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Interview: Baltimore Ghost Tours
Walking with Ghosts in Charm City
By Paisley Hibou
Sure, Baltimore, Maryland is a friendly place. And, yes, the city did create an advertising campaign in the 1970's to brand Baltimore as "Charm City," during which time tourists received complimentary charm bracelets and were prompted to buy charms from local attractions. But did it ever occur to you that the nickname might also apply to the city's high level of paranormal activity? Well, if it didn't, maybe Baltimore Ghost Tours can convince you that B'more is a supernatural haven.
What's the basic history of Baltimore Ghost Tours? Who founded the company and how did it evolve? How did the idea spring up in the first place?
Baltimore Ghost Tours was founded by Melissa Rowell and Amy Lynwander. We both lived in Fell’s Point in Baltimore (Baltimore’s version of Greenwich Village) at that time, and wanted to work on a project together. Amy ran conventions around the country, saw other ghost tours in other cities and suggested it to Melissa. We both thought Fell’s Point was a perfect place for a ghost tour, [so we] did the research and launched our first tour in October 2001. We’ve [since then] added a ghost tour in the Mount Vernon neighborhood and a haunted pub tour in Fell’s Point along the way.
Describe the atmosphere of the typical tour. Should guests prepare beforehand? (i.e., bring an extra pair of underwear?)
We don’t have anyone jump out at you, so the extra pair of underwear is probably not necessary. Guests should bring an umbrella since the tour runs rain or shine, and a camera for ghostly pictures. People on our tour get a lot of orbs.
What are the pluses and minuses of each of your three main ghost walks--The Original Fells Point Ghostwalk, The Mount Vernon Ghostwalk, and The Fells Point Haunted Pubwalk?
We’ll start with the easy one. You can drink on The Fell’s Point Haunted PubWalk! Fell’s Point is probably more rowdy and has more humor, and Mount Vernon has beautiful, grand architecture and is more spooky.
Could you give us the gist of one of your favorite ghost stories? We realize it's not the same as hearing them in person, standing in the very place it happened.
One of our favorite ghost stories is about Doc at Dudas. When the Dudas family opened a bar in 1949, they inherited a retired seaman named Doc who boarded upstairs from 1947 until his death in 1980. Doc was a lovable guy and well known in the neighborhood. He was friend to all—factory worker to college student.
Doc had a favorite polka on the jukebox that he'd play all the time. It used to drive some of the regulars a little nuts, but every time the jukebox would be updated, Doc's polka remained out of respect for him, although 33 years of the same song couldn't have been too easy to take.
Doc died in 1980. The next time the jukebox was updated, Doc's polka was finally taken off the machine. A few months went by and one slow night, some regulars were sitting around the bar. No one had fed the jukebox, so it started up itself and was playing random selections. Suddenly, a familiar noise blasted out of the machine. It was Doc's polka. While the regulars stared at each other in amazed silence, that polka filled the bar. It played all the way through and then the music turned off.
There was a moment of stunned silence and then the group got up en masse and walked over to the jukebox. They looked inside and the polka was nowhere on the machine. There's no way it could've played. But it did. Some of the people thought it was Doc, coming back one more time to say goodbye, and also asking them to put the polka back on the jukebox–which did not happen, but you can't blame a guy for trying.
How did you find the weirdos--we say this affectionately--who lead your tours? What unique perspective does each guide bring?
They’ve come from Baltimore actor groups, Craigslist, recommendations from current guides, and some have just emailed us. We hold auditions from time to time, and keep a running list of people to contact. We find that our best guides are not only good storytellers, but also people who are good at interacting with an audience and thinking on their feet.
How does the nature of your tours differ from others offered in the Mid-Atlantic region? Say, in Philly, D.C., Old Town Alexandria, or Richmond?
We can’t speak for other tours, but our tours weave the neighborhood’s colorful history into the tour, so you’re learning about Baltimore while you’re hearing the haunted tales of the area.
Talk about your book, Baltimore's Harbor Haunts.
People kept asking us for a book, so we finally wrote one! We included the stories from our Fell’s Point tour, plus ones around the harbor (Canton, Fell’s Point, the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, Locust Point). It was fun to get down all the stories, and the book was well-received.
So, now that Halloween is over, how do you keep from tapping your feet in impatience?
We’re bringing back the "Spirits of Christmas Past with Jacob Marley Pub Walk" with our excellent guide Cliff Long from the end of November through December 23rd, and will use the downtime to follow up on leads of new haunted spots or occurrences. Don’t worry, we’ll stay busy.
11/3/2011 03:36:38 am
i guess i know what i'm gonna do next time i go to bmore
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