The television show American Ripper, which premiered on the History Channel this month, shot several episodes at the Shelton Historical Center and even featured an unusual cameo by one of the local volunteers.
American Ripper investigates the possible connection between the world’s most infamous serial killers, H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper.
According to the History Channel website, Holmes’ great-great-grandson, Jeff Mudgett, “sets out to prove a controversial theory: that H.H. Holmes and Britain’s most notorious serial killer, Jack the Ripper, were the same man.”
For accuracy, the television network went on the hunt to find suited off-site locations.
For the episodes that would need a one-room schoolhouse, the History Channel picked the Trap Fall School and the additional buildings at the Shelton Historical Center located on Ripton Road.
According to the director of the Historical Center, Tracey Tate, the pairing between the television show and the museum seemed like a perfect pair.
“Our curator [Deborah Rossi] observed upon some reflection that a television show and a museum can be compared as each manipulates the environment to tell a believable story to entertain or educate the viewer,” said Tate.
She explained how the show’s director having a home in Shelton influenced the decision to shoot at the history center’s Trap Fall School.
“The director [Mark Perez] has a home in Shelton. He may have been familiar with us … or knew that we have a one-room school, which they needed for a scene. We received a call from a location scout in early December. The scout was here to talk to us and take photos within an hour.”
The Trap Fall School and the 1822 Brownson House were brought back to life for filming with help from both the crew and the workers with the center. The history center staff were on site to help protect the buildings, artifacts, and set parameters to make sure everything went smoothly.
Regina Misercola, 17, a volunteer with the history center’s Teen Time Travelers, enthusiastically explained the transformation of the sites.
“The Brownson House had been covered up for months (due to renovations) and it was great to see it bustling with activity again,” said Misercola. “We lit a fire in the schoolhouse — something that hasn’t been in a number of years.”
The chance of a lifetime?
During the filming, Misercola believed that she would simply be one of the many volunteers from the Teen Time Travelers to make sure nothing went wrong. However, that changed quickly.
“Mark Perez asked if I wanted to play a dead body. I couldn’t help but say yes. How often do you get to play dead?” said Misercola.
In order to transform into her role, she was taken to the Hyatt House Hotel where the show had set up a hair, makeup, and costuming station in a conference room. To be the perfect dead person from the late 19th Century, Misercola was fitted for a time-appropriate bodice, and had two makeup artists paint face, hands, and ankles in a pale white powder.
Although she had to lie on freezing cold floor for an hour to film, Misercola said that was not the most unusual part of filming.
“The weirdest part was when I began talking to the others actors. I sat next to a gentleman who played a doctor. I joked, ‘I didn’t expect to die when I work up this morning.’ The man casually says, ‘I’ve died before.’ I stared back at him, but he was completely serious, with a straight face. He proceeded to explain that he played a dead body on an episode of Law and Order.”
Overall, Misercola said she enjoyed the opportunity to be featured on the show.
“It was completely spontaneous,” said Misercola. “I was lucky to play a very small part, but they’re [Tate and Rossi] the ones that authorized the History Channel’s filming and got all the buildings ready, so I wanted to shine a spotlight on them, too. It was a great experience for everybody who was involved.”
To see the episode that Misercola is featured in, tune in to the History Channel on Aug. 1 at 10 p.m. or watch on the History Channel’s website. Two previous episodes of the series have already aired.
For more information about the Shelton Historical Center, visit http://www.sheltonhistoricalsociety.org.