Passionate for the Paranormal

Ghost walks are flourishing,
boosting area tourism

Costumed storytellers
have a flair for the dramatic

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer


October 2012 Edition Cover

(October 2012) – Enter a world of dark secrets, fleeting mysterious apparitions and unexplained floating orbs that give you goose bumps. This is the world of reputed haunted sites often encountered on ghost walking tours.
“People have always been intrigued by the possibility of spirits among us,” said Angie Satterfield of the River Towns Rock Tour Co. She will be giving a Walking Ghost Tour in Vevay, Ind., on Oct. 12-13, Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26.
“The Original” Vevay Ghost Tour explores four different “haunted” locations in Vevay: the Julia Knox Gift Shop, the Switzerland County Historical Society, Historic Hoosier Theatre and the Old Vevay Jail.
“Vevay is chock full of great stories,” said Satterfield.
These sites are not just your normal “haunted houses,” with morbid half-living, half-dead entities jumping out of the dark at every corner. Rather, the tours present a mix of true stories and local lore, she said. “We present the facts, things that are intriguing to people. The tours share a lot about the history of the town, too.”
Satterfield is taking advantage of the recent fascination by the public in ghosts and ghost hunting, as illustrated by dozens of TV shows on the subject. Many ghost hunting groups have formed throughout the region and the growth in ghost hunting has not gone unnoticed by tourism offices. Ghost walks, overnight hotel packages centered on ghost hunting, and trolley tours have flourished in recent years in Louisville, La Grange and Carrollton in Kentucky, and at several towns in southern Indiana.
Those visitors who take the Vevay tours are about a 50-50 mix of locals and out-of-towners, said Satterfield. Due to a lot of ghost hunting exposure in the media and TV shows centering on the topic, ghost walking tours and ghost hunting is very popular right now, she said.

Ghost Walking Tours in the Region

• “The Original Vevay Ghost Tour.” Offering ghost tours and ghost hunting class and overnight stay in Vevay, Ind. Tour four locations on a guided walking tour. 7 p.m. on Oct. 12-13; Oct. 19-20 and oct. 26. Tickets $25 and a portion of proceeds benefit the Hoosier Theater and Switzerland County Historical Society. The Southeastern Indiana Ghost Hunting Specialists will conduct the class for $89, including food and walking tour. To reserve for either call (812) 427-3338.
• “Night Spirits” at Lanier Mansion State Historic Site. Costumed actors will portray “spirits” Oct. 19 in the dimly lit rooms of the Lanier Mansion, downtown Madison, Ind. Beginning at 7 p.m., groups of 15 will depart from the Lanier-Madison Visitor Center, 601 W. First St. at 15 minute intervals. Tickets $10 and includes refreshments. Call to reserve at (812) 273-0556.
• Hector’s Haunted Happenings Mysterious Dinner and Ghost Walk. Oct. 12-13 at the North American House Museum, Vernon, Ind. 6 p.m. seating Friday; 5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. seatings Saturday. Tickets $15 for dinner or $16 for dinner and ghost walk. Must purchase in advance for dinner by Oct. 9 at (812) 346-346-8989. Featuring ghost stories and folklore acted out by local high school drama students. No reservations needed for the 9:30 p.m. ghost walk only. Sponsored by the Jennings County Historical Society.
• “The Spirits of La Grange” Ghost Tours. Guided walks through downtown La Grange, Ky. Tours last 1-2 hours and visitors are taken inside several locations. Tickets $18 for ages 12 through adult. No one under age 12. Proceeds benefit Discover Downtown La Grange (Main Street Program). To reserve call (502) 291-1766.
• Louisville Ghost Walks. The Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway, Louisville. 7:30 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday. A 90-minute walk downtown. Reservations suggested. Tickets $15. (502) 689-5117
• Louisville Ghost Tour. Starting location varies. 8 p.m. daily. Tickets $15 adults, $8 ages 7-11, free for ages 6 and under. For starting location, call (502) 339-5445.
• Old Louisville’s Victorian Ghost Tour. 6-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 26-28. Meet at Rock at Central Park (St. James Court and Magnolia Avenue). Tickets $25 or $20 in advance. Sponsored by the West St. Catharine Street Neighborhood Association. (502) 635-5244.
• Ghosts of Old Louisville. The 90-minute bus tour departs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays from the Visitors Center in Historic Old Louisville. Tickets $25. Private group tours also available. (502) 637-2922.

“We encourage people to bring cameras and digital recorders,” said Satterfield. Visitors who have taken previous ghost walking tours of the town have captured pictures of orbs and sounds on ghost hunting equipment.
A new addition to the ghost walking tours this year will be an Introduction to Ghost Hunting Class and Overnight at the Historic Hoosier Theater on Oct. 26. The class will be conducted by Southeastern Indiana Ghost Hunting Specialists and begin at 10 p.m. at the theater.
From 10 p.m. to midnight, the group will review the necessary equipment, how to use it and how to engage and speak to an entity. From midnight to 7 a.m., participants will be able to “move around for hands-on experiences with the equipment,” Satterfield said.
“The building was not always a theater,” she said. It was a warehouse building and the Ku Klux Klan held meetings inside. “It has quite a diverse history for a building.”
Such ghost hunting classes are becoming a popular addition to ghost walking tours. The Vevay tours provide a way for people to meet individuals who had actual experiences there and can speak of them firsthand.
“It’s known for its paranormal activity,” she said. “So many people have had experiences or seen something there.” Participants are allowed to bring cameras.
Many times, the tour guides “have as much fun or more fun than those taking the ghost tours,” said Barbara Manley Edds. She has been a tour guide for the “Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tours” for the last eight years. The tour is currently in its 10th season.
“It’s fun to see what their reaction will be. Each tour is different, and each experience as a group is different,” said Edds. “Each guide has new experiences as well.”
The La Grange ghost walking tours are well known “because they are authentic. We don’t stage anything. We’re authentic with the history we tell and in checking out each story,” Edds said.
And strange, unexplained things have been known to take place. While Edds was giving a tour to a group of 25 individuals at the former Head’s Pharmacy on Main Street, all that were present heard footsteps above them. The tour group were the only people in the building at the time.

Robert Parker

"Everyone is curious. People are interested in the paranormal."
– Louisville ghost walking guide Robert Parker

In the former Peak Hotel on Main Street, the group she was with experienced some type of movement in the former hotel and funeral home. “What happens on the tours is the real deal,” she said.
“New actions are recorded all of the time. There is always something new to tell,” Edds said.
She loves to go inside Linda Foster’s residence, the former Christmas in Kentucky gift shop at 203 E. Washington St. Another favorite of Edds’ is the former Big R’s barbecue restaurant on the corner of Main and Cedar streets “because of the research I did and uncovered a murder. The historical facts fit in with the actions that were recorded there.”
Edds said the ghost walking tours are also popular because there is a “certain feel to La Grange. It feels good to be here. People do like to be a little bit scared with ghost stories.”
As a testament to this, Edds said she had a woman take one of her tours who had also taken bigger tours in more notable locations such as Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans. The woman told Edds that the La Grange tours were “the best I’ve ever been on.”
For this reason, the tours are “an excellent way to introduce people to La Grange,” she said. “There is a very rich history here.”
A new addition to this years “Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tours” is a “Dinner with the Spirits” planned for Oct. 4 at the Irish Rover, Too. Space is limited and special guests will be present so that more in depth discussions about the sites can take place as well as giving attendees time to share their experiences.
These tours are the biggest fundraiser of the year for Discover Downtown La Grange, officials say. “They help keep the historical district vital and healthy,” Edds said.

Barbara Manley Edds

Photo by Darrel Taylor

Barbara Manley
Edds dresses the
part when she leads
the ‘Spirits of
La Grange” ghost
walking tours on
weekends in October.

Many ghost walking tours are not only offered in the fall, even though participation may pick up in October. Two tours that basically operate from May to November are Louisville Ghost Walks and Louisville Ghost Tours.
Participants on Louisville Ghost Walks can visit four haunted sites that “each have a little Louisville history attached to them,” said Robert Parker. Better known as “Mr. Ghost Walker,” Parker began this ghost walking tour business a decade ago.
A teacher for 21 years in Jefferson County, Ky., Parker runs his business from May to November. The tour begins at the Brown Hotel on Broadway, proceeds to the Brennan House at 631 S. Fifth St., and the Louisville Palace Theatre, 625 S. Fourth St., before ending at the Seelbach Hotel, 500 S. Fourth St. The latter hotel is the only location tour guests may enter. They are taken to an area on the second floor mezzanine for ghostly storytelling.
Not only entertaining, the tours are informational as well, Parker says. “Guests need to know the history of the sites,” said Parker, who has been a guest at both hotels.
At the Brennan House in the Old Louisville section of the city, Parker shows many pictures that tell of the lifestyle of the former residents. This three-story Victorian home was built in 1868 by tobacco wholesaler Francis Slaughter Jones Ronald. The house was purchased in 1884 by Thomas Brennan, a native of Ireland, and it stayed in the family for 75 years. He and his wife, Anna Bruce, had nine children, eight of whom survived into adulthood. It has been said that apparitions have made their presence known in several rooms of the Brennan’s house: the first floor parlor, main hallway, third floor children’s play room and the medical office of Dr. John Brennan.

Brown Hotel

Photo provided

Some Louisville ghost walk tours
stop by the Brown Hotel.

In 1912, Dr. Brennan added a doctor’s office, along with waiting and exam rooms, to the north side of his house. Brennan was a surgeon and general practitioner in this office until just before his death in 1963. The Brennan family was known to have loved their home and evidently didn’t want to be parted from it even in death.
Parker tells tour participants what to expect up front. Like the Ghost Walking Tours in Vevay, the Louisville Ghost Walks are comprised of about 50-50 locals and out-of-towners, he said.
“Everyone is curious. People are interested in the paranormal. Most ladies enjoy things about the paranormal, while guys enjoy the history and architectural detail of the buildings,” Parker said.
He encourages participants to come early and look around the haunted landmarks. His tours are suitable for ages nine years and up.
Parker said he began his business because “I always loved ghost stories. I’ve taken other ghost walking tours and was fascinated with the history of these places, some of which were out-of-the way places.”
He said many locals may have heard about the tours or the sites on the tour, but not been on a tour. It’s an interesting way to educate them about their own local history.
Frank Harris is one of the managers of Louisville Ghost Tour. All of his tour guides dress the part in Victorian costumes, and have some type of experience in theatre. This heightens the participants encounter with the haunted side of some of Louisville’s well-known historic buildings during their lantern-lit tour.
“We focus on telling authentic stories,” said Harris. Like Edds, he thoroughly researches the landmarks on his tour route, using at least three sources for every story that is related on the tour.
“I tried to find locations that have not only a great haunted history, but history in general, and also architecture that is interesting to view,” said Harris. Louisville Ghost Tour lasts 90 minutes and covers six sites. Like Parker, the only site he takes visitors into is the Seelbach Hotel.
There have been several haunted happenings on his tours, such as participants seeing silhouettes and smelling a trace of perfume worn by the long-gone inhabitant of the home or hotel.
Louisville Ghost Tours is a subsidiary of Timeline Ghost Tours. The tours, guides and stories have been featured on the Travel Channel, TLC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS.
Many of these tours sell out quickly and reservations are strongly suggested.

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