Behind the scenes of Historical Preservation Club’s ghost tours
By EMILY GROTTLE
The University of Mary Washington’s Historical Preservation Club recently hosted their annual ghost tour on Oct. 21 and 22, a tradition that has taken place for over 30 years. Tour guides take excited guests to haunted areas around the city of Fredericksburg, where student volunteers and members of the club dress like ghosts and put on a show at each location.
The tour is not only fun for students, but also for the locals of Fredericksburg. The walk takes about an hour. One of the haunted sites included the Willis house, a house which stood during one of the worst battles of the Civil War; supposedly haunted by a Union Soldier. Other haunted sites include the house of Mary Washington and Fredericksburg’s local newspaper building, The Free-Lance Star.
Ariadne Randolph, junior International Relations major, has been a tour guide for past two years. “We advertise the walk at the beginning of the year during club carnival,” Randolph said. This advertising is how the club gets actors to play the different ghost characters at the houses throughout the city.
To visit these sites, however, there is work that first needs to be done. “We have to talk to any residents who live in the sights,” Randolph said, “and the club president has to talk to the police each year due to the screaming and fake blood that goes along with the tour.”
As a tour guide, Randolph talked about how much she loves it. “I love bringing people around to potentially haunted places,” she said, “and the kids have a lot of fun with the stories, they are much easier to scare.”
In the 33 years that the tour has run, the script has stayed somewhat the same. All the information about each location is from the book, The Ghosts of Fredericksburg by L.B. Taylor Jr., and can be found in the UMW bookstore.
Junior Historic Preservation major Christine Pace is the costume chair and officer in the club. She oversees how the actors get the period-appropriate costumes they need that have either been donated or made throughout the years. “This year went very smoothly,” Pace said, “At this point we know what to expect.”
“I always invite my family, and it’s a great date activity,” Pace said, “and school groups from the university come out too, this year ICA had a group to themselves.”
The event serves as a fantastic fundraiser because of its popularity and reputation as being a much-loved activity around Halloween. The money that is raised all goes to the Historical Preservation club to help pay for their trip in the spring, where they go to different sites to dig as well as their Victorian Ball, which is also held during the spring semester.
“We don’t get a big budget from the school, so this is a great way to raise money and awareness to the history of Fredericksburg,” Randolph said.
Senior English major, Gracyn Hill went on the tour on Friday night to support the historic preservation club. “I had such a good time and it’s a really clever fundraising idea; more clubs should take note,” Hill said.
Hill heard about the tour through her freshman year roommate, who is in the Historic Preservation club. During the tour, there were mostly students in her group. “It was my first time so I didn’t know what to expect,” Hill said.
“Although the dramatization was fun, I would have liked to hear more about the history of the houses” Hill confesses, as at each stop there is only a quick blurb about the site before the ghosts do their bit. Because the whole tour is based off one book, the tour revolves around local lure.
“There are a lot of young kids on the tour, so we have to keep it simple,” Pace said. “We can only do tiny stories because tours leave every ten minutes, and the entire walk is about an hour,” Randolph added.
Although the Historic Preservation club doesn’t include as much history of Fredericksburg as some students would prefer, the tour is still a creative way to raise funds while getting locals and students interested in the sites around the city they live in.