They're a creative crew, and with every new idea, more and more folks are getting involved. One of the planned fundraisers (and awareness raisers) is a ghost tour in October.
It's common knowledge in tourism circles that the second most common inquiry from tourists (after "Where's the best food?") is "Where are the ghosts?" Looks like we might find out pretty soon. (I hope somebody has checked to be sure the ghosts aren't planning a vacation trip on the scheduled dates.)
Kyle Bennett, the visitors' center director at Dean's Store, tells about a lady who came in the store not long ago and mentioned something about ghosts in the store. Kyle told her we didn't have any ghosts, and she quickly informed him that she wasn't asking, she was telling him that there were ghosts, lots of ghosts, in the store. She didn't stay very long. Perhaps the ghosts didn't like her sharing their previously well-kept secret.
To my knowledge, no one else has seen, heard, or felt the presence of ghosts before or since then in the store. Those who have been familiar with the store for decades might have flashbacks, vivid memories that invade our thoughts with faces long-gone, sounds of laughter and perhaps a whiff of cigarette smoke, or the sound of a Coca-Cola bottle cap lifting off the bottle. We might even imagine we can hear the Trailways Bus driver announcing the departure for Canton and points north, and the creaking of the screen door as folks walked out to board the bus.
Almost all the store buildings in the old town hold memories and oft-repeated stories. A walk through OutSpokin Bicycle Shop causes one to ponder the grocery store that was once the town's busiest marketplace.
We can place James Poor behind the butcher counter, and Byron Holbert at the cash register. E.T. Booth visited almost daily, chatting with customers, occasionally sampling a banana. But long before the grocery store was there, the J. H. Johnston Company was the largest mercantile store in town. For ghost fans, this spot might give visions of farmers in overalls and brogans, discussing with Bud Johnston the best offer for the wagon load of cotton parked outside.
All up and down Mill Street you might hear echoes of saws and engines, hammers and anvils, from the planing mill, corn mill, and blacksmith shops. In the barber shop on Main Street (or Broad Street as it was called early on), a gunshot might shock you as a Western movie flickers away in the theater before fire destroyed it in 1950. That smell wafting by might be the film melting - or gunpowder!
Up the street in the old Baptist sanctuary, there must surely be some saints - and sinners - humming along to "Amazing Grace." The faint scent of smoke there might be hell-fire, but more likely from the nightmare fire that destroyed the previous building in 1913. Don't run if the church bell suddenly chimes. It might have a mind of its own or bats (or a ghost) in the belfry.
A hot dog aroma might be a ghostly scent from Harbin's Weiner Joint which thrived in the 1920s mid-block on Main Street. Next door, the smell of soap and hair tonic from Johnny Barnett's barber shop (shave, haircut and bath) is probably overpowered today by exhaust fumes from traffic and the dust from streetscapes construction.
An early morning ghost tour would provide an entirely different experience of sights and sounds, scents and sensations. A faint and long-forgotten echo of Roy Freeman's Bantam rooster, crowing pre-dawn up on North Main, would alert folks to get up and about. A cow might moo over behind the depot where Miss Iris Dobbs lived alone in a big three-story house that was demolished in 1992 as the town spruced up for a visit from President George H.W. Bush.
An Oct. 1, 1892, entry in Dr. Will Dean's medical records states, "Railroader killed at this place, right leg and arm cut off." Some research might yield more information, but in the meantime, a ghost hunter's imagination working overtime could give us a good story. Research might produce facts, but as they say, nothing ruins a good story like a fact or two. Happy hunting!?
Juanita Hughes is the retired manager of the Woodstock Public Library.