While popular haunted places in the Midwest struggle to gain recognition and help from local governments and mainstream business/tourism organisations, one state is getting it right. When I began researching legends in Upstate New York, I came across this website, and I was surprised to discover that the website was the result of cooperation across more than a dozen local tourism bureaus. Whenever the subject of haunted places or tours is discussed with community leaders in my home state of Illinois, it is usually in hushed tones, as if they are speaking of porno theatres 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 library board to shut down a friend’s ghost tour, which she had ran successfully in cooperation with the library for years, because it was allegedly “occult” related.
Haunted History Tour of New York State is an effort by dozens of public and private organisations, including the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., Livingston County Office of Tourism & Marketing, Syracuse Convention & Visitors Bureau, Oneida County Tourism, New York State Tourism (creator of the popular “I Love New York” campaign), and many others. Their website and brochure offers a guide to over 30 different locations across the state, many of which have appeared on paranormal-themed television shows. The website also has an audio tour, haunted road trips, and a calendar of events.
“I Love New York” is proudly displayed on the cover of their full colour, professionally designed brochure. “The trail offers serious ghost hunting locations that cater to investigative teams, as well as seasonal ghostly-themed events for the paranormal-curious,” it explains. “From the great spirits invoked by early Native American tribes, to the first Dutch settlers who carefully avoided haunted places, New York has harboured centuries of hauntings that simply can’t be explained. Explore the trail to hear New York’s bone-chilling history and meet ghosts from the past.”
This acknowledges that legends and lore can be a great way to create interest in local history, not to mention generate local tourist dollars. There is always concern that promoting alleged hauntings attracts vandalism and other criminal activity. No one can stop people with bad intentions from doing bad things, but what you can do is try to remove opportunities for mischief in a controlled, carefully supervised environment in which people can satisfy their curiosity about the unknown. I believe this was effectively accomplished with the Haunted History Tour of New York State, and I hope other states follow suit.