Dark nights, old mansions and ghostly history are weaved against a backdrop of Spokane’s oldest neighborhood – Browne’s Addition – for a series of Halloween weekend walking tours.
SpookWalk, a fundraiser to benefit the neighborhood’s Coeur d’Alene Park, is akin to telling campfire ghost stories but using the tales of Spokane’s settlers and where they once lived, said tour guide MaryLou Sproul.
There’s no gore, props or scares from the bushes.
Instead, the guides share facts, stories and ghostly or mysterious events as shared by modern residents. On tours, Sproul will ask questions like, under what house is a dead body still lurking, or where does a ghost open the curtains facing Riverside Avenue to watch the neighborhood?
“Browne’s Addition is very historic, with a lot of very old mansions and lots of good stories,” Sproul said. “Also, so many people have lived in Browne’s Addition at some point in their lives. A lot of people have said they’re fascinated with the history, the people and the ghosts. People are curious about life there.
“We walk in front of an old mansion and talk a little bit about the history and what the persons did. We tell an interesting story about some of our early people who helped build Spokane, and then we relate that to some kind of story that could be a ghost story or some kind of incident where people might have died suddenly – something that happened where a ghost could be there.
“In many of the houses, the people who live there have reported that there are ghosts. I spent about a year just walking around talking to people, so there are quite a few ghost stories. Others, I got from the newspaper that were incidents that could be ghosts.”
Organized by the Friends of Coeur d’Alene Park group, the event started about five years ago. Sproul was its sole tour guide, but she said with popularity, organizers beginning this year have added a second tour to each night, with times now at 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Oct. 28, 29, 30 and 31. Eric Stapleton, a local teacher, is the other guide for 2022.
Each tour is by reservation only for $25 a ticket. For safety reasons including uneven sidewalks, people are asked not to bring strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, pets, or children under 5.
However, Sproul said many teens have gone on the tour, and there’s been at least two children with parents’ permission. Flashlights are encouraged.
“I have had children go, and the parents checked ahead in both cases,” Sproul said. “With both those kids, they had a definite interest, in that they liked ghost stories.”
She warned there are a couple of stories where people got shot and died. Mostly, the event holds a mysterious and sometimes wacky appeal.
Each group meets at “the Secret Garden” behind Browne’s Bistro and starts by drinking hot apple cider and singing pumpkin carols. For a hint, Sproul said organizers hand out words for a Halloween-themed sing-along, which is set to the tunes of popular Christmas songs. One is “I’m Dreaming of a Great Pumpkin,” to the sound of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” classic.
She said the tour guides also carry iPads to show pictures of houses in the daylight, or to compare what was once there.
Each tour goes for about two hours and covers a mile, with frequent stops. People should dress for the weather and wear walking shoes, Sproul said.
“It’s really fun; I’ve had some people who have taken the tour more than once,” she said. The website registration process will cut off each tour at 25 people. All proceeds go toward planned improvements to the park such as playground equipment and paths, she said.
Sproul lives in Browne’s Addition and plans for this summer to start back with summer walking tours. It doesn’t have the same route, and of course, the stories are different, she said.
The Halloween-inspired ones wait for just this time of year, and she doesn’t share them otherwise, even when coaxed by friends or people she meets. “I say, ‘No, you have to pay for that.’ ”
Register at the website: tinyurl.com/BrownesTours. For more information, call (509) 850-0056.
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