MARK CLINE HAS loved costumes since
his youth, when he would earn ;;; for donning Superman and Batman get-ups at kids’
birthday parties. Afterwards, “superhero”
Cline would go to the local hospital to cheer
up kids and adults. As an adult, he still
thrives on entertaining, focusing on kindness. “I’ve enjoyed making smiles with my
work. Smiles turn to laughter, laughter
heals, healing is healthy and everybody
wants that,” says this one-man show, who
lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
Cline, a Costco member, has been called
a “fiberglass wizard” and “madcap, mysterious and macabre” in the press. He founded
the aptly named Enchanted Castle Studios
in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where he creates fantastical fiberglass gargoyles, pirates,
leprechauns, giants, dinosaurs and more
for movie studios, theme parks, museums
and golf courses.
But for ;; years, one of Cline’s main
gigs has been to suit up as a Victorian-era,
top-hatted gent, guiding folks on his
Haunting Tales Ghost Tour (lexington
vaghosttour.com), a not-so-scary, family-
oriented walk through scenic, historic
Lexington, home to Virginia Military
Institute and Washington and Lee
University. The humor-heavy, half-hour
tour, which is offered from Memorial Day
to Halloween, is rife with wit, whimsy and
a touch of magic, the highlight being a
cemetery tour where those from the distant
past lie in moss-covered graves.
The tours are based on legends and
folktales, and while Cline emphasizes, “I
do not not believe in ghosts,” he adds, “let’s
pray that we never do find proof (or even
lack of proof) for Bigfoot, aliens, the Loch
Ness monster and ghosts. I believe that
mankind needs its speculation for its very
survival.”—Irene Middleman Thomas
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MELISSA OVERDORF’S purse obsession
began innocently enough, with a 1940s
petit point Asprey of London handbag
she inherited from her grandmother in
1999. Before long, the smitten Seattle
resident was hunting down vintage
beaded, mesh and fabric purses on
eBay and at antique fairs.
“A purse is an incredibly personal
item that contains, in one spot, the
things that are absolutely essential to
a woman,” says Overdorf. “It’s her free-
dom, her money, her perfume. You get
the whole sense of a woman from look-
ing at her purse.”
As her collection grew, she realized
she was vying in auctions with like-
minded devotees. “I was being outbid by
all these other women, and I wanted to
make friends with them because they
understood me,” she says with a laugh.
In 2003, she founded the Antique Purse
Collectors Society (antiquepursecollectors
society.com). Today, it has 400 members
in 15 countries.
This past spring, several members
loaned gems from their collections to
an exhibition at the SFO Museum in San
Francisco’s airport. It showcased more
than 200 bags, from purses hand-beaded nearly 300 years ago to a 1970s
novelty telephone tote, complete with
phone cord and keypad.
Overdorf shared her favorite piece, a
Magid purse made in 1925 of about 1 million French steel beads. Measuring 15
inches by 25 inches, it was a one-of-a-kind promotional item valued at the time
it was made at $250,000. It took 10
months to thread those million beads.
She’s also fond of a folding leather wallet
called a “housewife,” engraved ISABELLA
BROWNING 1810, that holds scissors, needles and other household essentials.
“No two are alike in the way they’ve
been used and worn over the years,”
Overdorf says. “Every one is different in
some way.”—June D. Bell
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here to watch a trailer for
the Haunting Tales Ghost Tour.
(See page 10 for details.)
Wit, whimsy and
a touch of
Mark Cline (center) leads
a group on the Haunting
Tales Ghost Tour.