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Are Ghost Stories Good for the Economy?

At Mysterious Heartland, we have long espoused the benefits of folklore, ghost stories, and legends when it comes to tourism and the local economy. For years, we have fought with the naysayers (some of whom share our interests) who believe ghost stories bring negative attention and are responsible for every bad thing that happens at a reportedly haunted location.

Recently, Charles Slat wrote an editorial for the Monroe News advocating the benefits of paranormal tourism. Called, “Haunted Past Could Scare Up Tourist Dollars,” he argues, “Monroe County might have the potential for tapping new economic potential by blending a little folklore, a little history and a little spookiness.” He cited his experience with River Raisin National Battlefield Park, which attracted a surprising amount of interest due to rumors of ghostly activity. The Park capitalized on this notoriety, holding spirit walks that attracted sizable crowds.

It is an open secret that many historic sites and museums have publicized their reported hauntings and have competed to appear on television shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Not only does this create necessary “buzz” that attracts national attention, but it opens up additional revenue streams from events specifically tailored to people interested in the paranormal. A resident ghost might mean the difference between a sold out event and the same three retirees sulking their way around the museum on a typical Friday night.

For years, Steve Litteral, Executive Director of Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Illinois, has successfully leveraged rumors of hauntings into additional interest and revenue. “Many museums do not like the idea of doing paranormal tours or having investigators come out to do research in their museums because they think it will put some kind of stigma on their museum as not being very ‘professional,'” he told us. “I take an opposite view.”

“I work at a house museum, and many house museums are closing across the country because they will not change to meet the needs of the public. I had many people asking for us to do paranormal tours, and eventually I was able to do investigations and night tours because I have a great board of trustees that knows we need to adapt to survive. We still maintain our focus on the historical integrity of the museum and our great collection of artifacts, but we have been able to cater our programs to the changing needs of the public. I also find that we reach a broader audience by doing paranormal events. Many young people are walking through our doors to experience the paranormal, but they leave knowing much more about our history since we weave the history of the museum throughout our night tours.”

The idea that someone may come for the ghost stories but leave with a greater appreciation for and knowledge of local history is very appealing to us. Ghost stories have often served to preserve the memory of some past event. Like any tourism, there are added benefits as well. Visitors will have to fill their stomachs and their gas tanks somewhere–creating additional revenue for local businesses, as well as sales tax revenue for local municipalities. Of course, there is always the risk of negative attention from delinquents and vandals who target certain locations for their mischief, but the benefits far outweigh the potential pitfalls, especially if the places in question are managed correctly. One thing is for sure: the public interest is there. It is up to us whether to turn that into something positive.

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  1. […] week after we reported on Charles Slat’s editorial for the Monroe News advocating the benefits of paranormal tourism, more positive news broke from a […]

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  2. […] be wonderful if that wasn’t the case. At Mysterious Heartland, we have been promoting the benefits of paranormal tourism for years. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people who see […]

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  3. […] hushed tones, as if they are speaking of porno theaters or international crime rings. Despite the benefits of paranormal tourism, for example, a number of years ago local church leaders in my hometown petitioned the public […]

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