INDEPENDENCE — The first Independence Ghost Walk, 16 years ago, had three stops. This year it has 32.
The Ghost Walk starts at 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 at Independence Riverview Park, 50 C St.
The tour of historic downtown Independence buildings has been part of the Hop and Heritage Festival since 2002.
What sparked the idea for a ghost walk?
“I like to say it’s because of a failed band trip,” said Marilyn Morton, an Independence city councilor and longtime volunteer.
Her daughter was supposed to go to San Francisco on band trip that got canceled because of a scheduling conflict.
“She was upset, so I said here’s my credit card, book us a trip to San Francisco since that’s where she was going,” Morton said. “We were down there on Fisherman’s Wharf and both of us spotted the sign that said, ‘Take the Barbary Coast Ghost Walk.’ We looked at each other and said, ‘We can do that at home.’”
Morton said she expected to have 30 or 40 people show up for the first event. There were 310.
“I have people now who have been to every single one,” Morton said. “This community kind of owns it.”
Last year, 1,500 people attended, she said.
“We try to hold the groups to about 40,” Morton said. “(The Ghost Walk) takes about two hours if you do every stop on the tour.”
This year, Morton concentrated on getting people to be hosts at the different sites, to tell the people on the walk about the history, spectral and not, of the buildings where they are stationed.
“I created a bible for myself of all the different things that were at locations in downtown, what they used to be,” Morton said as she opened up a large binder. “(I) read old newspaper articles and got some anecdotal information and blended those into the ghost walk.”
Historically, Morton, and the site hosts, can tell you the different businesses that have been established downtown, from saloons to hotels, and even where to find the undertaker.
JimmyZ used to house an undertaker’s business that also sold flowers on the side.
“Don’t you think that was a good use of coordinated activities?” Morton laughed.
Of course, there are some ghost stories to be told as well.
“We lost Dan (Weaver) a couple of months ago,” Morton said.
Weaver owned Main Street Antiques and lived upstairs.
“His story was that he’d go up to bed at night and there’d be such noise and things would be moved around, stuff would be knocked around,” Morton said. “And he’d hear the same thing when he was downstairs. Things moved from one shelf to another.”
One day he decided to address it.
“He said one day he got up after not having very much sleep that night, stood at the balcony stairs and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to make a deal here,’” Morton said. “He knew, he said, the entity, what he caught glimpses of, was always a young boy and that he had a red ball that he bounced.”
Morton said Weaver told the “entity,” “When I’m upstairs asleep, you can have the absolute run of the downstairs. But leave me alone to sleep, when I’m downstairs, the upstairs is yours.”
All of the disturbances stopped, she said.
“The other thing that appeared to have happened is it gave the little boy leave to exit this building and visit other places,” Morton said. “He’s been seen all the way down to the Little Mall on Main Street.”
Other businesses owners have since reported seeing or feeling the boy with the red ball, Morton said.
“I’m not particularly a believer in any of this stuff,” Morton said. “I do believe in the wealth a community has in its stories. I think that’s the important part, saving the stories.”