Ghost walks set for fall

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2011

After a haunting good time last year, the city has brought back its Suffolk Ghost Walks this fall.

They’ve even scheduled more tour dates this year so they can take more people on a lantern-lit journey through downtown to learn about the eerie happenings at some of Suffolk’s oldest buildings.

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“It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Theresa Earles, tourism development coordinator for the city. “It’s very interesting.”

Tourism employee Kevin Sary did all the research for the ghost walks, talking to business owners and homeowners and wading through stacks of books and documents to find pertinent information, Earles said.

The tour includes the Prentis House, Riddick’s Folly, the old Gardner Store, the Visitor Center in the old Nansemond County Courthouse, and a few private homes. The guide will also talk about other locations throughout Suffolk, such as the Great Dismal Swamp.

Of course, some of the research for the tour was done through the personal experience of several tourism employees. The department used to be located in the Prentis House, which is known far and wide for its supposed haunting.

“We heard lots of steps,” Earles said. “You could hear people walking around. We had the remote control flying across the room. The lights would come on and off by themselves, and the door would lock from the inside repeatedly.”

The Prentis House is the only building given the “Haunted” rating by the Old Dominion University Ghost Hunters Club. The club recorded unexplained whispers, humming, footsteps, singing and possible piano notes during its investigation there.

The same club investigated Riddick’s Folly and determined it also has paranormal activity, based on recordings of humming, voices and other strange sounds.

“After a while, you do become very acclimated to your friendly ghost,” Earles said of her experiences in the Prentis House. “We didn’t feel anyone was trying to hurt us, but it was definitely making its presence known.”

Nobody has determined who may have haunted — or still haunts — the Prentis House, but everyone has a theory, Earles said.

“We often thought they were children based on the way they would run up and down the steps,” Earles said. “We thought that little kids might have been chasing each other.”

This Saturday, a special version of the ghost walk will take place. Known as “Tea and Spirits,” the tour will begin at the OutRAGEous Tea Room in the old Gardner Store. The tea room is situated in an 1825 historic home where prisoners were held during the Civil War.

Strange happenings in that building have included items flying across the room, OutRAGEous owner Susan Wilkins-Piland claims.

Participants in the Tea and Spirits tour will be able to enjoy tea and finger foods before the tour begins. It will depart from 341 N. Main St. at 7 p.m. and cost $15.

All other tours will cost $10 and depart from the Visitor Center, 524 N. Main St. Tickets are $8 for seniors.

The tours are not recommended for the very young or the faint of heart, Earles said. Participants should dress comfortably, including walking shoes.

In addition to this weekend’s Tea and Spirits tour, tours are set for the following dates and times:

  • Friday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 19 at 5 p.m.

Because space is limited, reservations are required for the ghost walks. Call 514-4130 for more information or to reserve your space.