The infamous Eddy Brothers from Chittenden, Vermont, are coming to Middlebury. Well… their spirit is being brought back to life by Rutland’s Ryan Mangan. “Second Sight,” a play about the brother’s mystique, written by Mangan and directed by Kim Moyer, is coming to Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater Oct. 19-21 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. The play is being put on by the Middlebury Community Players and the cast includes Ryan Mangan, Michael Eaton, Evan Breault, Jillian Torres, Ethan DeWitt, Piper Harrell, Stephen Kelly, Mary Morris, Tomas McElhaney, Leila McVeigh, Meghan Kennedy, Beth Diamond, and Jon Fenner.
“Second Sight” comes from a term a magician used in France, referring to a telepathy routine he would do with his son in the 1700s. It also refers to the idea of clairvoyance.
The idea for the play was conceived as a project that was going to be a magic show. Mangan said, “The audience can expect to have more than the experience of a play but truly a theatrical experience. There will be interactive “magic routines” that we’ve dug up out of old manuals from the fraudulent mediums of the Victorian era. It will be an exploration in all sorts of different themes ranging from morality to the morality of mediumship to the idea of sacrifice and doing what’s good, doing what’s right, while also digging into a local legend that still remains in the Green Mountain history.”
Ryan Mangan began writing the project six years ago while studying at Castleton University. He wanted to thank the library there for helping him gather all his research. He said, “Myself and Matthew Eckler, a collaborator, had this idea of creating a magic show that would use the techniques of the old spiritualists from the time. As we were doing that, we thought it would be wise to put a narrative to this magic show. While we were exploring all different characters and stories of the American spiritualist movement, including stories involving Abraham Lincoln, the Fox sisters of New York, we stumbled upon the Eddy Brother Family of Chittenden. We recognized this story which happened just seven miles north of the house I grew up in.”
The house still sits there today although now it’s the “High Life Lodge”, a ski share house.
Mangan said, “Growing up you’d hear stories of this Eddy house turning on its axis by the power of séance forces and magic. Every time in my adolescence driving up to the Chittenden Reservoir, I’d pass this house and every time a friend would say, “That’s the Eddy Brother house.”
I used to live in Chittenden and drove by it many times and also heard all the folklore.
Mangan added, “It wasn’t until I really dug into the story for this project that I realized how remarkable the story is and how much there is to discover about the story, the family and about the spiritualist movement.”
It’s interesting to know that the global Theosophical Society was formed in Chittenden after Henry Olcott met Helena Blavatsky, while both were visiting the Eddy farm. Chittenden is known as the spirit capital of the universe.
Mangan and Eckler got the opportunity to produce it as a student project at Castleton at the Black Box Theatre.
Mangan said, “When that opportunity came about, it was really an invitation to really dig in, form the project and turn it into a one-act play.”
After Castleton, he went on to the The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford where he spent a lot of time writing this play. It was there that he turned it into a two-act play and dug into the psychological background of the Eddy family characters. Mangan added, “They almost all had this gift of clairvoyance and could speak to the dead. They would undergo these trances which were very frightening to the community and their father. They were ostracized and abused, very horrendously by their father who was Methodist.”
Mangan graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance, summa cum laude.
The play doesn’t answer if they’re frauds or authentic, but both are hinted at. That’s the same as in real life, nobody really knows for sure. Supposedly their father sold his sons to the traveling circus. There are stories of the brothers speaking in tongues during these spirit-controlled trances.
Mangan said, “They were speaking in Russian and German, languages that were hardly available to these poor farmers living in the hill town of Chittenden in 1874. On top of that the amount of costumes they would’ve had to have to portray the amount of spirits that were seen in the dark. Costumes that nobody ever saw or could find under the floorboards. Things like this are almost impossible to explain. I think that’s why it’s still a mysterious story to this day.”
Back in Castleton in 2016, the great-great-granddaughter of Mary Eddy (sister) came to see their play. She brought a ring of her grandmother’s which she wore on her finger. Mangan said, “That was remarkable. It brought the story to real life. She told us every story we mentioned in the play is exactly what she learned, growing up as a child. She kind of gave us a thumbs up!”
The play is something to not miss. The audience can be as much a part of the story as they’re comfortable with. “We want people to feel like they’re at a séance,” he said. “There will be spirits in the dark, whispering the names of loved ones that people in our true audience are coming to see. They will be answering questions for the audience about their loved ones who are really deceased. We do this through magic. It’s going to be an experience. It’s really exciting.”
Due to the intense and potentially frightening nature of some scenes, parents should use discretion when deciding whether it is appropriate viewing for their child.
Mangan’s goal with this play is to tour it around the state, maybe each year around Halloween. He said, “The story has so much to do with Vermont history and the Vermont community that it only makes sense that it can be a Vermont project.”
He loves that the cast got into the story so much. One actor would question something about his character and the next moment the entire cast was in a deep conversation about theology or the family’s history. Mangan said, “To see everyone’s conversations in all those ideas was exciting and humbling.”
I am looking forward to seeing this masterpiece. I’m a big fan of magic so that’s a plus but having just lived in Chittenden for 17 years, I’m intrigued by the Eddy Brothers. For tickets, please visit: TownHallTheater.org.