Wednesday, April 21, before the Mark Twain House & Museum Centennial seance got underway. (MARYELLEN FILLO / THE HARTFORD COURANT / April 22, 2010)



Java doesn't know if Mark Twain's spirit really passed through his Farmington Avenue mansion Thursday night, but I do know that when the seance marking the 100th anniversary of his death was done, there was page from his book "Tom Sawyer" in my lap.

It was an incredibly fun yet incredibly creepy night over at Samuel Clemens' digs Wednesday night, with plenty of paranormal stuff going on — the kind the iconic writer would have loved.

"He always liked the oddball, the sideshow stuff," said Twain House public relations guy Steve Courtney, as the sold-out crowd began arriving for the anniversary seance, which also featured fortune telling, palm reading, paranormal demonstrations and lots of anniversary spirit.

A couple of people who know the past well were among the featured guests, including illusionist Todd Robbins, who conducted the seance. Robbins also had the audience joining in a gospel music sing-along and offered tips on how to build a Ouija board with a table top and a wine glass.

"I just think it is great fun," said Jennifer Malden of Middletown, who took advantage of free tarot card readings before the show. "I don't know if I really believe in it all, but wouldn't it be something if Twain's spirit did show up ... kind of like Houdini on Halloween."

It was a natural that clairvoyant Lorraine Warren would also be a featured guest. Warren, who with her late husband, Ed Warren, founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, was warming up early on for a Twain House ghost tour she conducted for VIP guests later in the evening.

"Of course we believe. Here's a picture my sister took when she did the tour here in November," said LaurieCaetano of Windsor. The cellphone picture showed a shadowy image that she swore was the ghost of one of Twain's daughters.

After all the spirits and channeling, the night's pièces de résistance were the slices of cake — real velvety-flavored ones — cut from the confection reproduction of Twain's landmark Victorian home. Created by Geof Manthorne of Baltimore's Charm City Bakery, even the cake had status. Charm City is where its owner, celebrity chef Duff Goldman, films his TV reality show "Ace of Cakes"

"It's a shame to cut into it," said one guest. "It's too pretty to eat."