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Ohio Museum’s Paranormal Tourism Plan Backfires

Earlier this year, the G.W. Adams Center (or “Prospect Place”) in Trinway, Ohio was engaged in a battle over property tax exemption with the Ohio Tax Commissioner’s Office. If the exemption was not granted, the nonprofit could go into bankruptcy. It is somewhat of an older story, having come out at the beginning of February, but it illustrates one of the negative aspects of paranormal tourism. In recent years, many businesses and museums have sought to capitalize on “paranormal tourism,” in which allegedly haunted locations open their doors for paranormal-themed tours and events. The G.W. Adams Center modeled itself on the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, which also offers ghost tours to supplement its income. The Ohio State Reformatory, however, was granted a property tax exemption and the G.W. Adams Center was not, despite their also offering historic tours and educational events.

The museum Board believes someone at the Ohio Tax Commissioner’s Office is exercising a personal bias against them because he or she looks unfavorably on the subject of ghosts and ghost hunting. Board Chairman George Adams argued that the alleged haunting is one of the museum’s main draws. He told the Times Recorder, “We can’t force people to come here for the history; most people come here for the ghost hunting. I personally would prefer people to come here for the history, but you can’t force what people are interested in. That’s like putting out vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream and trying to make people take the vanilla.”

Prospect Place was featured on the SyFy Channel’s series Ghost Hunters in 2008. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Ohio Underground Railroad Association’s list of Underground Railroad sites. According to Troy Taylor, “Many visitors who have come to the house claim to have had paranormal encounters here and these experiences run the gamut of sights and sounds that include voices in empty rooms, the laughter of a child, hair-raising whispers, shadowy apparitions and even the ghost of a man in formal attire who has been seen standing near the main staircase on an upper floor.”

Alleged hauntings aside, the G.W. Adams Center experience illustrates the double edged nature of paranormal tourism. While ghost stories may attract additional publicity and visitors, it may also cause people to look unfavorably on the business or museum, largely because of the perceived negative connotations associated with the paranormal. It would 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 paranormal-based tourism as less legitimate than other forms of tourism, despite its usefulness as a gateway to learning about subjects such as history, genealogy, and folklore.

Businesses and museums seeking to capitalize on claims of paranormal activity need to take this into consideration when developing their business models (especially as nonprofits). Maybe one day this form of tourism will shake off any remaining negative connotations, but until then, they should have a backup plan if it fails to bring the desired benefits.

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Comments

  1. It is a shame that some people (and government officials) are so negative about some legitimate ways to generate funds. It has always frustrated me, but like anything, you just keep your head down and focus on finding like-minded people.

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  1. […] popular haunted places in the Midwest struggle to gain recognition and help from local governments and mainstream business/tourism organizations, one state is getting […]

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  2. […] popular haunted places in the Midwest struggle to gain recognition and help from local governments and mainstream business/tourism organizations, one state is getting […]

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