Ghost Tours celebrates 10 years of spooky stories

Mr. Gabriel David Sumegi Newman the 2nd presents his popular Ghost Tours of Vernon July 15 to 20 at 9 p.m.

The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is pleased to announce that the Ghost Tours of Vernon is back for its 10th year of spine-tingling tales and haunted houses.

Yet, this year, instead of offering the tour a couple days a week for the summer, the tours will be packed into one week of ghostliness. Starting, as always, from the steps between the Vernon Museum and the former library, the tour will run every day from this Sunday until July 20 at 9 p.m. The tours cost $10 for ages 13 and up, $5 for those 12 and under.

“It is hard to believe that this will be my 10th year of holding the tours,” said creator and host Mr. Gabriel David Sumegi Newman the 2nd.

Newman, a professional storyteller and performer, created the ghost tours as a way of combining the art of storytelling with local history.

“You come for the ghosts, which there are many of, but you leave with a new understanding and appreciation for the history of the region,” he said.

When Newman initially created the tours in 2004 he hoped he would get a few hundred people over the summer to cover his expenses, so he was shocked when on the third night of doing the tour he had just under 200 spectators.

“It was insane,” said Newman, but it wasn’t something he was unprepared for.

Years earlier he had worked with the St. John’s Haunted Hike which quite frequently got hundreds of participants a night.

“I knew large crowds were possible for an old city with hundreds of years of history and thousands of tourists but I wasn’t expecting it in Vernon. What I hadn’t counted on was the local interest and support,” said Newman, who at the time had only lived in Vernon for a couple of years. “It was a wonderful introduction to the community spirit in Vernon.”

Newman said it is that local interest and support which has kept him going all these years, adding that his crowds now are much more manageable in number, and the smaller crowds make for a more personal tour and allow for more questions and exchanges.

“In the beginning I was just struggling to be heard but now I can focus on the stories and the audience.”

Newman reflects on the many strange things that have happened over the years.

“Certainly the first couple of years were the most memorable where the large crowds would shut down an intersection for five minutes as everyone crossed.”

An outdoor walking tour through the streets of town at night offers opportunities for many interactions with the living that provided for interesting evenings.

“Sometimes someone might have too much to drink and try to join the tours. Thankfully they usually lose interest after a story or two but they aren’t nearly as distracting as when the police arrest someone near us or even cats. I don’t know what it is about animals but if there is an animal around I could light myself on fire and people would still just watch the animals. I guess it is because they are unpredictable.”

Now, after 10 years, Newman has become a staple of the summer in Vernon and people are less surprised to see a man walking around in a black three-piece suit, a black bowler hat and large skull walking stick with 20 people trailing behind him. Many tourists return year after year to hear the new stories or changes Newman has made. Locals as well have come to count on The Ghost Tours to entertain and educate visitors.

“I have had some people on the tour more times than years I have done the tour,” adds Newman, “I offered to give them a discount but they refused, saying they enjoyed it every time. I mean, what more can a storyteller hope for.”

So, if you have never gone, or haven’t gone in a while, you have one week before the Ghost Tours disappear into the darkness again.

Tours leave at 9 p.m. from the steps of the Vernon Museum from Sunday to July 20. It is an outdoor walking tour and runs rain or shine, so dress appropriately. Ticket price is $10 for those over the age of 12 and $5 for those 12 and under (cash only).

No reservations are necessary unless you want to book a private tour for 20 or more.