Ghost tours are no longer just for Halloween.
An industry has sprung up highlighting hauntings, orbs, ghostly tales and general creepiness in nearly all regions of Kansas.
Cathy Ramirez of Ghost Tours of Kansas offers 13 ghost tours in 11 cities, including Wichita. Most of her tours are in eastern Kansas in cities such as Topeka, Kansas City, Lawrence and Atchison.
Ramirez says she offers the tours nine months out of the year and takes a break from the middle of November through February.
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A decade ago, it would have been unheard of to do such tours, Ramirez said.
But the popularity of shows such as “Ghost Adventures” on the Travel Channel, “Paranormal State” on the Arts and Entertainment Channel and “Ghost Hunters” on the Syfy Channel has created a local interest in things that go bump in the night.
“People are no longer fearful of sounding crazy,” she said. “I just think we are keeping up with the times. There are more people who like it than don’t.”
Ramirez’s Topeka tours feature stories about the Capitol and the men who fell from scaffolding while building it. Others tell of a suicide and of workers who refused to leave their post, even after they died, such as Capitol librarian Louise McNeal. She loved her job so much that she came to work every day, even in retirement – and perhaps from the Great Beyond.
In Lawrence, there is plenty of ghostly fodder surrounding Quantrill’s raid of the town in 1863.
Closer to home, Ramirez’s Wichita tours include tales about a couple of historic characters during the city’s early years: Rowdy Joe Lowe and Red Beard, two Delano saloon owners who were involved in a shootout. There are also ghost stories about a hotel, a tattoo parlor and theaters across the city.
Besides Ramirez’s tours in Atchison, the Atchison Chamber of Commerce has been offering its own tours for nearly two decades.
Since the mid-1990s, Atchison, dubbed the “most haunted town in Kansas” in the 1997 book “Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales,” has tried to preserve its paranormal history as well as its regular history.
Each year, the city hosts a haunted homes tour aboard its historic trolley. The tours are so popular the town added a motor coach as well. This year’s events began in May and run through Nov. 8. The town also offers a history/mystery walking tour, cemetery lantern walking tours, sponsored tombstone rubbings, a Ghost Hunting 101 class, “Supper with the Spirits” and paranormal investigations of the Sallie House.
As the trolley rumbles up and down the town’s brick streets and alongside the Missouri River, narrators tell the story of Molly’s Hollow in Jackson Park.
Molly, a slave, is said to have hanged herself from a tree during the “Bleeding Kansas” days.
“Sallie the Man-Hater” is another favorite Atchison ghost story that was featured on “Sightings,” a popular television series. It’s the tale of a young girl who haunts a doctor’s house. She is said to have died while in surgery to remove her appendix and hates men who walk into the house.
Terry Rowe of Catch a Ghost Tours of Kansas concentrates on western Kansas and features tours in Ellinwood, Garden of Eden in Lucas, the Fort Larned National Historic Site, Battle Canyon in Scott County and places in Wilson, Hill City and Fort Hays.
“We do this year-round,” Rowe said. “We try to go to indoor locations so people don’t have to be out in the elements.”
In the Underground Tunnels of Ellinwood, there is rumored to be both a ghostly librarian and perhaps the specter of a prostitute, Rowe said. Fort Larned has a blacksmith that whistles as he fades in and out, and at the Garden of Eden, there’s the mad first wife of S.P. Dinsmore.
“Psychics have come, and they saw quite a few things with Frances,” Rowe said. “Some guests get an eerie feeling in Frances’ bedroom.”
Rowe said his group offers something that most others don’t:
“We are unique in that other teams put you on a trolley and go around and tell you about ghosts,” he said. “We let you get out, take pictures. We offer classes on different metaphysical techniques to protect yourself, and then we let you use our equipment to explore.”
▪ Moonlight Ghost Hunts – Offers midnight hunts in the Delano neighborhood Sept. 19 and 20. Guests are given equipment to investigate hauntings. Cost is $35. http://www.moonlitghosthunts.com
▪ Kansas Aviation Museum – The musem is sponsoring Fright Flight at 8 p.m. Oct. 24. Tickets to the event, which ends at 1 a.m., are $20 per person and include music, food and a walk through the museum. For reservations, call 316-683-9242.
▪ Ghost Tours of Historic Delano – On Oct. 2, the historic Delano neighborhood is sponsoring its own version of Ghost Stories of Historic Delano. Two trolleys will run Oct. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, call Nancy Lawrence at 316-640-2453 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Ghost Tours of Kansas – Two tours are available in Wichita, one on Oct. 11 and one on Oct. 31. Tickets are $20. Call 785-851-0856, or go to www.ghosttoursofkansas.com.
▪ Atchison – Visit www.atchisonkansas.net and click on “Events” and then “Haunted Atchison” for events sponsored by the chamber of commerce.
▪ Catch a Ghost Tours of Kansas – Tours include cities in western Kansas. Call 785-425-7350 or go to http://www.catchaghosttoursofkansas.com.