The Biltmore is America’s largest home with 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. Most visitors to the Biltmore Estate, however, never see a room which is not included in its 250 room count. It is a cavernous brick walled storage area deep inside the basement of the Biltmore referred to as “The Halloween Room” because those walls are painted with murals of witches, bats, black cats, wooden soldiers, and other eerie images.
For years, the unusual area went unexplained. Some thought it was used for a children’s Halloween party in the 1920’s, but recent research discovered that it actually was prepared in December, 1925 as the backdrop for a New Year’s party thrown by John Amherst Cecil and wife, Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil.
An avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris, which translates to The Bat, toured America in the 1920’s. Its abstract sets for the stage were designed by Russian artists, Sergei Sudeikin and Nicolai Remisoff. The show had great success and its fans apparently included the Cecils who by this time had inherited the Estate.
Biltmore historians found a theatrical program in the Estate records and discovered that the illustrations on the wall for the most part were recreations of the stage sets depicted in the program.
According to the Biltmore historian, Leslie Klinger: The Charleston Daily Mail reported that 100 guests attended the Cecil’s New Year’s Eve festivities welcoming the year, 1926. One costumed attendee, local resident James G.K. McClure, recalled arriving in the basement of Biltmore with his wife, Elizabeth, armed with a guitar and an old accordion, to find a room full of “all kinds of gypsy atmosphere such as cauldrons and pots and glowing fire … all around.” Enchanted by the unexpected theatrics, he wrote a detailed account of the holiday soiree to a friend, describing “a gypsy dance at Biltmore House which was the best party I have ever attended.”