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CW's Ghost Tour brings history alive
How do you take an idea for a tour involving ghosts and bring it to life- without the customary scare factor?
Canal Winchester Area Historical Society member and tour organizer Elaine Thomas can answer that question after taking a suggestion by a resident in 2005 and growing it into an event that has doubled in attendance over the years.
The society is sponsoring its seventh annual Ghost Tour on Oct. 5-6 with stops at six sites throughout the city. Billed as "Drama Bringing History to Life," walking tour groups start at 7 p.m. and last approximately an hour and a half.
"When we started, we wanted to make sure the tour was historically based," said Thomas, who works throughout the year with a core group of a half-dozen volunteers. "Everyone jumped on the idea. Judy (Fleming) and Jeannette (Schneider) got into our archives and researched spots and in 2006, we conducted our first tour."
Readying their inaugural event involved planning on many levels and in areas unfamiliar to the volunteers such as publicity, ticketing and tour logistics.
"We knew we had to have a brochure and come up with a way to sell tickets," said Thomas. "We decided that first year to have a ticket styled like a train ticket that could be punched at the different stops. It became complicated when the punches didn't work. We also realized we needed to mark the stops and have people walk the tour route before the first tour to look for hazards and sweep leaves out of the way."
The second year, the historical society advertised for actors and guides, but organizers quickly realized that less really can be more and now run with a skeleton crew. In addition to the core group, there are approximately 15 other individuals serving as tour guides and actors, many of whom have been with the event since it began.
There is a timekeeper who calculates how long it takes to go from the ticket office to the first stop and listen to the first presentation in order to know when to send out the next group. Residents Tony and Carol Note walk the route before the first group, setting up signs and lighting candles to create an ambiance carried throughout the tour.
The Ohio Department of Transportation distributes 1,500 ghost tour brochures at rest stops throughout the state. Additional brochures are distributed at the Ohio State Fair. Funding for advertising is covered by a local Convention and Visitor's Bureau grant and Slate Run Metro Park loans costumes to the society for the event.
"Once the tour starts, it takes on a life of its own," said Thomas, who said while there are small glitches-such as church doors that continued to lock behind departing groups during the 2011 tour or actors that mistakenly left their post before the next group approached-things run smoothly and problems usually escape the eyes of participants.
"The first year, two actors on opposite sides of the street thought the tour was over, changed clothes, and started to leave," recalled Thomas. "One was flagged down and she managed to change back into her costume and made it back in time for the next group."
The incident forced organizers to create a system of forward and reverse cards given to actors to let them know when the last groups pass by their stop.
According to Thomas, property owner response to requests to use their home or building as part of the tour has been overwhelming and no one has ever refused to participate.
"Owners have been so delighted in so many cases," said Thomas. "One owner was so excited, he invited the first two groups into his house and he gave them a little tour. If we pick a building and know if there are still people associated with it, we ask them if they would like to be an actor. This year, Jim Shaw is portraying his father, Damon Shaw, at the second building owned by Shaw Jewelry."
Additional stops include: the Alfred Cannon Memorial, Central Ohio Canning Factory, William Codner Home, Dr. Jepsen home and office, and Caslow's Drug Store.
About the Historic Ghost Tour
The Canal Winchester Area Historical Society's 7th annual Historic Ghost Tour will be held Oct. 5 and 6. Hear people from Canal Winchester's historic past tell tales like you've never heard them before. Tickets are $10 per adult or $5 per student ages 6-18. Children 5 and under admitted free. Tickets may be purchased through the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society: (614) 833-1846 or (614) 837-8400; or Canal Winchester Area Historical Society PO Box 15, Canal Winchester, OH 43110. Tickets may be purchased the nights of the tour beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Prentiss School in the Historical Society Complex in downtown Canal Winchester. The first tour leaves at 7 p.m. and the last tour leaves at 7:30 p.m.. There will be a van provided by CanalWinchester Human Services for the 7:30 p.m. tour for those who are unable to walk the tour. For information contact Joy Habegger at email@example.com or visit cwhistory.org.
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