While you may think local history is ho-hum, you’d be surprised how much rich, dramatic, and even haunted history resides in your own backyard.
I don’t know about you but I’m a BIG local history buff. I love to dig into the past of where I live — and of my surrounding area. It enriches my relationships with these places, allowing me to have a deeper appreciation for what’s around me.
I wasn’t always a local history buff though, at least not to the degree that I cared who built a general store for example, and what impact it had. When I was very young, I cared more about ancient history and large events that shaped nations. I cared about history on a much more global scale. It was only when the more minute (and more close to home) history caught my eye that I realized great stories surrounded me.
I didn’t have to go to Egypt and see the Pyramids of Gaza or visit Gettysburg (a nine hour drive from where I live) to “experience” the drama and intrigue of the past. I only had to walk around my hometown with my “local history eyes” OPEN.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the catalyst for this perspective shift. I’ve also been thinking about how to get the eyes of non- local history buffs (namely people my age and younger) open. Then something unseen smacked me on the forehead: GHOSTS!
Ghosts, as any historical society will tell you, are a great way to get people interested in their local antiquity. A Greek revival house built by a sawmill operator who had 9 kids isn’t necessarily that interesting. But when you hear that this same sawmill operator is said to haunt the house he built, THEN you’ve got people’s attention.
This in mind, I can now remember the day I first become interested in local history. I was on a school bus going home, staring out the window, looking at all the houses and store fronts I was passing. I thought about how many of these house and stores were “old,” some dating back to the early 20th and late 19th century, and how they MIGHT be haunted (this is when I still believed in ghosts).
This prompted me to go to my library and get out some local history books. Sure enough some of the places I had passed were haunted. From then on, I was hooked ‚ — not just on ghost stories (you don’t have to believe in ghosts to enjoy them), but on learning about the history that I interact with regularly.
Ghosts and ghost stories play a pivotal and lucrative role in Horror (as is evident by THE NUN, 2018). They are quite literally timeless. As long as people value ghost stories, they will never die. The same goes for the history these ghosts inhabit.
This October, numerous ghost walks or tours will be put on. There are three types of ghost tours that apply to this article. The first being the Historical Theatrical Ghost Tour. In the “Historical Theatrical Ghost Tour,” actors dress up as ghosts (people from the past) and discuss their role during that time period, usually with their (non-haunted) business, residence, or place of death as a backdrop.
The second type of ghost tour is the Historical Ghosts from History Tour. In the “Historical Ghosts from History Tour” a tour guide (sans actors) will take you to historical sites where (sometimes) gruesome things occurred and tell you about the ghosts that haunt these sites.
The last type is the “Hybrid”. The Hybrid (as you can probable guess) is a hybrid between the two aforementioned tours.
If you like local history, or even if you don’t (perhaps especially if you don’t), I recommend you take one (or all three) types of these tours this October. You just might learn a thing or two, that is, if you’re not too frightened.