Get Thee to the Central Terminal for "Ghost Train: an Industrial Seance"

Extraordinary time-traveling artists celebrate WNY's industrial and spiritualist past

Release Date: May 2, 2007 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- If you're in the market for a weird, intriguing and exciting Saturday night, head down to Buffalo's Central Terminal, 495 Paderewski Drive, for a multi-media marriage of ghosts, puppets, mechanical spiders, robotic dance partners, hallucinatory discovery and industrial progress -- together at last at an event produced by University at Buffalo robotic artist Don Paul Swain.

This extravaganza of art, spooks, history and oddness is "Ghost Train: An Industrial Séance" for spirits of the rust belt.

It will take place May 5, 11 and 12 from 7:30-11 p.m. There will be an overall program on all three nights, plus special attractions for the "Ghost Toast" (May 5) and the "Carnival of Souls" (May 11-12).

Admission is $10 for "Ghost Toast," $10 for "Carnival of Souls" and $15 for both events, with $5 off for those 14 years of age and younger. Secure parking is available.

For detailed historical and program information, go to .

Swain is a candidate for a master of fine arts degree from the University at Buffalo Department of Visual Arts. He also is the founding director of Phantasmic Attractions, which produces shows and spectaculars, monsters, scenic displays and other diversions, but nothing as large as this event, with its dozens of visual, media and performance artists, including Swain. It will serve as his graduate thesis.

Swain describes "Ghost Train" as "an epic carnival of unlikely passions; a collaboration of cultural engineers featuring mechanical theater, light and shadow experiments, sound sculptures and video projections, and a cavalcade of music, puppets and live performances that include Butoh dancing and an aerial circus act."

Each of the two weekends will feature different attractions, but some aspects of the program will remain the same and are reflected in the theme, which juxtaposes two ideas relevant to Western New York: ghosts and industrial progress.

Swain reminds us that this region not only was once one of the most prosperous industrial hubs in the nation, but also the epicenter of the 19th-century spiritualist movement. This event, he says, "attempts to reveal the sights, sounds and psyche of that period through an interactive 'through-the-looking-glass' environment explored by guests.

On all three evenings, he says, guests will enter the event by boarding a facsimile of a passenger train where a mysterious conductor will great them.

"They will embark on a fantastic journey to the 'Other Side,'" he says, "passing through a confusing labyrinth of reflections, lights and sounds.

"Then they will disembark," Swain says, "and with map in hand, roam among a variety of installations designed in various media and tucked away in the vast architecture, each to serve as a new hallucinatory discovery for the passengers."

The dozens of installations and performances have names like "House of the Invisible Hand," "Wheels of Catastrophis and Carousel of Progress," "American Ruins" and "Broken Geometry of an Angel's Dream," to name a few.

Swain likens the overall installation to "A German Expressionist haunted house designed by Dr. Seuss."

Among the many eclectic acts and attractions will be a colossal operational Ouija board and a Butoh performance by Kerry Segal and a mechanical partner. Butoh is the collective name for a range of techniques and motivations for dance inspired by the Ankoku-Butoh (Dance of Utter Darkness) movement. It borrows elements from traditional Japanese dances and Western forms of dance and, although there is no set style, it typically involves playful and grotesque imagery performed in white-body makeup.

Handcranked Film Projects will show their film "American Ruins," a "Fantasia"-like documentation of Rustbelt imagery, along with other shorts.

On May 5's "Ghost Toast" night, local author and historian of the supernatural Mason Winfield, will give talks on the haunted history of the region and a mini psychic fair will offered with tables for paranormal investigation, ghost hunters, dowsers and a Victorian séance. Individual vendors may charge fees

The May 11-12 "Carnival of Souls" nights will feature the post-industrial guerilla art group Madagascar Institute, which will be in full force with their mechanical contraptions, including an eight-foot-tall pedal-powered singing spider performed by jazz singer Phat Mandee. Joining them also will be Ars Subterranea, an international urban exploration society, which will install a Victorian-themed mini golf course that allows players to creatively explore the terminal's architecture.

Swain and fellow UB robotic artist Nick Steadman will exhibit mechanical installations, and work by other UB graduate students -- Sarah Paul, Kevin Charles Kline, Kim Seon Hyoung, Penelope Stewart, and Elenore Whidden -- also will be on exhibit.

Surreal video montages that include Edison's early experiments with the motion picture camera and images from Buffalo's 1901 Pan American Exhibition will haunt some of the building's alcoves.

As a grand finale, circus aerialist Marina Luna will perform an aerial act as part of a theatrical production reminiscent of Fritz Lang's silent film masterpiece, "Metropolis."

Buffalo Central Terminal is a landmark Art Deco building built in 1926 and abandoned in the 1970s. After decades of neglect it was rescued by the non-profit Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (BCTRC), which has led a heroic effort to return the building to a functional state. They have opened their doors for special community events like Torn Space's "Terminus," Oktoberfest and Dyngus Day.

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