Detroit Suburb Discovers Value in Ghost Tours

A 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 suburb of Detroit called Royal Oak. For years, there have been rumors that the Orson Starr House, a farmhouse built in 1845 and now owned by the city, was haunted. The city recently approved a plan to conduct haunted tours of the building. The Detroit Free Press reports:

Things that go bump in the night could soon make cha-ching at Royal Oak City Hall. Royal Oak city officials gave unanimous approval this week for a club of 15 ghost hunters to conduct paid tours of the city’s oldest structure, a 19th-Century farmhouse owned by the city and said by some to be inhabited by spirits, including a spectral German shepherd.

For each tour ticket, the city is to get $20 for history programs; $5 will go to a Warren-based group of ghost-hunting hobbyists, who seem to seriously believe that the Orson Starr House, built in 1845 by a farmer and cowbell maker, is still inhabited by some form of Orson Starr — and his dog.

“We have an older man down in the basement, we’ve heard children laughing and there’s a woman that people have heard as well,” said Candace Isaacson, treasurer of the Royal Oak Historical Commission, of the house at 3123 N. Main. [more…]

As other municipalities and museums have discovered, ghost tours can attract much needed publicity and revenue. But while many can see the benefit of harmless fun and additional revenue for historical preservation and education, the naysayers were out in full force.

Joe Nickell, an investigative writer for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, told the Detroit Free Press, “When you allow ghost tours to operate, you are sanctioning mysticism and pseudo-science.” But if ghosts do not exist, and nothing unusual happens when people visit–it simply results in added revenue for the museum, why does Joe Nickell care?

As Steve Litteral, Executive Director of Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Illinois told us, “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.”

Hopefully we will see more of these positive news stories in the future.

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