While 2009 was technically the second year of the Lima Lantern Tours, it was the first one for me. Not only that, the Lantern Tours represent the first (and so far, only) event I’ve participated in where I attempted to tell ghost stories while riding around in the back of a horse-driven carriage. Oh yeah, and all while trying real hard not to fall out of the back of said horse-driven carriage as it cruised down the streets of downtown Lima.
My involvement began with an e-mail from the two women who were organizing the event, Cara and Aubree. I was intrigued enough with what they were describing in terms of what they were planning, although I will admit that I was a bit nervous when I asked what they wanted me to do and they responded “we don’t know. You can do whatever you want.” Of course, when they followed it up with “but we do know we want to put you on the back of a carriage and have you tell ghost stories while horses pull you around downtown Lima” I was sold. How could I not be?
Since one of the members of The Ghosts of Ohio, Darrin Boop, was a longtime Lima resident (and my wife has relatives in the area), I had been hearing tales of the wonders that is Kewpee for years. So the fact that on top of my hanging off the back of a carriage, I could also make my first official pilgrimage to downtown Lima and ingest a hamburger in the shadow of a naked baby statue, well, that was the icing on the cake. And while I must admit that I did not dip my fries in my malt on this trip, Kewpee did not disappoint.
There was also another interesting ghostly wrinkle thrown into the tours. The Ohio Theatre in Lima, which was going to be one of the stops on the Lantern Tours, has a long reputation for being haunted. The organizers of the tours gave me exclusive access to the basement area of the theatre, including the old dressing rooms where the ghost is said to roam. I was actually able to set up some infrared video cameras throughout the basement and had them run overnight. Sadly, no shadowy spectre showed up that night, but it was an amazing and unique opportunity to see the hidden side of the Ohio Theatre.
As for the Lantern Tours themselves, truth be told, the whole thing was rather surreal and weird; a pair of horses pulling a large carriage full of people up and down the main streets of Lima, Ohio, in the middle of the night. The looks from the people walking along the sidewalk were worth the price of admission alone. As for what I ended up doing that night, after a few panicked moments of silence while the guests and I exchanged nervous glances, I launched into my usual, manic ghost-story-telling self and all was well with the world. And when I pulled out some handheld EMFs and explained that I wanted everyone to help me do a little ghost hunting, well, let’s just say it was all I could do to keep from bring pushed out of the carriage as people scrambled for the equipment.
One of the cool things about the Lima Lantern Tours is that they are continually adding new places to the tour, including ones where guests can disembark and go inside. But back in 2009, the carriage only stopped at two such places, one of which was the aforementioned Ohio Theatre. On Friday, the first night of my very first tour, we took a group in and up onto the stage of the theatre. As we were standing there, exchanging ghostly tales, I remembered how earlier I had gotten some high EMF readings near one of the back doors, which I attributed to electrical wires outside the building. Thinking this would be an opportunity to show people that just because you get high EMF readings, that doesn’t mean there’s a ghost around, I directed one of the young girls in the group to the back door and told her to use the EMF to find the high readings. Guess what? There were none to be found. Whatever had caused those high levels was now gone. I was never able to figure that one out.
Of course, this was the same door that, minutes later, would send a local police officer and myself down the alley alongside the theatre in an attempt to explain the readings. That, in turn, would lead to an event which caused the officer to move his hand back towards his holster while asking me “what was that?” This would be when I first muttered those now-infamous words: “I don’t know, but what are you looking at me for? You’re the one with the gun.” BTW, this should not be confused with the 2013 Lantern Tour, when I was with an officer who drew down on an elevator that seemed to open on its own. But that, as they say, is a story for another day!
2009 was also the year the Lantern Tours started entertaining the idea of giving guided daylight tours through Woodlawn Cemetery. They didn’t offer any official tours that year, but Darrin, Steph, and I spent some time wandering the grounds, admiring all the interesting and unique stones and monuments. What better way to spend a fall afternoon?
So there you have it: two nights filled with ghosts, gangsters, and various tales of Lima’s strange and spooky side, coupled with an afternoon stroll through a graveyard. Doesn’t get much better than that.
It was a good weekend.
The Lima Lantern Tours traditionally run for two weekends every October. For more information, check out their site here or visit their Facebook page here.